Zionism and anti-Zionism: Defining our terms


There are so many terms surrounding Jewish identity today that it can sometimes get overwhelming. We end up using different definitions and speaking past each other. So, what is Zionism, non-Zionism and anti-Zionism? Join Mijal and Noam to explore the importance of terminology as they discuss the intersection of Zionism with Jewish identity today.

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Noam: Hey everyone, welcome to Wondering Jews with Mijal and Noam.

Mijal: I’m Mijal.

Noam: And I’m Noam and this podcast is our way of trying to understand the Jewish world. We don’t have it all figured out. So let’s figure it out together.

Mijal: So, Noam, as you know, we start these conversations with questions from our listeners to get to know each other. So, Jacob sent the following question. What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Noam: Jacob, I like the question. And by the way, if you have other questions, email us at Jacob, without thinking it through very quickly, I’m just gonna jump in and answer right away. It’s Pesach. Passover.

Mijal: Oh no, that’s my answer.

Noam: Okay, so tell me why. Two of us don’t have to answer the why. You go for it.

Mijal: Passover, I am kind of obsessed with the Passover story. And I think it’s the holiday that I most connect to on a spiritual level. So that’s me. It’s not the food, it’s the spiritual aspect.

Noam: Okay, so I love the food also. I think the food is actually very good.

Mijal: Even though you’re Ashkenazi, you like the food.

Noam: Even though I’m Ashkenazi, I like the food. First of all, I like matza pizza, not the fancy stuff. I like the cardboard, sauce, cheese. By the way, after, during Covid, when we had Passover by ourselves, just my immediate family, one of the things that we did is we let that matza, sauce and cheese last, it was like the Hanukkah miracle, but on Passover, it lasted for like two months, our kids were pounding that. It was excellent.

Mijal: Okay, so Passover because you like matza pizza basically.

Noam: Yeah, yeah. Is that a bad reason?

Mijal: No, no, it’s a good, it’s a good…

Noam: To be serious beyond the matza pizza, it’s also the most unbelievable Jewish educational experience possible. I actually think that I view that night of telling the story of the Exodus, as the anniversary of Jewish education. In the sense that night is the night where you could really learn as parents, as young people, as teenagers, as children, you could learn what a good Jewish educational experience ought to be. It’s experiential, it’s inquisitive, it’s curiosity inducing, it’s all these great techniques of what good education looks like.

Mijal: That’s awesome. I think next time we should ask, what’s your least favorite Jewish holiday? We’ll get better answers there, but, uh, but let’s

Noam: Oh, that’s, uh, okay. Oh, wow. Mm-hmm.

Mijal: But now let me ask a question and not Jacob. Um, what I want us to talk about today, Noam, is as follows. Um, I know that there’s a lot of conversations going on around like Israel and antisemitism. And very often questions keep coming up, at least in my circles, but I’m going to assume your circles as well around anti-Zionism. Okay.

What is anti-Zionism? Is anti-Zionism, antisemitism? All of these things. And one of the things that is hard for me sometimes is that people very often jump into big debates and we don’t define our terms. So what I want us to try to do today is to try to offer like working definitions. They don’t have to be perfect. But when we say the word Zionism and when we say the word anti-Zionism, what do we mean by this?

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Okay, and I’m not assuming we’re gonna agree on our definitions, and we also might change our mind or have multiple definitions, but it’s just good to try to understand what are the terms that we are using. 

Noam: I think that’s so important. I actually personally get so annoyed when we’re having conversations and debates in life. And the debate is about the meaning of the terminology. And we don’t even realize that when we’re having that debate. And so at the end of the debate, what could end up happening is we’re all agreeing with each other. It’s not a debate, it’s a conversation.

And if we had the clarity beforehand on what the terms meant in our own heads when we were talking about them, then we would never even be in disagreement. It’s incredibly unclear and it doesn’t have to be.

Mijal: Right, I think by the way, for me the best example for that, I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but the number of times that I have seen people talk about anti-Zionism, but they talk about it as though it is just criticizing Israel. Am I making sense, what I’m saying right now?

