Zionist Freedom Alliance

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The Zionist Freedom Alliance (ZFA) is an activist grassroots Zionist movement that advocates Israel's moral, legal and historic rights for the Jewish people to the entire Land of Israel, which they consider to include the territory captured during the 1967 Six-Day War. It was established in 1999 by Magshimey Herut activists[1] in response to what they perceived to be growing anti-Israel sentiment among young people throughout the world. ZFA claims that their narrative has not been presented since before the start of the Oslo peace process and that this has resulted in the world’s ignorance of Israel’s claim to all territory between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River. ZFA views Zionism as a revolutionary struggle and itself as the voice of Jewish national liberation. Its members are both religious and non-religious Jews.

Ideology[edit]

Revolutionary Zionism[edit]

Heavily influenced by the philosophy of Israel Eldad, ZFA views Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people and a revolution unparalleled by any other in human history.[2] The movement validates this claim by emphasizing that while various revolutions have succeeded in leaving their mark on human development, none have succeeded in reviving a dead language or relocating a scattered nation from dispersion to a central location. ZFA defines the Zionist Revolution as the liberation of Jewish land from foreign rule, the ingathering of the Jewish people from the exile to their soil, the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language for everyday use, and the creation of a utopian society that will serve as a model of social justice to the world. The movement views itself as the vanguard of this revolution and often calls itself the “voice of Jewish liberation.” The above views are featured on the organization’s website and have been expressed repeatedly by ZFA leader Yehuda HaKohen, who hosts two internet based programs on Arutz Sheva radio.[3]

Jewish National Rights[edit]

While mainstream Jewish leaders and pro-Israel organizations on American campuses often try to present the State of Israel as a democratic Western country with numerous security challenges, the Zionist Freedom Alliance speaks of Israel as a Middle Eastern nation with a legitimate moral and historic right to its entire country. In a July 2008 interview, ZFA leader Yehuda HaKohen told Israel National News that:

"We must make the world understand that the Jewish nation, like any other nation on the planet, has a right to self-determination in our country. Not in half of our country, but in our whole country. We have nothing against any other peoples, but the world today has no shortage of Arab states. 77% of Palestine [the territory east of the Jordan River] was made into an Arab state, and we are at least entitled to the remaining 23% that was left us by international law to be a Jewish state. No power on earth has the moral authority to rob us of our land."[4]

In that same interview, HaKohen angered American neo-conservative groups by stating that:

"There is nothing right-wing or conservative about wanting to keep our [the Jewish] homeland free from foreign rule. If we are truly the indigenous natives in the conflict, then our cause should really be championed by liberal students everywhere. Especially since the Bush administration that occupies Iraq and imposes a Patriot Act on the American people is the very same administration pushing to ethnically cleanse the Jewish people from portions of our homeland."[4]

ZFA views the Jewish people as indigenous to the Middle East and the victims of Western imperialism. Leading activists of the movement have often pointed out that Great Britain, the United Nations and even the United States government did everything in their power to prevent a Jewish state from coming into existence. The Zionist struggle, according to ZFA, is therefore an anti-imperialist struggle aimed at liberating the land of Israel from foreign rule and securing the Jewish people’s right to self determination in their country.

National Liberation[edit]

As a national liberation movement, ZFA alleges to advocate freedom for all nations from foreign rule (specifically the Chechens, Kurds, and Irish) but denies that freedom to a Palestinian nation whom ZFA claims does not exist. The movement officially argues in its "Covenant of Freedom" that while there has yet to be a serious and objective historical analysis of the claims that "Palestinian" Arabs constitute a distinct national group, there is overwhelming evidence that the notion of such a people was invented as a propaganda weapon to be used in the war against Zionism.[5] ZFA activists have also been known to more assertively argue that a Palestinian national identity was invented in the 1960s by the Arab League and Western powers for the purpose of robbing the Jewish people of their homeland. ZFA claims that multi-national corporations and Western governments seeking to promote globalization have been using the Palestinian Arabs as a political tool against the State of Israel and that the front line in the battle against globalization is actually the struggle to retain Greater Israel.[6] Unlike movements on Israel’s political right, ZFA avoids anti-Arab rhetoric[4] and actually advocates Israel becoming more Middle Eastern in character. Many ZFA leaders, including Elie Yossef and Yehuda HaKohen, have put forward the need for a genuine peace agreement between Israel and the Arabs but have rejected the notion of territorial concessions as this would be – in the view of ZFA – an historic injustice against the Jewish people.

