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For other meanings, please see Zionism (disambiguation)

Poster promoting a film about Jewish settlement in Palestine, 1930s:Toward a New Life (in Romanian),The Promised Land (in Hungarian)
File:1844 Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews p1.jpg
1844 Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews by Mordecai Noah, page one. The second page shows the map of the Land of Israel

Zionism is a political movement and an ideology that supports a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel/Palestine, where the Jewish nation originated and where Jewish kingdoms and self-governing states existed at various times in history. While Zionism is based heavily upon religious tradition linking the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, the modern movement was originally secular, beginning largely as a response to rampant antisemitism in late 19th century Europe.

The Zionist movement acquired British and League of Nations sponsorship after World War I, resulting in the creation of the British Mandate of Palestine, which specifically called for “placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home.” After an often tumultuous Mandate period, and after the Holocaust had destroyed Jewish society in Europe, the Zionist movement culminated in the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Since the founding of the State of Israel, “Zionism” has come generally to mean support for Israel. However, a variety of different, and sometimes competing, ideologies that support Israel fit under the general category of Zionism, such as Religious Zionism, Revisionist Zionism, and Labour Zionism. Thus, the term is also sometimes used to refer specifically to the programs of these ideologies, such as efforts to encourage Jewish immigration to Israel. The term Zionism is also sometimes used retroactively to describe the millenia-old Biblical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, which existed long before the birth of the modern Zionist movement. The label Zionist is also used improperly as a euphemism for Jews in general by those wishing to white-wash anti-Semitism (as in the Polish anti-Zionist campaign).

In addition to Jewish Zionism, there was always a small number of Christian Zionists that existed from the early days of the Zionist movement. According to Prof. Charles Merkley from Carleton University, Christian Zionism strengthened significantly after the 1967 Six Day War, and many Dispensationalist Christians, especially in the United States now strongly support Jewish Zionism. Today, Christian Zionists greatly outnumber Jewish Zionists. [1].

The word "Zionism" is derived from the word "Zion" (Hebrew: ציון, Tziyyon), one of the names of Jerusalem, as mentioned in the Bible. It was coined as a term for Jewish nationalism by Austrian Jewish publisher Nathan Birnbaum in his journal Self Emancipation in 1890.

This article is intended to be a survey of the history and objectives of the Zionist movement, not as a history of Israel nor of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The history of the various forms of opposition to Zionism is discussed in the article Anti-Zionism.

Establishment of the Zionist movement

Template:Israelis The desire of Jews to return to their ancestral homeland has remained a universal Jewish theme ever since the defeat of the Great Jewish Revolt, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire in the year 70, the defeat of Bar Kochba's revolt in 135, and the dispersal of the Jews to other parts of the Empire that followed. Due to the disastrous results of the revolt, what was once a human driven movement towards regaining national sovereignty based on religious inspiration, over centuries tradition and broken hopes of one "false messiah" after another took much of the human element out of messianic deliverance and put it all in the hands of God. Although Jewish nationalism in ancient times have always taken on religious connatations, from the Maccabean Revolt to the various Jewish revolts during Roman rule, and even Medieval Times when intermittently national hopes were incarnated in the "false messianism" of Shabbatai Zvi, among other less known messianists, it was not until the rise of ideological and political Zionism and its renewed belief in human based action toward Jewish national aspiration, did the notion of returning to the homeland become widespread among the Jewish consciousness.

The Haskala of Jews in European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries following the French Revolution, and the spread of western liberal ideas among a section of newly emancipated Jews, created for the first time a class of secular Jews, who absorbed the prevailing ideas of rationalism, romanticism and, most importantly, nationalism. Jews who had abandoned Judaism, at least in its traditional forms, began to develop a new Jewish identity, as a "nation" in the European sense. They were inspired by various national struggles, such as those for German and Italian unification, and for Polish and Hungarian independence. If Italians and Poles were entitled to a homeland, they asked, why were Jews not so entitled?

Before the 1890s there had already been attempts to settle Jews in Palestine, which was in the 19th century a part of the Ottoman Empire, inhabited by about 450,000 people, mostly Muslim and Christian Arabs (although there had never been a time when there were no Jews in Palestine). Pogroms in Russia led Jewish philanthropists such as the Montefiores and the Rothschilds to sponsor agricultural settlements for Russian Jews in Palestine in the late 1870s, culminating in a small group of immigrants from Russia arriving in the country in 1882. This has become known in Zionist history as the First Aliyah (aliyah is a Hebrew word meaning "ascent," referring to the act of spiritually "ascending" to the Holy Land. In modern Hebrew, this word is used in place of an equivalent to "immigration.").

