This article is about Zionism as a movement.
Until 1948, the primary goals of Zionism were the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, ingathering of the exiles, and liberation of Jews from the antisemitic discrimination and persecution that they experienced during their diaspora. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Zionism continues primarily to advocate on behalf of Israel and address threats to its continued existence and security.
A religious variety of Zionism supports Jews upholding their Jewish identity defined as adherence to religious Judaism, opposes the assimilation of Jews into other societies, and has advocated the return of Jews to Israelas a means for Jews to be a majority nation in their own state. A variety of Zionism, called cultural Zionism, founded and represented most prominently by Ahad Ha’am, fostered a secular vision of a Jewish “spiritual center” in Israel. Unlike Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, Ahad Ha’am strived for Israel to be “a Jewish state and not merely a state of Jews”.
Advocates of Zionism view it as a national liberation movement for the repatriation of a persecuted people residing as minorities in a variety of nations to their ancestral homeland. Critics of Zionism view it as acolonialist, racist and exceptionalist ideology that led advocates to violence during Mandatory Palestine, followed by the forced exodus of Palestinians, and the subsequent denial of their human rights.[19
History of Zionism and History of Israel
Since the first centuries CE, most Jews have lived outside the Land of Israel (Eretz Israel, better known as Palestine), although there has been a constant minority 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 Roman Empire expelled the Jews from Judea, changing the name to Syria Palaestina. The Bar Kokhba revolt caused a spike in antisemitism 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.
In the middle of the 16th century, Joseph Nasi, with the support of the Ottoman Empire, tried to gather the Portuguese Jews, first to migrate to Cyprus, then owned by the Republic of Venice, and later to resettle in Tiberias. Finally, Nasi was forced by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV to visit him. To the surprise of his followers, in the presence of the Sultan, Nasi converted to Islam.
Between the 4th and 19th centuries, Nasi’s was the only practical attempt to establish some sort of Jewish political center in Palestine. In the 17th century Sabbatai Zevi (1626–1676) announced himself as the Messiah and gained many Jews to his side, forming a base in Salonika.
He first tried to establish a settlement in Gaza, but moved later to Smyrna. After deposing the old rabbi Aaron Lapapa in the spring of 1666, the Jewish community of Avignon, France prepared to emigrate to the new kingdom. 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 Central 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.
In the 19th century, a current in Judaism supporting a return to Zion grew in popularity, particularly in Europe, where antisemitism and hostility toward Jews were growing. The idea of returning to Palestine was rejected by the conferences of rabbis held in that epoch. 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 Pittsburgh 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. Others were developed near Jerusalem in 1850, by the American Consul Warder Cresson, a convert to Judaism. Cresson was tried and condemned for lunacy in a suit filed by his wife and son. They asserted that only a lunatic would convert to Judaism from Christianity.
After a second trial, based on the centrality of American ‘freedom of faith’ issues and antisemitism, Cresson won the bitterly contested suit. He emigrated to Ottoman Palestine and established an agricultural colony in the Valley of Rephaim of Jerusalem. 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.”
Moral but not practical efforts were made in Prague to organize a Jewish emigration, by Abraham Benisch and Moritz Steinschneider in 1835. In the United States, Mordecai Noah attempted to establish a Jewish refuge opposite Buffalo, New York on Grand Isle, 1825. These early Jewish nation building efforts of Cresson, Benisch, Steinschneider and Noah failed.[page needed]
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 to the arrival of the Bilu group in 1882, who commenced the First Aliyah. In the following years, Jewish immigration to Palestine started in earnest. Most immigrants came from the Russian Empire, escaping the frequent pogroms and state-led persecution in what are now Ukraine and Poland. They founded a number of agricultural settlements with financial support from Jewish philanthropists in Western Europe. Additional Aliyahs followed the Russian Revolution and its eruption of violent pogroms, as well as the Nazi persecution of the 1930s. At the end of the 19th century, Jews were a small minority in Palestine.
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 development of a Jewish state. Herzl’s attempts to reach a political agreement with the Ottoman rulers of Palestine were unsuccessful and he sought the support of other governments. The WZO supported small-scale settlement in Palestine; it 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. The Zionist movement’s headquarters were located in Berlin, as many of its leaders were German Jews who spoke German. Given Russia’s anti-semitism, at the start of World War I, most Jews (and Zionists) supported Germany in its war with Russia.
|1922||486,177(74.91%)||83,790(12.91%)||71,464 (11.01%)||7,617 (1.17%)||649,048|
Throughout the first decade of the Zionist movement, there were several instances where Zionist figures supported a Jewish state in places outside Palestine, such as Uganda and Argentina. Even Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism was initially content with any Jewish self-governed state. However, other Zionists emphasized the memory, emotion and myth linking Jews to the Land of Israel. Despite using Zion as the name of the movement (a name after the Jebusite fortress in Jerusalem, which became synonymous with Jerusalem), Palestine only became Herzl’s main focus after his Zionist manifesto ‘Judenstaat‘ was published in 1896, but even then he was hesitant.
