Arizona House Representative Alma Hernandez (LD-3) is criticized for being a progressive Zionist.
“Sometimes I am told, ‘You have to choose one side or the other; you can’t be both, “or” You have to verify one of your identities at the door, “and I refuse to do so,” Hernandez said at a Jewish National Fund-USA roundtable on Tuesday. November 16.
She’s not the only one. US Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15) said he was surprised by the “overwhelming hatred” and “vitriol” he received when he announced he would be traveling to Israel with a delegation in 2014 as a New York City Councilor.
“Over time, I realized that there was a dangerous idea seeping into progressive politics: the idea that you cannot be both pro-Israel and progressive, which is a lie. vicious, ”he said.
Hernandez and Torres have spoken of being progressive Zionists as part of the JNF-USA’s “This is what Zionism looks like” campaign launched in August.
The JNF-USA has launched the campaign to “reclaim” the meaning of the word “Zionism,” said its CEO, Russell F. Robinson. “The word ‘Zionism’ has been hijacked from us. The campaign includes a social media effort, online events, boot camps, educational classes and panel discussions focused on “the beauty, substance, building and (and) commonalities that Zionism brings. “.
Hernandez, the first Mexican-American Jew ever elected to the United States, said Israel is the epitome of progressive values.
“All the issues we talk about – be it women’s health, health care, LGBTQ rights – all the issues that are close to my heart are all issues that Israel has been at the forefront of for years. years. It is the only democracy in the Middle East, the only place we know of that has really given people dignity and respect and allowed them to serve in government.
Last year, when Torres was sworn in in Congress, he was the first openly gay African-Latin American to serve in the legislature. He also sees Israel as a reflection of progressive values.
“One of Israel’s goals is to protect a historically oppressed people from a repeat of our worst history. If it’s not progressive, then I don’t know what it would be, ”he said. “Progressivism is about the struggle for liberation, and Zionism is about the struggle for Jewish liberation. “
He said he and other progressive Zionists have an obligation to speak out. “We cannot afford to be drowned or ousted by the extremes,” he said. He also hopes to see the rising generations embrace and spread the message that they are pro-Israel because they are progressive, and not in spite of it.
A few years ago, all major Democrats strongly supported Israel as a key ally of the United States. But today’s Democratic Party is no longer a monolith when it comes to Israel – and neither are America’s Jewish people.
A May survey by the Pew Research Center found that 82% of all American Jews said supporting Israel was essential or important to “what it means to be Jewish to them.” The same number also identified themselves as liberal or moderate, and a large majority said they leaned for Democrats. Yet among Jews under 30, Pew found weaker emotional attachment to Israel and higher support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Hernandez hopes the newly strengthened Holocaust education programs will help students from all walks of life gain a better understanding of Zionism.
“We have to teach, especially to the younger generations, the horrors of the past to ensure that this does not happen again,” she said.
A national survey last September found that “when asked how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust, 63% of millennials (those aged 25 to 40) and Gen Z (those aged 18 at age 24) did not know that 6 million Jews had been murdered. That figure jumped to 67% in Arizona. The survey, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also found that 11% of national respondents – 15% in Arizona – believe Jews caused the Holocaust.
“And that’s because we haven’t done a good job of teaching these things,” Hernandez said.
She first introduced a bill making Holocaust education mandatory in Arizona three years ago. It was passed by the state legislature in July and came into effect on September 30, 2021.
“It was no easy feat to get Holocaust education in Arizona,” she said. “You would think it would be easy, because it should be obvious, and it should be something that most people care about learning and children need to learn. “
Arizona is now one of 21 states with legislation requiring or encouraging Holocaust education. Hernandez said students need to understand that Israel would not exist without Zionism. Jn
See all past episodes of JNF-USA’s Conversations on Zionism series at youtube.com/zionismstudios. To view and register for future episodes, visit jnf.org/convos.