Noam: It’s making total sense and I actually want to jump off of that to start my answer to your question. Okay? So it’s going to be a three-part answer. It’s going to be what Zionism is not, what Zionism is, and then what anti-Zionism is. Can’t answer what anti-Zionism is without first understanding what Zionism is, and we can’t answer what Zionism is if we have a faulty definition of Zionism.

Mijal: Okay. But one second, just to make sure that I understand. So you’re saying that you’re going to start by saying what Zionism isn’t, but that is different than your third answer, which is what is anti-Zionism.

Noam: Yes. Yes, yes. Okay.

Mijal: Okay. Go for it. It feels like a Pesach Passover Seder night kind of opportunity. Yeah.

Noam: So Zionism is often conflated with being pro-Israel. And that’s a problem because what it turns into is this mockery of Zionism, where the Israelis and the Palestinians are turned into teams, am I a Red Sox fan or am I a Yankee fan? Am I a Lakers fan or am I a Clippers fan? By the way, I’m a Clippers fan.

Mijal: I don’t know sports, by the way, so just be careful with those metaphors.

Noam: Good point, good point. We turn Zionism into a team sport and it’s not a team game. That’s not what this is. What Zionism is not, it’s not a settler colonial movement. That’s not what it is. It’s not created to negate Palestinian identity. And it’s not something that is meant to simply parrot the Israeli government’s positions on things.

Mijal: Okay. One second, Noam. We just said a lot of things together and I just want to make sure that I understand because it sounds like, I didn’t have a typology coming into this, but it sounds like you’ve put a lot of thoughts into this. Okay.

Noam: I think a lot about this question, Mijal.

Mijal: Okay. First of all, you’re saying a lot of people like to say that Zionism is just being pro-Israel or pro what the Israeli government is doing. Okay. Support.

Noam: Pro Israel! Yeah, support Israel. Yes. 

Mijal: And that’s not what Zionism is. Then you said Zionism is also, you mentioned the words settler colonial state. Um, what do you mean by that?

Noam: What I mean by settler colonial state in this context is an entity, a sovereignty, a government that was created from another government to extend the hegemony of that government in order to make more money for that government in order to create a larger empire. That’s not what Zionism is.

Mijal: Okay, so you’re saying Zionism is not this colonialist project… Okay, great.

Noam: Correct. Right. And I’m defining a colonialist project as a project that one government created, let’s say the British government or the American government or the French government. And the goal of that government was to go across the world and to make more money by being in all of these different places, all these different countries. And the goal of the colonists would be to make more money for that government. That is not the goal of Zionism.

Mijal: Okay, good. By the way, a different episode, we should talk about different definitions of colonialism, settler colonialism and all those things. But yeah.

Noam: Great, great. Yeah, and I’m not claiming, I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who are listening and be like, wait, there’s a lot more to colonialism. And didn’t, certain early Zionists describe what they were building as colonies? Yes, yes, and yes. But you’re right, it should be a whole separate episode about what we mean by colonies. But here’s what Zionism is. Here’s how I view Zionism, okay? Zionism is the activation of the Jewish people on the world stage.

That’s what Zionism is. And I’m very careful with my language here. I am saying that Zionism is the returning of the Jewish people to the world stage as actors and not simply in the crowd.

Mijal: Wait, Noam, I’m still not sure that I understand or agree with what you just said. Okay. So you’re saying Zionism is the Jews return as actors to the world stage. I’m assuming you’re saying that it’s Jews who are deciding to, to act in history to basically like shape their own destiny. So are you talking about an ideology, a historical moment? Tell me a little bit more.

Noam: Yeah, so I’m describing an ideology, and the ideology was a great debate between, and I don’t know if they ever like said, hey, you and I are debating it this way, and this is our analysis of the debate, but between two great thinkers, okay? Theodor Herzl and Ahad Ha’am. These were two great early Zionist thinkers. Zionism was doing one of two things. It was either solving the problem of the Jews, or it was solving the problem of Judaism.

Mijal: Okay, what do you mean by the problem of the Jews and the problem of Judaism?

