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Zionism

In the late 19th century, antisemitism in Europe was on the rise. At this time, 57% of the world's Jews were located on the continent, and something needed to be done regarding their safety through the rising tensions.

After Theodor Herzl created Zionism as a political organization in 1897, millions of Jews immigrated back to their ancient homeland in Israel. Now, 43% of the world's Jews are located there, with thousands relocating yearly.

Zionism Definition

Zionism is a religious and political ideology aimed at establishing a Jewish state of Israel in Palestine based on the believed historical location of the Biblical Israel.

It originated in the late 19th century. The main purpose of a Jewish state would be to serve as a homeland for Jews as their own nation-state and allow the Jewish diaspora the opportunity to live in a state where they were a majority, as opposed to living as a minority in other states.

In this sense, the underlying idea of the movement was a "return" to the promised land according to the Jewish religious tradition, and a key motivation was also to avoid anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere.

The name of this ideology comes from the term "Zion," Hebrew for the city of Jerusalem or the promised land.

Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, Zionist ideology seeks to maintain its status as a Jewish nation-state.

Zionism

A religious, cultural, and political ideology that called for the creation of a Jewish nation-state in the area of the historic and Biblical kingdom of Israel and Judea in Southwest Asia in the area known as Palestine. Since the creation of Israel, Zionism supports its continued status as a Jewish state.

Diaspora

This term is used to describe a group of people from the same ethnic, religious, or cultural group living outside their historic homeland, usually dispersed and scattered in different places.

Zionism History

At the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, antisemitism on the European continent was growing at an alarming rate.

Despite the Haskala, also known as the Jewish Enlightenment, Jewish Nationalism was coming to the forefront. The "Dreyfus Affair" of 1894 is greatly responsible for this change. The Affair was a political scandal that would send divisions through the French Third Republic and would not be fully resolved until 1906.

Haskala

Also known as the Jewish Enlightenment, was a movement that encouraged the Jewish people to assimilate to the Western culture they now resided in. This ideology was completely reversed with the rise of Jewish Nationalism.

In 1894, the French military accused Captain Alfred Dreyfus of treason. Being of Jewish descent, it was easy for him to be falsely convicted, and he was sentenced to life in prison. The army had created false documents of Dreyfus communicating with the German Embassy in Paris about French military secrets.

Zionism Aflred Dreyfus StudySmarterAlfred Dreyfus

Continuing in 1896, new evidence came to light about the actual perpetrator being an army Major named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. High-ranking military officials could push down this evidence, and the French military court acquitted him after only 2 days on trial. The French people became deeply divided between those who supported Dreyfus's innocence and those who found him guilty.

In 1906, after 12 years of imprisonment and a few more trials, Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated into the French military as a Major. The false accusations against Dreyfus remain one of France's most notable miscarriages of justice and antisemitism.

The affair triggered an Austrian Jewish journalist by the name of Theodor Herzl, to create a political organization of Zionism, claiming that the religion could not survive without the creation of a "Judenstaat" (Jewish State).

He called for the recognition of the land of Palestine as the Jewish homeland.

Zionism Theodore Herzl StudySmarterTheodore Herzl at the First Zionist Conference in 1898.

In 1897, Herzl held the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. There, he made himself the president of his new organization, The World Zionist Organization. Before Herzl could see the fruits of his efforts, he passed away in 1904.

British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, wrote a letter to Barron Rothschild in 1917. Rothschild was a prominent Jewish leader in the country, and Balfour wished to express the government's support for the Jewish Nation in the area of Palestine.

This document would become known as the "Balfour Declaration" and was included in the British Mandate for Palestine, which was issued by the League of Nations in 1923.

Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow were two well-known Zionists that played a large role in the obtaining of the Balfour document.

League of Nations Mandates

After World War One, much of Southwest Asia, commonly known as the Middle East and previously part of the Ottoman Empire, were put under the administration of the British and French. In theory, they were meant to prepare these areas for independence, but often operated them as pseudo-colonies. Palestine, Transjordan (present day Jordan), and Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) were British mandates, and Syria and Lebanon were French mandates.

