History of Zionism

History of Zionism

Although the Zionist movement was created by Theodor Herzl in 1897, the history of Zionism can be seen as beginning earlier and related to the Jewish religion and history. Before the Holocaust the movement's central focus was the creation of a Jewish National Home and cultural centre in Palestine by facilitating Jewish migration. After the Holocaust, the movement focussed on creation of a Jewish state, attaining its goal in 1948 with the creation of Israel. After the creation of Israel, the Zionist movement acted to support Israel, assist persecuted Jews and worked to encourage Jewish emmigration to Israel. The percentage of the world's Jews who live in Israel has steadily grown over the years and today 40% of the world's Jews live in Israel.

The Historic and Religious Origins of Zionism

Biblical Precedents

The desire of Jews to return to their ancestral homeland is a Jewish theme that first makes its appearance in the Torah. Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt to escape a drought, where they became a nation and were enslaved. Moses went before Pharoh and demanded, "Let my people go!" Most of the Torah is devoted to the story of the Exodus from Egypt, which is estimated at about 1400 BCE and is celebrated annually during Passover. The Passover meal traditionally ends with the words "Next Year in Jerusalem."

After the Babylonians conquered Judea in 641 BCE, the Judeans were exiled to Babylon and the theme of return to a homeland came up again. In the book of Psalms (Psalm 137), Jews lamented their exile while Prophets like Ezekiel foresaw their return. The Bible recounts how, in 538 BCE Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon and issued a proclamation granting the people of Judah their freedom. 50,000 Judeans, led by Zerubabel returned. A second group of 5000, led by Ezra and Nehemiah, returned to Judea in 456 BCE.

The Jewish Presence in Israel

During the Hellenistic Age many Jews left Judea to live in other parts of the Mediterranean basin. [ [http://classes.maxwell.syr.edu/his301-001/jeishh_diaspora_in_greece.htm The Jewish Diaspora in the Hellenistic Period] ]

The third great Jewish exile is considered to have begun after the destruction of Judea by the Roman Empire in the year 70 (after the Great Jewish Revolt). A second Jewish revolt against the Romans, Bar Kokhba's revolt of 135, led to further dispersal of Jews to other parts of the Empire. [ [http://www.wzo.org.il/en/resources/view.asp?id=1527&subject=28 Yearning for Zion] by Briana Simon (WZO)]

A Jewish presence in the Land of Israel was maintained even after the Bar Kokhba revolt, and there is evidence of vibrant communities in the first millennium. For example, the Jerusalem Talmud was created in the centuries following the revolt. The inventors of Hebrew vowel-signs, the Masoretes (ba'alei hamasorah, Hebrew בעלי המסורה), groups of scribes in 7th and 11th centuries were based primarily in Tiberias and Jerusalem. The Crusades were devastating for the Jewish presence in IsraelFact|date=November 2007. The Crusaders massacred Jews, both on their path across Europe and in the Holy Land. [See The History of the Jews in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem by Joshua Prawer, 1988, see alo http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_cru1.htm (accessed No 2007)] Palestine was later ruled by the Mamluks and Ottomans.

Over the centuries, the population of the Holy Land was slowly bolstered by Jews fleeing Christian persecution especially after the "Reconquista" of "Al-Andalus" (the Muslim name of the Iberian peninsula). Safed became an important center of Kabalah. Hebron and Tiberias also had significant Jewish populations.

Aliyah and the ingathering of the exiles

Among Jews in the Diaspora Eretz Israel was revered in a religious sense. They thought of a return to it in a future messianic age. [Taylor, A.R., 1971, 'Vision and intent in Zionist Thought', p. 10,11] Return remained a recurring theme among generations, particularly in Passover and Yom Kippur prayers which traditionally concluded with, "Next year in Jerusalem", and in the thrice-daily Amidah (Standing prayer). ["Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles and gather us together from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:12) Blessed are you, O Lord, Who gathers in the dispersed of His people Israel."]