Noam: Okay, so for Herzl, what it means is solving the problem of the Jews was there was so much antisemitism in the world. Like an insane amount. Not Holocaust antisemitism. People like to talk about, well, if there was no Holocaust, there would be no Jewish state, right? But no, it’s actually much more than that. Years, years, decades before the Holocaust, there was so much antisemitism that Theodor Herzl said, the Jews cannot be successful as people. They cannot go into the world and achieve. And the only way to solve that problem was to create sovereignty. He cared less about it being in the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people. Not that he didn’t care about it, he did care about it, but he cared less about that. He cared about making sure that the Jewish people were able to have political sovereignty. And if you could give the Jewish people political sovereignty, then you could solve the problem of the Jews.

Mijal: Okay, so let’s just recap. So we are talking about 19th century Western Europe, tons of antisemitism in societies that were supposed to have been more enlightened, more emancipated. You’re not supposed to have this problem anymore. And when you say Herzl believed in political sovereignty as the answer to this, what do you mean by that?

Noam: Yeah. Okay. Exactly. Well, he thought that the reason that the Jewish people were hated so much is because they were unlike everyone. And if they could simply be like everyone else and they wouldn’t just be ghosts in the crowd, that antisemitism would disappear. He genuinely believed that antisemitism would be ended with the creation of the Jewish state.

Mijal: Yeah, you know, it’s so funny, Noam, I always find it so bittersweet to think about Herzl’s kind of like dreams and the state of Israel today.

Noam: Why?

Mijal: Because on the one hand, as a Zionist, and I haven’t defined it yet, but the state of, I do believe the state of Israel is one of the great protectors of Jewish life and one of the great responses to antisemitism. But it is also absolutely the opposite of what Herzl expected and hoped for. Herzl basically expected that if, and he was also speaking, let’s just acknowledge at a time of a lot of nationalism. So he expected if Jews have nationalism, if we’re not just always this minority, but we actually have a state, if we are in your language, political actors, then we’re not gonna be hated. And I mean, sitting here in 2024, right? We’re in 2024. That’s where we are. And…

Noam: Yeah, that’s where we are.

Mijal: So much of what I would see as antisemitism today really stems from hatred towards that one Jewish state. So I always find it really bittersweet.

Noam: I couldn’t agree with you more. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s one of these examples of, with the other great question that we’ve asked, is antisemitism something that will always exist, or is it just contingent on certain historical moments and realities? It makes me feel like the answer to that question is, it will always express itself in different ways, but we’re not answering whether or not anti-Zionism is antisemitism just yet. That’s a separate conversation, that’s a broader conversation, but we’re not answering that just yet.

Mijal: Yeah, I’m still waiting for you to define Zionism, so yeah, go for it.

Noam: Okay, so let me continue, okay? I’m gonna get us there, because one definition of Zionism is what I already gave you about the activation of the Jewish people returning as political actors and what Zionism was trying to accomplish. What Herzl wanted to accomplish was to solve the problem of the Jews. Ahad Ha’am had a totally different view of it. 

Mijal: Who was Ahad Ha’am?

Noam: Ahad Ha’am was a great thinker in the late 19th century, a Zionist thinker, early Zionist poet. Ahad Ha’am was in some ways the soul of the Zionist movement. That’s the way I’m going to view him and talk about him right now. And he looked at someone like Herzl and he said, whoa, there is nothing interesting about Jewish sovereignty if the Jewish state is not producing Jewish culture. Okay? That Zionism is not merely there to create a new state, but Zionism is there to create a new sort of Judaism.

And that new sort of Judaism would be something that would have as its spiritual or cultural epicenter the Jewish people coming together and saying, let’s create Jewish culture, Hebrew ideas, Hebrew language. And so maybe this is a not fair reading of Herzl, but the Zionism that Herzl was about was create the new state. And if you create the new state, then it’ll solve the problem of antisemitism. It’ll solve the problem for the Jews.

Ahad Ha’am wasn’t interested in that. He thought Judaism was problematic in many ways, and the way to solve the problem of Judaism to give it more life, more umph, more culture, was the activation of Jewish culture, of Jewish ideas.

Mijal: Well, it’s also to take it out of a diaspora, minority experience. If you can have a home for Jews, you can actually have a different type of Judaism. Right?

Noam: Wait, wait, say that, explain that.

