Anyone who swims in the murky waters of the internet and the lower reaches of social media will have come across anti-Israel “activists” – antisemites by any other name – who take great delight in calling anyone who defends Israel a “Zionist”, as if that were a dirty word. They also cannot fathom that not only rightists are Zionists. To them, only extreme right-wing crazies could be Zionists. They also use the word “hasbara” as if it is some dastardly
Jewish, oops, I mean Zionist plot to fool the world, instead of its simple meaning of “explanation”; its common usage meaning “public diplomacy” representing Israel to the world.
It is therefore both enlightening and morale-boosting to come across the following articles which explain what being a Zionist means; what Israelis thinks of those who hate Israel and who wilfully impute the worst possible motives to anything Israel does, even when it sends aid to disaster zones; and the lastly demonstrates the utter stupidity of the anti-Israel activists.
Firstly, a little late for Independence Day but forever relevant, here is Yair Lapid, whom no one could accuse of being a rightist, telling the world “I am a Zionist“. I’m only going to quote a couple of excerpts but read it all:
I am a Zionist.
I believe in our right for this land. The people who were persecuted for no reason throughout history have a right to a state of their own plus a free F-16 from the manufacturer. Every display of anti-Semitism from London to Mumbai hurts me, yet deep inside I’m thinking that Jews who choose to live abroad fail to understand something very basic about this world. The State of Israel was not established so that the anti-Semites will disappear, but rather, so we can tell them to get lost.
I am a Zionist.
I was fired at in Lebanon, a Katyusha rockets missed me by a few feet in Kiryat Shmona, missiles landed near my home during the first Gulf War, I was in Sderot when the Color Red anti-rocket alert system was activated, terrorists blew themselves up not too far from my parents’ house, and my children stayed in a bomb shelter before they even knew how to pronounce their own name, clinging to a grandmother who arrived here from Poland to escape death. Yet nonetheless, I always felt fortunate to be living here, and I don’t really feel good anywhere else.
I am a Zionist.
I sometimes look around me and become filled with pride, because I live better than a billion Indians, 1.3 billion Chinese, the entire African continent, more than 250 million Indonesians, and also better than the Thais, the Filipinos, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the entire Muslim world, with the exception of the Sultan of Brunei. I live in a country under siege that has no natural resources, yet nonetheless the traffic lights always work and we have high-speed connection to the Internet.
I am a Zionist.
I do not only hold on to the rights of our forefathers, but also to the duty of the sons. The people who established this state lived and worked under much worse conditions than I have to face, yet nonetheless they did not make do with mere survival. They also attempted to establish a better, wiser, more humane, and more moral state here. They were willing to die for this cause, and I try to live for its sake.
The one point that Lapid does not make, or not clearly enough, is that Zionism is the political expression of the Jewish desire to return to its natural homeland. It was not born in ghettos or mellahs or in persecution, but it is ingrained within our religious essence. However this does not detract from the beauty of Lapid’s words.
Next we have Haviv Rettig Gur, a leading journalist with the Times of Israel and previously with the Jerusalem Post, who confronts the antisemitic goons who cannot abide the fact that Israel is capable of doing anything good. Some of them have been accusing Israel of going to Nepal to harvest organs, to distract from its “war crimes” or to rescue only Israelis, and other libels. In a short, refreshing blog post, Gur tells them: “Israel doesn’t care what you think”:
Here’s the thing: Israel is an entire country, with all the complicated impulses and competing agendas of any human society. It is perfectly capable of being involved in two completely different things at once, of being angelic in one arena and terrible in another, just like every other country. The IDF doesn’t go to Nepal to avoid the Palestinian issue. It goes because Israelis have honed emergency medicine into an art form, and because the IDF has never quite shed its founding culture of adventurousness, and, above all, because there are people out there who desperately need help.
Those who see in every good news from Israel “hasbara” (propaganda) are missing the single most important fact you can know about Israel — that it isn’t a political campaign begging for your vote. It is a nation. With two million schoolchildren, dozens of cities, its own cinema scene and a language spoken nowhere else in the world. It doesn’t go away if it loses some imaginary popularity contest. And as with any human society, it offers an endless stream of failures and successes that will let you “prove” any narrative you want.