Although opposed to many policies of recent Israeli governments, ZFA views the State of Israel as being of great historic significance and deserving of their loyalty. The movement places unity amongst Jews of all persuasions on equal footing with the territorial integrity of the land of Israel and therefore works to create dialogue and strengthen the bond between Jews with opposing political and religious opinions.

Views on Peace and the Middle East Conflict[edit]

Although ZFA members are not known to have uniform views regarding possible solutions to the Arab–Israeli conflict, the organization officially opposes the notion of territorial concessions by Israel. At the same time, Yehuda HaKohen has used his radio show on several occasions to speak out against Islamophobia and has articulated a position that places blame for the conflict not on Arab or Jewish shoulders but on third parties, particularly the United States and Europe, who attempt to broker solutions between the sides. In December 2008, HaKohen told Israel National News that:

"It was the British who originally turned local Arabs and Jews against one another in order to further their own colonialist agenda for our region. And now Western governments arm both sides and then attempt to impose artificial diplomatic solutions. The Israeli government and PA leaderships today both behave as puppets to foreign regimes and both the local Jewish and Arab populations are suffering. The way to achieve real peace between peoples here is to work from the bottom up and not the top down. The Jewish and Arab peoples are both native to the Middle East. We have a great deal in common. But for efforts at genuine peace to succeed, Western governments and multinational corporations need to leave our region alone and let the indigenous Jews and Arabs settle things between ourselves."[7]

Activities[edit]

ZFA differs from other Zionist movements is that it fights for social causes often associated with the left while maintaining a hard right position on Jewish national identity and Israel’s borders. In November 2007, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported the ZFA to be promoting Israeli nationalism on twenty American college campuses and described the group as socially liberal with a hard-right stance on Israeli border issues.[8] On the organization’s website, ZFA claims to take a revolutionary step in the Zionist world by combining a faithful adherence to Jewish national aspirations with a steadfast commitment to social justice within society.[9]

On American campuses[edit]

ZFA trains activists on college campus to promote what the group terms "Jewish liberation." In the field of pro-Israel advocacy, the movement is unique as it speaks of Israel's moral right to the land rather than the country's security needs. In February 2008 the ZFA created controversy at the University of Pennsylvania by holding a demonstration against Breaking the Silence, a group of ex-Israeli soldiers who came to the campus in order to speak against the IDF's presence in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. ZFA accused Breaking the Silence of being financed by Western governments to smear the State of Israel, an accusation that was later validated by The Jerusalem Post in July 2009.[10] At the time of the demonstration, a front page article[11] and political cartoon[12] in the Daily Pennsylvania portrayed ZFA activists as unwilling to hear opinions contrary to their own. These accusations were later refuted by local ZFA leader Brian Finkel in a letter to the paper's editor[13] which explained ZFA's perspective on what had taken place.

Israel Liberation Week[edit]

In April 2008, ZFA launched a week-long program called Israel Liberation Week at Hofstra University.[14] During this week of events, ZFA reached beyond the Jewish community and targeted a wider student public through films, art exhibits and concerts that focused on Jewish rights to the land of Israel, the Jewish revolt against British rule and the need for the State of Israel to become an independent country.[15]

Reaching out to Muslim students[edit]

During Israel Liberation Week at the University of Albany[16] in November 2008, ZFA activists made an effort to reach out to the Muslim Student Association in order to find common ground on a host of issues. ZFA leaders claimed success in reaching agreements with Muslim student leaders on several points and told Israel National News that the MSA at Albany recognized the Jewish people’s national rights, acknowledged that there really is no distinct Palestinian Arab nation and that in order for Jews and Arabs to make peace Western interference in the Middle East would have to end. ZFA and MSA agreed that both the Jewish and Arab peoples are Middle Eastern peoples with a great deal in common and that peace can only be achieved through grassroots dialogue.[17]

Violence at Berkeley[edit]

On November 13, 2008, violence erupted between ZFA and the Students for Justice in Palestine at an Israel Liberation Week event taking place at UC Berkeley.[18] The incident, which took place during a ZFA concert featuring Black, Jewish and Mexican hip hop artists promoting freedom for Israel from Western pressure and foreign influence,[17] began when anti-Israel students unfurled Palestinian flags from a balcony overlooking the concert stage. ZFA activists attempted to remove the flags and a fight broke out between the two organizations. While both groups accused the other of initiating the violence, both agreed that ZFA prevailed in the actual fight.[19] Following the incident, SJP members told Berkeley police that pro-Israel students made racial slurs against Arab students during the fight[20][21] but the charge was denied by ZFA leaders,[22] who view both themselves and Arabs as belonging to the same Semitic race.

