Time to reclaim Zionism

This is a guest post by Stephen Hoffman

This week, MK Bezalel Smotrich, a member of the far right Jewish Home Party, disgracefully said that the fire bombings in Duma in July which tore apart the Dawabshe family leaving three members of the family dead due to Jewish extremist terrorists was not an act of terrorism.

He worsened this by criticising Shin Bet for treating Jewish terrorists like Palestinian terrorists when it comes to measures like administrative detention. You can find his comments in full here. Now it is perfectly reasonable to criticise the way Israel deals with terror suspects from a human rights perspective, but when doing that if you are going to be consistent you should apply that to all terror suspects. Smotrich’s approach suggests he believes there should be one rule for Jews and one rule for everyone else, rather than the rule of law applying equally for everyone who comes into contact with the Israeli legal system.

The Jewish extremism Smotrich represents within Israel is sadly growing as Israeli Governments of all types have allowed a minority of people to promote a strain of Zionism which, rather than talking about the national self-determination of the Jewish people, talks about Jewish superiority. In seeking to achieve this, they frequently break the law when it comes to living in illegal outposts and committing price tag terrorist acts. In doing so, they disrespect the laws of the state of Israel they claim to love.

Their vision was never what Zionism was meant to be about, as alongside national self-determination for Jews, I believe the majority of Zionists were fuelled by an ideology that sought to ensure non-Jewish inhabitants in Israel were respected, and wished to create a society based on pluralism and the values of democracy.

These Jewish extremists who are cut from the same cloth as Yigal Amir are, I’m ashamed to say, like a cancer eating away at the Zionist dream that I and many other Zionists hold dear. It is time to confront these meshuganahs head on and reclaim Zionism. The idea that an attack that had a devastating attack on a Palestinian family is not terrorism is ludicrous and those who propagate this lie are terrorist sympathisers.

For an MK to make these comments is a disgrace and shows how many of those who represent Jewish Home are turning it into a party that tacitly incites terror and disrespects the rule of law. To claim you are some sort of Jewish religious party when your ideology is an abhorrent minority view is an insult to most Jews worldwide it’s time the majority of Jews spoke out.

The importance of this was bought home to me a few years ago when, in a personal conversation I had with a relatively pro Israel Conservative MEP, he stated that whilst he is happy to be seen as pro Israel, he was offended when he was called a Zionist by many in emails he received from constituents. The problem was it was used as a term of abuse and the way he’d had Zionism explained to him was in the terms people like MK Smotrich represent. Considering this, it is hardly surprising that he had a negative picture of Zionism.

I don’t want the Zionism which I love to become a term of abuse, so let’s start explaining what Zionism is really about, rather than letting Jewish extremists control the narrative. This might not be comfortable, but the alternative is for the Zionist dream to become a nightmare, representing the mistreatment of Palestinians, disrespect for the rule of law and the land of milk and honey, becoming the land of hate, despoiled by extremists in our midst.

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