Speaking as a “former Zionist” is no longer strange. In fact, it’s become quite common within some Jewish circles. Yeah, it goes, I used to be a Zionist—a socialist Zionist; a two state Zionist; a Zionist who believed in giving back the occupied territories from ‘67, etc., etc., etc. But a Zionist. Self-determination for both peoples, two peoples/two states, like that. The Nakba? Didn’t enter into the conversation. Not a mention.
So now there are lots of us (former Zionists, that is) out there. Relieved that we are no longer stuck in this false sense of radicalism. Yeah, it seemed radical at the time—Marxist Zionism. National liberation movement, class struggle. True, it was on Palestinian land, but that fact didn’t enter the equation. Our identities fit the definition of OXYMORONS.
Gave that up, we say. Went through a process. For some of us, a long, not fun process. Emerged clear-headed, in support of the Palestinian-led movement for justice. For justice. For justice.
But, then, the right of return rears its head. Wait, we say, I support justice for Palestine, I know about the Nakba now. But, but, but, how can we get Israeli Jews to support the right of return? (That’s the first thing we think about.) It’s complicated, we say. It’s complicated. It’s complicated. What if…and what if…and what about…
The Israeli Jewish organization Zochrot addresses the right of return head-on. The right of return, not the I’m-doing-you-a-favor of return. Zochrot points out there’s lots of room in Palestine/Israel for everyone. Equal rights for all. Inroads being made among some Israeli Jews. Among some. Useful work.
But change is inevitable, with or without a gaggle of Israeli Jewish support. The movement grows. And grows. For justice. For justice. Global support for BDS, for ending apartheid, for equal rights for all, for the right to return home.
Oh no! The movement is getting too big, too strong. Huge amounts of money poured into trying to sabotage that growing (and growing more) movement. Accuse everyone, yes, everyone in it of being anti-Semites. Yeah, that should kill it. A temporary set-back for sure, but it won’t come close, not at all, to killing it.
Won’t kill it ‘cause Palestinians world-wide and supporters of justice across the globe are fighting, fighting with integrity, with passion, with compassion, with conviction. Fighting for Justice. Fighting for Justice.
So, yes, more Jews have left our fantasy notions of Zionism far behind, far behind, and joined the growing movement for justice. But let’s not get too self-satisfied. A positive development, for sure, but still lots of unlearning to do among us, within our communities.
Still a sense that the land is “ours” to “give away.” That we are doing good by supporting Palestine—like when white people think we are doing good by opening up “our” schools to families of color. It’s not just “progressive except Palestine,” by the way. “Progressive except Public education” is the same phenomenon. Thinking that we will determine the parameters based on “generosity” when, in fact, those whose right it is to be there will prevail because it is their right (not your/our generosity) making it so. The “facts on the ground” will be exposed for the thievery they were and are.
For those of us who identify as part of a Jewish community (in one form or another), let’s not sit passively by, as so many already aren’t. Let’s do the work in our community(ies) while remembering we’re not the vanguard of the revolution. Let’s continue to participate in the broader struggle with humility. With humility. We have a lot to learn as we do this work together.
A version of this article was first published in Alternet under the title, “Letter From a Former Zionist Who Supports Justice in Palestine”