Mijal: I think I’m adding to what you’re saying about Ahad Ha’am, that part of the reason that Ahad Ha’am is a Zionist is that he believes that once you are in your own Jewish state, Jewish home, you have majority Jewish culture, right? You can actually create a more vibrant type of Judaism that you could in like a village in Russia, you know what I mean? Where you don’t have autonomy and ability to do things. Okay. So right now, Noam, so I’m going to… So we have a Herzl.

Noam: Yeah, exactly. Yes.

Mijal: People I think identifying with political Zionism, solving for antisemitism, Ahad Ha’am trying to create flourishing, vibrant Judaism.

Noam: Yeah, yeah, yes. So I’m telling you what I mean when I say I’m a Zionist. What I mean when I say I’m a Zionist is I want the Jewish people to be activated. I view Zionism as a verb. It’s something that you do. You get out and you accomplish. You make things happen. You’re part of the world. You don’t passively just let the world happen to you.

Mijal: Okay.

Noam: That’s what it means to be Zionist. That’s how I understand it. And yes, of course it’s tied to the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, which is the land of Israel. And that’s certainly how it’s developed over time. But it’s so much more than just simply saying, I support Israel. Of course I support Israel. Yes, I support Israel. Do I support every Israeli policy? No, and what I’ve seen from people, Mijal, is that people feel they have permission to be a Zionist. Where they don’t simply have to agree with every single thing that comes out of the government or any government.

Mijal: Okay, but wait a second. Now I’m going to like disagree or push back a little bit for a second. I didn’t know we’re going to disagree on what it means to be a Zionist. I was, I thought this was reserved for the anti Zionism part of the conversation. you’re basically saying to be a Zionist is to believe that Jews have political agency and Jews should control their own destiny but Noam, most people what

Noam: But, yes, but their own destiny, which I think is deeply and intrinsically connected to the Jewish state.

Mijal: Yeah, but once you make dire definition of Zionism, like most people would agree with that. Like, yeah, Jews should control their own destiny. You know, even people who call themselves anti-Zionists. Um, so I’m like, do you have your own definition that no one else agrees? I’m just curious. Have you used this definition with people?

Noam: Yeah, I don’t know what it means to use it with people, but that’s how I think of it. I think it’s the act, but I think…

Mijal: Do you feel comfortable having a definition that not everybody else does?

Noam: Yes, I do. I do. And I don’t, I’m a Zionist. I really don’t think it’s simply me being like, hey, I have a totally different definition. Because I think the only way to activate your identity is to be, to have the Jewish state, because the Jewish state in the Jewish homeland with the Jewish people is, that’s when you connect the soul and the body together. And so I deeply believe in it because of that. That is what Zionism is.

Mijal: Because you have agency because you’re a Zionist.

Mijal: Okay, wait. You just added like a layer to it that we should acknowledge, okay? This makes it a little bit less capacious, right? So it’s about activating Jewish political agency, right? Being agents shaping our destiny and doing so through the Jewish state in a place where the body and the soul, the Herzl and the Ahad Ha’am can live together.

Noam: It’s the activation of all of it.

Noam: Yeah. So, tell me, Mijal, tell me where… Tell me, not where we disagree, but tell me just assert your definition of Zionism.

Mijal: Well, a couple of things. First of all, you know, Sephardic Jews and I’m Sephardic Middle Eastern, you know, we yearn for Zion and, you know, we didn’t have Herzl or Ahad Ha’am. We had other rabbis and other thinkers, who advocated for Zion in different ways. So I don’t think of political Zionism as like the only type of Zionism, but I’ll tell you something, Noam, and it’s a little bit raw, and I might disagree with myself in a couple of weeks. But that’s the best. Yes, we have permission. Yep, we have permission to do that.

Noam: That’s the best. We have permission to change our minds.

Mijal: We, yes, we have a mandate. That sounds even better. I have been wondering if trying to give such, such beautiful, elegant, thoughtful, thorough definitions of Zionism is, sorry, Noam, you are the problem. You are the problem. Okay.

Noam: Wow. I Know yeah, go for it. Go for it. Yeah, let me hear.

Mijal: No, like with all of the conversations that are happening right now. And it’s like, are you a Zionist? Aren’t you? What’s the ideology? Tell me the history. I’m like, for me to be a Zionist means that, the state of Israel was founded in 1948 and that if I could go backwards and I had two choices for history to go forth with the state of Israel happening or not go forth with it being established that I would say, yes, go forth. Okay. That is my definition of Zionism. It’s a minimalist definition of Zionism.