Proto-Zionist groups such as Hibbat Zion were active in the 1880s in Eastern Europe where emancipation had not occurred to the extent it did in Western Europe (or at all). The massive anti-Jewish pogroms following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II made emancipation seem farther than ever and influenced Judah Leib Pinsker to publish the pamphlet Auto-Emancipation in January 1, 1882. The pamphlet became influential for the Political Zionism movement.

There had also been several Jewish thinkers such as Moses Hess whose 1862 work Rome and Jerusalem; The Last National Question argued for the Jews to settle in Palestine as a means of settling the national question. Hess proposed a socialist state in which the Jews would become agrarianised through a process of "redemption of the soil" which would transform the Jewish community into a true nation in that Jews would occupy the productive layers of society rather than being an intermediary non-productive merchant class which is how he perceived European Jews. Hess, along with later thinkers such as Nahum Syrkin and Ber Borochov, is considered a founder of Socialist Zionism and Labour Zionism and one of the intellectual forebears of the kibbutz movement.

File:First aliyah BILU in kuffiyeh.jpg
The first aliyah: Biluim used to wear the traditional Arab headdress, the kuffiyeh

American evangelical Christian Zionists such as William Eugene Blackstone also pursued the Zionist ideal during late 19th century, especially in the American Blackstone Memorial (1891).

A key event triggering the modern Zionist movement was the Dreyfus Affair, which erupted in France in 1894. Jews were profoundly shocked to see this outbreak of anti-Semitism in a country which they thought of as the home of enlightenment and liberty. Among those who witnessed the Affair was an Austrian-Jewish journalist, Theodor Herzl, who published his pamphlet Der Judenstaat ("The Jewish State") in 1896. Prior to the Affair, Herzl had been anti-Zionist, afterwards he became ardently pro-Zionist. In 1897 Herzl organised the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, which founded the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) and elected Herzl as its first President.

Zionist initiatives

The WZO's initial strategy was to obtain permission of the Ottoman Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid II to allow systematic Jewish settlement in Palestine. The good offices of the German Emperor, Wilhelm II, were sought, but nothing came of this. Instead the WZO pursued a strategy of building a homeland through persistent small-scale immigration, and the founding of such bodies as the Jewish National Fund in 1901 and the Anglo-Palestine Bank in 1903.

Theodor Herzl addresses the Second Zionist Congress in 1898.

Before 1917 some Zionist leaders took seriously proposals for Jewish homelands in places other than Palestine. Herzl's Der Judenstaat argued for a Jewish state in either Palestine, "our ever-memorable historic home", or Argentina, "one of the most fertile countries in the world". In 1903 British cabinet ministers suggested the British Uganda Program, land for a Jewish state in "Uganda" (actually in modern Kenya). Herzl initially rejected the idea, preferring Palestine, but after the April 1903 Kishinev pogrom Herzl introduced a controversial proposal to the 6th Zionist Congress to investigate the offer as a temporary measure for Russian Jews in danger. Notwithstanding its emergency and temporary nature, the proposal still proved very divisive, and widespread opposition to the plan was fueled by a walkout led by the Russian Jewish delegation to the Congress. Nevertheless, a majority voted to establish a committee for the investigation of the possibility, and it was not dismissed until the 7th Zionist Congress in 1905.

In response to this, the Jewish Territorialist Organization led by Israel Zangwill split off from the main Zionist movement. The territorialists attempted to establish a Jewish homeland wherever possible, but went into decline after 1917 and were dissolved in 1925. From that time Palestine was the sole focus of Zionist aspirations. Few Jews took seriously the establishment by the Soviet Union of a Jewish Autonomous Republic in the Russian Far East.

One of the major motivations for Zionism was the belief that the Jews needed to return to their historic homeland, not just as a refuge from anti-Semitism, but also to govern themselves as an independent nation. Some Zionists, mainly socialist Zionists, believed that the Jews' centuries of being oppressed in anti-Semitic societies had reduced Jews to a meek, vulnerable, despairing existence which invited further anti-Semitism. They argued that Jews should redeem themselves from their history by becoming farmers, workers, and soldiers in a country of their own. These socialist Zionists generally rejected religion as perpetuating a "Diaspora mentality" among the Jewish people.

One such Zionist ideologue, Ber Borochov, continuing from the work of Moses Hess, proposed the creation of a socialist society that would correct the "inverted pyramid," of Jewish society. Borochov believed that Jews were forced out of normal occupations by gentile hostility and competition, explaining why there was a relative predominance of Jewish professionals, rather than workers. Jewish society would not be healthy until the inverted pyramid was righted, and the majority of Jews became workers and peasants again. This could only be accomplished by Jews in their own country. Another, A. D. Gordon, was influenced by the volkisch ideas of European romantic nationalism, and proposed establishing a society of Jewish peasants. Gordon made a religion of work. These two thinkers, and others like them, motivated the establishment of the first Jewish collective settlement, or kibbutz, Deganiah, on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee, in 1909 (the same year that the city of Tel Aviv was established). Deganiah, and many other kibbutzim that were soon to follow, attempted to realise these thinkers' vision by creating a communal villages, where newly arrived European Jews would be taught agriculture and other manual skills.

