Zionism

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Theodor Herzl, the father of political Zionism.

Zionism is a mass political movement, originating in the 19th century, to create a political and geographic nation-state for the Jewish people, so that they could establish their national independence and escape the persecution and anti-Semitism that was so prevalent throughout Europe at the time. In this way, Zionism was is a form of Jewish nationalism. The movement was named for Mt. Zion, the mountain that Jerusalem was built on. "Zion" is also a synonym for the Holy Land or the Jewish national homeland.

In more recent times, the term is often misused to describe the Israeli occupation of, and settlement in, lands outside its internationally-recognized borders in the West Bank and Gaza, commonly referred to as the Palestinian territories. It is also problematic and arguably antisemitic to use the term as a snarl word in denying Israel's right to exist within its legal borders because that entails denying the right of self-determination of the Jewish people living in Israel. In a broader sense, while there are no doubt longstanding Jewish claims on the land that now makes up the state of Israel, Zionism, like settler colonialism in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, has had long-standing detrimental effects on those people already living on the land who were not members of the nation in question.

However, if one only goes far enough back every country on earth is the result of conquest and bloodshed and worse. If one is willing to go back far enough, human existence outside of a small part of Africa is the result of settler colonialism and the (perhaps also violent) displacing of Neanderthals, Homo erectus and other non- Homo sapiens sapiens humans. This of course does not justify injustices against the pre-existing population, but evicting the "settlers" from the only place they ever called home is not a solution to anything and might end up hurting the original population (or its descendants) even more than the settlers, as seen in the case of Zimbabwe. Thankfully most mainstream advocates for native rights in South Africa or New Zealand or in fact most of the world, accept the descendants of the "settlers" to stay where they are.

Good old-fashioned anti-Semites also use the word "Zionist" to refer to anything they don't like done by anyone (supposedly or actually) Jewish, which is not entirely helpful.

Contents

[edit] Background and previous "re-settlement" schemes by rulers

Most forms of Zionism focused on creating a state in what was originally Ottoman Palestine and later British Mandate Palestine and is today Israel. Symbolic attachment to Jerusalem had existed for centuries and it was natural for nationalists to construct an attachment to the city and the surrounding territory. Still several other locations were considered in the 19th and early 20th centuries, including Argentine Patagonia and British East Africa, the latter in what is today Uganda. In 1903 London (British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain) offered a tract of land for an autonomous Jewish settlement in what was then British East Africa.[1] Later in the 20th century there were British proposals to establish Jewish settlements in British Guyana and northern Australia, an American proposal to settle Jews near Sitka in Alaska, and a Nazi German proposal to settle Jews in Madagascar. The Soviet Union actually established the Jewish Autonomous Oblast[wp] (Евре́йская автоно́мная о́бласть) in Siberia as a place for Jews to be deported to live. Although Uncle Joe deserves some respect for actually doing what his various counterparts in the West merely discussed, the Oblast attracted too few Jewish settlers to become a serious alternative to Palestine, not to mention Stalin's purges of Jewish leaders and everything else going on during this time.

[edit] History

The movement has existed in some form ever since the Roman expulsion, but modern Zionism mainly originated in 19th century Europe with Serbian/Hungarian Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl, and was initially a secular movement devoted to providing a refuge for Jews, whom Herzl believed (especially in the wake of the French Dreyfus affair), could not be safe in a country in which they were a minority. At the time the area was controlled by the Ottoman Empire and had a fairly small Jewish community. A number of Jews moved to territory, some bought up land from absentee landlords and evicted the tenants, which did little to encourage support from local Muslims and Christians. A number of Egyptians would also move to the territory as well. In the meantime, Arab Nationalism was on the rise, and some sought to ally with the Jews (viewing them as fellow Arabs that could assist their cause- it's complicated), but most did not and a number of conflicts began. The territory would soon fall into the control of the British Empire after the First World War. The Balfour Declaration[wp] gave hope to many Zionists that a Jewish state would be carved out of the Middle East, giving western Palestine to the Jews, and Trans-Jordan to the Arabs. At the same time, the British promised the entire territory to Arab Nationalists[wp], all while promising Trans-Jordan to themselves[wp]. Needless to say, few were happy with this. Hostilities emerged, massacres occurred, and the seeds of quasi-permanent war had been sown. The British, needing a favorable relationship with the Arab peoples in Palestine/Trans-Jordan during WWII, put stringent restrictions on Jewish immigration. Jews living in displaced persons camps were smuggled into Palestine by the Aliya Bet (or "informal" immigration service).