Noam: Much, much clearer and simpler than mine. So thank you for that.

Mijal: I mean, I thought so, but thank you for affirming that. No.

Noam: By the way, not simple and like, like simplistic. I mean, like simple and clear. So thank you.

Mijal: No worries, no worries. But yes, yes. So I think for me it’s a little bit clear and it cuts through some of the noise. Because there’s noise of people saying, well, I disagree with the ideology or there’s always been Jewish anti-Zionists or there’s all of those things. And for me, it’s just pretty simple. Like there is a state, there are people in this state.

Noam: I didn’t either.

Mijal: It’s a Jewish state, okay? So let’s not ignore that. You could go backwards, should it go forth, should it not? And then today, how do you live based on that? Because for me, this actually ends up helping define anti-Zionist, right? And I hate, by the way, when people are like, well, anti-Zionism isn’t so bad because you should critique the state of Israel. I’m like, every Zionist critiques the state of Israel.

Noam: You’re right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mijal: Like every day of the week, you know what I mean? Like we all critique the state of Israel, the government, like that’s all we do. But, and then anti-Zionism is basically the kind of attitude that wishes the state of Israel wasn’t created and supporting any sort of action or dialogue or whatever to go backwards in history and change that. That’s where I am right now in terms of my definition.

Noam: Yeah, I think your definition is a great definition. I think it works. And I want to pick up on something earlier that you said, because I think we went a little too quickly past it. We talked about the Sephardic connection to Zionism, the yearning for Zion, the yearning for Jerusalem, the yearning for Israel. Before and also simultaneously to Herzl and the other great early Zionists in the late 19th, early 20th century. The reason I wanna talk about that is I wanna go to Herzl’s text, where he talks about it’s…

Mijal: Yeah. Can we put it in the show notes if we want for everybody to follow?

Noam: Yeah, let’s put it in the show notes. Der Judenstaat, which is either translated as the Jewish state or the Jews state, if you want to be really nerdy. And he writes, Herzl writes the following, the idea which I have developed in this pamphlet is a very old one. It is the restoration of the Jewish state.

I just love that one sentence because it’s exactly what you’re saying, Mijal. It really is. The point is, it’s not that Herzl was coming up with this new idea. It’s called Zionism. That’s how people talk about it, that there was like the Jewish world existed, there was history and all of a sudden, Herzl comes and he’s like, oh, I got an idea, world. Here’s the idea. It’s called Zionism, where the Jewish people are going to create a Jewish state.

His point is, Mijal, what? You live in wherever you live, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, we know that the Jewish people have always had an old idea, which is the restoration of the Jewish state. What do you think of that?

Mijal: Yeah, no, yes, it’s funny, I was speaking with a friend of mine a couple of days ago, we’re putting together some classes on like Israel and Zionism, and I was being a little bit pedantic, because he was gonna teach Herzl, and I said, well, that is the emergence of political Zionism. He’s like, just call it Zionism. I’m like, no, I wanna call it political Zionism. He disagreed with me, whatever. I said, I wanna call it political Zionism, because to me, it’s new, but based on something very old, which is the yearning of the Jews for Zion. And also the fact that we have like in Jewish history, we’ve had Jewish commonwealth, Jewish kingdoms, we had Jewish national home in the land of Israel. So 100%, 100% with you there, it’s a new idea based on an old yearning and an old history.

Noam: Yes. Yes!

Noam: Yeah, the reason I love Herzl, by the way. Three letters, the three letters are G-S-D. Get stuff done. And that’s what Herzl did. He was someone who got stuff done. There were many other Zionist thinkers and they were great rabbinic leaders they were who always yearned for Zion who moved themselves and their families and you know, whether it’s you would a Halevi or who lived like a thousand years before him or Nachmanides Ramban who lived, 1194 to 1270. And another great rabbi, the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah Kramer. Also…weird bit of knowledge, know his years as well. 1720 to 1797.

Mijal: I think that’s your talent, right? You know, the dates of every single major Zionist thinker.