ZFA leader Yehuda HaKohen, who had delivered a speech from the stage during the concert, told Israel National News that he opposed students attempting to remove the flags but nevertheless saw value in the incident.

"Even though I wanted to avoid the altercation, I recognize the value in anti-Israel activists getting put in their place by the very students they so often try to bully into silence… ZFA might not have started the violence but we definitely finished it. I hope Husam [Zakharia, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine] and his crew think twice next time they want to get physical with any of our students."[17][19]

Following the incident, one Jew and two Arabs were cited with charges of battery by Berkeley police. Mainstream Jewish organizations refrained from taking any sides in the conflict but distanced themselves from ZFA by denouncing all acts of violence and violations of university policy.[22]

In Israel[edit]

Following the trend of many ZFA student activists immigrating to the State of Israel, the organization has created a chapter in the Jerusalem area. According to the group's website the main focus of ZFA activities in Israel is to increase the country's political independence through educating the public against accepting foreign aid from the United States. ZFA has also participated in the struggle against territorial withdrawals and the fight against discrimination within Israeli society.[6]

L'Herut Tzion[edit]

Following the 2009 Israeli national elections, ZFA leaders teamed up with Kumah and other nationalist organizations to establish the L'Herut Tzion (For the Freedom of Zion) movement and champion the cause of Israeli independence.[23] On the anniversary of Jewish freedom fighter Avraham Stern's assassination, L'Herut Tzion held a conference in Jerusalem that explained the root cause for most of Israel's problems to be a lack of political independence. ZFA activists present at the event told Israel National News that although most Israelis "oppose territorial concessions", they also believe that Israel must obey the directives of foreign governments, which often demand such concessions. While addressing the conference Yehuda HaKohen declared:

"We are starting a new movement tonight that will work through different channels to achieve freedom for our nation. That means pressuring members of Knesset from different parties to advance legislation against accepting foreign money or foreign dictates. And it also means strategically planned public demonstrations and educational initiatives geared towards fostering a desire for freedom among our people. This is the great cause of our generation because this is the root cause of Israel's major challenges. In ancient times, when indigenous peoples would fight for their freedom from foreign rule, they would mint coins as a declaration of liberty. And when Yohanan of Gush Halav led his Zionist rebels into battle against Rome, he minted coins with the statement L'Herut Tzion – For the Freedom of Zion. This is the name that we have chosen to march under."[24]

ZFA activists protesting against American pressure across from the US Consulate in Jerusalem

Strengthening the Jewish presence of Beit Hanina[edit]

In 2009 a number of ZFA members moved into the Beit Shiva building in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina. The building had been inhabited by veteran Lehi fighters following the 1967 Six-Day War and had remained the sole Jewish building in an otherwise Arab neighborhood. Concerned that as the elderly Lehi veterans die the Jewish hold on the building would be weakened, ZFA activists began to move into apartments left vacant by deceased tenants. One of the ZFA activists who moved into the building told Israel National News that his move was in response to the international community pressuring the Israeli government to halt Jewish development in East Jerusalem.

"We are here not only to show the current residents of Beit Shiva our support, but also to show the world that all of Jerusalem is and will continue to remain under Hebrew sovereignty. We cannot allow foreign leaders to push for anti-Jewish discriminatory housing policies anywhere in Israel, much less in our capital."[25]

Shomron Volunteer Program[edit]

In August 2009 ZFA and the Shomron Liaisons Office cooperated to create a volunteer program for American students in the hilltop communities of the Samaria region. The controversial Jewish communities had been the central focus of American pressure on Israel's government and students looking to defy Washington and strengthen Israel's hold on the region spent a week working, building and farming in Yitzhar, Shalhevet Yam, Har Brakha, Kfar Tapuach, and Havat Gilad.[26][27][28] The Jerusalem Post reported ZFA leader Yehuda HaKohen working with a dozen program participants planting a vineyard on a hilltop near the Har Brakha community, just outside Shechem and saying:

"For us the main issue is justice. When we come here to build and plant and support local residents, we are not simply taking a political stance on Israeli policy. We are resisting an historic crime from being perpetrated against our nation."

