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Anna Baltzer on Being Jewish, Israeli, Zionist. Or Not.
Thursday, 15 April 2010 05:15
Transcript by Zahir Ebrahim, Video by Anna Baltzer

I am Anna Baltzer. My first reaction when I heard these things by the way was complete disbelief. I thought there is no way, there is no way that Israel is anything different from what I believe it to be, and what I know it to be. When I met people who told me anything different, I thought well these are perfectly nice people, but they have been brain washed. They have been told propaganda. And I set out to sort of try and prove them wrong. To show them that I knew what I was talking about.

And as soon as I began to do some research, I realized very quickly that I was the one who is missing a lot of information on this issue.  And not knowing sort of who to believe anymore, decided to go there and see with my own two eyes what was happening in Palestine.  So that's what I travel around the country telling people about is what I found there.

I hope I can offer people a combination of sort of some of the basics of what's going on there, and then also some ways of going a little bit deeper into the history, and most importantly, where we can go from here. I like like to start out by clarifying a few different categories that can be very confusing to people in addressing this issue. I'd like to distinguish between what it means to be Jewish: so I am Jewish what does that mean. Somebody who is Jewish is somebody either of the Jewish religion, obviously, or the Jewish lineage. My mother is Jewish, her mother is Jewish, etceteras. It's a bloodline.

And that to be Jewish is different from what it means to be Israeli: an Israeli is a citizenship, and Israeli is a citizen of the state of Israel.  And that to be Israeli is different from what it means to be a Zionist: Zionism is the political ideology that supports the idea of a Jewish state in historic Palestine, sometimes no matter what that means in reality, and no matter what it does.

Anyway, these are different categories, Jewish, Israeli, Zionist.  And sometimes they overlap in the same person, but they are not the same thing. There are Jews who are not Israeli, like myself. There are Israelis who aren't Jewish, about 25, about 20 percent of the Israeli population is Palestinian. There are Jews who are anti-Zionist, who say this land should be for anybody who's been living there for generations regardless of what their religion or their ethnicity is. And then there are Zionists who aren't Jewish. The increasingly influential Christian Zionist movement, largely based in this country that talks about fueling this conflict to bring about the Armageddon, the return of the Messiah. Again, not at all pro-Jewish, right? You know what happens to Jews in the Armageddon is not about preserving Judeism, it is Zionism.

So we see this distinction and it's very important that we see that distinction and that we express it when we are talking about this issue.  First of all, because there is no reason to associate anything that Israel is doing in terms of occupation, oppression, segregation, things that were pretty sobering that I found when I was over there. These things have nothing to do with Judeism.

And likewise, to speak out when we see people's rights being violated is not anti-Jewish.  It's not anti-Semitic. In fact, it's in line with the tradition of social justice that has been the pride of Jewish people as well as many other communities for a very long time.  So I wanna start out with that, especially because I know that people talking about this issue are often, sort of, these names are called at you, and it's absolutely absurd.  There is nothing Jewish about what Israel's doing, nothing anti-Jewish about speaking out when we see it happening.'

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