Can You Be Zionist and Progressive?

From global movements to college campuses, the intersection of progressivism and Zionism is one where nothing is black or white. In the complex political and social climate of the world today, the lines between fact and opinion have become increasingly blurred. One of those “gray zones” lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What does it mean to be a proud Jewish Zionist in today’s progressive spaces like school, on campus or in the workforce?

Enduring understandings are available in the PDF version of the educational resources.

  • Review
  • Discussion
  • Activities
  • Reflection
  • Further Learning
  1. According to Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality is:a prism for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”There are many different marginalized groups that unite under the umbrella of intersectionality. If Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people then why would Zionism be kept out of progressivism with many progressive Zionists referred to as “progressive except for Palestine?”
  2. In our video, we point out that the world seems to be getting more polarized with 8 in 10 adults in the United States believing that debate is more negative and less respectful than in recent years. Why do you think this is the case? What might be some of the factors leading to the deterioration of civil conversation?
  3. Despite the serious security challenges from terrorist groups that Israel faces, the safety and security of Israelis are not considered by many within the progressive camp as a social justice issue. Can you be supportive of Israel without it being considered a social justice cause? Can you be supportive of both Israelis and Palestinians?
  4. Social media shares information in small sound bites and images without allowing much room for nuance. What should be done about that? What’s the best way to educate oneself and others about complex situations like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
  5. According to a Gallup Poll from early 2021, the percentage of Americans who view the Palestinian Authority favorably rose to an all-time high this year, 12 percentage points higher than the average from 2001 to 2020. Does this information matter for Israel and can one be supportive of both? Also, as public support continues to evolve, do you think Zionism is eventually going to be viewed as something intolerable?
  1. Ask your students to define both the term Zionist and Progressive and ask your students to each list 3-5 values that fit under each term. Then, by comparing and contrasting their definitions and list of values, ask them to create a venn diagram to see how many of the values overlap. Finally, ask your students the following question: Can somebody be both Zionist and Progressive?
  2. Zionism is multi-faceted, in fact there are a multitude of ways to express Zionism from across the religious and political spectrum such as:
  3. List 10 issues that you care about. The list can include religion, politics, ethnicity, identity, current events, social justice issues or anything else. Where does Zionism rank within your list of issues that are important to you?
  4. Play our Kahoot about “Can You be a Zionist and Progressive?”
  1. Read this article by former vice president of the undergraduate student government at the University of South California, Rose Ritch. After reading about her experience at USC, reflect on how it made you feel. If you could ask Rose three questions, what would you ask her?
  2. Are your feelings towards Israel and Zionism interlinked with the policies of the Israeli government or do you differentiate between the two?
  3. How does it make you feel to know that there is so much opposition to Zionism? Do you think people who oppose Zionism are misinformed about its real meaning or have had a different experience and perspective that you may not fully understand?

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