File:Kibbutz Degania Alef.jpg
Degania was the first kibbutz, the unique communal villages that were a key feature of socialist Zionism. Picture from the 1930s.

Another aspect of this strategy was the revival and fostering of an "indigenous" Jewish culture and the Hebrew language. One early Zionist thinker, Asher Ginsberg, better known by his penname Ahad Ha'am ("One of the People") rejected what he regarded as the over-emphasis of political Zionism on statehood, at the expense of the revival of Hebrew culture. Ahad Ha'am recognised that the effort to achieve independence in Palestine would bring Jews into conflict with the native Palestinian Arab population, as well as with the Ottomans and European colonial powers then eying the country. Instead, he proposed that the emphasis of the Zionist movement shift to efforts to revive the Hebrew language and create a new culture, free from Diaspora influences, that would unite Jews and serve as a common denominator between diverse Jewish communities once independence was achieved.

The most prominent follower of this idea was Eliezer Ben Yehudah, a linguist intent on reviving Hebrew as a spoken language among Jews (see History of the Hebrew language). Most European Jews in the 19th century spoke Yiddish, a language based on mediaeval German, but as of the 1880s, Ben Yehudah and his supporters began promoting the use and teaching of a modernised form of biblical Hebrew, which had not been a living language for nearly 2,000 years. Despite Herzl's efforts to have German proclaimed the official language of the Zionist movement, the use of Hebrew was adopted as official policy by Zionist organisations in Palestine, and served as an important unifying force among the Jewish settlers, many of whom also took new Hebrew names.

File:Telaviv founding 1909.jpg
Tel Aviv, its name taken from a work by Theodor Herzl, was founded by Zionists on empty dunes north of the existing city of Jaffa. This photograph is of the auction of the first lots in 1909.

The development of the first Hebrew-speaking city (Tel Aviv), the kibbutz movement, and other Jewish economic institutions, plus the use of Hebrew, began by the 1920s to lay the foundations of a new nationality, which would come into formal existence in 1948. Meanwhile, other cultural Zionists attempted to create new Jewish artforms, including graphic arts. (Boris Schatz, a Bulgarian artist, founded the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem in 1906.) Others, such as dancer and artist Baruch Agadati, fostered popular festivals such as the Adloyada carnival on Purim.

The Zionist leaders always saw Britain as a key potential ally in the struggle for a Jewish homeland. Not only was Britain the world's greatest imperial power; it was also a country where Jews lived in peace and security, among them influential political and cultural leaders, such as Benjamin Disraeli and Walter, Lord Rothschild. There was also a peculiar streak of philo-Semitism among the classically educated British elite to which the Zionist leaders hoped to appeal, just as the Greek independence movement had appealed to British phil-Hellenism during the Greek War of Independence. Chaim Weizmann, who became the leader of the Zionist movement after Herzl's death in 1904, was a professor at a British university, and used his extensive contacts to lobby the British government for a statement in support of Zionist aspirations.

This hope was realised in 1917, when the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, made his famous Declaration in favour of "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". Balfour was motivated partly by philo-Semitic sentiment, partly by a desire to weaken the Ottoman Empire (an ally of Germany during the First World War), and partly by a desire to strengthen support for the Allied cause in the United States, home to the world's most influental Jewish community. In the Declaration, however, Balfour was careful to use the word "home" rather than "state," and also to specify that its establishment must not "prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine."

Jewish reaction to Zionism

Support for the Zionist movement was not initially a mainstream position in the world Jewish community, and it was actively opposed by many Jewish organizations. While traditional Jewish belief held that Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) was given to the ancient Israelites by God, and that therefore the right of the Jews to that land was permanent and inalienable, most Orthodox groups held that the Messiah must appear before Israel could return to Jewish control, and Reform Judaism (prior to the Holocaust) explicitly rejected Zionism. Still, return to the Land of Israel had remained a recurring theme among generations of diaspora Jews, particularly in Passover and Yom Kippur prayers which traditionally concluded with, "Next year in Jerusalem."

