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Zionism (Hebrew: ציונות, Tsiyonut; Arabic: صهيونية, Ṣahyūniyya) is a form of nationalism of Jews and Jewish culture that supports a Jewish nation state in the territory defined as the Land of Israel. Zionism supports Jews upholding their Jewish identity, opposes the assimilation of Jews into other societies and has advocated the return of Jews to Israel as a means for Jews to be a majority in their own nation, and to be liberated from antisemitic discrimination, exclusion, and persecution that had historically occurred in the diaspora. Zionism emerged in the late 19th century in central and eastern Europe as a national revival movement, and soon after this most leaders of the movement associated the main goal with creating the desired state in Palestine, then an area controlled by the Ottoman Empire. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state and address threats to its continued existence and security. In a less common usage, the term may also refer to non-political, cultural Zionism, founded and represented most prominently by Ahad Ha'am; and political support for the State of Israel by non-Jews, as in Christian Zionism.
Defenders of Zionism say it is a national liberation movement for the repatriation of a dispersed socio-religious group to what they see as an abandoned homeland millennia before. Critics of Zionism see it as a colonialist or racist ideology that led to the denial of rights, dispossession and expulsion of the "indigenous population of Palestine".
The common denominator among all Zionists is the claim to Eretz Israel as the national homeland of the Jews and as the legitimate focus for the Jewish national self-determination. It is based on historical ties and religious traditions linking the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Zionism does not have a uniform ideology, but has evolved in a dialogue among a plethora of ideologies: General Zionism, Religious Zionism, Labor Zionism, Revisionist Zionism, Green Zionism, etc.
After almost two millennia of existence of the Jewish diaspora without a national state, the Zionist movement was founded in the late 19th century by secular Jews, largely as a response by Ashkenazi Jews to rising antisemitism in Europe, exemplified by the Dreyfus affair in France and the anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire. The political movement was formally established by the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl in 1897 following the publication of his book Der Judenstaat. At that time, the movement sought to encourage Jewish migration to the Ottoman Palestine.
Although initially one of several Jewish political movements offering alternative responses to assimilation and antisemitism, Zionism grew rapidly and became the dominant force in Jewish politics with the destruction of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe where these alternative movements were rooted.
The movement was eventually successful in establishing Israel on May 14, 1948 (5 Iyyar 5708 in the Hebrew calendar), as the homeland for the Jewish people. The proportion of the world's Jews living in Israel has also steadily grown since the movement came into existence and over 40% of the world's Jews now live in Israel, more than in any other country. These two outcomes represent the historical success of Zionism, unmatched by any other Jewish political movement in the past 2,000 years. In some academic studies, Zionism has been analyzed both within the larger context of diaspora politics and as an example of modern national liberation movements.
Zionism also sought assimilation into the modern world. As a result of the Diaspora, many of the Jewish people remained outsiders within their adopted countries and became detached from modern ideas. So-called "assimilationist" Jews desired complete integration into European society. They were willing to downplay their Jewish identity or even to abandon their traditional views and opinions in an attempt at modernization and assimilation into the modern world. A less radical form of assimilation was called cultural synthesis. Those in favor of cultural synthesis desired continuity and only moderate evolution, and were concerned that Jews should not lose their identity. "Cultural synthesists" emphasized both a need to maintain traditional Jewish values and faith, and a need to conform to a modernist society.
In 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that designated Zionism as "a form of racism and racial discrimination". The resolution was repealed in 1991 by replacing Resolution 3379 with United Nations General Assembly Resolution 46/86. Within the context of the Arab–Israeli conflict, Zionism is viewed by critics as a system that fosters apartheid and racism.
The term "Zionism" itself is derived from the word Zion (Hebrew: ציון, Tzi-yon), referring to Jerusalem. Throughout eastern Europe at the time, there were numerous grassroots groups promoting the national resettlement of the Jews in what was termed their "ancestral homeland", as well as the revitalization and cultivation of Hebrew. These groups were collectively called the "Lovers of Zion." The first use of the term is attributed to the Austrian Nathan Birnbaum, founder of a nationalist Jewish students' movement Kadimah, who used the term in 1890 in his journal Selbstemanzipation (Self Emancipation). Readings of the founders of Zionism shows that they lived in the same Europe which spawned fascism and Nazism, and they adopted the anti-Jewish view that Jews did not belong in Europe as the core of their ideology.
The multi-national, worldwide Zionist movement is structured on representative democratic principles. Congresses are held every four years (they were held every two years before the Second World War) and delegates to the congress are elected by the membership. Members are required to pay dues known as a shekel. At the congress, delegates elect a 30-man executive council, which in turn elects the movement's leader. The movement was democratic from its inception and women had the right to vote.
