In remarks to the audience at the Conservative Friends of Israel event on Monday, October 3, Liz Truss said she is ‘a huge Zionist and a supporter of Israel’ who fully intended to ‘take the UK-Israel relationship from strength to strength.’
But what is a Zionist, why is the term controversial to some people, and what did Liz Truss say about Israel?
What is a Zionist?
According to the Anne Frank House organisation, a Zionist is someone who supports “the pursuit of an independent Jewish state.”
Zionism, broadly, refers to the movement to form an independent Jewish state in the Middle East within the historical boundaries of Israel, thereby supporting a modern state of Israel.
The name is derived from the word “Zion”, a Hebrew term referring to a hill near the city of Jerusalem.
The Jewish Virtual Library reports that Israel is called the “Holy Land” because it is there where “God promised Abraham that he and his descendants would inherit the land of Israel as an eternal possession.”
Who was the founder of Zionism?
Although the Zionist movement’s fundamental philosophies date back several centuries, so-called “modern Zionism” started in the late 19th century.
It was at this time that the Jewish people were facing renewed antisemitism.
Theodor Herzl, a Jewish journalist and political activist from Austria, is credited as the founder of modern Zionism as he established the political organisation in 1897, according to IsraelEd.Org.
Herzl believed that the Jewish people would not survive if they did not have a nation to call their own.
Why is the term ‘Zionist’ controversial?
The term ‘Zionist’ carries a stigma for some, with the Anne Frank House organisation even reporting that it is “often used as a swearword” or as a “negative label.”
One reason is the fact that a Zionist strives for the pursuit of an independent Jewish state i.e., Israel, and in recent times the country has faced widespread criticism due to its ongoing conflict with Palestine.
However, as the Pew Research Centre points out, Jewish people may have “widely differing views on Israel”, and some are in favour of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a means of resolving today’s conflict.
What did Liz Truss say about Israel?
After the president of the Board of Deputies urged the UK government to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem (rather than Tel Aviv where it currently exists), Liz Truss responded at the Conservative Friends of Israel event in Birmingham.
She said: “There is just one capital to the UK, and that is London. There is just one capital to Israel, Jerusalem.
“For the last two thousand years, it’s been Jerusalem, always our spiritual home. We can’t ignore the historic truth.”
Furthermore, addressing the reports of conflict between Israel and Iran, the British PM said: “Believe me, the UK will never allow - together with our allies - Iran to get a nuclear weapon.
“In this world - where we are facing threats from authoritarian regimes who don’t believe in freedom and democracy - two free democracies, the UK and Israel, need to stand shoulder to shoulder and we will be even closer in the future.”