To religious Jews, Aliyah, or emigration to Israel, has always been considered by rabbinic Judaism to be a praiseworthy and mandatory act for Jews according to halakha, and is included in many versions of the 613 commandments. From the Middle Ages and onwards a number of prominent Jews (e.g. Nahmanides) and groups (e.g. the students of the Vilna Gaon) emigrated to Israel. Despite this, many religious Jews were not enthusiastic about Zionism before the 1930s. The secular, socialist language used by many pioneer Zionists was contrary to the outlook of most religious Jewish communities, and many religious organisations opposed it, both on the grounds that it was a secular movement, and on the grounds that any attempt to re-establish Jewish rule in Israel by human agency was blasphemous, since (in their view) only the Messiah could accomplish this. There was, however, a small but vocal group of religious Jews that began to develop the concept of Religious Zionism in the 1920s and 1930s under such leaders as Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (the Chief Rabbi of Palestine) and his son Zevi Judah, and gained substantial following during the latter half of the 20th century. Only the desperate circumstances of the 1930s and 1940s converted most (though not all) of these communities to Zionism.

Poster from the Zionist Tarbut schools of Poland in the 1930s. Zionist parties were very active in Polish politics. In the 1922 Polish elections, Zionists held twenty-four seats of a total of thirty-five Jewish parliment members.

Secular Jewish opinion was also ambivalent in its attitudes to Zionism. Many argued that Jews should join with other progressive forces in bringing about changes which would eradicate anti-Semitism and make it possible for Jews to live in safety in the various countries where they lived. Before the 1930s, many Jews believed that socialism offered a better strategy for improving the lot of European Jews. In the United States, most Jews embraced the liberalism of their adopted country. In the United States, for example, there were only 12,000 members of Zionist organizations in 1912, out of a Jewish population of 3 million. By 1940, however, there were 171,000 members of Zionist organizations, and by 1942, 80% of American Jews surveyed agreed that a homeland in Palestine was required. (Stork and Rose, 1974)

The chain of events between 1881 and 1945, however, beginning with waves of anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia and the Russian-controlled areas of Poland, and culminating in the Holocaust, converted the great majority of surviving Jews to the belief that a Jewish homeland was an urgent necessity, particularly given the large population of disenfranchised Jewish refugees after World War II. Most also became convinced that Palestine was the only location that was both acceptable to all strands of Jewish thought and within the realms of practical possibility. This led to the great majority of Jews supporting the struggle between 1945 and 1948 to establish the State of Israel, though many did not condone violent tactics used by some Zionist groups.

Zionism and the Arab Muslims


Much of Arab Muslim society has been unable to accept the notion that Jews, as a historically subjugated minority, could be integrated into Muslim society outside of a dhimmi status. Unlike the Jewish emancipation as a product of the Age of Enlightenment in Christendom, Arab Muslim society fought to maintain Jews traditional role in their societies. Furthermore, the notion of Jewish self-rule was a complete anathema to Muslims that viewed the land of Israel as Dar al-Islam.

Outside of Jerusalem, Safed, and Tiberias, Arabs and/or Muslims constituted the overwhelming majority of the population. The early Zionists were well aware of this, but believed that the inhabitants could only benefit from Jewish immigration. This attitude resulted in the Arab presence being ignored, as in Israel Zangwill's famous slogan "A land without a people, for a people without a land". Generally though, such statements were propaganda invented by leaders who did not foresee the subsequent conflict with the Arabs and thought of them as allies against the big empires whom they viewed as the main obstacle. Agreements with the Ottoman authorities, or with Arab rulers outside Palestine were their main concern and concerns of the local Arabs were overlooked.{{#if:||{{#if:Category:Articles with unsourced statements|[[Category:Articles with unsourced statements {{#if:|{{#if:|from|since}} }}]]}}}}{{#if:citation needed|[citation needed]|}}{{#if:||{{#if:|{{#ifexist:Category:Articles with unsourced statements since {{{date}}}||}}|}}}}

One of the earlier Zionists to warn against these ideas was Ahad Ha'am, who warned in his 1891 essay "Truth from Eretz Israel" that in Palestine "it is hard to find tillable land that is not already tilled", and moreover

From abroad we are accustomed to believing that the Arabs are all desert savages, like donkeys, who neither see nor understand what goes on around them. But this is a big mistake... The Arabs, and especially those in the cities, understand our deeds and our desires in Eretz Israel, but they keep quiet and pretend not to understand, since they do not see our present activities as a threat to their future... However, if the time comes when the life of our people in Eretz Israel develops to the point of encroaching upon the native population, they will not easily yield their place.

Though there had already been Arab protests to the Ottoman authorities in the 1880s against land sales to foreign Jews, the most serious opposition began in the 1890s after the full scope of the Zionist enterprise became known. This opposition did not arise out of Palestinian nationalism, which was in its infancy at the time, but out of a sense of threat to the livelihood of the Arabs. This sense was heightened in the early years of the 20th century by the Zionist attempts to develop an economy in which Arabs were largely redundant, such as the "Hebrew labor" movement that campaigned against the employment of Arabs. The severing of Palestine from the rest of the Arab world in 1918 and the Balfour Declaration were seen by the Arabs as proof that their fears were coming to fruition.