Until 1917, the World Zionist Organization pursued a strategy of building a Jewish National Home through persistent small-scale immigration and the founding of such bodies as the Jewish National Fund (1901 — a charity that bought land for Jewish settlement) and the Anglo-Palestine Bank (1903 — provided loans for Jewish businesses and farmers). In 1942, at the Biltmore Conference, the movement included for the first time an express objective of the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.
Since the creation of modern Israel, the role of the movement has declined and it is now a peripheral factor in Israeli politics, though different perceptions of Zionism continue to play a role in Israeli and Jewish political discussion.
Labor Zionism originated in Eastern Europe. Socialist Zionists believed that centuries of oppression in antisemitic societies had reduced Jews to a meek, vulnerable, despairing existence that invited further antisemitism, a view originally stipulated by Theodor Herzl. They argued that a revolution of the Jewish soul and society was necessary and achievable in part by Jews moving to Israel and becoming farmers, workers, and soldiers in a country of their own. Most socialist Zionists rejected the observance of traditional religious Judaism as perpetuating a "Diaspora mentality" among the Jewish people, and established rural communes in Israel called "kibbutzim". The kibbutz began as a variation on a "national farm" scheme, a form of cooperative agriculture where the Jewish National Fund hired Jewish workers under trained supervision. The kibbutzim were a symbol of the Second Aliya in that they put great emphasis on communalism and egalitarianism, representing to a certain extent Utopian socialism. Furthermore, they stressed self-sufficiency, which became an important aspect of Labor Zionism. Though socialist Zionism draws its inspiration and is philosophically founded on the fundamental values and spirituality of Judaism, its progressive expression of that Judaism has often fostered an antagonistic relationship with Orthodox Judaism.
Labor Zionism became the dominant force in the political and economic life of the Yishuv during the British Mandate of Palestine and was the dominant ideology of the political establishment in Israel until the 1977 election when the Israeli Labor Party was defeated. The Israeli Labor Party continues the tradition, although the most popular party in the kibbutzim is Meretz. Labor Zionism's main institution is the Histadrut, which began by providing strikebreakers against a Palestinian worker's strike in 1920 and is now the largest employer in Israel after the Israeli government.
General Zionism (or Liberal Zionism) was initially the dominant trend within the Zionist movement from the First Zionist Congress in 1897 until after the First World War. General Zionists identified with the liberal European middle class to which many Zionist leaders such as Herzl and Chaim Weizmann aspired. Liberal Zionism, although not associated with any single party in modern Israel, remains a strong trend in Israeli politics advocating free market principles, democracy and adherence to human rights. Kadima, however, does identify with many of the fundamental policies of Liberal Zionist ideology, advocating among other things the need for Palestinian statehood in order to form a more democratic society in Israel, affirming the free market, and calling for equal rights for Arab citizens of Israel.
Nationalist Zionism originated from the Revisionist Zionists led by Jabotinsky. The Revisionists left the World Zionist Organization in 1935 because it refused to state that the creation of a Jewish state was an objective of Zionism. The revisionists advocated the formation of a Jewish Army in Palestine to force the Arab population to accept mass Jewish migration. Revisionist Zionism evolved into the Likud Party in Israel, which has dominated most governments since 1977. It advocates that Israel maintain control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and takes a hard-line approach in the Israeli-Arab conflict. In 2005 the Likud split over the issue of creation of a Palestinian state on the occupied territories, and party members advocating peace talks helped form the Kadima party.
In the 1920s and 1930s Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine) and his son Rabbi Zevi Judah Kook saw great religious and traditional value in many of Zionism's ideals, while rejecting its anti-religious undertones. They taught that Orthodox (Torah) Judaism embraces and mandates Zionism's positive ideals, such as the ingathering of exiles, and political activity to create and maintain a Jewish political entity in the Land of Israel. In this way, Zionism serves as a bridge between Orthodox and secular Jews.
While other Zionist groups tended to moderate their nationalism over time, the gains from the Six-Day War have led religious Zionism to play a significant role in Israeli political life. Now associated with the National Religious Party and Gush Emunim, religious Zionists have been at the forefront of Jewish settlement in the West Bank and efforts to assert Jewish control over the Old City of Jerusalem.
During the last quarter of the 20th century, classic nationalism in Israel declined. This led to the rise of two antagonistic movements: neo-Zionism and post-Zionism. Both movements mark the Israeli version of a worldwide phenomenon:
Neo-Zionism and post-Zionism share traits with "classical" Zionism but differ by accentuating antagonist and diametrically opposed poles already present in Zionism. "Neo Zionism accentuates the messianic and particularistic dimensions of Zionist nationalism, while post-Zionism accentuates its normalising and universalistic dimensions". Post-Zionism asserts that Israel should abandon the concept of a "state of the Jewish people" and strive to be a state of all its citizens, or a binational state where Arabs and Jews live together while enjoying some type of autonomy.