So go ahead and hate Israel. Or love it. It doesn’t really matter. The reality of Israel isn’t affected by whatever story might be playing out in your imagination.
Like so many of my fellow Israelis, I’m desperately proud of our countrymen who are saving lives today in Nepal. And also like them, I don’t give a damn what the global chattering classes think about it.
What I like about Rettig Gur’s piece is that it puts all the anti-Israel hate into perspective. Really, what difference does it make in practical terms that people hate us or impute such evil motives to us? Let them hate us! Let them be eaten up by their own hate. We will carry on doing what is right, and correcting whatever is wrong in our own society without any help from the outside.
And lastly, here (in the Australian Financial Review) is a very funny but perspicacious look at the anti-Israel industry, as seen by Rowan Dean an Australian journalist visiting the region: Don’t worry Israel, our MPs are mates with the Palestinians too:
Monday: Arrived at Lod Airport, after circling around to avoid being blasted out of the sky by IS, Hamas, Hezbollah, and a bunch of other peace-loving friends of the Palestinian People’s Struggle to Wipe The Perfidious Jew Off The Face Off The Earth Praise Be To Allah. Grabbed some duty-frees and headed into downtown Tel Aviv. Looks just like Surfers Paradise meets Surry Hills. Cool hipsters and hot chicks everywhere. Grabbed a quick beer and a burger, bought some fab new apps and software and …
Oops! Time to go to Palestine. Drove into downtown Ramallah. Looks like Mogadishu meets the Mudgee tip. Litter everywhere. Armed guards and machine gun-wielding Mafiosi types wandering around everywhere, too. Try to grab a quick beer, but, er …Oops! Gotta get back to Israel. Meet some scientists who invented the smartphone industry, or all the cool stuff like Viber and Waze. Plus they invented all this bionic stuff that helps paraplegics and things that stop crib deaths and things that cure …
Yikes! Gotta get back to Palestine. Meet a bunch of dudes who invented the grievance industry. They explain how Israel has been oppressing them for decades. I ask them in what way exactly and they explain, “by existing”.
Next. Head up to the Palestinian bit that sits on top of the Temple Mount, only you’re not allowed to call it that up here, you have to call it the al-Aqsa Mosque. Lucky I’m not Jewish, coz Jews aren’t allowed in. (Er, isn’t that racist?)
OK, OK, I’m coming! Back on the bus and a quick trip to Sderot, this little town in the desert. Crazy architecture! Every house has a huge concrete bomb shelter in the front garden, every bus-stop doubles as a bomb shelter, even the kiddies playground doubles as a bomb shelter. Cool! I ask people how come they stay here when they’re only ever 15 seconds from being annihilated and they say that it’s their home and they love it. Fair enough.
Off to Gaza! Wow. Crazy architecture. Every hospital doubles as a rocket-launching pad, every kiddies playground doubles as a missile silo! Far out! I ask people how come they stay here and they explain that Hamas will shoot them if they try to leave. Fair point.
Quick smart! Back to Israel. Go to the funky Knesset Parliament building. Time to discuss politics! Oh boy! None of them agree on anything! They all argue like crazy about the best way to achieve peace (that’s democracy, I guess) and how to make the two-state solution work. Everyone agrees a Palestinian state is fine, as long as they stop trying to kill Jews. Fair point.
Back to Ramallah. Weirdly, in the middle of all the rubbish and filth there are these incredibly opulent buildings that look like massive McMansions on steroids! Turns out they all belong to the Palestinian Authority dudes and were built with all that United Nations billions! How cool is that! We go to this marble-clad ballroom in this building that looks like a Gold Coast hotel. Time to discuss politics! Oh boy. The dude explains that the only way there can be peace is if there are two states: one called Palestine, which has no Jews in it, and the other called Whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it, as long as there are “only a handful” of Jews in it. Huh? Sounds, um, a tad unreasonable.
I found myself nodding in agreement, laughing out loud and groaning with recognition at the crazy picture that Dean paints of our country and our neighbours.
And that is the reality of life in Israel and being a Zionist – if you don’t laugh, you cry. Or sometimes you do both at the same time.