Friday, 26 February 2010

Zionism, religion and the modern State of Israel

BACK IN the UK I was a Zionist.  I supported the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in their historic homeland.  Now I’m an Israeli, it seems I can’t define myself that way anymore without being thought of as either hopelessly anachronistic, or avowedly right-wing.

Sections of the Israeli right have made Zionism synonymous with support for the settlement movement, while sections of the left have acquiesced in this fiction by abdicating ownership of the term.  (It is worth noting that Zionism was originally a progressive liberation movement with its roots in enlightened 19th century liberalism; closer in spirit to those supporting an end to the occupation of the Palestinians than to the West Bank settlers.  Even the father of what became the Israeli right, Vladimir Jabotinsky, was an avowed liberal who insisted on democratic rights for all the citizens of the putative Jewish state and who spoke resolutely against expelling Arabs from their homes).

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The lies they teach their children

I was sitting in a church in Jerusalem’s Old City with participants on a program I work with; young Jews from around the globe, living here for a year to learn about Israeli society and politics.

We wanted them to hear from different religious leaders, and here we were, meeting with a young, Palestinian Christian priest.

He called for an end to Israeli control of the Old City saying that under Arab control “all religions would be respected”.  One of my group remarked that Jews could be forgiven for being sceptical given that no Jew was allowed to set foot in the Old City during the years of Jordanian control between 1949-1967.  Our speaker’s response?  “I’ve never heard of this before.  I’m sure that’s not how it was.”