Most Haredi Orthodox organizations do not belong to the Zionist movement; they view Zionism as secular, reject nationalism as a doctrine and consider Judaism to be first and foremost a religion. However, some Haredi movements such as Shas do openly affiliate with the Zionist movement.
Haredi rabbis do not consider Israel to be a halachic Jewish state because it is secular. However, they generally consider themselves responsible for ensuring that Jews maintain religious ideals and since most Israeli citizens are Jews they pursue this agenda within Israel. Others reject any possibility of a Jewish state, since according to them a Jewish state is completely forbidden by Jewish law, and a Jewish state is considered an oxymoron.
Two Haredi parties run in Israeli elections. They are sometimes associated with views that could be regarded as nationalist or Zionist, and have shown a preference for coalitions with more nationalist Zionist parties, probably because these are more interested in enhancing the Jewish nature of the Israeli state.
The Sephardi-Orthodox party Shas rejected association with the Zionist movement, however in 2010 it joined the World Zionist Organization, its voters also generally regard themselves as Zionist and Knesset members frequently pursue what others might consider a Zionist agenda. Shas has supported territorial compromise with the Arabs and Palestinians but generally opposes compromise over Jewish holy sites.
The non-Hasidic or 'Lithuanian' Haredi Ashkenazi world is represented by the Ashkenazi Agudat Israel/UTJ party has always avoided association with the Zionist movement and usually avoids voting on or discussing issues related to peace because its members do not serve in the army. The party does work towards ensuring that Israel and Israeli law are in tune with the halacha, on issues such as Shabbat rest. The rabbinical leaders of the so-called Litvishe world in current and past generations, such as Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach and Rabbi Avigdor Miller, are strongly opposed to all forms of Zionism, religious and secular, but allow for slight cooperation in the form of participating in Israeli political life, including both passive and active participation in elections.
Many other Hasidic groups, most famously the Satmar Hasidim as well as the larger movement they are part of in Jerusalem, the Edah HaChareidis, are strongly anti-Zionist. One of the best known Hasidic opponent of all forms of modern political Zionism was Hungarian rebbe and Talmudic scholar Joel Teitelbaum. In his view, the current State of Israel, which was founded by people that included some anti-religious personalities in seeming violation of the traditional notion that Jews should wait for the Jewish Messiah, is seen as contrary to Judaism. The core citations from classical Judaic sources cited by Teitelbaum in his arguments against modern Zionism are based on a passage in the Talmud, Rabbi Yosi b'Rebbi Hanina explains (Kesubos 111a) that the Lord imposed "Three Oaths" on the nation of Israel: a) Israel should not return to the Land together, by force; b) Israel should not rebel against the other nations; and c) The nations should not subjugate Israel too harshly. According to Teitelbaum, the second oath is relevant concerning the subsequent wars fought between Israel and Arab nations.
Other opponent groups included in the Edah HaChareidis include Dushinsky, Toldos Aharon, Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok, Spinka, and others, numbering tens of thousands in Jerusalem, and hundreds of thousands worldwide.
The Neturei Karta, an orthodox Haredi religious movement, strongly oppose Zionism and Israel; it considers the latter a racist regime. The movement equates Zionism to Nazism, stating "Apart from the Zionists, the only ones who consistently considered the Jews a race were the Nazis." Naturei Karta believes that Zionist ideology is totally contrary to traditional Jewish law and beliefs and the teachings of the Holy Torah and that Zionism promotes antisemitism.
The Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement has traditionally not identified itself as Zionist, although in recent years it has adopted a nationalist agenda and opposed any territorial compromise to become Neo-Zionist.
Zionism was established with the goal of creating a Jewish state. Though later Zionist leaders hoped to create a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael, Theodor Herzl "approached Great Britain about possible Jewish settlement in that country's East African colonies." Aliyah (migration, literally "ascent") to the Land of Israel is a recurring theme in Jewish prayers. Rejection of life in the Diaspora is a central assumption in Zionism. Underlying this attitude is the feeling that the Diaspora restricts the full growth of Jewish individual and national life.
Zionists generally preferred to speak Hebrew, a Semitic language that developed under conditions of freedom in ancient Judah, modernizing and adapting it for everyday use. Zionists sometimes refused to speak Yiddish, a language they considered affected by European persecution. Once they moved to Israel, many Zionists refused to speak their (diasporic) mother tongues and gave themselves new, Hebrew names. Hebrew was preferred not only for ideological reasons, but also because it allowed all citizens of the new state to have a common language, thus furthering the political and cultural bonds between Zionists.
Major aspects of the Zionist idea are represented in the Israeli Declaration of Independence:
The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses.