"Aliyah" (immigration to Israel) has always been considered to be a praiseworthy act for Jews according to Jewish law, and is included as a commandment in most versions of the 613 commandments which Jews are supposed to strive to fulfill. From the Middle Ages and onwards, many famous rabbis (and often their followers) immigrated to the Land of Israel. These included Nahmanides, Yechiel of Paris with several hundred of his students, Yosef Karo, Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and 300 of his followers, and over 500 disciples (and their families) of the Vilna Gaon known as Perushim, among others.

Pre-Zionist Initiatives 1799–1897

The Enlightenment and the Jews

The Age of Enlightenment in Europe led to an 18th and 19th century Jewish enlightenment movement in Europe, called the Haskalah. In 1791, the French Revolution led France to become the first country in Europe to grant Jews legal equality. Britain gave Jews equal rights in 1856, Germany in 1871. The spread of western liberal ideas among newly emancipated Jews created for the first time a class of secular Jews who absorbed the prevailing ideas of rationalism, romanticism and, most importantly, nationalism.

However, the formation of modern nations in Europe led to changes in the prejudices against Jews. What had previously been religious prejudice now became a new phenomenon known as antisemitism. Antisemites saw Jews as an alien national or racial group and actively tried to prevent Jews from acquiring equal rights and citizenship.


The enlightenment brought with it an increase in Rabbis calling for Jews to return to Israel. Proto-Zionists include the (Lithuanian) Vilna Gaon, (Russian) Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, (Serbian) Rabbi Yehuda Solomon Alkalay [ [http://www.zionism-israel.com/bio/alkalai_biography.htm Zionism and Israel - Biographies - Yehuda Alkalai (Akalay) ] ] and (German) Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer. Other advocates of Jewish independence include (American) Mordecai Manuel Noah, (Russian) Leon Pinsker and (German) Moses Hess. Herzl's grandparents are said to have known Alkalay when he was chief Rabbi of Serbia.
Moses Hess's 1862 work "Rome and Jerusalem. The Last National Question" argued for the Jews to create a socialist state in Palestine as a means of settling the national question. Also in 1862, German Orthodox Rabbi Kalischer published his tractate "Derishat Zion", arguing that the salvation of the Jews, promised by the Prophets, can come about only by self-help. [ [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=56&letter=K Zvi Hirsch Kalischer] (Jewish Encyclopedia)] In 1882, Judah Leib Pinsker published the pamphlet "Auto-Emancipation", arguing that Jews would not require emancipation in their own country.

In addition to migration from Europe, there were groups of Jews from the Arab world making the journey. A dispatch from the British Consulate in Jerusalem in 1839 reported that "the Jews of Algiers and its dependencies, are numerous in Palestine. . . ." Significant movements also took place from the Yemen (Yemenite Jews) and Central Asia (Bukharan Jews).

Pre-Zionist groups were active in the 1880s in Eastern Europe, where emancipation had not occurred to the extent it had in Western Europe. The massive pogroms after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II made emancipation seem more elusive than ever, and influenced the Hibbat Zion to actively promote Jewish settlement in Palestine. In 1890, the "Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Eretz Israel" (better known as the Odessa Committee) was officially registered as a charitable organization in the Russian Empire, and by 1897, it counted over 4,000 members.

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

Agricultural settlements

In the late 1870s, Jewish philanthropists such as the Montefiores and the Rothschilds responded to the persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe by sponsoring agricultural settlements for Russian Jews in Palestine. The Jews who migrated in this period are known as the First Aliyah. [ Scharfstein, Sol, "Chronicle of Jewish History: From the Patriarchs to the 21st Century", p.231, KTAV Publishing House (1997), ISBN 0-88125-545-9] "Aliyah" is a Hebrew word meaning "ascent," referring to the act of spiritually "ascending" to the Holy Land.

Founded in 1878, Petah Tikva was the first 'proper' Zionist settlement.

Rishon LeZion was founded on 31 July 1882 by a group of ten members of Hovevei Zion from Kharkov (today's Ukraine). The land was owned by Tzvi Leventine and was purchased by the "Pioneers of Jewish Settlement Committee" that was formed in Jaffa, the port of arrival for many of the immigrants to the area.

In 1890, Palestine, which was part of the Ottoman Empire, was inhabited by about 520,000 people, mostly Muslims and Christian Arabs, but also 20-25,000 Jews.

