Why I am a Zionist

Gil Troy , THE JERUSALEM POST May. 6, 2008

Today, too many friends and foes define Israel, and Zionism, by the Arab world’s hostility. Doing so misses Israel’s everyday miracles, the millions who live and learn, laugh and play, in
the Middle East’s only functional democracy. Doing so ignores the achievements of Zionism, a gutsy, visionary movement which rescued a shattered people by reuniting a scattered people.
Doing so neglects the transformative potential of Zionism, which could inspire new generations of Israeli and Diaspora Jews to find personal redemption by redeeming their old-new communal

Tragically, Zionism is embattled. Arabs have demonized Zionism as the modern bogeyman, and many have clumped Zionists, along with Americans and most Westerners, as the Great Satans. In Israel, trendy post-Zionists denigrate the state which showers them with privilege, while in the Diaspora a few Jewish anti-Zionists loudly curry favor with the Jewish state’s enemies.

Jews should reaffirm their faith in Zionism; the world should appreciate its many accomplishments. Zionists must not allow their enemies to define and slander the movement. No nationalism is pure, no movement is perfect, no state ideal. But today Zionism remains legitimate, inspiring, and relevant, to me and most Jews. Zionism offers an identity anchor in a world of dizzying choices – and a road map toward national renewal. A century ago, Zionism revived pride in the label “Jew”; today, Jews must revive pride in the label “Zionist.”

I AM a Zionist because I am a Jew – and without recognizing Judaism’s national component, I cannot explain its unique character. Judaism is a world religion bound to one homeland,
shaping a people whose holy days revolve around the Israeli agricultural calendar, ritualize theological concepts, and relive historic events. Only in Israel can a Jew fully live in Jewish space and by Jewish time.

I am a Zionist because I share the past, present, and future of my people, the Jewish people. Our nerve endings are uniquely intertwined. When one of us suffers, we share the pain; when
many of us advance communal ideals together, we – and the world – benefit.

I am a Zionist because I know my history – and after being exiled from their homeland more than 1900 years ago, the defenseless, wandering Jews endured repeated persecutions from
both Christians and Muslims – centuries before this anti-Semitism culminated in the Holocaust.

I am a Zionist because Jews never forgot their ties to their homeland, their love for Jerusalem. Even when they established autonomous self-governing structures in Babylonia, in Europe, in
North Africa, these governments in exile yearned to return home.

I am a Zionist because those ideological ties nourished and were nurtured by the plucky minority of Jews who remained in the land of Israel, sustaining continued Jewish settlement throughout the exile.

I am a Zionist because in modern times the promise of Emancipation and Enlightenment was a double-edged sword, often only offering acceptance for Jews in Europe after they assimilated, yet never fully respecting them if they did assimilate.

I am a Zionist because in establishing the sovereign state of Israel in 1948, the Jews reconstituted in modern Western terms a relationship with a land they had been attached to for millennia, since Biblical times – just as Japan or India established modern states from ancient civilizations.

I am a Zionist because in building that state, the Jews returned to history and embraced normalcy, a condition which gave them power, with all its benefits, responsibilities, and dilemmas.

I am a Zionist because I celebrate Israel’s existence. Like any thoughtful patriot, though I might criticize particular government policies I dislike – I do not delegitimize the state itself.

I am a Zionist because I live in the real world of nation-states. I see that Zionism is no more or less “racist” than any other nationalism, be it American, Armenian, Canadian, or Czech. All express the eternal human need for some internal cohesion, some tribalism, some solidarity among some historic grouping of individuals, and not others.

I am a Zionist because we have learned from North American multiculturalism that pride in one’s heritage as a Jew, an Italian, a Greek, can provide essential, time-tested anchors in
our me-me-me, my-my-my, more-more-more, now-now-now world.

I am a Zionist because in Israel we have learned that a country without a vision is like a person without a soul; a big-tent Zionism can inculcate values, fight corruption, reaffirm national unity, and restore a sense of mission.

I AM a Zionist because in our world of post-modern multi-dimensional identities, we don’t have to be “either-ors”, we can be “ands and buts” – a Zionist AND an American patriot; a secular Jew BUT also a Zionist. Just as some people living in Israel reject Zionism, meaning Jewish nationalism, Jews in the Diaspora can embrace it. To those who ask “How can you be a
Zionist if you don’t make aliya,” I reply, “How will anyone make aliya without first being a Zionist?”

I am a Zionist because I am a democrat. The marriage of democracy and nationalism has produced great liberal democracies, including Israel, despite its democracy being tested under severe conditions.

I am a Zionist because I am an idealist. Just as a century ago, the notion of a viable, independent, sovereign Jewish state was an impossible dream – yet worth fighting for – so, too, today, the notion of a thriving, independent, sovereign Jewish state living in true peace with its neighbors appears to be an impossible dream – yet worth seeking.

