What we, as Israelis, don’t get is the fact that the very word “Zionism”, is to Arabs, akin to calling someone a Nazi. The very word we use to describe our national movement to create a homeland for the Jews, any homeland, has somehow become a dirty word, even among the educated Arab elite.

Until recently becoming active on Twitter, I had no idea that a word I had always thoughtlessly used to describe my desire to live in Tel Aviv, suddenly became akin to a war crime in the eyes of many Arabs.

I understand the national aspirations of the Palestinians, their desire for their own state. Why does a similar desire on my part become a dirty word not to be uttered in enlightened society? Could it be that Arabs have heard the term Zionist used to describe everything bad in the world, so they don’t examine the real meaning of the term? Certainly, there are many on the right for whom Zionism includes annexing Judea and Samaria into Israel. But there are equally many on the left for who consider themselves Zionists, even as they fight to end the occupation.

The purpose of this post isn’t to begin a discussion on the rights and wrongs committed by and against all parties from time immemorial, rather to take a look at how one word can garner so much emotion, both positive and negative.

My thoughts on the issue developed as I read Lara Friedman’s article in the Huffington Post about her attendance at the Doha Jerusalem Conference. Where she describes the negative reactions by the Arab participants when she spoke and said she was a Zionist. Many were horrified and angry. But later, some approached her wanting to know more about what it means for a Jew who is fighting to end the occupation to still say she is a Zionist. This to me shows there is hope. Dialogue and seeing that the “other” isn’t a bloodthirsty monster is a good place to start.