A wide range of opinion could be found among Zionist leaders after 1920. However, the division between these camps did not match the main threads in Zionist politics so cleanly as is often portrayed. To take an example, the leader of the Revisionist Zionists, Vladimir Jabotinsky, is often presented as having had an extreme pro-expulsion view but the proofs offered for this are rather thin. According to Jabotinsky's Iron Wall (1923), an agreement with the Arabs was impossible, since they

look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervor that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie. To think that the Arabs will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism in return for the cultural and economic benefits we can bestow on them is infantile.

The solution, according to Jabotinsky, was not expulsion (which he was "prepared to swear, for us and our descendants, that we will never [do]") but to impose the Jewish presence on the Arabs by force of arms until eventually they came to accept it. Only late in his life did Jabotinsky speak of the desirability of Arab emigration though still without unequivocally advocating an expulsion policy. After the World Zionist Organization rejected Jabotinsky's proposals, he resigned from the organization and founded the New Zionist Organization in 1933 to promote his views and work independently for immigration and the establishment of a state. The NZO rejoined the WZO in 1951.

The situation with socialist Zionists such as David Ben-Gurion was also ambiguous. In public Ben-Gurion upheld the official position of his party that denied the necessity of force in achieving Zionist goals. The argument was based on the denial of a unique Palestinian identity coupled with the belief that eventually the Arabs would realise that Zionism was to their advantage. Privately, however, Ben-Gurion believed that the Arab opposition amounted to a total rejection of Zionism grounded in fundamental principle, and that a confrontation was unavoidable. In 1937, Ben-Gurion and almost all of his party leadership supported a British proposal to create a small Jewish state from which the Arabs had been removed by force. The British plan was soon shelved, but the idea of a Jewish state with a minimal population of Arabs remained an important thread in Labour Zionist thought throughout the remaining period until the creation of Israel.

The attitude of the Zionist leaders towards the Arab population of Palestine in the lead-up to the 1948 conflict is one of the most hotly debated issues in Zionist history. This article does not cover it; see The Great Arab Revolt of 1936 - 1939, Israel-Palestinian conflict, and the Palestinian exodus for more information on this.

The struggle for Palestine

With the defeat and dismantlement of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, and the establishment of the British Mandate over Palestine by the League of Nations in 1922, the Zionist movement entered a new phase of activity. Its priorities were the escalation of Jewish settlement in Palestine, the building of the institutional foundations of a Jewish state, raising funds for these purposes, and persuading — or forcing — the British authorities not to take any steps which would lead to Palestine moving towards independence as an Arab-majority state. The 1920s did see a steady growth in the Jewish population and the construction of state-like Jewish institutions, but also saw the emergence of Palestinian Arab nationalism and growing resistance to Jewish immigration.

International Jewish opinion remained divided on the merits of the Zionist project. Many prominent Jews in Europe and the United States opposed Zionism, arguing that a Jewish homeland was not needed because Jews were able to live in the democratic countries of the West as equal citizens. Albert Einstein, one of the best-known Jews in the world, said: "I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain, especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks." The many Jews who embraced socialism opposed Zionism as a form of reactionary nationalism. The General Jewish Labor Union, or Bund, which represented socialist Jews in eastern Europe, was strongly anti-Zionist.

The Communist parties, which attracted substantial Jewish support during the 1920s and 1930s, were even more virulently anti-Zionist, if one defines Zionism as the advocacy of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. During this time Communists actively promoted an alternative Jewish homeland — the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, or Birobidzhan, which had been set up by the Soviet Union in the Russian Far East.

At the other extreme, some American Jews went so far as to say that the United States was Zion, and the successful absorption of 2 million Jewish immigrants in the 30 years before the First World War lent force to this argument. (Some American Jewish socialists supported the Birobidzhan experiment, and a few even emigrated there during the Great Depression.)

The rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1933 produced a powerful new impetus for Zionism. Not only did it create a flood of Jewish refugees — at a time when the United States had closed its doors to further immigration — but it undermined the faith of Jews that they could live in security as minorities in non-Jewish societies. Some Zionists allegedly supported the rise of the Nazi party, recognising that it would increase the possibility of a Jewish state. It is claimed by Marxist author Lenni Brenner that The Zionist Federation of Germany even sent Hitler a letter calling for collaboration in 1933; however the strongly anti-Semitic Nazis rejected the offer and later abolished the organisation in 1938. Jewish opinion began to shift in favour of Zionism, and pressure for more Jewish immigration to Palestine increased. But the more Jews settled in Palestine, the more aroused Palestinian Arab opinion became, and the more difficult the situation became in Palestine. In 1936 serious Arab rioting broke out, and in response the British authorities held the unsuccessful St. James Conference and issued the MacDonald White Paper of 1939, severely restricting further Jewish immigration.

