Joel Braunold, member of the NEC of the National Union of Students, Proud Jew, Proud Zionist

Joel Braunold

Joel Braunold

“Why I have nothing to be ashamed of”- Joel Braunold – from

When I was campaigning to get elected at conference last year, I would go up to delegates and give them my election speech which revolved around my ARAF work and campaign on student housing. After speaking to one delegate, though, I was asked a question that I thought had nothing to do with my election. “Well, are you a Zionist?” A little taken a back, I said, “Yes, I believe in the concept of the state of Israel alongside the concept of the state of Palestine.” The delegate shook their head and said, “Sorry, I can’t vote for a racist,” and walked away.

At the time I shrugged this off as the ignorance of a single delegate and went on to try and persuade more people to vote for me. What I have discovered, though, is that whether in a students’ union or a seminar, the word Zionism is seen as a slur, something you say to make someone feel ashamed or embarrassed.

It’s important at this point to state that I am a proud Jew and a proud Zionist. I believe in the national self determination of the Jewish people in the same way that I believe in the national self determination of the Palestinian people. There is nothing shameful in this belief, nothing that makes me a racist. I am utterly perplexed and at times frustrated by people insisting that I am a morally corrupt person for believing in the above.

What I find astonishing is that it is becoming an acceptable view in the student movement that my belief in national self determination means that I am a legitimate target for hate. If I were to denounce any wish for self government, be happy with the concept of being a minority in every country, with no place to call home, then people would stop hating me and all would be well. If only I could understand that it was my belief in a homeland that leads people to the slip from anti-Zionism into antisemitism then I would see that the best way of avoiding being a victim of racism was to give up the concept of me being a people and settle for me being only a member of a religion – then I too could be a member of the progressive student community and no one would have to wonder if I have a sinister Zionist agenda.

Over the past two months there have been things said to me by students and colleagues, both in formal NEC meetings and informal ‘chats’, that range from offensive to outrageous. I have been told that I am an immoral Jew, that I am one of the bad ones who do not march against Israeli oppression and that there are good moral Jews who march and Zionist Jews who don’t (of course this was said by someone who is not Jewish). I have been told that rather than being a victim of antisemitism, I am the cause of antisemitism, I and my fellow nasty Zionists are responsible for everything that happens to the Jewish community in the UK. Not the people who attempt to burn down synagogues, attack school children on buses, graffiti over Jewish community buildings or who call for death to all Jews; not any of them, but I am the one responsible for the historic rise in antisemitism, I, a member of a people who deserve the homeland that the UN granted us sixty years ago. Lastly I was told that I do not understand how to fight antisemitism and, rather then oppose a rally that intertwines a swastika with a Star of David, I should march alongside that banner to educate the people there….

Sometimes clarity is very important so let me be clear. I have never heard of anyone in the student movement blaming a victim of racism for the abuse they get. I have never heard people justify racism when in pursuit of a political cause (whether legitimate or not). Anyone who racially abuses me because I am a Zionist is wrong as racial abuse is wrong. This is not about me smudging a line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, but rather pointing out that clear cases of antisemitism such as speakers going around saying it is a rational thing to blow up a synagogue or people actually trying to burn down synagogues, are being explained away by motivations that lie in the Middle East. I don’t give a damn how angry you are about what happens in another part of the world, there is no excuse for people putting up the names and addresses of people’s places of worship on a protest group. Yet it is justified and absolved because the Jews were asking for it – what do they expect if they have a prayer for the safety of the state of Israel in their services. Antisemitism is not contentious and I’m sick of people ringing their hands over it and making excuses.

My aim here is not to open a can of worms, that was done at the last EGM, but to state a message loudly and clearly. To those who feel that it is a slur to accuse someone of being a Zionist I stand up proudly as a Zionist, unashamed and willing to defend it passionately. To those who are disheartened with what they have seen, who are feeling intimidated and low, you have nothing to feel bad about. Though some people like shouting louder and will use more underhand tactics, tactics that they should have to apologise for, to achieve their goals, you have a legitimate voice that should and will be heard.


