Jews Are Not Aliens In The Land Of Israel

Zionism is a dirty word and an ugly concept in the eyes of Palestinians and their supporters. This is particularly true on university campuses in the United States, Canada and Europe. Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war last October, anti-Israel protests have erupted in scores of cities around the world.

At pro-Palestinian encampments on the grounds of universities, Zionism has been equated with European colonialism and the dispossession of a native population. Strident anti-Zionists have shouted incendiary slogans such as “We don’t want no Zionists here, say it loud, say it clear.” In one instance, an anti-Zionist zealot at Colombia University even threatened to kill people who support Zionism.

Anti-Zionists are playing a manipulative and dishonest game. They are maliciously trying to separate Zionism from Jews and Judaism and insist that their rejection of Israel’s existence is not antisemitic. These claims are mostly unconvincing, yet they have created a toxic climate of intimidation at dozens of universities and unnerved substantial numbers of Jewish students who no longer feel safe on campus.

Fortunately, some students are fighting back. Last week, 540 Jewish students at Colombia University in New York City signed a forceful public letter outlining the inextricable connection between Judaism, Zionism and Israel. Representing slightly more than 10 percent of the university’s 5,000 Jewish undergraduates and graduate students, they made the compelling argument that Jews have an inherent and indisputable right to independence and sovereignty in their ancestral homeland.

Anti-Zionists who deny, dismiss or denigrate this centuries-old bond are engaging in unadulterated antisemitism or are dangerously flirting with it.

The diverse group of secular and religiously observant students who signed the Colombia University letter love Israel, though they do not always agree with its policies.

As they wrote, “We proudly believe in the Jewish People’s right to self-determination in our historic homeland as a fundamental tenet of our Jewish identity. Contrary to what many have tried to sell you  — no, Judaism cannot be separated from Israel. Zionism is, simply put, the manifestation of that belief.

“Our religious texts are replete with references to Israel, Zion, and Jerusalem. The land of Israel is filled with archaeological remnants of a Jewish presence spanning centuries. Yet, despite generations of living in exile … across the globe, the Jewish People never ceased dreaming of returning to our homeland — Judea, the very place from which we derive our name, Jews. Indeed just a couple of days ago, we all closed our Passover seders with the proclamation, “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

Jews, as they correctly pointed out, are profoundly bound to Israel in historic, cultural and religious terms. Israeli Jews are not foreigners in their own land. They cannot be even remotely compared to French settlers in Algeria or Morocco, French and British colonists in North America, or Spanish conquistadors in Latin America, none of whom had even the slightest historic links to these distant territories.

Jews in Palestine before the birth of Israel

Anti-Zionist narratives that compare Jews to European imperialists are facile, mean-spirited and inaccurate because Jews are indigenous to the Land of Israel. Jews have lived there centuries, long before the advent of Islam and long before the Palestinians developed a national consciousness.

The argument that Jews are interlopers in their homeland is a blatant and despicable lie, and is propagated by the usual suspects — Arabs, Muslims, antisemites and leftists.

Needless to say, the Jewish connection to Israel does not mean that Palestinians should be deprived of statehood through diplomacy. A two-state solution could well bring peace and stability to the Middle East.

The lies, misrepresentations and calumnies advanced by anti-Zionists have been swallowed whole by some campus protesters, says Hillary Clinton, the former U.S. secretary of state and now a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University.

In a television interview a few days ago, she said that young people tend to be clueless about the Middle East. “I have had many conversations … with a lot of young people over the last many months now,” she told the MSNBC show Morning Joe on May 9. “They don’t know very much at all about the history of the Middle East, or frankly about history, in many areas of the world, including in our own country.”

Hillary Clinton

Clinton’s appraisal, though broad in scope, is a damning indictment of Israel haters. Nonetheless, Zionists should go to greater lengths to speak up and explain their case.

It is a hard sell at a moment when woke ideology is on the ascendancy. Yet Jews who care about Israel should step up. If they sit back and do nothing, Israel’s enemies will rejoice and Israel’s current status as a pariah state may well deepen.