Zionism is dedicated to fighting antisemitism. Some Zionists believe antisemitism will never disappear (and that Jews must conduct themselves with this in mind), while others perceive Zionism as a vehicle with which to end antisemitism.
|1922||486,177 (74.91%)||83,790 (12.91%)||71,464 (11.01%)||7,617 (1.17%)||649,048|
|1931||493,147 (64.32%)||174,606 (22.77%)||88,907 (11.60%)||10,101 (1.32%)||766,761|
|1941||906,551 (59.68%)||474,102 (31.21%)||125,413 (8.26%)||12,881 (0.85%)||1,518,947|
|1946||1,076,783 (58.34%)||608,225 (32.96%)||145,063 (7.86%)||15,488 (0.84%)||1,845,559|
Since the first centuries CE most Jews have lived outside Land of Israel (Eretz Israel, better known as Palestine by non-Jews), although there has been a constant presence of Jews. According to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Eretz Israel is a land promised to the Jews by God according to the Hebrew and Greek Bibles and the Quran, respectively. The Diaspora began in 586 BCE during the Babylonian occupation of Israel. The Babylonians destroyed the First Temple, which was central to Jewish culture at the time. After the 1st century Great Revolt and the 2nd century Bar Kokhba revolt, the Romans expelled the Jews from Judea, changing the name to Syria Palaestina. The Bar Kokhba revolt caused a spike in anti-Semitism and Jewish persecution. The ensuing exile from Judea greatly increased the percent of Jews who were dispersed throughout the Diaspora instead of living in their original home.
Zion is a hill near Jerusalem (now in the city), widely symbolizing the Land of Israel.
In the middle of the 16th century Joseph Nasi, with the support of the Ottoman Empire, tried to gather the Portuguese Jews, first to Cyprus, then owned by the Republic of Venice and later to Tiberias. This was the only practical attempt to establish some sort of Jewish political center in Palestine between the fourth and 19th centuries. In the 17th century Sabbatai Zebi (1626–1676) announced himself as the Messias and gained over many Jews to his side, forming a base in Salonica. He first tried to establish a settlement in Gaza, but moved later to Smyrna. After deposing the old rabbi Aaron Lapapa even the Jewish community of Avignon prepared to emigrate to the new kingdom in the spring of 1666. The readiness of the Jews of the time to believe the messianic claims of Sabbatai Zevi may be largely explained by the desperate state of European Jewry in the mid-17th century. The bloody pogroms of Bohdan Khmelnytsky had wiped out one third of the Jewish population and destroyed many centers of Jewish learning and communal life. Finally, he was forced by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV to visit him and, to the surprise of his followers, in the presence of the Sultan he converted to Islam.
In the 19th century, a current in Judaism supporting a return to Zion grew in popularity, particularly in Europe, where antisemitism and hostility towards Jews were also growing, although this idea was rejected by the conferences of rabbis held in that epoch. Nonetheless, individual efforts supported the emigration of groups of Jews to Palestine, pre-Zionist Aliyah, even before 1897, the year considered as the start of practical Zionism.
The Reformed Jews rejected this idea of a return to Zion. The conference of rabbis, at Frankfurt am Main, July 15–28, 1845, deleted from the ritual all prayers for a return to Zion and a restoration of a Jewish state. The Philadelphia conference, 1869, followed the lead of the German rabbis and decreed that the Messianic hope of Israel is "the union of all the children of God in the confession of the unity of God". The Pittsburg conference, 1885, reiterated this Messianic idea of reformed Judaism, expressing in a resolution that "we consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community; and we therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning a Jewish state".
Jewish settlements were established in the upper Mississippi region by W.D. Robinson in 1819 and near Jerusalem, by the American Consul Warder Cresson, a convert to Judaism, in 1850. Before he succeeded, he was tried and condemned for lunacy in a suit brought forward by his own wife and son; after winning a second trial he established a colony in the Valley of Rephaim, where he hoped to "prevent any attempts being made to take advantage of the necessities of our poor brethren ... (that would) ... FORCE them into a pretended conversion." Similar efforts were made in Prague, by Abraham Benisch and Moritz Steinschneider in 1835.
Sir Moses Montefiore, famous for his intervention in favor of Jews around the world, including the attempt to rescue Edgardo Mortara, established a colony for Jews in Palestine. In 1854, his friend Judah Touro bequeathed money to fund Jewish residential settlement in Palestine. Montefiore was appointed executor of his will, and used the funds for a variety of projects, including building in 1860 the first Jewish residential settlement and almshouse outside of the old walled city of Jerusalem — today known as Mishkenot Sha'ananim. Laurence Oliphant failed in a like attempt to bring to Palestine the Jewish proletariat of Poland, Lithuania, Romania, and the Turkish Empire (1879 and 1882). The official beginning of the construction of the New Yishuv in Palestine is usually dated back to the arrival of the Bilu group in 1882, which commenced the First Aliyah. In the following years, Jewish immigration to Palestine started in earnest. Most immigrants came from Russia, escaping the frequent pogroms and state-led persecution. They founded a number of agricultural settlements with financial support from Jewish philanthropists in Western Europe. Further Aliyahs followed the Russian Revolution and Nazi persecution. However, at the end of the 19th century, Jews still were a minority in Palestina.
