Daniel Gindis, Deborah Blausten, Oliver Worth and Joel Braunold are the speakers for this fringe event.
Alex Doek, Chair of UJS, opens the event. UJS stand for the Union of Jewish Student, who represent the 10,000 students studying in England.
“Zionism is not an obscure fringe issue. For most Jewish student Zionism is integral to their identity,” says Doek.
Zionism, according to Doek, is the development of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. The four panelists will now give their opinions on what Zionism is.
Oliver Worth speaks first, who grew up in Nottingham and now lives in Tel Aviv as an Israeli citizen. He is the Chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students.
“Zionism is my expression of Judaism,” he says. He says that his identity, during his time as a student in Manchester, was under attack.
Zionism, “is not right or left” and does not determine whether you agree or disagree with Israeli people, he says.
“Israel is in a unique position,” he says. “We are the only country where our very right to exist is question.”
“As Jews we do not just share a belief system and a god but we share a culture and a way of life.”
Deborah now speaks. She says it would be disengenuous to say that she felt a great need to return to Israel. She went to Israel when she was 15 during the lebenese war. She says she wanted to understand why Israel was so important to Jews. She became in terested in the relationship between Israel and Diaspora. This interest, for her, became Zionism.
She says she is not entirely comfortable with calling herself a Zionist. She says she is a progressive Jew. When she was born Israel was already in existance so she says she could never relate to Zionism as the creation of a Jewish state. She says she often disagrees with the Government, with settlements, occupation and many other things. “There are very many things that are great about Israel but we do a great disservice if we do not recognise the parasitic occupation Israel is involved in.”
Being a “liberal zionist”, for Deborah, is about not being part of the problem.
Daniel speaks next. “I would call myself a practical Zionist,” he says. He was born in America and then his parents moved, with him, to Israel when he was a child. He says that Israel for him is not about the conflict but about everyday life; getting on the bus, going to the shop and so on.
He feels that Israel is a place for Jews to express their own culture. Those Jews living in a minority as part of the Diaspora do not, he says, insist on their culture being imposed upon other people in that country. In Israel, Daniel expects that Jewish culture should be at the forefront – still respectful of other cultures – but open to express its own.
The final speaker is Joel. Joel was brought up a religeous zionist. He says that he believes in a two state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict and that his Zionism is ideological and did not start with Herzel in the 1800’s.
For him, it is not where you live but what you do where you live. He says that he feels a connection to Hebron but does think it should be Israel’s because of the way they have behaved there which goes against Judaism.
The rest of Joel’s discussion was interesting and engaging but I will struggle to repeat the arguments he gave. He seemed to be suggesting that any state that requires control of Palestine is not a Jewish state. He said that there is no reason why a state cannot exist with a Jewish identity, Jewish culture and Jewish national holidays that doesn’t also offer full democratic right to every citizen and that could theoretically allow a Palestine to become Prime Minister and engage in the democratic structure of the country. This, he says, is the same idea as having a Christian state such as the UK, with minorities that can exist as part of the democracy of that country.
The panelists will now take questions from the Chair and from the Audience.