Silence is Violence: Zionism and the Fight Between Good v. Evil



Virag Gulyas (1)

Virag Gulyas


In the fifth installment of Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) Conversations on Zionism: Reclaiming the Narrative series, JNF-USA’s Chief Executive Officer, Russell F. Robinson sat down with activist and thought leader, Virag Gulyas to explore her remarkable personal journey as a non-Jewish, antisemitic ballerina-turned pro-Jewish Zionist activist.


Gulyas — a former diplomat to the EU, communications consultant, and journalist, now serves as the NYC coordinator for End Jew Hatred, a grassroots civil rights movement dedicated to ensuring Jewish liberation from centuries of persecution and achieving justice for the Jewish people through peaceful direct action.


Born in ‘85 in post-communist Hungary, she was raised believing that Jews were a part of the “evil dichotomy.” She knew nothing about the conflict, nor of the proximity of the Jewish people around her. However, she confronted her own ignorance when she began dating an Israeli and traveling to Israel.


Upon arriving at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, she felt an immediate shift. She spent her first few trips to Israel as a “good tourist,” taking in the sights, exploring the cities, and enjoying the beaches. Yet, as she spent more time in Israel and began interviewing Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, she recognized her tipping point. She wanted to ask them questions such as, “How do you feel about obligatory military service?” “How do you feel about the fact that you risk your lives?” “Have you ever lost a friend? How do you move on?”


Despite the realities that come from mandated military service, the soldiers each displayed a unique sense of Jewish pride. Their best stories, friends, and their outlook on life, all came from the time they spent in the army. “The Israeli army is an army to build a nation.” These values, she believes, are apparent in Zionism.


However, she clarifies that when people say they are pro-Israel, they are making a huge mistake. “If you are a Zionist, why do you need to say you’re pro-Israel?” she questions. Gulyas argues that because Israel exists, there is nothing to be pro about. Zionism is not supposed to be the argument that Israel exists, rather, it is the explanation of Israel’s legitimacy to exist.


Gulyas argued that the problem with the pro-Israel (as opposed to the Zionist narrative) is that it perpetuates a victimhood mentality. She asserts that “you cannot always be on the defense,” and rather there is power in being assertive and proudly Zionist. This is necessary to move beyond the idea that being pro-Israel means being anti-Palestine, or that Zionism is racism: “It cannot be that someone else defines what Zionism is.”


Gulyas argues that to understand Zionism, we need to go back to basics: be simplistic in messaging and intentional with terminology. Question people’s established beliefs about Israel. If they disagree that Jews have the right to their own country, prompt them to give up their own country. If they use words like “colonizing” or “apartheid” or appropriate elements of the Holocaust, ask them to define those words: “What do they really mean to you?”


Gulyas understands antisemitism, or Jew hatred, within the context of good and evil: “Jew hatred is not a Jewish issue because it never stops with the Jews.” Through her experience, when you stand up for Jewish issues, even if you are not Jewish, you are subject to attacks and you become a target. Therefore, she urges that people ought not be silent: “There is a tipping point when being silent adds to the violence.” This sentiment is directed towards younger Jews where she stresses the importance of being proud of your Judaism — prioritizing education, and actively humanizing experiences by inviting non-Jews to learn about Zionism.


While change won’t happen overnight, Gulyas believes that change is possible – one person at a time.


Click here to view the recording of Gulyas’ conversation with Russell F. Robinson and visit to view all Conversation on Zionism episodes.


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