In the 1890s, Theodor Herzl infused Zionism with a new ideology and practical urgency, leading to the First Zionist Congress at Basel in 1897, which created the World Zionist Organization (WZO). Herzl's aim was to initiate necessary preparatory steps for the attainment of a Jewish state. Herzl's attempts to reach a political agreement with the Ottoman rulers of Palestine were unsuccessful and other governmental support was sought. The WZO supported small-scale settlement in Palestine and focused on strengthening Jewish feeling and consciousness and on building a worldwide federation.
The Russian Empire, with its long record of state organized genocide and ethnic cleansing ("pogroms") was widely regarded as the historic enemy of the Jewish people. As much of its leadership were German speakers, the Zionist movement's headquarters were located in Berlin. At the start of World War I, most Jews (and Zionists) supported Germany in its war with Russia.
In 1903, the Zionist congress declined an offer by the British to establish a homeland in Uganda. Lobbying by a Russian Jewish immigrant, Chaim Weizmann and fear that American Jews would encourage the USA to support Germany culminated in the British government's Balfour Declaration of 1917, which endorsed the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, as follows:
His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The Mandate will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home ... and the development of self-governing institutions, and also safeguard the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.
Weizmann's role in obtaining the Balfour Declaration led to his election as the movement's leader. He remained in that role until 1948 and then became the first President of Israel.
Jewish migration to Palestine and widespread Jewish land purchases from feudal landlords led to landlessness among Palestinian Arabs and fueled unrest. There were riots in 1920, 1921 and 1929, in which both Jews and Arabs were killed. Britain was responsible for the Palestinian mandate and, after the Balfour Declaration, it supported Jewish immigration in principle, but in reaction to the violent events that followed, the Peel Commission published a report proposing new provisions and restrictions.
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In 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany, and in 1935 the Nuremberg Laws made German Jews (and later Austrian and Czech Jews) stateless refugees. Similar rules were applied by the many Nazi allies in Europe. The subsequent growth in Jewish migration and impact of Nazi propaganda aimed at the Arab world led to the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. Britain established the Peel Commission to investigate the situation. The commission did not consider the situation of Jews in Europe, but called for a two-state solution and compulsory transfer of populations. Britain rejected this solution and instead implemented White Paper of 1939. This planned to end Jewish immigration by 1944 and to allow no more than 75,000 further Jewish migrants. This was disastrous to European Jews already being gravely discriminated against and in need of a place to seek refuge. The British maintained this policy until the end of the Mandate.
Growth of the Jewish community in Palestine and devastation of European Jewish life sidelined the World Zionist Organization. The Jewish Agency for Palestine under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion increasingly dictated policy with support from American Zionists who provided funding and influence in Washington, D.C., including via the highly effective American Palestine Committee.
After World War II and the Holocaust, a massive wave of stateless Jews, mainly Holocaust survivors, began migrating to Palestine in small boats in defiance of British rules. The Holocaust united much of the rest of world Jewry behind the Zionist project. The British either imprisoned these Jews in Cyprus (including many orphaned children) or sent them to the British-controlled Allied Occupation Zones in Germany. This resulted in universal Jewish support for Zionism and the refusal of the U.S. Congress to grant economic aid to Britain. In addition, Zionist groups attacked the British in Palestine and, with its empire facing bankruptcy, Britain was forced to refer the issue to the newly created United Nations.
In 1947, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommended that western Palestine should be partitioned into a Jewish state, an Arab state and a UN-controlled territory, Corpus separatum, around Jerusalem. This partition plan was adopted on November 29, 1947 with UN GA Resolution 181, 33 votes in favor, 13 against, and 10 abstentions. The vote led to celebrations in the streets of Jewish cities. However, the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states rejected the UN decision, demanding a single state and removal of Jewish migrants, leading to the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
On May 14, 1948, at the end of the British mandate, the Jewish Agency, led by David Ben-Gurion, declared the creation of the State of Israel, and the same day the armies of seven Arab countries invaded Israel. The conflict led to an exodus of about 711,000 Arab Palestinians, known to Palestinians as Al Nakba (the "catastrophe"), and the exodus of 850,000 Jews from the Arab world, mostly to Israel. Later, a series of laws passed by the first Israeli government prevented Palestinians from returning to their homes, or claiming their property. They and many of their descendants remain refugees. The expulsion of the Palestinians has since been widely, and controversially, described as having involved "ethnic cleansing".
