The following is adapted from Joel B. Pollak’s new ebook, The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it), which is out today.
The Israel Defense Forces continued their counterattack Friday morning against Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, who have launched thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians in the past several days.
Israel’s enemies are trying to use this conflict as they use every other: not to quibble about Israel’s conduct in one airstrike or another, but to question Israel’s very right to exist.
They would do better to study the true story of how Israel was founded, and why it has succeeded. The lessons of Zionism, and the example of Israel, are useful to any nation — or individual — determined to win.
There is something like a “Zionist conspiracy” — but it is not a nefarious plot to rule the world, as antisemitic propaganda has suggested for over a century. Rather, it is a strategy for achievement that explains why Israel continues to triumph.
The methods of Zionism as a political movement, and of Israel as a nation-state, offer lessons for leadership and self-improvement from which anyone can learn.
The term “Zionism” refers specifically to the idea that Jews have the right to self-determination in the Land of Israel. But the word “zionist” should, I believe, also be used as a common noun, beyond its original Jewish context, to refer generally to the will to transform oneself to achieve one’s goals.
Israel is the prime example. Zionism changed the meaning, and experience, of being Jewish.
Those who supported the Zionist cause learned a new language, acquired new skills, and sometimes even changed their names to become what the fulfillment of their dream required them to be. They did so freely, and the democratic state they created has thrived precisely because it values the individual and prizes innovation.
In my new ebook, The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it), I draw lessons from the history of Zionism, the establishment of Israel, and the prosperity of Israeli society today.
- Find a way: Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, was willing to use almost any method that worked — and used several at once — to achieve the unlikely goal of a Jewish state.
- Defy the odds, and the numbers: The prospects of a Jewish state had seemed unlikely; once founded, Israel faced enemies that were stronger, and more numerous. Yet Israel defended itself, in war after war.
- Never say “never”: When Israel faced the threat of the Palestinian intifada, experts said there was “no military solution.” But Israel found several partial solutions: unilateral withdrawal, a security barrier, and missile defense.
- Turn scarcity into opportunity: Israel lacks water, and was thought to lack oil, until recently – unlike many of its neighbors. But that scarcity prompted technological innovation that made Israel more prosperous.
- Become the change: Eliezer Ben-Yehuda created modern Hebrew in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, almost single-handedly, simply by speaking it, inventing the words he needed, and teaching others to use it as well.
- Make memory potent: Israelis, like Jews everywhere, mourn the Holocaust. But rather than dwell on victimhood, Israel uses the Holocaust to draw positive inspiration for future success.
- Welcome diversity — within limits: Israel has welcomed Jews from all over the world, and rescued Soviet and Ethiopian Jews. It includes an Arab minority, too. Yet it retains its core identity.
- Pursue universal principles: The Zionists wanted their specifically Jewish state to have a broader global mission. Today, Israel exemplifies values of human rights and an open society.
- Be willing to change: When its original socialist model was no longer successful, Israel shifted to free market policies, achieving greater prosperity for all even at the cost of greater inequality.
- Innovate to improve the world: Israel has been a hub of innovation — not just to meet its own needs, but also to “repair,” or at least, improve the world and serve humanity’s broader needs.
- Build better failures: Unlike other utopian movements, Zionism accepted that human beings were flawed. With that in mind, Israel built institutions that could withstand such failures.
- Minimize the role of politics: Israel’s chaotic political system is notoriously unstable. Yet the country has remained united because of social bonds and institutions that transcend politics.
- Choose to live “in the open”: Unlike American Jewish culture, which is shaped by insecurity, Israelis have chosen to live a more physical life, taking direct responsibility for their destiny.
- Avoid low expectations: The Black Lives Matter movement can learn from Zionism’s focus on self-reliance, rather than focusing on victimization and suggesting that failure is inevitable.
- Share successful models: Israel’s new Arab partners in peace have often been those states that are most “zionist” in terms of their willingness to change their own societies to succeed.
- Develop a vision: The Palestinians have turned down every deal and are obsessed with the past. They could benefit from Zionism’s example and develop a positive vision for their future.
The word “zionism” best summarizes these strategies, because just as Zion refers to the idea of a specific physical place with a spiritual purpose, one’s own goals, however ambitious, should be grounded in the real world, while also having a broader meaning.
As Israel celebrates the 73rd anniversary of its Declaration of Independence on Friday, May 14, it finds itself at war — just as it was in 1948, when surrounding Arab states were determined to destroy it. But it survived – and went on to become one of the most prosperous, creative, and exciting societies in the world.
Israel’s example can inspire others — including its Arab neighbors, and the Palestinians — to succeed, if they are willing to reform themselves to achieve their ambitions.
The “zionist conspiracy” is simply those people, united in their pursuit of excellence, who are prepared to change as they seek to change the world.
When the last terrorist rockets are destroyed, and the oppressive Hamas regime finally crumbles, the only path forward for both Israelis and Palestinians will be one of peace and prosperity, the positive approach summarized by Herzl’s famous dictum: “If you will it, it is no dream.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new e-book, The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it). His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.