Non-Jewish Support

Napoleon offered to establish a Jewish state in Palestine as early as 1799, during his invasion of the Levant. [Avineri, Shlomo, "The Making of Modern Zionism: Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State", pp.45, Basic Books (1981), ISBN 0-465-04328-3] .

However, the idea of a Jewish state as an 'outpost' of European colonialism was taken up and developed by the British Empire. Ideas of the restoration of the Jews in the Land of Israel entered British public discourse in the early 19th century, at about the same time as the British Protestant Revival. [http://www.mideastweb.org/britzion.htm British Zionism - Support for Jewish Restoration] (mideastweb.org)] Not all such attitudes were favorable towards the Jews; they were shaped in part by a variety of Protestant beliefs, [http://www.leaderu.com/common/british.html The Untold Story. The Role of Christian Zionists in the Establishment of Modern-day Israel] by Jamie Cowen (Leadership U), July 13, 2002] or by a streak of philo-Semitism among the classically educated British elite, [http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/110.3/green.html Rethinking Sir Moses Montefiore: Religion, Nationhood, and International Philanthropy in the Nineteenth Century] by Abigail Green. (The American Historical Review. Vol. 110 No.3.) June 2005] or by hopes to extend the Empire. "(See The Great Game)" At the urging of Lord Shaftesbury, Britain established a consulate in Jerusalem in 1838, the first diplomatic appointment in what is now Israel. In 1839, the Church of Scotland sent Andrew Bonar and Robert Murray M'Cheyne to report on the condition of the Jews in their land. Their report was widely published ["A Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland in 1839" (Edinburgh, 1842) ISBN 1-85792-258-1] and was followed by a "Memorandum to Protestant Monarchs of Europe for the restoration of the Jews to Palestine." In August 1840, "The Times" reported that the British government was considering Jewish restoration. Lord Lindsay wrote in 1847: "The soil of Palestine still enjoys her sabbaths, and only waits for the return of her banished children, and the application of industry, commensurate with her agricultural capabilities, to burst once more into universal luxuriance, and be all that she ever was in the days of Solomon." [Crawford, A.W.C. (Lord Lindsay), "Letters on Egypt, Edom and the Holy Land", London, H. Colburn 1847, V II, p 71] In her 1876 novel "Daniel Deronda", George Eliot advocated "the restoration of a Jewish state planted in the old ground as a center of a national feeling, a source of dignifying protection, a special channel for special energies and an added voice in the councils of the world." Benjamin Disraeli wrote in his article entitled "The Jewish Question is the Oriental Quest" (1877) that within fifty years, a nation of one million Jews would reside in Palestine under the guidance of the British. Moses Montefiore visited the Land of Israel seven times and fostered its development.

The Treaty of Paris (1856) granted Jews and Christians the right to settle in Palestine and opened the doors for Jewish immigration.

In 1873, Shah of Persia Nasser 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. [ [http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/communities/mideast/comm_iran.html World Jewish Congress ] ]

Persecution in Russia

Jews in Eastern Europe faced constant pogroms and persecution in Tzarist Russia aimed at driving them out. In response to the Jewish drive for modern education (Haskalah) and pressure for emnacipation, the Tzars imposed tight quotas on schools, universities and cities to prevent entry by Jews. The Russian government deliberately organized pogroms by military authorities, disarming any Jews who attempted to defend themselves. Consequently, between 1880 and 1928, two million Jews left Eastern Europe, mostly for the USA. A minority went to Palestine.

In 1917 the Russian revolution gave Jews equal rights as individuals but the Bolsheviks, partially inspired by Karl Marx's antisemitism, were particularly intolerant of Judaism and sent thousands of Zionists to the Gulag

The Communist party and its Jewish sections regarded the values of the Jewish community as so alien to Marxist ideology and to the new society to be based on it that they were determined to eradicate them as soon as possible. [ Zvi Y. Gitelman, A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present, Indiana 2001, pages 72-74]
During the 1920s antisemitism gained popularity across Europe. By 1928, nations were increasingly legislating to prevent Jews from entering and new European states established after the First World War perceived Jews as a threat to their stability. Many countries feared that immigrating Jews would bring revolutionary ideas and Jews were often percieved as being a negative moral influence on society.