At the same time, due to resentment of the French and British empires, many Arab territories became ripe for Nazi propaganda. Jewish communities throughout the Mideast, which had been more or less integrated with the Arab communities and were viewed as Arabs of another religion[2], when combined with the Balfour Declaration, were suddenly viewed as 5th columns and had their rights restricted and a number of pogroms occurred. Needless to say, while originally mostly against it, quite a few Jews in this region began to become a bit more sympathetic to Zionism.

After World War II and the Holocaust, the need for a safe homeland for Jews was recognized by many of the Allied powers who agreed to grant a stretch of land to the Jewish people. The United Nations, for their first task, was to solve the growing problem in the British Mandate (a good warm up!). The UN issued the 1947 partition plan[wp], granting much of the coast, almost all of the desert, and some of the mountains to what would become Israel, and Gaza, the West Bank (with nearly all the holy sites), and the Galilee to what was intended to become a new Arab country. These would become known as the "'48 Borders". The map would resemble a jigsaw puzzle, and while if adhered to might've disrupted relatively few people and lead to peace, but only if both sides were on the best of terms. Of course they weren't, and civil war broke out in the British Mandate. The British, still exhausted with WWII and dealing with India and the rest of the British Empire rapidly disintegrating, left. The Jewish side immediately declared themselves a new country, Israel (it should be noted that both the United States and the Soviet Union were quick to diplomatically recognize the new state), the surrounding Arab countries invaded, and Jews living on the Arab side are forced to flee. Israel, backed by the US and allied with a number of other minorities that had bad blood with the local Arabs such as the Druze[wp] and Circassians, to the surprise of everyone - especially the Arab leaders - managed to survive.

Of course, when someone achieves their nationalist goal, usually someone else has to pay a price. Near the end of the of war, the Israeli army conducted Operation Hiram[wp] in the fertile Galilee region, which saw several hundred Arabs killed and 50,000 fleeing for their lives, as well as other territories of varying value. Combined with people fleeing from a warzone, this meant that 700,000 Arabs were displaced from their original homes during the 1947 civil war and 1948 war. As neither side had one coordinated army, it is not entirely clear how much of the fleeing and evictions were planned in advance and how much just happened in the fog of war. Conflicting events happened during the war. On the one hand more radical Jewish armed groups like Lechi[3] perpetrated some isolated atrocities against Arabs, which were interestingly used in propaganda by both sides. On the other hand, moderate Zionist leaders drove around Jaffa (the Arab suburb of Tel Aviv) with loudspeakers encouraging the Arab population to stay. To this day Jaffa has a thriving, vibrant and well integrated Arab community that enjoys the full civil and social rights of Israeli citizens. Another thing that happened and contributed to Arabs leaving their homes were statements and propaganda that they would "soon" be returning "in triumph" after the Jews would be "driven into the sea". Some are still waiting for that. All in all the issue of who fled when and why is incredibly controversial both inside Israel and outside of it and the opening of archives in recent years has only provided partial insight into the matter. The other territories would be seized and later annexed by Egypt and Jordan, but the Palestinians would be given second class citizenship at best (this would later bite Jordan in the ass). Israel offered to let 100,000 refugees return on the condition that the remaining ones would be absorbed into the surrounding countries and the new borders recognized; the surrounding countries rejected this. Palestinians were scattered across the Middle East in a diaspora that, ironically, mirrors that of the Jews. Many found themselves in quasi-permanent camps, with the Arab countries refusing to let them integrate and intending to eventually invade Israel and send the refugees back. At the same time this was occurring, the rest of the Mid-East was ethnically cleansing itself of its own Jewish populations, in that great circle of violence where A and B are fighting because B and A committed atrocities against the other. Though while the Arab countries mostly refused to integrate the Palestinians, Israel encouraged the Mideastern Jews to immigrate to Israel and settle.