The Jewish community in Palestine responded by organising armed forces, based on smaller units developed to defend remote agricultural settlements. Two military movements were founded, the Labor-dominated Haganah and the Revisionist Irgun. The latter group did not hesitate to take military action against the Arab population. With the advent of World War II, both groups decided that defeating Hitler took priority over the fight against the British. However, attacks against British targets were recommenced in 1940 by a splinter group of the Irgun, later known as Lehi, and in 1944 by the Irgun itself.

The revelation of the fate of six million European Jews killed during the Holocaust had several consequences. Firstly, it left hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees (or displaced persons) in camps in Europe, unable or unwilling to return to homes in countries which they felt had betrayed them to the Nazis. Not all of these refugees wanted to go to Palestine, and in fact many of them eventually went to other countries, but large numbers of them did, and they resorted to increasingly desperate measures to get there, over 250,000 were smuggled out of Europe by an organization called Berihah.

Secondly, it evoked a world-wide feeling of sympathy with the Jewish people, mingled with guilt that more had not been done to deter Hitler's aggressions before the war, or to help Jews escape from Europe during its course. This was particularly the case in the United States, whose federal government had halted Jewish immigration during the war. Among those who became strong supporters of the Zionist ideal was President Harry S. Truman, who overrode considerable opposition in his State Department and used the great power of his position to mobilise support at the United Nations for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, although he expressed very negative views of Jews in his diaries, and had, in a letter written years before he entered the White House, referred to New York City as "kike town" .[2][3][4] Since Britain was desperate to withdraw from Palestine, Truman's efforts were the crucial factor in the creation of Israel.

Thirdly, it swung world Jewish opinion almost unanimously behind the project of a Jewish state in Palestine, and within Palestine it led to a greater resolution to use force to achieve that objective. American Reform Judaism was among the elements of Jewish thought which changed their opinions about Zionism after the Holocaust. The proposition that Jews could live in peace and security in non-Jewish societies was certainly a difficult one to defend in 1945, although it is one of the ironies of Zionist history that in the decades since World War II anti-Semitism has greatly declined as a serious political force in most western countries, (though it increased greatly in Middle Eastern countries) and Jewish communities continue to live and prosper outside Israel.

Zionism and Israel

Jewish immigration in the wake of World War II, 1945-1947

In 1947 Britain announced its intention to withdraw from Palestine, and on 29 November the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state (with Jerusalem becoming an international enclave). Civil conflict between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine erupted immediately. On 14 May 1948 the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine made a declaration of independence, and the state of Israel was established. This marked a major turning point in the Zionist movement, as its principal goal had now been accomplished. Many Zionist institutions were reshaped, and the three military movements combined to form the Israel Defence Forces.

The majority of the Arab population having either fled or been expelled during the War of Independence, Jews were now a majority of the population within the 1948 ceasefire lines, which became Israel's de facto borders until 1967. In 1950 the Knesset passed the Law of Return which granted all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel. This, together with the influx of Jewish refugees from Europe and the later flood of expelled Jews from Arab countries, had the effect of creating a large and apparently permanent Jewish majority in Israel.

Since 1948 the international Zionist movement has undertaken a variety of roles in support of Israel. These have included the encouragement of immigration, assisting the absorption and integration of immigrants, fundraising on behalf of settlement and development projects in Israel, the encouragement of private capital investment in Israel, and mobilisation of world public opinion in support of Israel.

The 1967 war between Israel and the Arab states (the "Six-Day War") marked a major turning point in the history of Israel and of Zionism. Israeli forces captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the holiest of Jewish religious sites, the Western Wall of the ancient Temple. They also took over the remaining territories of pre-1948 Palestine, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (from Egypt). Religious Jews regarded the West Bank (ancient Judaea and Samaria) as an integral part of Eretz Israel, and within Israel voices of the political Right soon began to argue that these territories should be permanently retained. Zionist groups began to build Jewish settlements in the territories as a means of establishing "facts on the ground" that would make an Israeli withdrawal impossible.

The 1968 conference of the WZO adopted the following principles:

  • The unity of the Jewish people and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life
  • The ingathering of the Jewish people in the historic homeland, Eretz Israel, through aliyah from all countries
  • The strengthening of the State of Israel, based on the "prophetic vision of justice and peace"
  • The preservation of the identity of the Jewish people through the fostering of Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education and of Jewish spiritual and cultural values
  • The protection of Jewish rights everywhere.

Control of the West Bank and Gaza placed Israel in the position of control over a large population of Palestinian Arabs. Whether or not there had been a distinct Palestinian national identity in the 1920s may be debated, but there is no doubt that by the 1960s such an identity was firmly established — the founders of Zionism had thus, ironically, created two new nationalities, Israeli and Palestinian, instead of one.

