At a Columbia student event on Wednesday, Joseph Massad delivered a speech entitled "Palestine: Colonialism as Peace." Massad attempted to"translate Zionism into English," by reinterpreting Israel's repeated offers to the Palestinians to swap land for peace. He claimed that Israel's offers in 1993, 2000, and 2008 to the Palestinians, which would have given at least 90 percent of the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinians as a sovereign state, were disguised attempts by Israel to "colonize" Palestine. He claimed that a two state solution would only temporarily avert violence, and he called the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, Salam Fayyad, a traitor to his people for even considering cooperation. Rather than negotiating to share the region, Massad encouraged abolishing the State of Israel and creating one country that is not Jewish. His incendiary claims are a malicious attempt to deny the Jews a homeland and to assert that Zionism can only mean racism. Not only are these claims false and offensive; they are the antithesis of the values of the State of Israel.
When looking at Jewish history, one sees a past comprised almost exclusively of prejudice and mistreatment, and Israel attempts to combat this repetitive tale of intolerance. From the Spanish Inquisition, to European blood libels, to pogroms, to the Holocaust, Jews have never had an absolute safe haven from abuse. Even today, anti-Semitism pervades liberal societies in Europe, the United States, and beyond. To call Zionism racism perverts history. Rather, Zionism is itself an attempt to stop centuries of discrimination and unfair treatment. Israel inherently contests the notion that any one Zionist vision of a Jewish state with equal rights is not simply an idealistic dream. Israel's history proves that Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East.
Many minorities live in Israel and receive the same treatment under law as Jews. The Druze community is the best example of a flourishing minority. The Druze community, comprised of 104,000 Arabs, feels at home in Israel. They serve in the military, vote in elections, hold seats in the Parliament, and have full judicial rights in court. They are treated just like any Jewish Israeli, and they have the right to practice their religion freely. Minorities within Israel are equal citizens and the Israeli government treats them as such.
Zionism does not translate into racism or colonization, as the highly controversial Massad claims. Rather, Zionism and Israel translate into the only legitimate democracy in the Middle East.
Israel is a small country. For two people to peacefully share the land, compromises must be made on both sides. While Israel is by no means perfect, as no democracy ever is, Israel's persistent offer of land for peace, including its three offers in the last seventeen years to give Palestinians at least 90 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, is an attempt at compromise and sharing. A one state solution where Jews do not have a safe haven and home is not a solution. It will only perpetuate the disastrous drama that is Jewish history. By denying the Jewish people a homeland and by disparaging Israeli and Palestinian attempts to cooperation, Massad and his supporters reverse progress towards an enduring, peaceful solution. They fail to recognize that Arab recognition of the Jewish state does not take away from Palestinian nationality; it simply confirms that Jews deserve a homeland, just like the Palestinians deserve a homeland.
The author is a first-year in the School of General Studies and List College. He is the director of public relations for LionPAC.