The TL;DR version up this point? Israel and Arab states go to war, both sides commit ethnic cleansing, Palestinians stuck between and screwed over by both sides.

A major war occurred in 1967, leading to Israel's capture of Gaza, Jerusalem, the Sinai, Golan Heights and the territories that had been captured by Jordan in 1948. In 1993, a set of accords intended to bring mutual recognition between Palestinians and Israel was signed in Oslo by the Israeli government and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

To go into all the conflicts would take longer than this article is intended to be.

So one big question remains: Did Zionism "solve" Antisemitism? The answer - as almost everything that can be said about this topic - resists simplicity. On the one hand having a place of refuge (and a fairly well equipped army to go with it) has greatly helped reduce the anxiety of many Jews, both inside Israel and outside of it. For the first time in nearly two thousand years, Jews have a place to call home and a place to go to even if they are poor and naked and running for their lives. In this, Herzl's dream has in essence come true. However, as evidenced for instance by the exodus of Arab or Mizrahi Jews following the establishment of the state of Israel and several other political upheavals in the years following that, the policies of the state of Israel or indeed its very existence have on occasion been used to "justify" antisemitic atrocities. Almost all Jewish communities and in some cases even visibly Jewish individuals in Europe can tell a tale of nasty letters accusing them of real or imagined acts of the state of Israel (as if the fact of being a Jew had anything to do with the opinion on a state many Jews only know from a few vacations, if that) or worse. Jewish schools, places of worship and even museums about Judaism and Jewish history have to be guarded more heavily than - say - mosques or churches and overall Antisemitism sadly shows no sign of going away any time soon. Unfortunately, Antisemitism is also often associated with - real or feigned - support for the "Palestinian cause"[4]. An especially glaring example of this happened in the year 2014 when demonstrations against Israeli military operations against Hamas contained people openly showing symbols of various Islamist terror organizations as well as chanting slogans not only against Israel but also explicitly against Jews.[5][6] However, as Zionism was and is emphatically a response to Antisemitism it is impossible to prove whether the mere existence of Zionism as a political movement influences Antisemitism in any way, positively or negatively.

[edit] Secular Zionism

For the first half-century of its existence, Zionism was overwhelmingly a movement of secular Jews. Herzl himself was not particularly observant and actually considered himself rather assimilated until the antisemitic rage that followed the Dreyfus affair convinced him that even the most assimilated Jew would always be perceived as "other". Until the end of the Second World War, a majority of (rather observant) eastern European Jews rejected Zionism as blasphemous and rather sought various means of "self strengthening" Jewish communities where they already existed.

While the Holocaust convinced many religious Jews that Zionism might be a good idea, early in its history Israel was dominated by secular left-wing parties, strongly rooted in the international workers' movement and the Israeli Kibbutz movement, until the right wing took over shortly after the Six Days' war. The religious right in Israel has complicated the peace process as, unlike the secular left that is - in principle - willing to give up some land for a peace, many religious Zionists argue that giving up "Biblical Jewish" land (as opposed to Sinai, an area not claimed as the historic Jewish homeland and thus easily given up for peace with Egypt even by a right-wing government) is tantamount to apostasy. However, the rise of Hamas and the failure of the Oslo peace process have made this point moot as even secular Zionists now mostly agree that giving up land in exchange for a peace that does not in fact hold up is not worth it.