Noam: He made it happen. So for me, the definition of anti-Zionism, therefore, is go-

Mijal: Yeah, that’s what I was gonna get to, by the way, because you were gonna forget that. Yeah.

Mijal: I thought I was gonna forget it. Yeah, yeah, 100% I was gonna forget it. But I was thinking about it in the context of that very simple sentence. “The idea which I have developed in this pamphlet is a very old one, it’s the restoration of the Jewish state.” And then he says this, “we have honestly endeavored everywhere to merge ourselves in the social life of surrounding communities and to preserve the faith of our fathers. We are not permitted to do so. In vain are we loyal patriots, our loyalty in some places running to extremes. In vain do we make the same sacrifices of life and property as our fellow citizens. In vain do we strive to increase the fame of our native land and science and art, or her wealth by trade and commerce.”

And I read that 120+ years later, and I’m thinking, to be an anti-Zionist is to be someone who doesn’t understand just how much the Jewish people need the Jewish state. That’s what it is. How could you not realize how badly the Jewish people need to affirm their selfhood through autonomy, through self-determination, through the construction of Hebrew culture? Like, that is what it means to be a Zionist, and yes, to be a safe haven from the rabid antisemitism that has always existed.

Mijal: But, but no, okay, one second. So for you, anti-Zionism is basically not recognizing, using her language, that the extent and potency of antisemitism, even like in enlightened societies, requires, no, am I saying it wrong?

Noam: and continues to exist today. Yeah. You’re saying it right. But it’s more than that. And to me, what I’m getting at, this is all being constructed in this. because it’s the negation of Jewish identity to me. That’s really what it is.

Mijal: I mean, I’m not saying it as passionately, but yeah. Why, I want to understand, because I think I have just a different definition, but why is it the negation of Jewish identity?

Noam: Because you cannot have a full healthy Jewish identity without the creation of the Jewish state. For all the reasons I spoke about before, which is the restoration of the Hebrew language and Hebrew culture, which I do not think would have had emerged without the Jewish state, of the very fact that 46% of world Jewry right now lives in Israel because they came, you know, people in the United States often have this United States-centric approach to life, but they came from Keef, they came from Addis in Ethiopia, they came from different parts of North Africa and the Middle East, and that’s where they came from. And they all came to this one state where they were able to assert their own full Jewish identity. And they were trying to say, we have endeavored so hard for so many years to be great and to be loved, just love me. And eventually, maybe people will and maybe people won’t.

But eventually the point was, you gotta do this yourself. You gotta do this in your own land, in your historical ancestral land. And there are gonna be things that people are not gonna like about what you do. And you’re not gonna do things that are great all the time. You’re gonna make mistakes, you’re gonna make errors, you’re gonna make moral, ethical lapses. You’re gonna have those. And also, you’re gonna be creating your own identity. And so the negation of that identity is the problem that I have.

Mijal: Okay. The one flaw with it is that people could just really disagree with you about what a healthy Jewish identity looks like. Right?

Noam: That’s fair. What’s yours? What is your definition of a healthy Jewish identity?

Mijal: Oh, I didn’t prepare that, I prepared them for Zionism. Just kidding.

Noam: A healthy national Jewish identity. How could you have a healthy national Jewish identity without the Jewish state?

Mijal: Well, again, can I play devil’s advocate without agreeing with myself for a second? I’m just going to, thank you.

Noam: Yes, of course. Okay, yeah, yeah.

Mijal: We had anti-Zionist Jews of all stripes and forms throughout history, I mean, in the last hundred years, we can talk about like religious anti-Zionism, political anti-Zionism. I’m not an anti-Zionist, I’m a proud Zionist.

So let me just express why I think we have different notions here. And I actually want to tease out when is your approach helpful and when is my helpful. Cause I think they can be helpful at different moments. Okay. I think for me right now, it does feel like there’s battles that are happening, whether I like it or not. I think that October 7th to me, I have no way but to interpret it, um, vis a vis October 8th and like the crazy rise of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Noam: Oh, great.

Mijal: So for me, and I wanna have like a clear definition that explains why I’m against anti-Zionism. And to me, there’s a debate in which there’s millions of Jews on the line and Jewish lives on the line and in which we saw October 7th, what that could look like. And this is why I’m, not only am I not an anti-Zionist, but I think it’s deeply, deeply dangerous.

