Mayim Bialik and the Incompatibility of Zionism and Equality

(photo: Dominick D/Flickr)

Mayim Bialik is a well-known actress who stars as Amy on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ a light-hearted sit-com featuring beloved nerdy characters. She has over 1 million followers on Facebook and a website where she discusses a range of topics from Hollywood and parenting to culture and faith. Recently Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist, shot down an article by Emily Shire who tried to defend being both a zionist and feminist. Mayim Bialik responded to this and decried Linda Sarsour’s argument that feminism and zionism are incompatible in an article on her website.

Mayim is a self-proclaimed progressive feminist zionist. This claim is just simply illogical. To be a progressive would entail believing in equality for all people: Jews, Palestinians, everybody. Zionism is inherently discriminatory. Zionism is the belief in a Jewish state. What does that mean? A Jewish state? Well that means special privileges or treatment for Jews not granted to others. That’s discrimination. If there were no special privileges, if there were equality for all, then the nation would just be a regular ole state and not a Jewish state. Mayim came to UCLA for a small talk hosted by campus group Bruins for Israel, so I went and asked her this question about the incompatibility of Zionism and equality, and that if she is a progressive feminist and believes in equality how can she support Zionism?

Mayim Bialik: On Being a Progressive, Liberal, Zionist

Posted by Bruins for Israel on Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Skip to 30 minutes in to see the response.

She responds, “the conflict of whether it should be a Jewish state or a state of Jews has been debated since it was established” and goes on to say, “If you believe that Jews are a religious group, you probably don’t think they should have their own state. If you believe that Jews are an ethnic group, the notion that Jews should have a place where they’re not persecuted has global appeal.” It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about an ethnic group or religious group, the question is about the supremacy of one group and discrimination over another. She went on about the safety of Jews, and the necessity of a Jewish state to protect them. However, a safe place for Jews does not necessitate a Jewish state. A free state with justice and equality for all, as I and all progressives should advocate for, would entail safety for all people including Jews and Palestinians. She seemed to acknowledge the incompatibility of Zionism with equality, justifying the inequality and discrimination with this need for safety. But she then tried to hold on to her progressive ideology and belief in equality by saying that, “There’s room for different kinds of people (in a Jewish state).” But room for them as what? Second class citizens are what they would be in a Jewish state. And this is exactly what we are seeing now. Zionism entails injustice. I witnessed the Palestinian Bedouins of Al-Araqib, deep in the current state of Israel where they have lived prior to its creation, who are being violently expelled from their land they hold to create this Jewish state. I’ve seen the exclusively Jewish settlements built on stolen land in the West Bank. Zionism is by definition unjust and it in fact creates danger for Jews and Israel. When you are oppressing people, creating inequality and discrimination, this is conflict, this is dangerous, the oppressed will resist.

(photo: Red Carpet Report/Mingle Media Tv)

Mayim Bialik seems like an understanding person, she acknowledged that “There are people trying to right the wrongs from the establishment of state of Israel. Were there people sent out of their homes in the establishment of Israel? Absolutely.” But she is not ready to acknowledge that Zionism is inherently unjust. It’s telling that she went on about the history of persecution of Jews, and while that is an important issue, it has nothing to do with the question at hand. Deflection is a common tactic to evade an unwanted realization. The question at hand is if you believe in freedom and equality, can you believe in Zionism? The answer is undoubtedly no.

Chris Smiley is an activist, documentary filmmaker, and host on Afghanistan TV.

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