“Zionism has been raped” in a “devious campaign to erase” Judeo-Christian history, documentary producer Gloria Greenfield stated during a March 24 Zionist Organization of America Capitol Hill screening of Body and Soul: The State of the Jewish Nation. Greenfield screened her cinematic defense of Zionism before Frank Gaffney from the Center for Security Policy, Richard Hellman from Christian’s Israel Public Action Campaign, and about a dozen others.
Historian Robert Wistrich describes in the film a “special relationship” between Jews and the land of Israel proven to be at least 3,000 years old by archeology and various texts such as the Bible. Even after Roman expulsions following the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in 135, there was always a Jewish “physical living presence in Zion.” Jerusalem, for example, has been majority-Jewish since the 1840s, despite being then part of the Muslim Ottoman Empire.
European diaspora Jewish culture, meanwhile, was “fundamentally organized around the Land of Israel” from the medieval to modern times, states Rabbi Jeffrey Woolf. Pilgrimages and other cultural interchanges throughout history linked Zion with the Jewish diaspora as well. Wistrich contrasts that Muslim and other conquerors viewed the Jewish homeland as a “far‐flung, insignificant province.”
Amidst rising national movements and anti-Semitism in the nineteenth century, Zionism viewed Jews, the Bible, and Israel as three inseparable parts of a triangle, states historian Anita Shapira. Zionism founding father Theodore Herzl, states Israeli scholar Yoram Hazony, sought the “internal unification of the Jewish person” in what commentator Yossi Klein Halevi calls “re‐indigenizing the Jewish people.” Even “without their having to imbibe Zionist ideology,” Wistrich says, Jews have settled in Israel under the influence of the “profound Messianic component within Judaism itself.” Ancestors of most Israeli Jews today, states Halevi, “came from one part of the Middle East to the other” after having “lived for centuries or even millennia in Arab lands as second‐class, third‐class, or no‐class citizens.” While Palestinian refugees from Israel’s 1948 independence war often dominate international politics, Wistrich notes, “nobody pays the slightest attention” to a “massive ethnic cleansing” in 1945-1970 that reduced one million Jews in Arab lands to 50,000.
Time and again Jews have faced attempts to eliminate their claims to Zion. The Romans, classics scholar Victor Davis Hanson states, inflicted on Jews after the Bar Kokhba revolt a “special punishment” for not deifying the Roman emperor. Rome never changed the names of conquered provinces, Wistrich says, but in an unprecedented move used Philistines, the Jews’ historic enemy, to derive the name Palestine for the Jewish homeland.
Centuries later in 1975, states Halevi, the United Nations (UN) “in solemn assembly…voted to single out Jewish nationhood as the only crime among all forms of nationalism.” Anti-Semitism scholar Emanuele Ottolenghi attributes the UN’s resolution that year equating Zionism with racism “almost entirely to two decades and more of Soviet propaganda and pan‐Arab propaganda run by former Nazis.” Although the UN General Assembly rescinded this resolution after the Cold War, Halevi states that the subsequent global revival of this “big lie…is really the only posthumous victory of the Soviet Union.”
Israel has survived violent threats such as terrorism and invasion, states Israeli parliamentarian Einat Wilf, but today there is an “intellectual assault on Zionism, which is not new but…unprecedented in how fierce it is.” Presenting Israel as a “uniquely incorrigible and illegitimate state that has no right to exist, is more dangerous, or at least as dangerous, as Iran’s bid to acquire a nuclear weapon,” states Wall Street Journal editor Bret Stephens. This de-legitimization “establishes the conditions in which a bid like the Iranian bid can be seen as somehow acceptable.”
Legal scholar Alan Dershowitz describes how long ago late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat designed a strategy to “erase history and claim that Jews never lived in what is now Israel.” The Palestinian Authority accordingly has transformed Jesus into a Palestinian and a Muslim, states Palestinian media analyst Itamar Marcus, for “if Jesus was a Jew, then the Jews lived in the land of Israel.” Yet to “negate Jewish history” and Christianity’s “inherently Hebraic, Jewish roots,” states Christian Zionist Luba Mayekiso, means “Christians have no faith.”
Such attacks on Jewish history are of a piece with rising anti-Semitism worldwide. “The Palestinian Authority very often cites the expulsion and persecution of Jews in European countries throughout the Middle Ages as proof…of the Jews’ evil nature,” Marcus states. Halevi notes “deep-seated prejudices that have resurfaced” in Europe, where one poll found 40 percent or more of those surveyed in seven European countries believed that Israeli is waging a war of extermination against Palestinians. This figure extrapolated to the European Union’s population of 400 million would entail 150 million people. The American Hanson discusses benefits such as academic awards awarding studies critical of Jewish and Israeli history.
Greenfield has produced a slick primer on Zionism with high production values and an all-star lineup of thinkers refuting common, often maliciously disseminated misinformation on Israel. Lay students and advocates of Israel in church or school groups would profit from beginning their studies with Body and Soul, a globally praised film that offers insights even to knowledgeable observers. She noted at the Longworth House Office Building how Muslim students simply left at one screening’s end without effective rebuttal. “If the Jewish state is in trouble,” she stated, “then I must fight, and this is the way I can best fight.” The results are well worth seeing.