I wrote the original essay around 2002 and I have been modifying it since then. Here is this year's version:
Every year, the State of Israel seems to be up against yet another unsolvable crisis. These have ranged from wars to suicide bombings to terror rockets to facing the prospect of nuclear-armed enemies. Over the past year she has faced multiple threats: A spate of stabbing and car ramming attacks that have been fueled by open incitement by the Palestinian Authority, Israel's greatest ally America working to allow a nation that threatens Israel daily to build nuclear weapons in less than 15 years, people who pretend to be "pro-Israel" and yet who spend every waking hour working to weaken her, and more efforts at all political levels to delegitimize Israel as a nation.
Yet, here she is, 68 years old and more beautiful than she was at birth.
Yes, I am a Zionist and I am proud of it.
I know that Israel has the absolute right to exist in peace and security, just like - and arguably more than - any other country.
I am proud of how the IDF conducts itself during its war on Palestinian terror. There is no other country on the planet, save the US, that would try to minimize civilian casualties in such a situation where innocent Israelis are being threatened, shot at, mortared, rocketed, stabbed and murdered in cold blood. At times there are discussions whether the IDF's moral standards are too high and end up being counterproductive - and what other army could one even have that conversation about?
I am also proud that Israel investigates any mistakes that happen on the battlefield and keeps trying to improve its methods to maximize damage to the terrorists while minimizing damage to the people that the enemy is hiding behind. This is not done because of pressure from "human rights" organizations - it is done because it is the right thing to do. Even when everyone knows that the world will accuse it of "war crimes," the IDF retains incredibly high moral standards, which can be easily proven for anyone who wants to investigate the situation impartially. (People willing to do that are, regrettably, few and far between.) It would be so easy for Israelis to say that since the world will accuse them of atrocities anyway, then why bother with holding to such standards - but young Israeli soldiers do, day in and day out. The rare exceptions prove the rule.
I am proud that Israel remains a true democracy, with a free press and vigorous opposition parties, while in a constant war footing.
I am proud of how Israel responds to seemingly intractable problems. In the early days of the intifada there seemed to be no solution - but the IDF found one, managing to bring deadly suicide attacks from 60 in 2002 down to practically none today. The most recent spate of religiously motivated attacks, prompted by words by the PA president himself, has largely died down because of Israeli defensive actions.
The enemy has not stopped trying, and if Israel hadn't acted decisively things would look like Iraq or Afghanistan today. For every "successful" attack (if you can use such a term) there have been many failed attempts, and these are truly miraculous.
There is a right and a wrong in this conflict, and I am proud that Israel is in the right.
Jews know something about being singled out, about being judged with double standards. We have been attacked for being too rich and too poor, too successful and too needy, too capitalist and too socialist, too religious and too secular, too insular and too integrated. These same wildly inconsistent attacks are now targeting the Jewish state. Israel will survive and thrive, just as Jews themselves have, despite these attacks.
And the best survival technique is success.
Israel has succeeded and continues to succeed in its many accomplishments in building up a desert wasteland into a thriving and vibrant modern country, with its many scientific achievements, incredible leadership in high-tech and the environment, world class universities and culture. Practically every computer and mobile phone being built today includes technology and innovations from a single small Middle Eastern country. A tiny nation, under constant siege, with almost no natural resources besides breathtaking beauty, has used its brains - and strength - to build a modern success story. In a short period of time Israel made itself into a strong yet open nation that its neighbors can only dream of becoming.
And they are indeed starting to dream. The internal struggles throughout the Arab world are, in many ways, a subconscious cry from Israel's neighbors to be more like the Jewish state. Despite the constant incitement against Israel in their media, ordinary Arabs know that Israel treats its minorities with more respect, and gives them more civil rights, than Arab nations give their own Arab citizens. One of the many ironies that is emerging is that both the most populous and the richest Arab nations are now openly on Israel's side on many matters, and the charge by their critics that they are "Zionist" - which used to be anathema - has lost its sting.
Zionists have every reason to be proud of the incredible achievements of the Jewish national movement.
The word "Zionist" is not an epithet - it is a compliment.
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