In 1903, British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain offered Herzl 5,000 square miles in the Uganda Protectorate for Jewish settlement. Called the Uganda Scheme, it was introduced the same year to the World Zionist Organization‘s Congress at its sixth meeting, where a fierce debate ensued. Some groups felt that accepting the scheme would make it more difficult to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, the African land was described as an “ante-chamber to the Holy Land”. It was decided to send a commission to investigate the proposed land by 295 to 177 votes, with 132 abstaining. The following year, congress sent a delegation to inspect the plateau. A temperate climate due to its high elevation, was thought to be suitable for European settlement. However, the area was populated by a large number of Maasai, who did not seem to favour an influx of Europeans. Furthermore, the delegation found it to be filled with lions and other animals.
After Herzl died in 1904, the Congress decided on the fourth day of its seventh session in July 1905 to decline the British offer and, according to Adam Rovner, “direct all future settlement efforts solely to Palestine”. Israel Zangwill‘s Jewish Territorialist Organization aimed for a Jewish state anywhere, having been established in 1903 in response to the Uganda Scheme, was supported by a number of the Congress’s delegates. Following the vote, which had been proposed by Max Nordau, Zangwill charged Nordau that he “will be charged before the bar of history,” and his supporters blamed the Russian voting bloc of Menachem Ussishkin for the outcome of the vote.
The subsequent departure of the JTO from the Zionist Organization had little impact. The Zionist Socialist Workers Party was also an organization that favored the idea of a Jewish territorial autonomy outside of Palestine.
Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate
Lobbying by Russian Jewish immigrant Chaim Weizmann together with fear that American Jews would encourage the USA to support Germany in the war against communist Russia, culminated in the British government’s Balfour Declaration of 1917.
It 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.
In 1922, the League of Nations adopted the declaration, and granted to Britain the Palestine Mandate:
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 Zionist movement’s leader. He remained in that role until 1948, and then was elected as the first President of Israel after the nation gained independence.
Jewish migration to Palestine and widespread Jewish land purchases from feudal landlords contributed to landlessness among Palestinian Arabs, fueling unrest. Riots erupted in Palestine 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 response to the violent events noted above, the Peel Commission published a report proposing new provisions and restrictions in Palestine.
In 1927, Ukrainian Jew Yitzhak Lamdan, wrote an epic poem titled Masada to reflect the plight of the Jews, calling for a “last stand”. Upon the German adoption of the swastika, Theodore Newman Kaufman, bent on provoking a race war and eliminating his perception of “inbred Germanism”, published Germany Must Perish! Anti-German articles, such as the Daily Express calling for an “Anti-Nazi boycott“, in response to Germanantisemitism were published prior to Adolf Hitler’s rise, as well. This has lent to the conspiracy theory that Jews started the holocaust, although Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was largely responsible for ignoring the patriotic Jew, and instead promoting anti-German materials as “evidence” that the Jews needed to be eradicated.
Rise of Hitler
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 the 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 the White Paper of 1939. This planned to end Jewish immigration by 1944 and to allow no more than 75,000 additional 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.
The growth of the Jewish community in Palestine and the 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.
During World War II, as the horrors of the Holocaust became known, the Zionist leadership formulated the One Million Plan, a reduction from Ben-Gurion’s previous target of two million immigrants. Following the end of the war, 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 or sent them to the British-controlled Allied Occupation Zones in Germany. The British, having faced the 1936–1939 Arab revolt against mass Jewish immigration into Palestine, were now facing opposition by Zionist groups in Palestine for subsequent restrictions. In January 1946 the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry was a joint British and American committee set up to examine the political, economic and social conditions in Palestine as they bore upon the problem of Jewish immigration and settlement and the well-being of the peoples living there; to consult representatives of Arabs and Jews, and to make other recommendations ‘as necessary’ for ad interim handling of these problems as well as for their eventual solution. Ultimately the Committee’s plans were rejected by both Arabs and Jews; and Britain decided to refer the problem to the 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 Palestinian Arabs, known in Arabic as al-Nakba (“the Catastrophe”). 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 flight and expulsion of the Palestinians has since been widely, and controversially, described as having involved ethnic cleansing.According to a growing consensus between Israeli and Palestinian historians, expulsion and destruction of villages played a part in the origin of the Palestinian refugees. Efraim Karsh, however, states that most of the Arabs who fled left of their own accord or were pressured to leave by their fellow Arabs, despite Israeli attempts to convince them to stay.
