I call myself Zionist

This article currently appears in the WIZO Review:

file:///C:/Users/rolene/Downloads/WIZO_REVIEW_336.pdf

Maligned and misunderstood, emotive and provocative, the word Zionism is guaranteed to elicit very strong reactions when mentioned.

In the years since its inception and the forming of the first World Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland in 1897, Zionism has been reinvented, reinterpreted and robust discussion has taken place over the merits and relevance of Zionism in today’s fast changing world.

The dream of a State of Israel for the Jewish people has been realized and many have debated whether or not Zionism is still relevant in our daily lives.

The most basic definition of Zionism is the yearning of the Jewish people to return to their ancient ancestral homeland, Israel. In the years that have passed since the birth of the State of Israel it would seem that Zionism is the only national liberation movement of a people that is derided and questioned.

10686828_10153023762777766_743833675658166667_n

Legendary civil rights leader and supporter of Zionism, Rev Dr Martin Luther King

In 1975, the United Nations passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism. Even though this resolution was revoked in 1991, the damage was done. The seed was planted and the foundation was laid to portray Israel as a pariah state, equal to that of Apartheid South Africa. It became legitimate in public discourse to call Israel an Apartheid state and this really gained momentum in 2001 with the UN Conference on Racism held in Durban, South Africa.

It was here that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) really exploded in to the international consciousness. BDS activists knew that the irony and symbolism of launching at such a conference in South Africa, the home of Apartheid would give their movement the impetus they desired. Israel and the Jewish world were rudely awakened by the sophisticated organization of this campaign that included some of the worst invective since pre-war Germany and saw the birth of the international hate fest known as Israel Apartheid Week that takes place on university campuses around the world during March every year. The new anti-Semitism is wrapped up in the cloak of anti-Zionism and the central charge is Israel is an Apartheid state which must be dismantled at all costs.

10952261_750142678415762_3894806340699468846_n

Billboards in Johannesburg, South Africa contain quotes from Nelson Mandela on Zionism

In 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in response to the barrage of rockets launched at her citizens from Gaza. Instead of empathizing with Israel’s citizens who were running to their shelters several times a day, Israel’s detractors used this as an opportunity to release some of the worst venom that sometimes culminated in violent acts against Jewish communities in their countries, giving rise to a tsunami of anti-Semitic hatred. From France to Germany, USA to South Africa, Jewish communities became targets in synagogues, schools, restaurants and across various social media platforms.

For the first time since 1945, the cry of “Jews to the gas” or ‘Jews, Hitler should have finished the job” became the rally call of the haters. Their methods are quite transparent. They wrap their “concern” for Palestinian human rights in condemnation of Israel and her Diaspora communities but it is apparent that if they cared about these rights their anger would be directed at Hamas.

It all sounds bleak and very threatening so how do we deal with threats to our identity in an increasingly hostile world?

It is my belief that if we do not stand for something, we will fall for anything. In the modern social media savvy world we too have access to all the platforms that our detractors do. We too are protected by constitutions and laws in various countries. We too, have a voice.

IMG-20150213-WA0002

WIZO protests the invitation of terrorist hijacker, Leila Khaled to South Africa by BDS

And it is a voice that deserves to be heard. We need to be heard. At every opportunity and on every platform we can. We as WIZO women, who proudly carry the word Zionism in our name are duty bound to take up this call and educate those in our Federations and communities. We need to know what the facts are, we need to be armed with the truth and we need to have courage in the face of all this to stand up for ourselves.

The best way to answer those who call for our destruction, question our legitimacy as a nation or brand us as racists is to be proud of who we are and be strong in our identity. Telling the Jewish people that they have no right to organize themselves politically and call it Zionism is racism. Telling the Jewish people that they have no right to an identity or to sit at the table with the rest of the family of nations is racism.

We are living in a time when people are fearful and this is understandable. Organisations like WIZO can help prepare and strengthen our communities. We are called to duty and to arms – armed with the truth.

This is why it is important to be armed with facts.  We cannot abdicate responsibility anymore by saying it is the work of the government or politicians. We are all responsible for each other.

As WIZO women we have the privilege of leading the charge. Not only are we grooming future leaders but we are educating our global community. Wearing our identity proudly and unapologetically in our name, we WIZO Wonder Women continue to live up to our tenet we care, we share and we dare.

Let us heed the call to arms. Let facts, truth and pride be our weapons of choice.

10920104_10153043121334804_8663936299544859581_o

Je Suis Juif. I am a Jew. 

Advertisements

A WIZO Woman’s right to choose

This blog currently appears in the Time of Israel:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-wizo-womans-right-to-choose/

For over 90 years, the Women’s Zionist Organisation (WIZO) has been a pioneering movement. At a time when women were not allowed to be part of the organized Zionist movement a group of feisty ladies decided that if we could not join them, we would start one of our own. And so WIZO was born. Since its inception, WIZO has been all about empowering women. We have empowered women to be suffragettes because women deserved the right to vote. Don’t we also deserve the right of choice? We hold consultative status at the United Nations on UNICEF and ECOSOC, no small feat for a Zionist organization, we hold leadership positions in major Jewish organisations and we have empowered women from minority communities, many of them victims of domestic violence to be leaders. We have created leaders, entrepreneurs and trailblazers of women’s rights.  This is in addition to the tremendous work we do to improve the lives of women and children in Israel.

