What is Progressive Zionism?
Zionism is the movement for the establishment and development of a state for the Jewish people within the Land of Israel. But as the late Israeli author Amos Oz used to say “Zionism has always been a surname, not a first name. No one person was ever allowed to claim Zionism for himself.” That is no more true than today when right wing Zionists attempt to claim the mantle for themselves, trying to impose a less pluralistic, less democratic Israel that perpetuates an unsustainable domination over the West Bank and its inhabitants. To begin an explanation of Progressive Zionism, a short history lesson is in order.
The majority of the founders of the modern state of Israel identified as labor and socialist Zionists. Israel’s Declaration of Independence states that the newly established state “will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Based on this vision, state institutions like the Histadrut labor union, a national health system and a strong social safety net structure were developed. A social democratic economic model was implemented through state owned financial institutions and there was strong encouragement of cooperative agricultural and manufacturing entities. While the introduction of neo-liberal economic concepts into Israel and global trends have heightened inequality in Israel over the past several decades, Israel’s core social democratic philosophy remains.
Diaspora members of those progressive Zionist movements have remained supportive of that founding Zionist vision throughout the establishment of the State of Israel and until today; Ameinu is the continuation of that thread, adapting to the changes in Israel and world Jewry.
Progressive Zionism represents the general view of American Jews who, by large majorities in poll after poll, express support for the existence of Israel, opposition to the continuing occupation of the West Bank and support for a Palestinian state along aside Israel.
In the 2020 World Zionist Congress elections Ameinu helped lead the Hatikvah Progressive Israel Slate, and its platform sums up a current Progressive Zionist world view quite well:
- A two-state solution and ending the occupation
- Social justice and protection of democratic rights for all Israeli citizens
- Religious and cultural pluralism
- Gender equity
- Full legal and social equality for the LGBTQ community
- Dignity for refugees, asylum seekers and foreign workers
- Environmental sustainability and regional cooperation