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, and the exodus of 850,000 Jews from the Arab world, mostly to Israel. In 1944-45, Ben-Gurion described the One Million Plan to foreign officials as being the “primary goal and top priority of the Zionist movement.” The immigration restrictions of the British White Paper of 1939 meant that such a plan could not be put into large scale effect until the Israeli Declaration of Independence in May 1948. The new country’s immigration policy had some opposition within the new Israeli government, such as those who argued that there was “no justification for organizing large-scale emigration among Jews whose lives were not in danger, particularly when the desire and motivation were not their own” as well as those who argued that the absorption process caused “undue hardship”. However, the force of Ben-Gurion’s influence and insistence ensured that his immigration policy was carried out.
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 theJewish 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.
- Unity of the Jewish People and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life
- Ingathering of the Jewish People in its historic homeland, Eretz Israel, through Aliyah from all countries
- Strengthening of the State of Israel, based on the prophetic vision of justice and peace
- Preservation of the identity of the Jewish People through fostering of Jewish and Hebrew education, and of Jewish spiritual and cultural values
- Protection of Jewish rights everywhere
Since the creation of modern Israel, the role of the movement has declined. It is now a peripheral factor in Israeli politics, though different perceptions of Zionism continue to play roles in Israeli and Jewish political discussion.
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. The preamble of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which has been ratified by 53 African countries as of 2014, includes an undertaking to eliminate Zionism together with other practices including colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, “aggressive foreign military bases” and all forms of discrimination.
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.’.”.[page needed] 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.”[page needed]
Catholic Church and Zionism
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 periodical published a piece by its Viennese correspondent, “anti-Semitism is nothing but the absolutely necessary and natural reaction to the Jews’ arrogance…Catholic anti-Semitism – while never going beyond the moral law – adopts all necessary means to emancipate the Christian people from the abuse they suffer from their sworn enemy”. This initial attitude changed over the next 50 years, until 1997, when at the Vatican symposium of that year, Pope John Paul IIrejected the Christian roots of antisemitism, 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.”
Characterization as colonialism or ethnic cleansing
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.” This quotation has been critiqued by Efraim Karsh for misrepresenting Herzl’s purpose. He describes it as “a feature of Palestinian propaganda”, writing that Herzl was referring to the voluntary resettlement of squatters living on land purchased by Jews, and that the full diary entry stated, “It goes without saying that we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honor, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion. This is another area in which we shall set the entire world a wonderful example … Should there be many such immovable owners in individual areas [who would not sell their property to us], we shall simply leave them there and develop our commerce in the direction of other areas which belong to us.” Derek Penslar says that Herzl may have been considering either South America or Palestine when he wrote the diary entry about expropriation. According to Walter Lacquer, although many Zionists proposed transfer, it was never official Zionist policy and in 1918 Ben-Gurion “emphatically rejected” it.
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. When Benny Morris was asked about the Expulsion of Palestinians from Lydda and Ramle, he responded “There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing. I know that this term is completely negative in the discourse of the 21st century, but when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide – the annihilation of your people – I prefer ethnic cleansing.”
Saleh Abdel Jawad, Nur Masalha, Michael Prior, Ian Lustick, and John Rose have criticized 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, comparing it to the Partition of India into Hindu and Muslim countries. 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.” Gandhi later told American journalist Louis Fischer in 1946 that “Jews have a good case in Palestine. If the Arabs have a claim to Palestine, the Jews have a prior claim”.
Characterization as racist
David Ben-Gurion stated that “There will be no discrimination among citizens of the Jewish state on the basis of race, religion, sex, or class.” Likewise, Vladimir Jabotinsky avowed “the minority will not be rendered defenseless…[the] aim of democracy is to guarantee that the minority too has influence on matters of state policy.”
However, 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. The resolution was robustly criticised by the US representative, Daniel Patrick Moynihan as an ‘obscenity’ and a ‘harm …done to the United Nations’. ‘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.
The United States …does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act… The lie is that Zionism is a form of racism. The overwhelmingly clear truth is that it is not.
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”.
Haredi Judaism and Zionism
Haredi rabbis do not consider Israel to be a halachic Jewish state because it has secular government. But they take responsibility 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 religious law. In their view a Jewish state is considered an oxymoron.
Two Haredi parties run candidates in Israeli elections. They are sometimes associated with views that could be regarded as nationalist or Zionist. They prefer 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 generally identify 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 it generally opposes compromise over Jewish holy sites.