WIZO is all about empowerment, including the right to make informed choices, including on issues of sexuality.

It would appear that there are some that have gotten their knickers in a knot over the screening of the movie “50 Shades of Grey” as part of a WIZO fundraiser. As WIZO women we defend your choice to see the movie. Or not.

This is a worldwide event and is happening at the request of our WIZO Aviv’s who have recognized that the movie, predicted to break box office records, will attract our target membership who are more than happy to show their support for our work while enjoying a highly anticipated chick flick. It is hardly a trip to the local strip joint or purveyor of porn. Tickets to these global fundraisers are sold out and have attracted women from all sectors of society.

If the sexual proclivities of Christian Grey are not your thing, you have a choice not to see the movie. To try and tarnish the reputation of a premier woman’s movement who does outstanding work by going to the press to create controversy is mean spirited. I assume that those casting disparity have read the books. They will also know that any sex that takes place between the characters is consensual and by a fictitious character who makes her own choices and does not propagate or endorse violence against women. The women who choose to see the movie know exactly what it is about.

As WIZO women we respect the rights of our sisters to make choices that suit their individual needs, be they religious, political, intellectual or even sexual. It is a sad day when the same respect is not afforded to us.

I agree with Laurienne Baitz, World WIZO AVIV representative. At a time when women are being persecuted in countries where they cannot show their faces, vote, own property or even drive a car, is a fundraiser based around a sexy movie really the issue we should be talking about?

Let us respect a WIZO Woman’s right to choose.

Rolene Marks

Deputy Chairperson: Organisation and Tourism Division

World WIZO

A time to scream

More than 70 years after the Holocaust, a cruel and barbaric evil has surfaced. There is no depth to their depravity and their medieval methods of torture and murder are becoming more and more atrocious. They are so depraved that not even Al Qaeda want to be associated with them. In a recent interview with members of the world’s previous first ranked terror organization, Al Qaeda terrorists described their fear of the Islamic State (Daesh).

Nobody is immune from their evil clutches, not aid workers, not journalists and not even their co-religionists. They are more sophisticated than their counterparts, understanding the power of social media and good video editing and their poster boy, Jihadi John, a citizen of the United Kingdom understands the veracity of clear communication in English. In short, they are terrifying.

The horrific irony is that these execution videos or sick snuff films are becoming recruitment calls and thousands around the world are signing up to become members of this gang of terror.

They have marched through the Middle East on their mission of mayhem, slaughtering Yazidis, crucifying Christians, including children, beheading journalists and aid workers and leaving a trail of death in their wake.

10959877_801095759961845_9063629341347258152_n

Cartoon courtesy of RAFO

They are a dangerous enemy because they are not an army we can meet on a battlefield or easily identify. They hide, like faceless cowards behind their balaclavas and masks.

Last night they released their footage of the execution of Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh. A devout Sunni Muslim, al-Kasasbeh was burnt alive while being held in a cage. I have not and don’t need to watch the footage – I can hear his screams.

No, you will not see links to the video of al-Kasasbeh’s execution here or still photography pictures. I will not be complicit in giving Daesh the media coverage they crave. Their victims die torturous deaths and the trauma for their loved ones is unimaginable.

Screen-Shot-2015-02-03-at-4.13.12-PM1

Vigil held for Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh

Last week we commemorated 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz and International Holocaust Day.  The tears and the painful memories which are forever embedded in our hearts and in our consciousness flowed freely.

To coincide with this, the BBC held an hour long debate on whether or not it is time to lay the Holocaust to rest. The link is included below.

This is offensive on SO many levels. Anti-Semitism is reaching alarming levels around the world and once again, Jews are fleeing Europe. Holocaust Survivor, Roman Kent’s plea “Do not let our past become our children’s future” cut to the very heart of me.  This is why we talk about the Holocaust. This is why we endeavor to educate. When we took that vow NEVER AGAIN, we promised Roman Kent, we promised our family members we lost, we promised the victims of the Holocaust we will never let it happen again. We promised future generations that we will create a better world for them.

More than 70 years after the Holocaust can we really say we learnt anything? In Rwanda and Cambodia, in the former Yugoslavia and in the Ukraine and across the Middle East, genocide and mass murder has resurfaced.

We are not dealing with the issues. We use words like “militant” or “extremist” to describe these murderous barbarians. Let us call them what they are. They are terrorists. Until we call it what it is, we will never be able to defeat them.

World leaders cannot make speeches filled with sound bites or send famed folk singers to sing kumbaya as a gesture of goodwill to the victims.

Enough is enough. We owe it to Roman Kent and the victims of the Holocaust, the Yazidis, Christians who are being slaughtered the people of Rwanda, Cambodia and other genocides to give them the voice they never had. ISIS and their ilk are the Nazis of this era and they need to be defeated for once and for all.

We cannot let NEVER AGAIN become AGAIN AND AGAIN. It is a time to scream.