Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Matt Godwin (NDP): Is Zionism a Political Position?

Partisan Blogger: Matt Godwin

In the days of Theodore Herzl, Zionism was a political movement in much the same way as Socialism or Communism: There was a tangible goal, a manifesto, societies and groups meeting to make real its objectives, along with enemies and sympathizers to the cause. In that early time when the creation of Israel was far from certain or inevitable Zionism was most certainly a political position.

Zionism is considerably different today, given that the ultimate goal of the movement was to establish the State of Israel. Now that the objective of Zionism has been realized, the question of what Zionism is presently and whether it’s still a political position is an interesting one. A parallel example may be the women’s suffrage movement, which arose at about the same time as Zionism. This was once a vibrant movement that championed votes for women until its realization in 1918 (although, not in Quebec). While women have attained the right to vote, political movements working on behalf of women continue to exist today and attempt to better the lives of women and ensure their voice is heard at the political level. So, while women’s suffrage is no longer a political position, the forces that helped bring it to fruition remain active.

Similarly, many Canadians continue to work on behalf of Israel today at the political level. This continued participation could be considered a type of vigilance or safeguard dedicated to ensuring goals already achieved are not threatened. This is important for those who support Israel today. While Israel has existed uninterrupted for over sixty years, the country remains under existential threats from hostile countries and groups in the region. Retaining Zionism as a political position is an important component to the long-term well-being and security of Israel. Indeed, this is where the suffrage movement and the Zionist movements differ: While women’s suffrage is not under threat, Israel is.

Despite Israel remaining a state since its creation in 1948, it has often been attacked by those who do not believe in a Jewish State. While this position is generally not voiced politically by candidates for serious parties in Canada or other Western countries, there are many of influence who do not support Israel’s existence, particularly in non-Western countries. In short, while being a Zionist may be considered redundant by some in Canada, it is certainly not an inane position in countries where anti-Israel positions are voiced clearly and often.

So long as there are people in any country seeking to de-legitimize Israel’s existence, there will be a need for Zionism as a political position.

**Disclaimer: At CJPAC, we strive to encourage debate and discussion – as they say, 2 Jews, 3 opinions. We have provided this forum as an opportunity for members of the Jewish and pro-Israel community to express their unique points of view. The opinions in this article are those of the author, and may not reflect the views of CJPAC, its staff or its officers.