In 2012, Jonathan Freedland, a columnist for The Guardian, wrote a piece for the leftist magazine New Statesman, describing his ideological coordinates. “I write regularly on Israel and the Middle East,” it begins, “but there is one word apparently central to the topic I use only rarely: Zionism. That is because the word has become so misunderstood, so freighted with excess baggage, that it has become all but impossible to deploy it without extensive explanation and qualification.”
Has it now? Consider another Freedland piece, this one from last week and in response to the discovery—Shocking! Shocking!—that more than a few leading members of the Labour Party hold anti-Semitic views. Freedland again wore his heart on his sleeve from the get-go: “My plea to the left: treat Jews the same way you’d treat any other minority.”
This plea only makes sense if you believe, like Freedland, that Zionism has been co-opted by the lunatic religious Jewish right and now conveys little else but a passion for Judean wine and a strong desire to settle the hills of Samaria. If that’s the case, your best bet is to plead heartily with the goyim and ask them to disabuse themselves of their irrational hatred and come to embrace the Jews and protect them instead.
But if you believe that Zionism is nothing more or less than the idea that Jews have the same right for self-determination as any other nation, and if you celebrate the fact that, having put this idea to action, the Jews have managed to build their own state with a strong army well-equipped to defend them against their enemies, Freedland’s plea—indeed, the entire row over Labour’s vile bigotry—seems a little nonsensical.
The point is this: we no longer have to plead—to the left or the right or the Islamists or the nativists or to anyone else. If Britain—or Belgium or France or Sweden for that matter—wants to hound its Jews, that’s too bad, and it would leave these countries Judenrein and scrubbed of any claim on the heritage of the Enlightenment. But try to really mess with Jews, and you’ll learn the real lesson of Zionism’s triumph: we can defend ourselves now, and, if needed, will do so with great and glorious fury.
Which doesn’t mean, of course, that the anti-Semites are likely to be at all dissuaded. Haters, as Jewish history has repeatedly taught us, will hate. But now that Jews have a state and an army and six decades of collective memory rich with proud moments of self-defense, the affairs of anti-Semites are now, more than ever, trivial.
That the Labour Party is being gnawed to death by anti-Jewish zealots bodes ill for the Labour Party and for Britain at large; a nation whose citizens have been decapitated in broad daylight and whose trains are exploded by crazed terrorists needs strong and principled parties to balance the demands of national security with the dictates of democracy. Remarkably, the least affected here are the Jews: if push came to shove, they’ll join their French brethren on Netanya’s beaches, not an easy move but not, all things considered, a devastating one, either.
So good luck to our British brothers in their struggle to save whatever’s left of their civil society. As they fight to preserve tolerance, diversity, justice, and all the other wonderful things that makes the United Kingdom the robust beacon of liberty it wants to believe it still is, they may want to consult recent examples of national movements that succeeded in building thriving democracies despite considerable external threats. They can begin by reading up on Zionism.