This division was based on an agreement between the French and British known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement where they divided Ottoman territory between them. The British had formally promised independence for the people in the Arabian Peninsula if they rebelled against Ottoman rule. Although the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded based on this promise, many in the mandate areas resented what they considered to be a betrayal and denial of their self-determination.

The allowance of Jewish immigration during the mandate period and the contradictory promises made by the British in the Balfour Declaration and to Arabs on the ground are one of the historic grievances not only over the creation of Israel but the legacy of imperialism in the region.

Former German colonies in Africa and Asia were also made into League of Nations mandates, under British, French, and for a few cases in Asia, Japanese administration.

Upon the beginning of WWII in 1939, the British placed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palesine. Both the Muslims and the Jews have a religious claim to the area of Palestine, so Zionists moving into the land to make it strictly their own did not sit well with the Arab population in Palestine or in neighboring areas.

These restrictions were violently opposed by Zionist groups such as the Stern Gang and Irgun Zvai Leumi. These groups committed terrorism and assassinations against the British and organized illegal immigration of Jews into Palestine.

The most prominent action carried out by Zionist militants was the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, the headquarters of the British mandate administration.

During the war, approximately 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust, in addition to some killed in Russian pogroms. Thousands fled to Palestine and other surrounding areas before the beginning of the war, but not enough to avoid such massive loss.

Pogroms were targeted, and repeated anti-Jewish rioting. While often associated with Russia, the term is often sued to describe other attacks on Jewish populations dating to at least the Middle Ages.

Due in part to the mass killings of Jews in Europe during the war, there was greater international sympathy and support for the idea of the creation of a Jewish state of Israel in Palestine. The British were faced with the difficult prospect of trying to satisfy Zionist immigrants as well as the local Arab population.

Did You Know

The term Palestinian to describe the Arab population in Palestine did not come into widespread use until later as this group came to see itself as a unique nation in contrast to Israal and the other Arab states in the region.

The British essentially handed the issue off to the newly created United Nations. It proposed a partition that created a Jewish state as well as an Arab state. The problem is the two states were not contiguous, and neither the Arabs or Jews particularly liked the proposal.

Unable to reach agreement, and with violence breaking out on the ground in Palestine between Zionist militants, Arabs, and the British authorities, Israel unilaterally declared independence in May 1948.

The declaration would anger the surrounding Arab states and cause a year-long war (The Arab-Israeli War 1948-1949). After the dust had settled, the newly created Israel had expanded upon the originally proposed borders by the UN.

There were three other conflicts fought between Israel and the surrounding Arab states between 1956 and 1973, including the occupation of most of the originally proposed Arab state during the 1967 war, commonly referred to as the occupied territories and consisting of the areas of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Agreements have been signed in the past between the two, including the establishment of some limited self-government in the occupied zones, however a final status agreement has not been reached and Israel and the people of Palestine still face many ongoing conflicts.

Traditionally, the pre-1967 borders, often called the "two state solution" were seen as the basis for a final agreement.

However, more recent years, continued Israeli settlement in the occupied territories has called into question the viability of any future Palestinian state, and Zionist hardliners within Israel have called for the full and formal annexation of the West Bank, claiming it as part of the historical kingdom of Judea.

Zionism Israel Map StudySmarterMap of Isreal with lines showing areas of dispute and conflict.

Zionism Main Ideas

Since its beginning, Zionism has evolved, and different ideologies have emerged (politically, religiously, and culturally). Many Zionists now face disagreements with each other, as some are more devoutly religious while others are more secular. Zionism can be divided into two main groups; the Zionist Left and the Zionist Right. Zionist Lefts favor the possibility of giving up some Israeli-controlled land to make peace with the Arabs (they are also in favor of a less religious government). On the other hand, the Zionist Right hugely favor the government based firmly on Jewish tradition, and they are heavily opposed to giving up any land to Arab Nations.

The one thing all Zionists share, however, is the belief that Zionism is important for persecuted minorities to re-establish themselves in Israel. However, this comes with much criticism, as it discriminates against non-Jews. Many Jews worldwide also criticize Zionism for believing that Jews living outside of Israel live in exile. International Jews do not often believe religion needs an official state to survive.

