Emotions are high and are often guiding our actions at this fraught time. As Professor Derek Penslar articulates, emotion lies at the heart of all national movements, and Zionism is no exception. “For those who identify as Zionists, the word connotes liberation and redemption, uniqueness and vulnerability. Yet for many, Zionism is a source of distaste, if not disgust, and those who reject it are no less passionate than those who embrace it.”

Peter Beinart was correct in his cri de coeur in last Friday’s New York Times with his claim that “solidarity with Palestinians is becoming as essential to leftist politics as support for abortion rights or opposition to fossil fuels.” However, his unfortunate conclusion is that concepts of complexity and nuance, in the case of Zionism, disappear. The more liberal and progressive one gets, the less tolerant of opposing viewpoints and less interested in innuendo one becomes. Beinart wrote:

“The emerging rupture between American liberalism and American Zionism constitutes the greatest transformation in American Jewish politics in half a century. It will redefine American Jewish life for decades to come.”

There may be some truth to Beinart’s claim, but he is missing a major piece of the North American demographic of Jews who identify as liberal Zionists. This mass of tens of thousands may not be activists or as vocal as those showing up at protests or circulating petitions, but we are a strong silent majority.

As liberal Zionists, we embrace the double lesson of Pesach. We must heed the call to see ourselves, in every generation, as those who came out of the Land of Egypt. This is a directive to not just remember that we were an oppressed people, but to actively see ourselves as if we were the ones who left Egypt–a clear reminder not to oppress another people, not to occupy a people against their will, and very simply not to become brutal.

Later on in the Haggadah, we are reminded:

“וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְלָנוּ שֶלֹא אֶחָד בִּלבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלוֹתֵינוּ, אלא שבכל דור ודור, עומדים עלינו לכלותנו…”

“That which stood for our ancestors applies to us as well.
For it was not only one individual who stood up against us to destroy us.
Rather, in every generation they stand up against us to destroy us…”

These verses come as a strong message that we dare not be naïve; that we must maintain our guard and not allow those who wish our destruction to succeed.

This dichotomy is playing out before our eyes. The October 7 Hamas massacre triggered a deep fear for our survival as Jews — and justifiably so. What reinforced our fear was the global reaction, including the progressive (even among some Jewish) left, as a necessary step towards “freeing Palestine.”

But the progressive communities who prefer to shun Zionism, and often use the rejection of Zionism as a litmus test for admittance to and acceptance in progressive political spaces, often demonstrate little understanding of either what Zionism is or what it means to champion the Palestinian cause.

As liberal Zionists, we deeply believe in the notion that the Jewish people has a right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland AND that we do not have sole proprietary ownership over that land. It is a land shared by the Palestinian people who are also indigenous and have a right to self-determination to create an independent nation-state of their own alongside Israel.

As liberal Zionists, we champion the Palestinian cause for statehood, which requires serious concessions, even if it does not appear to be currently realistic.

To be a liberal Zionist is to embrace the universal and the particular together as one. That is liberal Zionism par excellence.

Rabbis Sandy and Dennis Sasso wrote:

“You can have compassion for Palestinians and Israelis. You can believe in and work toward two states for two peoples. You can criticize Israel’s leadership, as Israelis freely do, and as we criticize our own. However, failure to denounce Hamas and its atrocities, not only against Israelis but also against Palestinians, and ignoring their accountability for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, is not liberal. It is being blind to reality, it is immoral, and it is antisemitic.”

To be a liberal Zionist is to act with humility on the world stage and to be grateful to the Biden Administration for supporting Israel– often to its own political detriment – and that when we have disagreements with friends, we go and sit together – not cancel meetings and refuse to talk, like children behaving badly on the playground.

Beinart’s conclusion is also erroneous. He claims: “For many decades, American Jews have built our political identity on a contradiction: Pursue equal citizenship here; defend group supremacy there. Now here and there are converging. In the years to come, we will have to choose.”

As liberal Zionists, our values are the same “here” and “there.” For instance, we fight strongly against Christian Nationalism and White Supremacy here, and actively protest and oppose its equivalent racism in the current iteration of Israel’s governing coalition.

The choice we make is clear: We choose our liberal Zionist values that emphasize security, equality, tolerance, and pluralism, and we reject those who seek our demise as a people and a Jewish State. The rest is commentary.