Since the creation of the State of Israel, the World Zionist Organization has functioned mainly as an organization dedicated to assisting and encouraging Jews to migrate to Israel. It has provided political support for Israel in other countries but plays little role in internal Israeli politics. The movement's major success since 1948 was in providing logistical support for migrating Jews and, most importantly, in assisting Soviet Jews in their struggle with the authorities over the right to leave the USSR and to practice their religion in freedom.
Political support for the Jewish return to the Land of Israel predates the formal organization of Jewish Zionism as a political movement. In the 19th century, advocates of the Restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land were called Restorationists. The return of the Jews to the Holy Land was widely supported by such eminent figures as Queen Victoria, Napoleon Bonaparte, King Edward VII, President John Adams of the United States, General Smuts of South Africa, President Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, philosopher and historian Benedetto Croce from Italy, Henry Dunant (founder of the Red Cross and author of the Geneva Conventions), and scientist and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen from Norway.
The French government through Minister M. Cambon formally committed itself to "... the renaissance of the Jewish nationality in that Land from which the people of Israel were exiled so many centuries ago."
Some Christians have actively supported the return of Jews to Palestine even prior to Zionism, as well as subsequently. One of the principal Protestant teachers who promoted the biblical doctrine that the Jews would return to their national homeland was John Nelson Darby. He is credited with being the major promoter of the idea following his 11 lectures on the hopes of the church, the Jew and the gentile given in Geneva in 1840. His views were embraced by many evangelicals and also affected international foreign policy. Notable early supporters of Zionism include British Prime Ministers David Lloyd George and Arthur Balfour, American President Woodrow Wilson and British Major-General Orde Wingate, whose activities in support of Zionism led the British Army to ban him from ever serving in Palestine. According to Charles Merkley of Carleton University, Christian Zionism strengthened significantly after the Six-Day War of 1967, and many dispensationalist Christians, especially in the United States, now strongly support Zionism.
The founder of Latter Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith, Jr., in his last years alive, declared "the time for Jews to return to the land of Israel is now." In 1842, Smith sent Orson Hyde, an Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to Jerusalem to dedicate the land for the return of the Jews.
Some Arab Christians publicly supporting Israel include US author Nonie Darwish, and former Muslim Magdi Allam, author of Viva Israele, both born in Egypt. Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese-born Christian US journalist and founder of the American Congress for Truth, urges Americans to "fearlessly speak out in defense of America, Israel and Western civilization".
In 1873, Shah of Persia Naser al-Din Shah Qajar met with British Jewish leaders, including Sir Moses Montefiore, during his journey to Europe. At that time, the Persian king suggested that the Jews buy land and establish a state for the Jewish people.
Muslims who publicly defended Zionism include Dr. Tawfik Hamid, former member of a terror organization and current Islamic thinker and reformer, Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community, and Tashbih Sayyed, a Pakistani-American scholar, journalist, and author.
During the Palestine Mandate era, As'ad Shukeiri, a Muslim scholar ('alim) of the Acre area, and the father of PLO founder Ahmad Shukeiri, rejected the values of the Palestinian Arab national movement and was opposed to the anti-Zionist movement. He met routinely with Zionist officials and had a part in every pro-Zionist Arab organization from the beginning of the British Mandate, publicly rejecting Mohammad Amin al-Husayni's use of Islam to attack Zionism.
Some Indian Muslims have also expressed opposition to Islamic anti-Zionism. In August 2007, a delegation of the All India Organization of Imams and mosques led by Maulana Jamil Ilyas visited Israel. The meet led to a joint statement expressing "peace and goodwill from Indian Muslims", developing dialogue between Indian Muslims and Israeli Jews, and rejecting the perception that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is of a religious nature. The visit was organized by the American Jewish Committee. The purpose of the visit was to create meaningful debate about the status of Israel in the Muslim eyes worldwide, and strengthen the relationship between India and Israel. It is suggested that the visit could "open Muslim minds across the world to understand the democratic nature of the state of Israel, especially in the Middle East".
After Israel's creation in 1948, the Indian National Congress government opposed Zionism. Some writers have claimed that this was in order to get more Muslim votes in India (where Muslims numbered over 30 million at the time). However, conservative Hindu nationalists, led by the Sangh Parivar, openly supported Zionism, as did Hindu Nationalist intellectuals like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Sita Ram Goel. Zionism as a national liberation movement to repatriate the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland appealed to many Hindu Nationalists, who viewed their struggle for independence from British rule and the Partition of India as national liberation for long-oppressed Hindus.