The faith of the Palestinians in the willingness and ability of the Arab states to defeat Israel and return Palestine to Arab rule was destroyed by the war, and the death of the most militant and popular Arab leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, in 1970 reinforced the belief of Palestinians that they had been abandoned. The Palestine Liberation Organisation, created in 1964 after a proposal by Nasser at the first Arab Summit, took on new life as an autonomous movement led by Yasser Arafat, and soon turned to terrorism as its principal means of struggle.

From this point the history of Israel and the Palestinians can be followed in the article Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 1975 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution which said that "Zionism is a form of racism." This resolution was rescinded in 1991. This issue is discussed in length in the article on anti-Zionism.

Since 1948 most Jews have continued to identify as Zionists, in the sense that they support the State of Israel even if they do not choose to live there. This worldwide support has been of vital importance to Israel, both politically and financially. This has been particularly true since 1967, as the rise of Palestinian nationalism and the resulting political and military struggles have eroded sympathy for Israel among non-Jews, at least outside the United States. In recent years, many Jews have criticised the morality and expediency of Israel's continued control of the territories captured in 1967.

Anti-Zionism and post-Zionism

More than 50 years after the founding of the State of Israel, and after more than 80 years of Arab-Jewish conflict over Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, some groups have misgivings about current Israeli policies. The overwhelming majority of Jewish organizations and denominations are strongly pro-Zionist. Some liberal or socialist Jews, as well as some Orthodox Jewish communities (the most vocal and visible being the small Neturei Karta group), oppose Zionism as a matter of principle. Well-known Jewish scholars and statesmen who have opposed Zionism include Bruno Kreisky, Hans Fromm, and Michael Selzer. In the United States, a small number of Jewish intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein oppose modern Zionism. Chomsky says he supports a Jewish homeland, but not a Jewish state, and claims that this view is consistent with the original meaning of Zionism.

Criticism of Israeli policies in the territories has become sharper since Ariel Sharon became prime minister of Israel. Some elements within Orthodox Judaism remain anti-Zionist, although mainstream Orthodox groups such as the Agudat Israel have changed their positions since 1948 and now actively support Israel, often assuming right-wing stances regarding important political questions such as the peace process.

Among the important minority threads within Zionism is one that holds Israelis to be a new nationality, not merely the representatives of world Jewry. The "Canaanite" or "Hebrew Renaissance" movement led by poet Yonatan Ratosh in the 1930s and 1940s was built on this idea. A modern movement based partly on the same idea is known as post-Zionism. There is no agreement as to how this movement should be defined, nor even of who belongs to it, but the most common idea is that Israel should leave behind the concept of a "state of the Jewish people" and instead strive to be a state of all its citizens according to pluralistic democratic values. Many Israeli historians hold "Caananism" or "Pan-Semitism" as an aberration outside the bounds of Zionism. Self-identified post-Zionists differ on many important details, such as the status of the Law of Return. Critics tend to associate post-Zionism with anti-Zionism or postmodernism, both of which claims are strenuously denied by proponents.

Another persistent opinion favors a binational state in which Arabs and Jews live together while enjoying some type of autonomy. Variants of the idea were proposed by Chaim Weizmann in the 1930s and by the Ichud (Unity) group in the 1940s, which included such prominent figures as Judah Magnes (first dean of The Hebrew University) and Martin Buber. The emergence of Israel as a Jewish state with a small Arab minority made the idea irrelevant, but it was revived after the 1967 war left Israel in control of a large Arab population. Never more than the opinion of a small minority, the idea is nevertheless supported by a few prominent intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, the late Edward Said, and (since 2003) Meron Benvenisti. Opponents of a binational state argue that since Arabs, whose population growth rates are much higher than among Jews, would form the majority of the population in such a state, the Jewish character on which the state was founded would be lost and the Jewish population's existence threatened, as it was threatened under other Turkish and Arab regimes in the past. They also suggest that such a state is unlikely to remain a democracy for long, as most Arab countries today have autocratic governments.

Critics of Zionism see the changes in demographic balance which created a Jewish state and displaced over 700,000 Arab refugees, [5] and the methods used to cause this, as an inevitable consequence of Zionism. Critics also point to current inequities between Jews and Arabs in Israel, similarly viewing them as attributable to Zionist beliefs and ideologies. Many consider this ethnic and cultural discrimination to be a form of racism.

Defenders of Zionism disagree with the identification of Zionism with racism on a number of grounds; they state that the basis of the charge is too vague, as the views of Zionist groups differ widely from each other. They also disagree on the basis that Palestinians and Jews are not racially distinct from each other, and that Israeli Jews themselves are racially "mixed" (nearly half of Israel's Jews come from Arab countries, and there are also almost 100,000 black Jews from Ethiopia); thus even if Zionism discriminates against Arabs, such discrimination cannot accurately be termed racist, but rather ethnic and/or cultural. They also argue that discrimination based on culture or ethnicity is a fact in almost all countries in the world, and that any discrimination in Israel, including discrimination between Jewish groups, is similarly based on such differences, and is not an inevitable consequence of Zionism.

