Samuel Sklarin, JHU:
Being a Zionist does not mean that you are anti-Palestinian. Many people disagree and, in doing so, misunderstand what Zionism stands for.
A believer in Zionism thinks that the Jewish people deserve a homeland of their own. That’s it. Zionist ideology was not formed under any malicious intent. It was created to protect a group of people who have been persecuted and displaced for their whole existence. The Spanish Inquisition, Eastern European pogroms, and the Holocaust are just a few examples. Jewish people had no place in the world where they could feel safe and free from oppression.
On top of this, immigrating to other countries was no easy task. At the start of the Holocaust, for example, no one was willing to take in Jewish refugees for safe keeping. The United States, probably the safest option for Jewish immigrants, was timid in their willingness to help the Jewish people. As the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum records, “public opinion, motivated by economic fear, xenophobia, antisemitism, and isolationism, did not favor any increase in immigration to the United States.” Jews were unwanted and without a place to go in the midst of the largest genocide in history. It was becoming increasingly clear that Jews needed a home of their own to make sure nothing like this would ever happen again.
We then need to ask the question of what would have happened to the Jewish population had the state of Israel not been created? With no barrier to protect Jews from anti-Semitic threats, the population may only be remembered in high school history textbooks and fancy museums. The state of Israel gives Jews a guaranteed present and future.
As a Jew I am pained by the idea that many view the Jewish nation as an attack on the Palestinian people. The land of Israel is a symbol of freedom for Jewish people everywhere. It was built on the understanding that a group of people needs to be free to survive and develop. Therefore, as a Zionist, I believe that the Palestinian people deserve their own freedom. They, just as any other group of people, need room to help further their community. The state of Israel does not detract from their ability to do so. Zionism and anti-Palestinian sentiment do not go hand in hand.
My fellow Zionists and I will continue to fight for the rights of Israel. Not because we are trying to take away rights from Palestinians. But because we want to hold on to our sacred homeland. When we return to Eretz Israel, the land of Israel, we are reminded of the fact that it is the place that we belong.