An international opinion survey has shown that India is the most pro-Israel country in the world. In more current times, conservative Indian parties and organizations tend to support Zionism. This has invited attacks on the Hindutva movement by parts of the Indian left opposed to Zionism, and allegations that Hindus are conspiring with the "Jewish Lobby."
Zionist success in winning British support for formation of a Jewish National Home in Palestine helped to inspire the Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey to form a movement dedicated to returning Americans of African origin to Africa. During a speech in Harlem in 1920, Garvey stated: "other races were engaged in seeing their cause through — the Jews through their Zionist movement and the Irish through their Irish movement — and I decided that, cost what it might, I would make this a favorable time to see the Negro's interest through." Garvey established a shipping company, the Black Star Line, to allow Black Americans to emigrate to Africa, but for various reasons failed in his endeavour.
Zionism is opposed by a wide variety of organizations and individuals. Among those opposing Zionism are some secular Jews, some branches of Judaism (Satmar Hasidim and Neturei Karta), the former Soviet Union, some African-Americans, many in the Muslim world, and Palestinians. Reasons for opposing Zionism are varied, and include the perceptions of unfair land confiscation, expulsions of Palestinians, violence against Palestinians, and alleged racism. Arab states in particular strongly oppose Zionism, which they believe is responsible for the 1948 Palestinian exodus.
Zionism had also been opposed by some Jews for other reasons even before the establishment of the state of Israel because "Zionism constitutes a danger, spiritual and physical, to the existence of our people.'.". The book also states "The booklet which we are publishing here, 'Serufay. Ha Kivshbnim Maashimim' ('The Holocaust Victims Accuse'), serves as an attempt to show, by means of testimonies., documents and reports, how Zionism and its high-level organizations brought a catastrophe upon our people during the era of the Nazi holocaust."
The initial response of the Catholic Church seemed to be one of strong opposition to Zionism. Shortly after the 1897 Basel Conference, the semi-official Vatican periodical (edited by the Jesuits) Civilta Cattolica gave its biblical-theological judgement on political Zionism: "1827 years have passed since the prediction of Jesus of Nazareth was fulfilled ... that [after the destruction of Jerusalem] the Jews would be led away to be slaves among all the nations and that they would remain in the dispersion [diaspora, galut] until the end of the world." The Jews should not be permitted to return to Palestine with sovereignty: "According to the Sacred Scriptures, the Jewish people must always live dispersed and vagabondo [vagrant, wandering] among the other nations, so that they may render witness to Christ not only by the Scriptures ... but by their very existence".
Nonetheless, Theodore Herzl travelled to Rome in late January 1904, after the sixth Zionist Congress (August 1903) and six months before his death, looking for some kind of support. In January 22, Herzl first met the Secretary of State, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val. According to Herzl's private diary notes, the Cardinal agreed on the history of Israel being the same as the one of the Catholic Church, but asked beforehand for a conversion of Jews to Catholicism. Three days later, Herzl met Pope Pius X, who replied to his request of support for a Jewish return to Israel in the same terms, saying that "we are unable to favor this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews going to Jerusalem, but we could never sanction it ... The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people." In 1922 the same recourse of preordained divine judgment in the Bible was utilized by the same periodical to oppose Zionism, alleging that the rejection and killing of Jesus by the Jews condemned them in the eyes of Catholics. This initial attitude changed over the next 50 years, until 1997, when at the Vatican symposium of that year, Pope John Paul II rejected the Christian roots of anti-Semitism, expressing that "... the wrong and unjust interpretations of the New Testament relating to the Jewish people and their supposed guilt [in Christ's death] circulated for too long, engendering sentiments of hostility toward this people."
Zionism has been characterized as colonialism, and Zionism has been criticized for promoting unfair confiscation of land, involving the expulsion of, and causing violence towards, the Palestinians. The characterization of Zionism as colonialism has been described by, among others, Nur Masalha, Gershon Shafir, Michael Prior, Ilan Pappe, and Baruch Kimmerling.
Others, such as Shlomo Avineri and Mitchell Bard, view Zionism not as colonialist movement, but as a national movement that is contending with the Palestinian one. David Hoffman rejected the claim that Zionism is a 'settler-colonial undertaking' and instead characterized Zionism as a national program of affirmative action, adding that there is unbroken Jewish presence in Israel back to antiquity.
Edward Said and Michael Prior claim that the notion of expelling the Palestinians was an early component of Zionism, citing Herzl's diary from 1895 which states "we shall endeavour to expel the poor population across the border unnoticed — the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly." Derek Penslar says that Herzl may have been considering either South America or Palestine when he wrote the diary entry about expropriation.
Ilan Pappe argued that Zionism results in ethnic cleansing. This view diverges from other New Historians, such as Benny Morris, who accept the Palestinian exodus narrative but place it in the context of war, not ethnic cleansing.
