The Daily Northwestern

Letter to the Editor: Zionism is not solidarity

Daniel Weinberg

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This letter was written in response to a previous Letter to the Editor, “My Judaism and Zionism are inextricably linked”

I get it; I really do. Your parents talk about Israel as if it is a given, destined to exist. Your Rabbi mentions how important it is to defend Israel during his sermon on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur. An Israeli flag waves on the flagpole outside your synagogue. Israel is the homeland, a welcoming place for all Jews in this world that continues to persecute us. Many of your friends are Jewish, and they think this way too.

That was my experience growing up, and I imagine it’s similar to the experiences of my Jewish peers as well. It’s not hard to see why, as our parents are more likely to see caring about Israel as an essential part of Judaism. This bubble of Zionism is so pervasive that it goes completely unnoticed. The legitimacy of Israel is taken for granted.

And so, many of my fellow Jews link their Judaism with Zionism. If that’s how you understand your Judaism, fine. That’s your identity, and I imagine you’ve thought long and hard about what Judaism means to you. But to claim that people shouldn’t disparage your Zionism is absurd. Despite how you might feel about the culture and religion that is Judaism, once it becomes linked to the politically oppressive ideology that is Zionism, criticism should be expected. It is not “culturally insensitive” to fight colonialism and apartheid. It is morally necessary.

Jewish solidarity with the Unshackle NU movement is fully welcome, but Zionism is incompatible with Black and Palestinian liberation. Zionism is directly involved in the perpetuation of the prison-industrial complex, whether that be through the use of private prisons in Israel, the arbitrary detention of Palestinians or the newly launched Birthright program for police officers. This embrace of prisons and police is not a bug in Zionism that can be reformed; it is a feature.

We Jews like to proudly display our social justice credentials. We have fought for LGBT rights in housing and employment. We were overrepresented among whites in the fight for civil rights. We were murdered in 1964 while registering black voters. Yet here many of us are, unable to comprehend the cries of oppression when they are directed at us. When the oppressed stand up and tell you that you are not welcome, it is not time to get defensive. It is time to reflect on how you became the oppressor.

Daniel Weinberg, Weinberg Senior