Zionist. Just the very mention of the "Z" word is enough to drive someone's blood pressure into the stratosphere. So emotive is this topic that one can be certain that discussion and debate around it can result in a a mini stroke!

Zionism, simply put, is the name attached to Jewish nationhood and some might even say, liberation movement. The great civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King once said that Zionism was nothing more than the yearning of the Jewish people to return to their historical and ancestral homeland Israel. And he would know a thing or two about human rights!

So why does the word inspire such dread and why is the assumption often made that if you are pro one thing you must be anti the opposite? It is immediately assumed that if you are proud to call yourself a Zionist you must be anti-Palestinian, you don't support their right to national aspirations, you support any kind of draconian action taken against the civilian population.

Most of the time people see the label but don't read the small print. The 61-year old conflict and its enormous amount of press coverage, especially in the age where news is available at the click of a button and playing armchair general is a favourite pastime of many, has almost forced people to take sides.

Ongoing accusations that Israel is deliberately subjugating Palestinians in the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza by enforcing an "apartheid like" occupation are the mantra of her harshest detractors. Blame is laid squarely on the Zionist State's role in the conflict but Palestinians are absolved of any accountability and responsibility. This makes finger pointing very easy for those that are largely ignorant of the facts that surround the conflagration in the Middle East.

Israelis are the greatest supporters of a two state solution. This is not motivated by any desire to be separate but to live in peace and security with their neighbours. Yes, Israel is a Jewish state and preserving that identity and integrity is just as important as supporting the Palestinian right to live in a state they choose. Israel wants an economically stable neighbourhood. Nobody wants a collapsed economy on their doorstep (case in point Zimbabwe). Economic stability is crucial to a sustainable regional peace.

The two state, one state tango aside, Israel is not the ogre the media would have you believe. Thousands of Palestinian homosexuals are given asylum in Israel to escape possible lynching, organisations like Save a Child's Heart provide surgeries for Palestinian children with heart defects. Israeli hospitals treat Palestinian patients without concern for ideology, and they promote inter-person football games for peace, One Voice, NGO's that work for and promote peace. The list is endless.

Zionism is founded on the Jewish principles of human rights and tikkun olam (giving back). Any self respecting Zionist will tell you that there is nothing more that we desire than a sustainable lasting peace with our neighbours based on mutual respect and recognition. Now, the ball is in their court.