Saleh Abdel Jawad, Nur Masalha, Michael Prior, Ian Lustick, and John Rose have criticised Zionism for having been responsible for violence against Palestinians, such as the Deir Yassin massacre, Sabra and Shatila massacre, and Cave of the Patriarchs massacre.
In 1938, Mahatma Gandhi rejected Zionism, saying that the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine is a religious act and therefore must not be performed by force. He wrote, "Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs ... Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home ... They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart."
Critics of Zionism consider it a colonialist or racist movement. According to historian Avi Shlaim, throughout its history up to present day, Zionism "is replete with manifestations of deep hostility and contempt towards the indigenous population." Shlaim balances this by pointing out that there have always been individuals within the Zionist movement that have criticized such attitudes. He cites the example of Ahad Ha'am, who after visiting Palestine in 1891, published a series of articles criticizing the aggressive behaviour and political ethnocentrism of Zionist settlers. Ha'am wrote that the Zionists "behave towards the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, trespass unjustly upon their boundaries, beat them shamefully without reason and even brag about it, and nobody stands to check this contemptible and dangerous tendency" and that they believed that "the only language that the Arabs understand is that of force." Some criticisms of Zionism claim that Judaism's notion of the "chosen people" is the source of racism in Zionism, despite, according to Gustavo Perednik, that being a religious concept unrelated to Zionism.
In December 1973, the UN passed a series of resolutions condemning South Africa and included a reference to an "unholy alliance between Portuguese colonialism, Apartheid and Zionism." At the time there was little cooperation between Israel and South Africa, although the two countries would develop a close relationship during the 1970s. Parallels have also been drawn between aspects of South Africa's apartheid regime and certain Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, which are seen as manifestations of racism in Zionist thinking.
In 1975 the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, which said "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination". According to the resolution, "any doctrine of racial differentiation of superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust, and dangerous." The resolution named the occupied territory of Palestine, Zimbabwe, and South Africa as examples of racist regimes. Resolution 3379 was pioneered by the Soviet Union and passed with numerical support from Arab and African states amidst accusations that Israel was supportive of the apartheid regime in South Africa. In 1991 the resolution was repealed with UN General Assembly Resolution 46/86, after Israel declared that it would only participate in the Madrid Conference of 1991 if the resolution were revoked.
Arab countries sought to associate Zionism with racism in connection with a 2001 UN conference on racism, which took place in Durban, South Africa, which caused the United States and Israel to walk away from the conference as a response. The final text of the conference did not connect Zionism with racism. A human rights forum arranged in connection with the conference, on the other hand, did equate Zionism with racism and censured Israel for what it called "racist crimes, including acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing".
The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights was adopted in 1981 by the Organisation of African Unity, which has since evolved into the African Union. The preamble of the charter includes a call to "eliminate colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, zionism and to dismantle aggressive foreign military bases and all forms of discrimination, particularly those based on race, ethnic group, color, sex. language, religion or political opinions". The charter has been ratified by 53 African countries.
Critics of anti-Zionism have argued that opposition to Zionism can be hard to distinguish from antisemitism, and that criticism of Israel may be used as an excuse to express viewpoints that might otherwise be considered antisemitic. Other scholars consider certain forms of opposition to Zionism to constitute antisemitism. A number of scholars have argued that opposition to Zionism and/or the State of Israel's policies at the more extreme fringes often overlaps with antisemitism.
Anti-semites have alleged that Zionism was, or is, part of a Jewish plot to take control of the world. One particular version of these allegations, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (subtitle "Protocols extracted from the secret archives of the central chancery of Zion") achieved global notability. The protocols are fictional minutes of an imaginary meeting by Jewish leaders of this plot. Analysis and proof of their fraudulent origin goes as far back as 1921. A 1920 German version renamed them "The Zionist Protocols". The protocols were extensively used as propaganda by the Nazis and remain widely distributed in the Arab world. They are referred to in the 1988 Hamas charter.
There are examples of anti-Zionists using accusations, slanders, imagery and tactics previously associated with anti-semites. On October 21, 1973, then-Soviet ambassador to the United Nations Yakov Malik declared: "The Zionists have come forth with the theory of the Chosen People, an absurd ideology." Similarly, an exhibit about Zionism and Israel in the Museum of Religion and Atheism in Saint Petersburg designates the following as Soviet Zionist material: Jewish prayer shawls, tefillin and Passover Hagaddahs, even though these are all religious items used by Jews for thousands of years.
Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Irfan Khawaja, and Tariq Ali have suggested that the characterization of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitic is inaccurate, sometimes obscures legitimate criticism of Israel's policies and actions, and is sometimes a political ploy to stifle criticism of Israel.
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