Binyamin Rubin, a ZFA leader from the University of Pennsylvania who had moved to Israel a month prior to the program, told the Post that:

"We're here to strengthen the connection to this land specifically, because it is under so much pressure right now from foreign powers that want to take it away from us. It's a statement that says, we're building something, we're planting something, that we will be here in the future to enjoy."[29]

Rubin, who served as the trip councilor for the program was quoted by Israel National News as saying:

“We are working to strengthen the Jewish people's hold on Samaria which foreign powers are trying to take from us. For the students, the main issue is not politics but justice. The Jewish people have every legal and historic right to this land, and the program affords an outlet to express our resistance.”

David Ha'ivri, the executive director of the Shomron Liaisons Office, emphasized to Israel National News that the program had been a pilot run for what he hopes will become a mainstream experiential program for Diaspora Jewish students.

"Through this one week program, these kids get a unique hands-on opportunity to meet the pioneers settling the barren hilltops of Samaria and take part in reviving Jewish culture and agriculture in our ancient homeland. We are grateful for the cooperation of the ZFA and plan on jointly promoting additional such programs throughout campuses in America. This partnership between youth volunteers and Jewish farmers in Samaria is a blessing for both sides: the farmers need working hands, and the youth get an unforgettable experience that connects them to the Land of Israel."[30]

In October 2009 the week long volunteer program was repeated at the village of El Matan.[31]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Magshimey Herut at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  2. ^ Zionist Freedom Alliance The Zionist Revolution Archived December 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Israel National Radio - The Struggle
  4. ^ a b c Pro-Israel Revolution On Campus - Israel National News
  5. ^ Zionist Freedom Alliance - Declaration Archived December 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b Zionist Freedom Alliance - Action Archived December 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Blair Urges Council on Foreign Relations to Pressure Israel - Israel National News
  8. ^ Ron Paul's tiny Jewish following - JTA, Jewish & Israel News Archived November 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Zionist Freedom Alliance - About Us Archived December 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Europeans Funding Breaking the Silence – Jerusalem Post[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Zionist students protest traveling art exhibit – The Daily Pennsylvanian
  12. ^ Opinion Art – The Daily Pennsylvanian
  13. ^ Letters – The Daily Pennsylvanian
  14. ^ Arguing the Justice of the Zionist Cause – Israel National News Archived April 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ American Students Hosting Israel Liberation Week – Israel National News
  16. ^ Albany Students Hosting Israel Liberation Week – Israel National News
  17. ^ a b c Israel Liberation Week Ends Violently at Berkeley – Israel National News
  18. ^ Israel-Palestinian Tensions Erupt – The Daily Californian
  19. ^ a b Israel, Palestinian backers scrap at Berkeley – JTA, Jewish & Israel News Archived March 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Thursday Night's Altercation May Be Classified As Hate Crime by Police Pending Investigation – The Daily Californian
  21. ^ BERKELEY: David Stevenson Reports On incident At Pro-Israel Concert Being Investigated As Hate Crime – KTVU Archived June 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ a b Jewish, Arab students brawl during pro-Israel concert at U.C. Berkeley – Jweekly
  23. ^ New 'Independence Movement' Established - Israel National News
  24. ^ New Movement Launched at Yair Stern Memorial - Israel National News
  25. ^ Jewish Activists Move into Arab Jerusalem Neighborhood - Israel National News
  26. ^ סטודנטים אמריקאים בשירות המאחזים - Maariv
  27. ^ תגבור למאחזים מחו"ל - Israel National News
  28. ^ Young American Jews Extend Hand to Yesha - Israel National News
  29. ^ Planting US Jewish activism over the Green Line - Jerusalem Post
  30. ^ US Students Farm Land in Defiance of Obama's Israel Policy - Israel National News
  31. ^ Claiming a Stake in Jewish History - Israel National News

External links[edit]