I am a Zionist because I am a romantic. The story of the Jews rebuilding their homeland, reclaiming the desert, renewing themselves, was one of the 20th century’s greatest epics, just
as the narrative of the Jews maintaining their homeland, reconciling with the Arab world, renewing themselves, and serving as a light to others, a model nation state, could be one
of this century’s marvels.

Yes, it sometimes sounds far-fetched. But, as Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, said in an idle boast that has become a cliche: “If you will it, it is no dream.”

The writer is Professor of History at McGill University and the author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today. This is an updated version of an essay he
first wrote for Independence Day in 2001.

May 7, 2008 | 4 Comments »

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  1. Every TRUE BELIEVER in the God of Israel’s Words is a Zionist.

    I, Michael Sunstar, by FAITH in the God of Israel, declare before the entire world that I, too, am a Zionist above all nations.


  2. 5. Psalms 14:7 – “Oh, that salvation FOR ISRAEL would come OUT OF ZION! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” So it is the destiny of Israel to be saved OUT OF ZION. The Lord will restore the fortunes of His People Israel. Does this mean that other people aren’t God’s people? No. This exclusive covenant singles out Israel as a Faithful Nation full of Faithful priests, not as an unfaithful nation full of adulterous priests. There is God’s City in Heaven and Revelation 21 states that all nations shall bring their splendor into God’s City, the New Jerusalem. Does this exclude Israel from an earthly inheritance? No. Today, Israel’s fortunes have been restored here on earth, in the land of Israel, whether the United Nations likes it or not.
    6. Psalm 20:2 – May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from ZION.
    7. Psalm 48:2 – “It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth. Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount ZION, the city of the Great King. God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress.” What is the joy of the whole earth? Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, here referred to as ZION. This Scripture could also have a double meaning, that God dwells in the Earthly ZION as much as the Heavenly ZION. There is a Jerusalem [ZION] in Heaven and a Jerusalem [ZION] on Earth and it’s safe to conclude that God dwells in them both. Now if you were to go visit Jerusalem today, you would not find God seated on an Earthly Throne or be able to look at your neighbor and say, “There’s God – over there!” God is in the Heavenly Jerusalem dwelling with His Angels and those who have already participated in the first resurrection of Christ’s Millennial rule in Heaven. Here, in this verse, MOUNT ZION is the city of the GREAT KING, so ZION is considered God’s City.
    8. Psalm 48:11-12 – “Mount ZION rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments. Walk about ZION, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation. For this is GOD our GOD for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.” EVEN TO THE END God is the GUIDE of Mount ZION.
    9. Psalm 50:2 – “From ZION, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” Where in the Bible does it say that God does not support ZIONism? The Jews who are a synagogue of Satan deny that ZIONism is their heritage or that the land defined by the Torah is the inheritance of the Jewish people. Psalm 50:2 clearly says that God shines forth from ZIONISM.
    10. Psalm 51:18 – “In your good pleasure, make ZION prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.” In God’s good pleasure, he will make ZION prosper. Does God condemn ZIONism? No. It’s God’s GOOD PLEASURE to make ZION prosper for the Jews.
    11. Psalm 53:6 – “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of ZION!” To state the opposite, that salvation for Israel will not come out of ZIONism is a lie. Both Jewish and Christian ZIONISTS who believe in ZIONISM as Biblically referenced, are supporting Salvation for Israel and all nations through ZIONISM. It is the enemies of ZION who are waging war, bloodshed, doubt, anger, fighting, hatred, and wrath. When Islamic extremists slander ZIONism they are slandering the God of Israel – the God of all nations, who has installed His King on ZION – His Holy Hill.
    12. Psalm 69:35 – “For God will save ZION and rebuild the cities of Judah. Then people will settle there and possess it; the children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there.”
    13. Psalm 74:2 – “Remember the people you purchased of old, the tribe of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—Mount ZION where you dwelt. Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction they enemy has brought on the sanctuary.”
    14. Psalm 76:1-2 – “IN JUDAH God is known; his name is great in Israel. His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in ZION. There he broke the flashing arrows, the shields and the swords, the weapons of war.”
    15. Psalm 76:67-68 – “Then he rejected the tents of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim; but he chose the tribe of Judah, MOUNT ZION, which he loved.”


    1. 2 Samuel 5:7 – “Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of ZION, the City of David.” Here, in all four versions, the Bible confirms that ZION’s fortress was in Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount. The “fortress of ZION” here referred to David’s City, Jerusalem, the walled city on this earth.
    2. 1 Kings 8:1 – “Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto King Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of THE CITY OF DAVID, WHICH IS ZION.” [KJV]
    3. 2 Kings 19:21 – “The Virgin Daughter of ZION despises you and mocks you. The Daughter of Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee.” Here, the Daughter of ZION is referred to as the Daughter of Jerusalem.
    4. 2 Kings 19:31 – “For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount ZION a band of survivors.”