“Why I have nothing to be ashamed of”- Joel Braunold – from

7 Responses to “Joel Braunold, member of the NEC of the National Union of Students, Proud Jew, Proud Zionist”

  1. Jonathan Romer Says:

    The delegate shook their head and said, “Sorry, I can’t vote for a racist”

    To paraphrase the bumper sticker: “Yesterday I couldn’t even spell antisemite; today I are one”.

    Joel Braunold writes a brave and honest article, but his title sticks in my throat. If you’re to the point of feeling forced to defend your lack of shame, you’ve already lost the fight. Better to have picked something more assertive to head this piece.

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I’m sorry that Jonathan finds the title that Joel chose sticking in his throat, but he may not have had to face the vilification and attacks on him that Joel Braunold has. I certainly haven’t, and if I’m attacked (as he has been) here, then I have lots of comrades to spring to my side. Further, _if_ I happen to be better at choosing headings for articles or comments, well, I’ve had three or four more decades of experience in doing this.

    And anyway, many of those who attack the Engage credo here aren’t doing it, literally, in our faces (and are the Deborahs _that_ terrifying?).

    I would guess that it took Joel B. a lot of courage to stand up to the antisemites disguising themselves as anti-Zionists, to say nothing of the Quisling Jews he must meet. So more power to your elbow, and I do hope not too many of the responses you get to your article are as bad as the responses we have been privy to on the UCU activists list or on the CiF threads.

  3. zkharya Says:

    I think Jonathan is being nuanced, and slow to anger. One needn’t necessarily feel “proud” of Israel’s actions. But one can sympathise with them, and attempt to understand why she does them. One needn’t necessarily “exult” in killing people, even enemy combatants. But that does not mean one should be ashamed of it, either.

    It is the anti-Zionists who paint things in black and white, good versus evil, joy versus despair etc.

    He shouldn’t feel ashamed for another reason: he isn’t Israeli. It is the (or many) anti-Zionists who claim not to regard all Jews as a nation, but they are among those who crow loudest that diaspora Jews should disassociate themselves from Israel -sometimes with a clear implication of “or else”.

    One can sympathise with Israel’s predicament, understand she cannot remain passive before eliminationist aggression. But that needn’t mean one exults in or is especially “proud” of it.

    Nor does that mean one is responsible for Israel’s actions, whether one sympathises with them or not. That is the great antisemitic lie which, unfortunately, characterises much anti-Zionist discourse.

  4. Rosso Verde Says:

    I thought Engage argues that Nazi analogies are Anti-Semitic. – Agreed

    Then Brian Goldfarb uses the term “Quisling” to describe Jews who don’t meet his pro Israeli credentials.
    Isn’t that Anti-semitic?

  5. Mira Vogel Says:

    “it took Joel B. a lot of courage to stand up to the antisemites disguising themselves as anti-Zionists, to say nothing of the Quisling Jews he must meet”

    Rosso has a point doesn’t he. The throw-away “quisling Jews” is open to a number of interpretations. And one of those is that Jewish anti-Zionists should be held to a different standard than other anti-Zionists, which I don’t accept.

  6. Mira Vogel Says:

    Nazi analogies aren’t always antisemitic. Engage has never argued that they are necessarily antisemitic. Buruma and Margalit compare (well, I remember it as a comparison) Zionism, Islamism, fascism and Nazism in their book Occidentalism. Goldberg does something similar in his book Liberal Fascism.

    There was a fascist moment in the interwar period in which much of the world was caught up. It is possible to make comparisons without always making propaganda for the cancellation of the Jewish state, or for Holocaust denial/minimisation.

  7. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Except that many of these Jews are _exactly_: they are conspiring with the rest of the anti-Zionists to curry favour with them, because they believe that Israel should not exist as a sovreign nation-state, but only, at best, as a part of some sort of bi-national state. They also collude with the view that Israel commits war-crimes but that their opponents are merely “forced” into _their_ responses.

    Now, how does this differ from what Vidunk Quisling did? And the above is not all that the many referred to do. And, apart from the use of the term “quisling”, how is what I said all that different from David H. has said on many occasions, only he says it with greater eloquence.

    And I don’t remember the Buruma/Margalit work as a comparison as remembered by Mira.

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