Because it’s basically like an attempt to say 1948 was wrong and we wanna go back and try to like undo some of that. So that’s where I think mine is helpful. Like I can tell you where I think yours is helpful. Yeah.

Noam: I think, let me pause you for a second. I think that that’s incredibly helpful. I think it’s incredibly important. I love it. Love it, yeah.

Mijal: Okay, thank you. Thank you, Noam. But what mine doesn’t do, which yours does, and by the way, I’m not always going to do this, like, you know, make both of ours sound good. Yours is terrible. It’s unhelpful.

Noam: So you’re saying, this is it. So today I get to hear from Mijal Bitton why my definition of something was not exclusively bad. Go for it.

Mijal: I’ll give it my best shot, Noam. No no, I think what you’re doing right now is almost what I would like to do when I’m not caught up in October 7th and antisemitism and like fear, which is like an aspirational vision, which is, hey, Zionism is not only about fighting our battles, it’s literally about a healthy Jewish identity.

And the fact that you asked me that question, I’m like, oh, one second, I need to think about this. Maybe it says a little bit about me and responding to this moment right now that I don’t feel like I’m fully there all the time. But I think that that’s a helpful moment to think about the Zionist project, not only about kind of like establishing his role, defending it, but about shaping history, having a healthy Jewish identity, having our bodies and our souls. What’s your takeaway, Noam? What’s your takeaway?

Noam: My takeaway is that I think that your simplification of, are you happy with 1948 or are you not happy with 1948? I think that’s a very helpful framing for the question of, are you a Zionist? Are you an anti-Zionist? I think it’s a really helpful framing. It’s simple and not simplistic. It’s straightforward and it’s clear. And I do want to make the pitch, as I’m thinking about this, is that Zionism is a whole worldview. And because of that, it’s hard for me personally to just jump into like these very straightforward, simple definitions of what Zionism is when I think that it’s a huge identity question. And when something’s a huge identity question, I think it’s really important for all of us to explore what it means when we say we are that thing. We are Zionists. Well, what does that mean? So that’s how I’m thinking about it. That’s my takeaway.

Mijal: Yeah, yeah. Maybe one takeaway, like I wonder if we actually just need multiple definitions for different things. If I’m having a quick conversation or even argument when I need to quickly define Zionism and often it’s in the context of contemporary events, then I think having like a simple, quick, very minimalist definition is helpful. But I think if I’m learning or if I’m trying to grow, or if I’m engaging in Jewish community building, then, or if I’m chatting with you, Noam, who knows all the dates by heart, then actually having this more thick, complex, nuanced understanding of the history, the complexity, the layers, and how these layers kind of add to our lives, that’s really helpful. So maybe we should just not have, like have different definitions for different contexts. That might be one way to think about it.

But also this conversation is just the beginning. Like we’re just beginning to touch a little bit of some of like the huge, we did not touch on anti-Zionism and antisemitism. That’s like huge.

Noam: No, anti-Zionism and antisemitism, I can’t wait to discuss that with you. That’s gonna come up in the next episode, fine. And then what else?

Mijal: Also, we didn’t touch, you know what? Like, like how do we relate to anti-Zionists that we know? Like, oh, it’s not only theoretical, it’s also communal. Like how do you make communal lines? So there’s like a whole lot of questions that we can really go into that we should go into from here.

Noam: I agree. I just am incredibly thankful for Zionism. And I’m going to leave it at that. I am. Listen, I am. I’m thankful for Zionism. I think it’s contributed so much to the world.

Mijal: That’s a good one. I thought you were going to say I’m incredibly thankful to be in this conversation with you.

Noam: Well, I’m also thankful to having the conversation with you and for not getting exclusively a bad rating on things that I said tonight. So that’s actually, I’m a winner tonight. But listen, I want to make sure that people email us at because we love the questions that are coming in and we want to explore a lot of questions together. We’re going to be doing this every single week so lots to unpack and explore together.

Mijal: Yeah, send questions, send feedback, send thoughts, send interesting dates in Jewish history, anything.

Noam: I must be a lot of fun to hang out without parties. Like a lot of fun.

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