[edit] Christian Zionism

"[A] lot of the Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country."
Billy Graham[7]

Many Christians, particularly fundamentalists, support the State of Israel for their own religious reasons, calling themselves "Christian Zionists". They believe that the return of the Jews to Israel is vital to the Second Coming of Christ. Some of them even believe that all but 144,000 Jews and everyone else in the world who is not a Christian will die in a hellfire, as per their interpretation of the Book of Revelation.

Another reason is that a number of fundamentalists believe that the Jews returning to Israel will bring about the End Times, triggering the apocalypse and the Anti-christ, most of the Jews being massacred and the rest converted to Christianity[8]. So, yeah, strange bedfellows.

[edit] Muslim Zionism

"Thus (were those things taken from them) and We caused the Children of Israel to inherit them."
—Quran 26:59

Yes, such a thing exists, but is very much a minority opinion. It was for a time much more popular during the early days of Arab Nationalism, when Jews were still considered Fellow Travelers Arabs, but that idea is more or less gone now.

[edit] Anti-Zionism

In the 19th and early 20th century, the majority of Jews rejected Zionism. The causes of this reaction varied — on the right, orthodox religious Jews (especially Haredi and Hasidic) believed that the re-establishment of a Jewish state in Israel was a task to be undertaken by the Messiah alone — Zionists, by attempting to hurry up the divine plan of redemption, were committing a sin. They pointed to various rabbinical passages which prohibited the return of Jews to Israel en masse prior to the coming of the Messiah. However, this rejection of Zionism was only one opinion within the conservative religious Jewish community with notable support coming from several prominent and senior Rabbis especially Rabbi Kook. On the left, progressive, secular and reform Jews wanted Jews to be accepted as members of the nations they were now living in, rather than attempting to form their own for themselves. These Jews often had commitments to liberal internationalism or socialism, and they saw Zionism as contrary to this.

However, the traumatic events of the 20th century dramatically changed the Jewish attitude towards Zionism, from being a position with minority support to being the majority view. But there are still groups which carry on these earlier anti-Zionist positions. On the right, a number of Haredi and Hasidic groups maintain a religiously-based rejection of Zionism — the most notable of these groups is the Satmar dynasty, but there are many others. A small, but notable group is the Neturei Karta, who express their rejection of Zionism through extreme means, including associations with the Palestinian and Iranian leadership, and associations with Holocaust deniers. Even though many other groups like Satmar share the opposition to Zionism, they reject the extreme approach of the Neturei Karta. In particular, the attendance of Neturei Karta delegates at a Holocaust denial conference arranged by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused great offence, although the Neturei Karta attendees insisted they did not reject the Holocaust, but were attending the conference to try to change the Holocaust deniers' minds. As a result of their actions, Neturei Karta have been universally shunned by all Jewish groups and placed in cherem, a form of excommunication. Their numbers are estimated at being under 200 worldwide.

One particular passage the religious anti-Zionists point to is a a passage in the Talmud called the "Three Oaths", where the Jews swear to God to obey the rule of the Gentiles and not attempt to return to Israel en masse, and the Gentiles swear not to persecute the Jews excessively. Religious anti-Zionists see Zionism as a violation of the oath, and therefore sinful. Zionists have a number of responses: that the oath is not one of the legally binding parts of the Talmud (haggadah rather than halakah); that no individual Jews can violate the oath (since it does not prohibit the return of individual Jews), so Zionists cannot be held to be in violation of the oath; that the oath has been cancelled due to the Gentiles' failure to keep their side of the bargain (not to persecute the Jews excessively). Anti-Zionists do not accept these responses - in particular, they argue that since the three oaths are to God, not oaths the Jews and Gentiles make to each other, a failure of the Gentiles to obey their oath does not justify the Jews in violating theirs.