The non-Hasidic or ‘Lithuanian’ Haredi Ashkenazi world is represented by the Ashkenazi Agudat Israel/UTJ party. It 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 works to ensure 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 Shachand Rabbi Avigdor Miller, are strongly opposed to all forms of Zionism, religious and secular. But they allow members to participate in Israeli political life, including both passive and active participation in elections.
Many other Hasidic groups in Jerusalem, most famously the Satmar Hasidim, as well as the larger movement they are part of, the Edah HaChareidis, are strongly anti-Zionist. One of the best known Hasidic opponents of all forms of modern political Zionism wasHungarian rebbe and Talmudic scholar Joel Teitelbaum. In his view, the current State of Israel is contrariwise to Judaism, because it was founded by people who included some anti-religious personalities, and were in apparent violation of the traditional notion that Jews should wait for the Jewish Messiah.
Teitelbaum referred to core citations from classical Judaic sources in his arguments against modern Zionism; specifically a passage in the Talmud, in which 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 among the Edah HaChareidis were Dushinsky, Toldos Aharon, Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok, Spinka, and others. They number in the tens of thousands in Jerusalem, and hundreds of thousands worldwide.
The Neturei Karta, an Orthodox Haredi religious movement, strongly oppose Zionism, considering Israel a “racist regime”. They are viewed as a cult on the “farthest fringes of Judaism” by most mainstream Jews; theJewish Virtual Library puts their numbers at 5,000, but the Anti-Defamation League estimates that fewer than 100 members of the community actually take part in anti-Israel activism. The movement equates Zionism toNazism, believes that Zionist ideology is contrary to the teachings of the Torah, and also blames Zionism for increases in antisemitism. Members of Neturei Karta have a long history of extremist statements and support for notable anti-Semites and Islamic extremists.
The Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement traditionally did not identify as Zionist, but has adopted a Zionist agenda since the late 20th century, opposing any territorial compromise in Israel.
Anti-Zionism or Antisemitism
Some 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. Martin Luther King Jr. condemned anti-Zionism as 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. In the Arab world, the words “Jew” and “Zionist” are often used interchangeably. To avoid accusations of antisemitism, the Palestine Liberation Organization has historically avoided using the word “Jewish” in favor using “Zionist,” though PLO officials have sometimes slipped.
Some antisemites 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 antisemites. 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 former Museum of Religion and Atheism in Saint Petersburg designated 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.
On the other hand, anti-Zionist writers such as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Marder, and Tariq Ali have argued that the characterization of anti-Zionism as antisemitic is inaccurate, sometimes obscures legitimate criticism of Israel‘s policies and actions, and is sometimes a political ploy to stifle criticism of Israel.
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 the rise of Zionism, as well as subsequently. Anita Shapira, a history professor emerita at Tel Aviv University, suggests that evangelical Christian restorationists of the 1840s ‘passed this notion on to Jewish circles’. Evangelical Christian anticipation of and political lobbying within the UK for Restorationism was widespread in the 1820s and common beforehand. It was common among the Puritans to anticipate and frequently to pray for a Jewish return to their homeland. One of the principal Protestant teachers who promoted the biblical doctrine that the Jews would return to their national homeland was John Nelson Darby. His doctrine of dispensationalism is credited with promoting Zionism, following his 11 lectures on the hopes of the church, the Jew and the gentile given in Geneva in 1840. However, others like C H Spurgeon, both Horatius and Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray M’Chyene, and J C Ryle were among a number of prominent proponents of both the importance and significance of a Jewish return, who were not dispensationalist. Pro-Zionist views were embraced by many evangelicals and also affected international foreign policy.
The Russian Orthodox ideologue Hippolytus Lutostansky, also known as the author of multiple antisemitic tracts, insisted in 1911 that Russian Jews should be “helped” to move to Palestine “as their rightful place is in their former kingdom of Palestine”.
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 and non-dispensationalist evangelical Christians, especially in the United States, now strongly support Zionism.
In the last years of his life, the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith, 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”.
Muslims who have publicly defended Zionism include Dr. Tawfik Hamid, Islamic thinker and reformer and former member of al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Islamist militiant group that is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union, 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 meeting 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 promote meaningful debate about the status of Israel in the eyes of Muslims worldwide, and to 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”.
Hindu support for Zionism
After Israel’s creation in 1948, the Indian National Congress government opposed Zionism. Some writers have claimed that this was done 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, seen as a national liberation movement for the repatriation of the Jewish people to their homeland then under British colonial rule, 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.”
Marcus Garvey and Black Zionism
Zionist success in winning British support for the formation of a Jewish National Home in Palestine helped inspire the Jamaican Black nationalist Marcus Garvey to form a movement dedicated to returning Americans of African origin to Africa. During a speech inHarlem 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 he failed in his endeavour.