Re-asserting the legitimacy of Israel & Zionism
By Aryeh Green
"Zionism is nothing more, but also nothing less, than the Jewish People's sense of origin and destination in the land linked eternally with its name." Abba Eban
Israel is increasingly attacked as an imperialist, colonialist, apartheid aggressor and occupier; Zionism is seen as racism even though the nefarious UN resolution was repealed. “Combating the delegitimization” of Israel is a necessary but not sufficient response, focused as it is on specific manifestations – boycotts, divestment resolutions, hostile media outlets, and various political or cultural leaders’ statements. Israel is in desperate need of a coordinated, pro-active, strategic approach to this long-term erosion of its standing even among those who purport to support her. Excellent organizations and individuals – from AIPAC to the ADL, from the AJC and JNF and Hillel to TIP, StandWithUs, BlueStreet PR, HonestReporting, ElNet, ReThink Israel, EMET and NGO Monitor, to name just a few – are working hard to stem the tide. But these and other hard-working efforts are literally overwhelmed by the hostility permeating the intellectual climate in which the top echelons of the political, academic, media and cultural worlds operate.
This is an ideological, intellectual, civilizational struggle - and Israel and the Jewish people need an assertive strategic approach to coordinate and initiate efforts to re-legitimize Israel. We must generate nothing less than a paradigm shift in perception: Rejection of the present view of Judaism as just another religion or faith community, and acceptance of Zionism and Israel as expressions of the national liberation movement of the Jewish people/nation. (This was accepted by western nations – and most Jews – a century ago.)
A long-term, comprehensive effort is required to augment and make more effective the efforts of already-active groups, collaborating at the highest levels. We must educate key elites to change the way Israel is perceived by political decision-makers, intellectual and cultural elites, academics, religious leaders of all faiths, the media and the general public. This will lead to better understanding of the history of Israel, Jews and Judaism and acceptance of Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. It will also engender increased support for Israel, including Jewish rights to the Land of Israel as the indigenous people returning to their ancestral homeland – irrespective of preferred political solutions.
Whether one is an advocate of territorial compromise or of a greater Israel, the key is to achieve recognition of the true history and complexity of the conflict, and acknowledgment of the Arab leadership's primary responsibility for the lack of peace in the area, while increasing the legitimacy of alternative solutions to the region’s conflict(s). This is not a political agenda: leading lights of Israel's Left - including the head of the Labor Party, MK Itzhak Herzog, and the doyen of Israeli academia, Prof. Shlomo Avineri, as well as one of the founders of both Peace Now and the far-Left Meretz party, Mossi Raz, have articulated the same understanding. And as part of all this, we also must enhance appreciation for Israel’s free society and its place at the frontlines of the fight against the Islamist jihadi threat to western civilization.
Our community needs to reach, engage and impact the top opinion elites and decision-makers in leading western countries and to inspire and impact millions of activists online. We must focus on leaders in academia, media, and cultural, political & intellectual spheres, with intensive efforts at building relationships and disseminating factual, persuasive information and content, through published works, social media, academic and public conferences, aggressive print, TV, billboard and online advertising, public relations campaigns, and personal interaction/persuasion. Simultaneously, we must create an assertive online environment to impact public opinion and stimulate grassroots activism and crowd-funding.
This strategic effort can dramatically increase the effectiveness of every individual organization, based on a combined top-down and bottom-up tactical approach: Impacting public opinion by impacting opinion-makers, while driving changes in leadership attitudes by grassroots activities online and in the street/on campus. Herzl said "If we will it, it is not a dream" - and with the will of all pro-Israel players in the field, we can return to the Zionist dream, in the process re-establishing the very term Zionism to its rightful place in the Jewish and wider world.
Envisioning a world where accurate information, unbiased analysis, and in-depth understanding lead to:
- Acknowledgment of Jewish nationality/peoplehood;
- Recognition and support of Israel as a legitimate member of the community of nations;
- Informed and responsible policies regarding Israel and the Middle East; and
- The promotion of liberal values and freedoms.
WATCH this video of Aryeh last week at JACLA:
Aryeh Green is VP Strategic Investment at EnergiyaGlobal, a leading solar energy developer for Africa, and Director Emeritus of MediaCentral, a Jerusalem-based project of HonestReporting providing services to the foreign press in Israel. Aryeh has an extensive background in both the public and private sectors, having served as a senior advisor to minister Natan Sharansky in the Israeli Prime Minister's office and as an executive or consultant for some of Israel's leading companies. In Israel for over 30 years, he holds masters degrees in business and international relations, is an expert in regional affairs, media issues, and Israel history, and has been a leading advocate and activist for freedom and democracy in the region for the past two decades.