UJS marked the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration by hosting a panel event attended by around 50 students. Amos Schonfield of Yachad, Arieh Miller of the Zionist Federation, Sharon Wagner-Zauder of UJIA, Luke Akehurst of We Believe in Israel and Jonathan Farrell of StandWithUs UK discussed the nuances of modern Zionism, the legacy of the Balfour Declaration and whether its vision has been fulfilled.
Chairing the panel, UJS co-Campaigns Officer Sam Gold asked the panellists to explore the meaning of the often hotly contested term ‘Zionism.’ Mr Akehurst argued that ‘Zionism is about national rights for all peoples; denying these to Jews – or Zionists denying these to others – is racism.’ Mr Miller stressed the importance of not allowing anti-Zionists to define Zionism, saying: ‘it's simply Jewish national liberation in our ancestral homeland.’ Mr Schonfield discussed Zionism as the liberation of Jewish refugees whilst Mr Farrell was keen to note that ‘there isn’t just one form of Zionism and it certainly isn’t defined by the Israeli government of the day.’ He added: ‘Zionism on campus starts with showing that others can't dictate to Jewish Zionists what their identity can and can't be.’
Students then had the opportunity to ask questions from the floor, including whether the Balfour Declaration's concern for civil and religious rights was ahead of its time and whether it has been fulfilled. The panellists distinguished between civil and religious rights within Israel proper and the unfulfilled Palestinian national self-determination, and Ms Wagner-Zauder added that whilst the state of Israel was the realisation of ‘national aspiration’, ‘ignoring my dream being someone else’s nightmare is irresponsible.’
The panellists also discussed the significance of the Balfour Declaration being given to the Zionist Federation as a ‘body of left, right, religious and secular Zionists; not one group of Zionists’ (Mr Miller) and support from people beyond the Jewish community, including Evangelical Christians in the creation of the Balfour Declaration (Mr Farrell.)
Other UJS-supported celebrations of the Balfour centenary are taking place across the country throughout the week. They include Balfour-themed national Friday night dinners at various J-Socs and live-streaming the Balfour Centenary Lecture with Simon Schama at several campuses. If you’d like to host either of these events, it’s not too late – get in touch with Sam.
UJS is proud to be associated with Balfour 100 - find out more here.