By Nada Elia
I was doing research for a book chapter I am writing, about the fragmentation of Zionist communities as some Zionists wake up to the reality that they embrace a racist ideology. It is not something new in and of itself, as many Jews who had been raised in Zionist households are now questioning and rejecting their political upbringing, while non-Jews who had absorbed the dominant Western discourse, which views Israel as a wonderful redemptive creation, are also unlearning the falsehood they had been taught.
In my research, I am also looking at newer Zionist movements, organizations that only formed in the past few years, and which claim to be “progressive” even as they maintain their belief in Israel’s Jewish ethno-supremacy. Groups like “If Not Now,” for example, which persist in questioning only “the occupation,” as if Israel had done no wrong in 1948, as if the Naksa, rather than the Nakba, were the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian people.
Naturally, I looked up the Zioness Movement. Founded in August 2017 in direct response to the embrace of Palestinian rights by a wide swath of American progressives, the Zioness movement’s slogan is “Unabashedly Progressive, Unapologetically Zionist.”
As I looked up its website, I saw the following:
“Zioness Movement, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Make a tax-deductible contribution here or send a check made out to Zioness Movement, Inc. to us at 633 Third Avenue, 21st Floor, New York NY 10017″
In my research, I had also earlier looked up The Lawfare Project, an extremely aggressive legal group that has sued (and harassed, and sought to intimidate an silence) many academics. I recall being surprised to see that the Lawfare Project is headquartered in New York, rather than California, as I had assumed. So I looked up its address again, and saw this:
THE© 2018 THE LAWFARE PROJECT
The Lawfare Project
633 Third Avenue, 21st Floor
New York, NY 10017
The exact same address as The Zioness Movement.
A little further investigation revealed to me that Amanda Berman, “founder and CEO” of the Zioness Movement, had actually been an employee of the Lawfare Project. In an interview with David Lange, who blogs at israelycool, Lawfare executive director Brooke Goldstein explains that she “basically gave up the proverbial ‘keys to the car’ to her one-time Lawfare Project employee Amanda Berman,” to front the Zioness Movement, because she feared that her own national visibility may prove detrimental to the new group.
Today, there is open disagreement between The Lawfare Project and the Zioness Movement, ostensibly because The Zioness Movement was critical of Israel’s barring of Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s visit—a ban Goldstein described as a “no brainer.” In her recent tweets, Goldstein acknowledges that the Zioness Movement was founded and funded by the Lawfare Project, but seems to have gone array. Choice words Goldstein has for the Zioness Movement’s recent positions include “the definition of insanity” and “foolish.” Meanwhile, the Zioness Movement has blocked Goldstein on Twitter.
In his three-part series on “How the Zioness Movement Lost its Way,” David Lange laments the fact that the Zioness Movement has grown to focus more on opposing antisemitism than promoting Zionism.
The Zioness movement has been dishonest from its inception, and “gained” many members by circulating images that show young women of different races with a star of David superimposed on the colorful portraits. None of the merchandise they sell is clearly “unapologetically Zionist,” so that many women (and men) who carried their posters, or wore their t-shirts at marches, did not fully grasp that they were being anything more than “not antisemitic.”
The question I would ask is “whither the Zioness movement?” With a new “director of grassroots activism” coming on board today, can the Zioness Movement find its way out of the quicksands of claiming to be “unabashedly progressive, unapologetically Zionist?” And since these two are irreconcilable, will it choose to be progressive, and thus necessarily self-dissolve, or will it continue to defend Zionism, thus alienating progressives? Hopefully, as the Zioness “lineage” is revealed, fewer people will join the movement out of total naivete.