Gil Troy says Jews need to reclaim the word Zionism

Historians in the News
tags: Israel, Zionism

Gil Troy is the author of “The Zionist Ideas,” which updates Arthur Hertzberg’s classic work “The Zionist Idea,” and was just published by The Jewish Publication Society. He is a Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy

All too often, when I ask campus organizations that are pro-Israel and deeply Zionist why they avoid using the “Z-word” in their messaging and literature, I’m told, “Zionism doesn’t poll well.”

True, not polling well is one of today’s great sins. But imagine what our world would be like if our ancestors feared the polls. The American Revolution wouldn’t have polled well. Suggestions that Northerners crush slavery in 1860 wouldn’t have polled well. And proposing a new Jewish state in 1897 wouldn’t have polled well either. At the time, most European Jews believed enlightened Europe was outgrowing anti-Semitism — that polled well.

Let’s learn from our heroic predecessors – and from feminists, gays and African-Americans, whose first attempts to defend their rights didn’t poll well either. Take back the night, resist internalizing our oppressors’ hatred of us.

Reclaim the Z-word: Zionism. ...

Here’s the real question for Jews: Do you feel connected to Israel, today’s great Jewish people project? If so, you stick with it because you belong to the Jewish people. And you help perfect that state through Zionism – embracing different schools of Zionist thought. It could be Religious Zionism or left-leaning Labor Zionism or right-leaning Revisionist Zionism or Cultural Zionism.

In honor of Israel’s 70th birthday, I just published “The Zionist Ideas,” updating Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology “The Zionist Idea.” Adding the “s” broadens the conversation, from the 38 thinkers in his book to the 170 in mine. As part of its publication and in honor of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, I am urgingreaders to host Zionist salons, home-based conversations addressing “what Zionism and Israel mean to me today.” 

Establishing Israel in 1948 fulfilled the Zionist idea – that powerless Jews need a state as a refuge, immediately, and as a platform to flourish and express Jewish values, long-term. Seventy years later, debating Zionist ideas welcomes debate from left to right, religious and nonreligious, about what Zionism and Israel can mean to me as Jew, as a person – and how some of these ideas can help Israel become a model democracy.

That’s why Zionism didn’t end in 1948 – the debates continue....

Read entire article at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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