Zionism Examples

Examples of Zionism can be seen in documents such as the Belfour Declaration and the Law of Return, passed in 1950. The Law of Return stated that a Jewish person born anywhere in the world could immigrate to Israel and become a citizen. This law faced harsh criticism from across the globe due to it only applying to the Jewish people.

Zionism can also be seen in the orators, pamphlets, and newspapers from the "Jewish Renaissance". The renaissance also encouraged the development of the modern Hebrew language.

Finally, Zionism can still be seen in the constant struggle for power over the area of Palestine.

Zionism Facts

Below see some of the most interesting Zionism facts:

  • Although the fundamental beliefs of Zionism have existed for centuries, modern Zionism can be pinpointed to Theodor Herzl in 1897.
  • Zionism is the idea of re-establishing and developing a Jewish national state.
  • Since the beginning of modern Zionism, thousands of Jews have immigrated to Israel. Today, 43% of the world's Jews live there.
  • Muslims and Jews both have religious claims to the area of Palestine, this is why they face so much conflict with each other.
  • Although Zionism has succeeded in creating a Jewish state for thousands of Jews, it is often criticized for its harsh rejection of others.

Zionism - Key takeaways

  • Zionism is a religious and political ideology aimed at re-establishing, and now developing, Israel as the central location for Jewish identity.
  • Haskala, or the Jewish Enlightenment, was a movement that encouraged the Jewish people to assimilate to the Western culture they now resided in. This ideology was completely reversed with the rise of Jewish Nationalism.
  • The rise of antisemitism in Europe in the late 19th & early 20th centuries can be considered responsible for the Zionist (Jewish Nationalist) movement.
  • Zionism can be broken down into two main groups; the Zionist Left and the Zionist Right.
  • Since its beginning, Zionism has evolved and different ideologies have emerged (politically, religiously, and culturally).

Frequently Asked Questions about Zionism

The main idea of Zionism is that the Jewish faith needs a national homeland in order for the religion to survive. It is the protection and development of the Jewish nation in what is now Israel. Zionism aims to bring the Jews back to their ancient homeland.

Zionism was a political organization formed by Theodor Herzl in 1897. The organization was meant to re-establish and develop the protection of a Jewish nation (now Israel).  

Zionism is a religious and political effort to bring thousands of Jews back to their ancient homelands in Israel, which is a central location for Jewish identity. 

The basic ideas of Zionism have existed for centuries, however, Theodor Herzl created its political organization in 1897. Zionism was taking root in the late 19th century due to the rising antisemitism in Europe.

Zionism is the political and religious effort to bring Jews back to their ancient homeland of Israel. One of the core beliefs is that the Jewish people need an official state in order to preserve the religion and culture of the people.

Final Zionism Quiz

Question

What is Zionism?

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Answer

Zionism is a political and religious ideology aimed at re-establishing and developing the Jewish state of Israel. 

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Question

Who was the founder of Modern Zionism?

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Answer

Theodor Herzl 

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Question

What event triggered Theodor Herzl to create the political organization of Zionism?

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Answer

The Dreyfus Affair.

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Question

In the late 19th & early 20th centuries, antisemitism in Europe was on the rise.

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Answer

True.

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Zionists believe that there needs to be an official Jewish Nation in order for the religion to survive. 

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Answer

True.

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Question

There is only one form of Zionism. 

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Answer

False. They can be divided into two groups; Zionist Left & Zionist Right.

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Zionism is criticized for its neglect of those who are not of Jewish descent or faith. 

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Answer

True.

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Question

Though the basics of Zionism have existed for centuries, the founding of modern Zionism can be pinned to the year 1897.

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Answer

True.

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Question

What was the Balfour Declaration?

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Answer

A declaration made by British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, who expressed the governments support for a Jewish state in the area of Palestine.

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Question

These two people are responsible for the obtaining of the Balfour Declaration.

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Answer

Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow.

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Question

Only the Jewish people have a claim to the land of Palestine. 

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Answer

False, Muslims do as well. 

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Question

57% of the Jewish population now resides in Israel. 

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Answer

False, 43%.

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