IAF Airman casts vote
IAF Airman casts vote IDF Spokesman

The core principle of Zionism itself is at the heart of much of the communal debate that is currently raging regarding the application of Israeli sovereignty to lands in Judea and Samaria.

Zionism has been, and still is, a movement for the repatriation of the Jewish people, residing in many states around the world, to their ancestral homeland in Eretz Israel.

Support for Zionism comes from the heart, and for true Zionists it is certainly not dependent on the political views of the Israeli government or its actions.

Those who claim that their Zionism is affected by Israeli actions miss the true meaning of the concept.

Indeed Zionism, from its very beginning, has encapsulated wide ranging views about not only its ideology, but also the boundaries of Israel.

IDF in Hevron
IDF in Hevron Flash 90

Young Israeli soldiers in Hebron, guarding the city's estimated 850 Jewish settlers

Leading Zionist sages such as Herzl, Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion, Weizmann and Begin all had very different ideas about Zionism, Israel and what should and should not be included in an Israeli state - but no one would doubt the Zionism or love of Israel of any of them.

The fact that an action such as application of Israeli law to certain lands causes 42 leading British Jews to lose, or even begin to lose, such a cornerstone belief demonstrates extreme weakness on their part.

Those who claim that their Zionism is affected by Israeli actions miss the true meaning of the concept.
When the signatories to the recent letter [in Ha'aretz] to the outgoing Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, claim that the application of Israeli law would “pose an existential threat to the traditions of Zionism in Britain, and to Israel as we know it” they are gravely mistaken, because these traditions are not dependent on whatever actions the citizens of Israel, through its elected government, choose to take.

The traditions are best enshrined in the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, and no political disagreement can ever alter them.

I do not doubt that the view of the 42 is shared by many within our community.

Yet I would wager that an even greater number of British Jews believe that, whatever their individual views might be, it is a matter for Israel, and certainly not those who live outside the country, to make these decisions, for better or worse.

Indeed, the views of Israel’s Arab citizens, who comprise about 22 per cent of Israel’s residents, are relevant in this process too, as unlike the diaspora Jews they live there and have a stake in the consequences of Israeli government actions.

The letter from the 42 also says that the application of Israeli law to the territories in question “would have grave consequences for the Palestinian people, most obviously”.

Why? Have there been adverse consequences for the non-Jewish residents of Israel since 1948? Of East Jerusalem since 1967? Of the Golan Heights since 1981?

Many of these people will tell you that their quality of life is infinitely better under Israeli rule than under the Palestinian Authority or, in Gaza, under Hamas.

Then the letter makes reference to Israel’s “international standing”. It might be the case that some governments around the world will condemn the Israeli government’s actions, along with the UN, the EU and other international entities.

There might even be talk of sanctions. Yet once again, it is for the Israelis to calculate the likely effect of such recriminations, and they might well feel that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

There is also the mentioning of a threat to the notion of Israel “as a Jewish and democratic state”.

This seems hugely improbable. There might be a debate about the additional numbers of Arabs who would become entitled to vote in Israeli elections, but such a number is unlikely to alter the electoral calculation overmuch. Moreover, a substantial number of Arab citizens vote for mainstream Israeli political parties rather than the Arab Joint List, hence the threat to Israel’s democracy is imaginary.

Finally there is an allusion by the 42 to the polarisation of Jewish communities and an increase in the divisive toxicity of debate between them, and the alienation of large numbers of Jews from engaging with Israel at all.

This issue, most definitely, is a matter for us and not the Israeli government. It is wholly appropriate for us to continue to discuss the best and most appropriate means for engagement with Israel, and if there are those whose left wing political views lead to them no longer participate in such an engagement, then this is sad but so be it.

In conclusion, love of Israel is something that comes from the hearts and souls of Zionists everywhere.

Its promotion through education, visits to Israel and engagement with cultural and historic issues relating to Israel will continue, and those who allow their political judgments to influence this fundamental principle are not true Zionists and will never prevail.

The writer is commenting in a personal capacity only.

Gary Mond is the Honorary Treasurer of JNF UK, the Vice Chairman of the Defence Division of the Board of Deputies and a member of the Board’s Executive, an executive board member of the Conservative Friends of Israel and a trustee of the London Jewish Forum.

Reposted with author's permission from The Jewish Chronicle.

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