You know a three-month old movement is doing something right when it’s been maligned by both neo-Nazis and far-left anti-Semites. Since we launched in mid-August in response to the explicit exclusion of Zionist progressives from social justice movements, Zioness has been hit from all sides.
At the Chicago Dyke March, our maiden voyage, we marched for women’s empowerment and against rape culture and patriarchy. But we were verbally attacked and blocked from view with umbrellas by other marchers that found the mere presence of Zionists — individuals who believe that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination — odious.
At the March for Racial Justice in New York, organized expressly to include Jews in the movement after the original march was scheduled on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, speaker Linda Sarsour said that we made her “feel unsafe” and implied that we had no right to participate — simply because we are open and public about our Jewish and Zionist identities.
But we’ve also been demonized from within the Jewish community itself for refusing to hide our Zionism. Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T’ruah told The Forward that we were clearly “looking for a provocation,” though she did not seem perturbed by Sarsour’s own T-shirt, which proudly declared her own identity: “Palestine vs. the World.” Apparently, it is only the Jews and supporters of the Jewish state that are forced to check their intrinsic identities at the door.
It’s not just at marches that we get attacked, either. We’ve been harassed on every social media platform. We’ve been told that we “are the devil that the bible speaks of.” An alt-right activist identifying as “Generation Zykon” told us to “please f***ing off yourself.”
Meanwhile, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories cover our pages in the comments sections. One commenter declared that Zioness is “a Mossad-produced, cyber propaganda campaign.” For the record, no Zioness founders — including myself — are spies. We also have never trained dolphins to shoot killer arrows, nor do we know of a secret vegetable that cures alcoholism.
But I have news for the neo-Nazis and the far-left anti-Semites: We are loud, proud, and sincere. We are growing every day, and we are here to stay.
Your vitriol only fuels us; in fact, you are illustrating the very need for our existence. You expose why progressives should not have to hide their Zionist identities. Indeed, because of you, Zioness will thrive.
For every hateful message from the radical left and the radical right, we’ve gotten 50 from newly energized, progressive Zionists who are thrilled that a movement finally exists for them, one that seeks to bring Zionists back into social justice advocacy, while bringing awareness to the fact that Zionism is itself a progressive value.
Enthusiastic supporters have reached out wanting to start Zioness chapters across the country and around the world. And we’ve been overwhelmed with messages from Zionesses who, until now, were so alienated from the progressive left that they have just stayed home, no matter how strong their ideological commitment to civil rights and social justice, and regardless of their innate desire to fight for what’s right.
Now, these inspiring activists once again have a home — and a place to show up to reject and confront institutions of racism, patriarchy, oppression and bigotry. People of all ages, genders, and ethnic identities have told us that our movement speaks to them, that they are grateful to finally have a way to advance progressive values and policies while still being proud of their Zionism and their Jewish identities. (Many non-Jewish Zionists have shared similar sentiments as well.)
Zionism has taught me that, even in the face of millennia of persecution, oppression, exile and genocide, civil and human rights can prevail. It has taught me that all human beings are entitled to the protection of their inalienable rights. It is, in many ways, because of my progressivism that I am a proud Zionist. It is also, in many ways, because of my Zionism that I am a proud progressive.
The inherent, irrefutable bond between Zionism and progressivism drives my activism and is also the driving force behind Zioness. The relationship between these identities is organic and effortless, and there is natural strength, for our community and for others, when we declare our commitment to both.
With the launch of Zioness, I found thousands of Americans just like me. We are horrified by the current state of our civil discourse — let alone the policies that are being debated and, God forbid, potentially implemented. We’ve been following with fear, anxiety and horror, as our family members, friends and colleagues come under attack for their innate characteristics, be it because of their skin color, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin.
But we are no longer staying home. We are not going to be deterred by the cynics and the haters, the smear artists and the anti-Semites. We reject the ecosystem that exists to tear down Jews and other supporters of the Jewish state. We reject the lies that are told to dehumanize us and revise history. The “controversy” caused by the existence of this movement only underscores the movement’s magnitude. We will continue our struggle — while simultaneously fighting on behalf of other struggling communities — until we send the message loud and clear: There is nothing controversial — nothing provocative — about being a proud, progressive Zionist.
If you believe in civil rights, equality, and social justice for all and that, politics aside, the Jewish people have a right to a safe and secure Jewish state: Join us. If you care about people of color, about the horrifying rise in hate crimes against Jews and Muslims, and about discrimination against the LGBTQ communities: Join us. If you’re disturbed with mass incarceration, police brutality and a hateful refugee policy: Join us. If you’re sick and tired of political litmus tests, marginalization and bigotry: Join us.
Reach out. Get involved. We are just getting started.
Amanda Berman is a civil rights attorney and the Director of Legal Affairs at The Lawfare Project, a nonprofit litigation fund based in New York. She is also the co-founder of the Zioness Movement.
Amanda Berman is a civil rights attorney and the co-founder of the Zioness Movement.
Zioness Is Here To Stay, So Get Used To Us