Zionists point out that many anti-Zionists support Palestinian nationalism while opposing Jewish nationalism, and claim this is a double standard. But some anti-Zionists reject Palestinian nationalism as well and all forms of nationalism, and hence must reject Jewish nationalism (Zionism) as well. Many anti-Zionists, rather than supporting the Palestinian nationalist call for a separate Palestinian state, instead favour the one state solution — abolition of Israel and Palestine, to be replaced by a single state which is for all its citizens (sometimes suggested to be called "Israelestine" or similar). This, of course, would mean there would be no Jewish state left in the world.

Since the founding of the State of Israel, and especially since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, "Zionism" and "Zionist" have become snarl words in some circles.

[edit] Extremist anti-Zionism

While legitimate criticism can be made of both the Zionist goals and methods, the term has since been stretched beyond its original meanings. Many conspiracy theories, particularly ones that revolve around the supposed "New World Order", frequently refer to a "Zionist conspiracy" or efforts to set up a "Zionist government." These people will often claim that "Zionists" control the United States, which goes so far beyond the call of what Zionists actually want as to be laughable. In many of these cases, it is obvious that "Zionist" is merely a euphemism for "Jewish" and that the groups using the term are anti-Semitic and/or neo-Nazi.

Many people say "anti-Zionism" is a cover for "anti-Semitism", but others say that this accusation is an attempt to slur their opponents: according to the proper meaning of the word, one can make a direct challenge to Zionist ideals (political) and not be anti-Semitic. One crosses the line when facts are replaced with ingrained hatred.

Many Neo-Nazi and other antisemitic groups, however, have adopted the label "Zionist" as effectively a synonym for "Jew"; having done so, they continue to spout the same tired old antisemitic conspiracy theories they have been doing for decades, but by replacing "Jew" with "Zionist" it does not sound as bad, and people may not recognize these same old ideas in their new form, whereas in their original form they would immediately reject them. This process is the origin of their favoured phrase Zionist Occupation Government or ZOG — i.e. Jews secretly direct the US government.

[edit] Simplistic and facile comparisons between Zionism and Nazism

Many opponents of Zionism find themselves tempted to make simplistic and facile comparisons to Nazism, given the movements' related history and the perceived opportunity to call Zionists hypocrites. While even self-critical Israelis sometimes make such comparisons, e.g. when former director of Shine Bet Avraham Shalom said Israel had become "a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II"[9], the marked differences between Nazism and Zionism indicate there is little debt to them. While the intention of Zionists was to establish a place of refuge for Jewish people, the Nazis wanted to subjugate all nations and exterminate anyone they didn't like. The only commonality between Zionism and Nazism is that they are both forms of ethnic nationalism with an expansionist territorial project to "repossess" ancestral lands. Anti-nationalists see them both as rotten fruit of a rotten tree, although there can be no doubt that Nazism is among the most rotten of the many rotten fruits that tree has produced.

[edit] Jews opposed to Zionism

A number of Jewish groups believe that Zionism is a form of heresy and is incompatible with true Judaism; such are usually found among Hareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish sects, many of which teach that Zionism was an unscriptural attempt to restore the Land to the Jews that only God was supposed to do (when he feels good and ready).

Some Jewish religious websites opposed to Zionism include:

[edit] Secular opposition

Other Jews oppose Zionism for secular reasons. These hold a political objection to the need of a Jewish state -- or at least as currently constituted. Some organizations that hold this belief are:

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Tom Segev. (Haim Watzman, trans.) 1999. One Palestine Complete: Jews and Palestinians Under the British Mandate. New York: Henry Holt. p. 36.
  2. [1]
  3. aka the "Stern Gang"
  4. How ever one chooses to define it and whoever one identifies as its legitimate spokespersons
  5. see this video by the Anti Defamation League for one of countless examples
  6. see also this video by PBS on Antisemitism in France
  7. When Billy Graham Urged Nixon to Kill a Million People
  8. Don't read while sober
  9. http://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/29/the_gatekeepers_in_new_film_ex
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