The following column is part of a series. For more, go to Liberal Zionists Speak Out.
Yes, I am a Zionist. Wholeheartedly. If at all, I am now more explicitly Zionist than I was in my younger years. I am sorry and troubled that it has become so hard for so many to describe themselves in these terms. I believe this is not only the case because of the excesses of Israel and some versions of Zionism, excesses and interpretations that taint this attachment for all. It is also because of the success of those who have always argued that Zionism, if not racism, is at least a separatist, nationalist creed, which by definition cannot be committed to either universal values or to the obligation to treat all of Israel's citizens with equal respect and concern.
Zionism is an ideology, a political creed. Its meaning today is continuous with its meaning from its inception, in the late 19th century, with the important adaptations that need to be made by developments since then, including the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. It has never been a unified political creed. There have always been streams within Zionism. It is also important to remember that Zionism was a significant yet a minority voice among ideological and political groupings within the Jewish people in modern times. Many of the internal criticisms made against Zionism by Jews are still advocated today.
The Core of Zionism
I accept Gideon Shimoni's analysis according to which Zionism presupposed some answers, all contested, to the important questions facing Jews in modern times:
Against the background of much contemporary discussion, I want to say a few things about two other groups of statements. The first is additional characteristics of Zionism that I find central, and that for me are as critical as the first group to justify why I am a Zionist. I do not support versions of Zionism that do not include a commitment to these statements and I believe that these commitments are compatible with Zionism and for me required by it and by its rationale. The second group will illustrate the kinds of claims often made in the name of Zionism that I do not accept, and at times reject as emphatically as I endorse Zionism.
What Zionism Means To Me
Zionism is a movement for national liberation. It seeks to permit Jews to enjoy the benefits of self-determination in a part of their ancient homeland. It is based on seeing the Jews as a people like all peoples. Like all peoples, they should be permitted to strive for a combination of a commitment to humanity and universal values and to the promotion of their own physical, material and spiritual and cultural needs. Such a combination, for me, is an important reading of the Jewish tradition itself. Thus Zionism for me, and for many of its founding persons, also means a striving to develop the social and political conditions under which:
What Zionism Is NOT
The following are claims often made in the name of Zionism, that do not follow from its core, and which I vehemently reject:
Ruth Gavison is Haim H. Cohn Professor Emerita of Human Rights in the Hebrew university of Jerusalem, winner of the Israel Prize in Law 2011, and the founding president of Metzilah, a Center for Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanist Thought. She has taught at Yale and the University of Southern California, and was a fellow at Princeton's Center for Human Values. She has been a member of numerous Israeli Public Inquiry Committees, including the Winograd Commission to investigate the 2006 Lebanon War. She was a founding member of ACRI, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, served for many years as its chairperson and, from 1996-1999 as its president.