Establishment of the Zionist Movement 1897–1917


In 1883, Nathan Birnbaum, 19 years old, founded "Kadimah", the first Jewish student association in Vienna. In 1884, the first issue of "Selbstemanzipation" (Self Emancipation) appeared, printed by Birnbaum himself.

Zionism during the Holocaust

During the Holocaust Europe's Jews were cut off from the outside world and systematically impoverished, starved and eventually murdered. Where Jews did succeed in fighting the Nazis, Zionists were prominent in the resistance.

The Warsaw Ghetto uprising was commanded by a Zionist, Mordechaj Anielewicz, and Zionists played a leading role in the struggle. The uprising's survivors eventually made their way to Palestine and founded two Kibutzim: Lohamey ha-Geta'ot and Yad Mordechai.

In Palestine the Zionist leadership instructed all able-bodied Jews to volunteer for the British Army. In addition there was an effort to parachute fighters into Europe, though little came of this. Fearing a Nazi invasion, the Jewish community prepared for a final stand to be made against the Nazis. [ Tom Segev, "The Seventh Million", chapter 3]

Overall there was little they could do. In the words of Tom Segev:

"The story of the yishuv leaders during the Holocuast was essentially one of helplessness. They rescued a few thousand Jews from Europe. They could, perhaps have saved more, but they could not save millions." [Segev "op. cit.", page 72]
Efforts were made to offer the Nazis money for the release of Jews. However, these efforts were systematically (and, according to Segev, cynically) destroyed by the British. [Tom Segev "op. cit.", page 94] The 1942 Zionist conference could not be held because of the war. Instead 600 Jewish leaders (not just Zionists) met in a hotel in the Biltmore Hotel in New York and adopted a statement known as the Biltmore Program [http://www.mideastweb.org/biltmore_program.htm] . They agreed that when the war ended all Jewish organizations would fight to ensure free Jewish migration into Palestine.

Impact of the Holocaust

The Nazi-inspired genocide in Europe had grave consequences for the Zionists.
# A large section of the membership was wiped out. The damage was particularly great in Poland where about a third of the Zionist members had lived (the Russian membership had been lost to communism).
# Those Jews who were not killed lost their possessions; the ability of the Zionist movement to raise money in Europe was severely reduced.

This calamity led to important changes in Jewish and Zionist politics:
#Many Jews were now desperate to leave Europe and willing to take grave risks for that purpose
#All Jews now agreed on the need for a Jewish state where Jews could live free of the fear of persecution and which would provide a haven in times of persecution.
#The Jews of the USA were now the dominant force in Jewish politics.
#More Jews were prepared to mobilize on behalf of their brethren.
#Britain was now weakened and less able to resist international pressure.

The rapid growth of illegal immigration to Palestine

In 1945, President Truman sent a personal representative, Earl G. Harrison, to investigate the situation of the Jewish survivors in Europe. Harrison reported that

substantial unofficial and unauthorized movements of people must be expected, and these will require considerable force to prevent, for the patience of many of the persons involved is, and in my opinion with justification, nearing the breaking point. It cannot be overemphasized that many of these people are now desperate, that they have become accustomed under German rule to employ every possible means to reach their end, and that the fear of death does not restrain them. [http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/documents/harrison_report.htm accessed Nov 2007]

Despite winning the 1945 British election with a manifesto promising to create a Jewish state in Palestine, the Labour Government succumbed to Foreign Office pressure and kept Palestine closed to Jewish migration.

In Europe former Jewish partisans led by Abba Kovner began to organize escape routes taking Jews from Eastern Europe down to the Mediterranean where the Jewish Agency organized ships to illegally carry them to Palestine. ["Flight and Rescue: Brichah", written by Yehuda Bauer, published by Random House; New York, 1970 ] The British government responded to this movement by trying to force Jews to return to their places of origin. Holocaust survivors entering the British Zone were denied assistance or forced to live in hostels with former Nazi collaborators (Britain gave asylum to a large number of Belorussian Nazi collaborators after the war). In American-controlled zones, political pressure from Washington allowed Jews to live in their own quarters and meant the US Army helped Jews trying to escape the centres of genocide.

