Martyn Richard Jones
Bruxelles 20th May 2019
For me, a young person in the UK who claims to be a Zionist is like someone shy of a hundred years of age pretending to be a suffragette.
For me, Zionists were people such as Golda Meir, David Ben Gurion, Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizman. These and others developed, implemented and finished the Zionist project, which was fulfilled many decades ago. The state of Israel (1948) is an internationally recognised entity with full membership of the UN (1949), its legitimacy is as strong as those of Switzerland, Japan and the USA – and that is a reality which isn’t going to go away.
But I wondered why people still describe themselves as Zionists. After all, the project has been delivered; hasn’t it?
So, standing back from the terms and trying to discern the reality behind those terms, I have gradually come to the conclusion that in our days the terms Zionist and Zionism are synonyms for nationalist and nationalism, with little connection to the original Zionist project.
I think it is understandable why these terms are used, but I also find their use problematic. We have no issues with describing leaders and supporters of populist movements as nationalists nor do we shy away from calling their brand of populist nationalism for what it is, nationalism. We have Farage, Salvini, Abascal, Wilders and Orbán, to name just a few.
But, when it comes to Israel it’s not treated in the same way, and certainly not by the press, which is something I find very odd.
So unless we are dealing with historical context and not the present, I propose that we stop using the terms Zionism and Zionist as if they were acceptable synonyms for nationalism and nationalists, and say what we mean and mean what we say.
Whether we are in favour of nationalisms and nationalists or not, this clarity about what we are praising or criticising will make the debate healthier and will go some way to tempering the discourse. It will also help us to see things for what they are when there are clashes of nationalisms and nationalists.
This way we are not making special exceptions where special exceptions are certainly not desirable. We should in principle treat everyone and every country with the same measures. Of course one also has to ally the logic of global politics with a degree of empathy and with a degree of humanity (at least by trying to respect all of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
And, yes, if you really believe that you are a Zionist or a suffragette, or both, then in all probability you’re not.
But anyway, we can’t all be Napoleon, Churchill or Emily Pankhurst, and simply pretending that we are is not a good look.
Many thanks for reading.
All the best,