See also Zionism and racism and Anti-Zionism.

Non-Jewish Zionism

Many non-Jews support the State of Israel, and some of these may choose to define themselves as Zionists. Non-Jewish support for Zionism takes various forms:

  • The traditional support from the political left for the Jews as an oppressed people and for Israel as a semi-socialist state. Since the Six-Day War the first of these has been almost entirely lost as the left has shifted its sympathy to the Palestinians, while the second has been lost since the Israeli Labor Party lost its hold on power in 1977. In the United States, Israel continues to find support from most political liberals. Outside the US, unconditional support for Israel has often given way to a more critical view of Israeli policy. However, some of the strongest critics of Zionism in the US include prominent liberals like Ralph Nader.
  • Support from some political conservatives especially neoconservatives. This occurs mainly in the United States and to a lesser extent in other countries such as the United Kingdom. Much of this is really support for Israel as a pro-Western democratic state rather than support for Zionism per se, and is also strongly motivated by domestic politics, particularly in the U.S. However, some of the strongest critics of Zionism have also been political conservatives like Pat Buchanan.
  • "Christian Zionism", a movement among evangelical Christians in the United States and other countries, which sees the return of the Jews to the Holy Land as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Lobbying by Christian groups in the United States on behalf of Israel has influenced U.S. policy towards the Middle East.
  • Some Muslim scholars point out that "The Qur'an says that Allah gave the Land of Israel to the Jews and will restore them to it at the End of Days" [6]. Shaykh Abdul Hadi Palazzi cites the Quran to support this view:

"Pharaoh sought to scare them [the Israelites] out of the land [of Israel]: but We [[[Allah]]] drowned him [Pharoah] together with all who were with him. Then We [Allah] said to the Israelites: 'Dwell in this land [the Land of Israel]. When the promise of the hereafter [End of Days] comes to be fulfilled, We [Allah] shall assemble you [the Israelites] all together [in the Land of Israel]." <Qur'an, "Night Journey," 17:100-104>
"And [remember] when Moses said to his people: 'O my people, call in remembrance the favour of God unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave to you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.'" <Qur'an, 5:20-21>

Relevant articles

Types of Zionism

Zionist institutes and organization

History of Zionism and Israel

See also



  • Arthur Hertzberg (ed.), Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis & Reader, MacMillan, 1972, trade paperback, ISBN 0689700938; Jewish Publication Society, 1997, trade paperback, 656 pages, ISBN 0827606222; Greenwood Publishing Group, 1970, hardcover, ISBN 0837125650.
  • A. Dershowitz, The Case for Israel, Wiley, 2003 ISBN 0-471-46502-X.
  • E. Nimni (ed.), The Challenge of Post-Zionism, Zed Books, 2003 ISBN 185649893X.
  • J. Reinharz and A. Shapira (ed.), Essential Papers on Zionism, New York University Press, 1996 ISBN 0814774490.
  • J. Mandel, The Arabs and Zionism before World War I, University of California Press, 1976.
  • Z. Sternhell, The Founding Myths of Israel – Nationalism, Socialism, and the making of the Jewish State, Princeton University Press, 1998 eISBN 1400807743.
  • G. Shafir, Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882–1914, University of California Press, 1996 ISBN 0520204018.
  • K. Armstrong, The Battle for God, Ballantine Books, 2001. ISBN 0345391691.
  • Stephen Sizer. Christian Zionism: Road map to Armageddon? (InterVarsity Press: 2004) - Very indepth analysis of the historical, theological and political claims and influences of the movement.
  • Lawrence Jeffrey Epstein. Zion’s call: Christian contributions to the origins and development of Israel (Lanham : University Press of America, 1984)
  • Michael J. Pragai. Faith and fulfilment: Christians and the return to the Promised Land (London, England : Vallentine, Mitchell, 1985)
  • Irvine H. Anderson. Biblical interpretation and Middle East policy : the promised land, America, and Israel, 1917-2002 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005)
  • Paul Charles Merkley. The Politics of Christian Zionism 1891 – 1948 (London: Frank Cass, 1998)
  • Gorenberg, Gershom. The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount (New York: The Free Press, 2000).
  • Boyer, Paul. "John Darby Meets Saddam Hussein: Foreign Policy and Bible Prophecy," Chronicle of Higher Education, supplement, February 14, 2003, pp. B 10-B11.
  • Sholom Aleichem. Why Do the Jews Need a Land of Their own?, 1898

External links

Jewish denominations' view of Zionism

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