The 1947 UN decision to partition Palestine

In 1947 Britain announced its intention to withdraw from Palestine. An United Nations Special committee investigated the situation and offered two solutions :
# to establish a bi-national state in Palestine (the minority option);
# to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.

From the Zionist point of view, the second option corresponded to their goal and they gave full support to this.

On 29 November the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state (with Jerusalem becoming an international enclave). Amid public rejoicing in Jewish communities in Palestine, the Jewish Agency accepted the plan. The Palestinian Arab leadership and the Arab League rejected the decision and announced that they would not abide by it. Civil conflict between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine ensued immediately.

Zionism after the creation of Israel

On 14 May 1948 the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine made a declaration of independence, and the state of Israel was established. This marked a major turning point in the Zionist movement, as its principal goal had now been accomplished. Many Zionist institutions were reshaped, and the three military movements combined to form the Israel Defence Forces. The continuing conflict with the Arabs can be read in the article on the History of Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Since 1948 the international Zionist movement has undertaken a variety of roles in support of Israel. These have included the encouragement of immigration, assisting the absorption and integration of immigrants, fundraising on behalf of settlement and development projects in Israel, the encouragement of private capital investment in Israel, and mobilization of world public opinion in support of Israel.Most Jews have come to identify as Zionists, in the sense that they support the State of Israel even if they do not choose to live there. This worldwide support has been of vital importance to Israel, both politically and financially.

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

The 28th Zionist Congress (Jerusalem, 1968) adopted the following five principles, known as the "Jerusalem Program", as the aims of contemporary Zionism: [ [http://www.wzo.org.il/en/resources/view.asp?id=497&subject=43 The Jerusalem Program] (WZO)]
* The unity of the Jewish people and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life
* The ingathering of the Jewish people in the historic homeland, Eretz Israel, through aliyah from all countries
* The strengthening of the State of Israel, based on the "prophetic vision of justice and peace"
* The preservation of the identity of the Jewish people through the fostering of Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education and of Jewish spiritual and cultural values
* The protection of Jewish rights everywhere.

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

The campaign to free the Jews of the USSR

After 1967 the Zionist movement mounted a major campaign to pressure the USSR to allow Soviet Jews to migrate to Israel. [ [http://www.jstandard.com/articles/3671/1/The-Soviet-Jewry-campaign-transformed-American-Jewry,-too Jewish Standard The Soviet Jewry campaign transformed American Jewry, too ] ] In 1975 the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 was passed. It stated that "zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination" [The UNGA Res 3379 was passed at the 2400th plenary meeting on 10 November 1975. [http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/000/92/IMG/NR000092.pdf?OpenElement (PDF)] .] The resolution 3379 was rescinded in 1991 by the Resolution 4686. [The UNGA resolution 4686 was passed at the 74th plenary meeting on 16 December 1991 by a vote of 111-25-13. The text of the resolution is available [http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/46/a46r086.htm here] .] This issue is discussed in length in the article on anti-Zionism.



* Taylor, A.R., 1971, 'Vision and intent in Zionist Thought', in 'The transformation of Palestine', ed. by I. Abu-Lughod, ISBN 0-8101-0345-1, Northwestern university press, Evanston, USA
* David Hazony, Yoram Hazony, and Michael B. Oren, eds., "New Essays on Zionism," Shalem Press, 2007.

ee also

* Zionism

Types of Zionism

* Christian Zionism
* Cultural Zionism
* General Zionists
* Labor Zionism
* Reform Zionism
* Religious Zionism
* Revisionist Zionism

Zionist institutions and organizations

* Histadrut
* The Jewish Agency for Israel
* Jewish National Fund
* Vaad Leumi
* World Zionist Organization

History of Zionism and Israel

* History of Israel
* History of Palestine
* Israeli-Palestinian conflict
* List of Zionist figures
* Timeline of Zionism


* Anti-Zionism
* Jewish Autonomism
* Jewish Emancipation

Other resources

:"For other resources and external links, see Zionism and anti-Zionism (resources)"

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