The world sees ‘an alliance with those who want Israel to simply not exist’

As I watched, from the sidelines, the Dec. 23 protest on Main Street in Brattleboro, I saw someone holding a small cardboard sign that helped me feel a little better about what I was witnessing. The sign read, "Yes Israel, Yes Palestine."

Yes, that's a message that I would feel good sending out to the world. Yes, I want the fighting to stop; I want all sides to sit together and make peace. Yes, I, too, am horrified by all the violence.

But I will not join protests under banners of anti-Zionism. Why? Because if we take the simple definition of Zionism (for example, from the Oxford Dictionary) as: "A movement for (originally) the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel," that would imply that anti-Zionism is against the development and protection of a Jewish nation.

The implications of sending that message out to the world are horrifying to me.

When members of Hamas chant "From the river to the sea," they want Israel wiped out, Jews wiped out. They have adopted a different definition of Zionism. They, and other antisemitic groups, promote a definition of Zionism equated with colonization, oppression, and exclusion.

I fear that when my good peace-loving friends on the streets of Brattleboro buy into that redefinition of Zionism, what the world sees is an alliance with those who want Israel to simply not exist.

This is not to say that the state of Israel has not engaged in oppressive policies and actions. Yes, let's protest injustices. But I want to send a clear message of what I hope would be our desire for Israelis and Palestinians: to live and prosper, sharing the lands of their origins.

Zionism is not opposed to coexistence. The Jews that I am most intimately acquainted with are Zionists: They support the legitimate existence of a Jewish state in Israel, and they are also actively supporting Palestinian rights, opposing settlers' violence in the West Bank, facilitating dialogue.

At this point, even though I am not Jewish, I am a Zionist, as defined by peace- and justice-loving Zionist Jews, not as defined by others bent on eliminating Jews.

Yes, I want the bloodshed to end. I urge my friends on the streets of Brattleboro to check their language. Send a good message, and I'll join you.

Charles Laurel

East Dummerston

This letter to the editor was submitted to The Commons.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates