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Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism.
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Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word — which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly — it would be this: At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.
Theodor HerzlWikipedia in a diary entry, (3 September 1897), a few days after the First Zionist CongressWikipedia in Basel, Switzerland.[1]

Zionism is a mass political movement, originating in the 19th century, to establish a political and geographic nation-state for the Jewish people so they could escape the persecution and anti-Semitism that was then so prevalent throughout the world, as it had been throughout the preceding centuries. By the early 20th century Palestine would be chosen as the location. Zionism has long been a political movement and is typically synonymous with Jewish nationalism. Indeed, the two are identical in the most salient aspects – "backing of a national identity with credible force"[2] – whatever less salient or theoretical distinctions some may make between them. The movement was named for Mt. Zion, one of the mountains that Jerusalem was built on. "Zion" is also a synonym for the Holy Land or the Jewish national homeland. Prior to World War II, there was a non-Zionist movement that supported emigration of Jews to Palestine, but did not the establishment of a Jewish state, mainly because of the fear that establishment of a Jewish state would incite more violence.[3]

In more recent times, the term Zionism is often used to denote Israel's ongoing settlements in areas beyond the Green Line (that is, in the West Bank and Gaza), commonly referred to as the Palestinian territories. Jewish settlers have been aggressively staking claims on Palestinian land, especially in the last decade.[4]

Conversations about Zionism, and opposition to it, are charged by decades of geopolitical conflict and centuries of painful history. Good old-fashioned anti-Semites also use "Zionist" as a snarl word to refer to anything they don't like done by anyone (supposedly or actually) Jewish. Anti-Zionism, meanwhile, is sometimes decried as intrinsically anti-semitic. But meaningful discussion of Zionism – including criticism, not infrequently made by Jews[5][6][7] – can and does occur outside of the precincts of Stormfront-ville.

Historical background[edit]

Herzl and Der Judenstaat[edit]

Der Judenstaat

Theodor Herzl, a Serbian/Austro-Hungarian Jew[8] and a journalist, published in 1896 a work entitled Der Judenstaat[9] which laid out the foundational principles and goals of Zionism. Central to his argument was the claim that:

[t]he Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. Wherever it does not exist, it is brought in together with Jewish immigrants. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution. This is the case, and will inevitably be so, everywhere, even in highly civilised countries—see, for instance, France—so long as the Jewish question is not solved on the political level.

These words were penned in the wake of such incidents as the Dreyfus affair in France, and into the face of a growing movement among Jews supporting assimilation into other cultures. Indeed, during Herzl's day, hatred towards Jews which had briefly looked to be subsiding with more and more states "emancipating"[note 1] Jews, was growing again. For centuries, Jew hatred – often called "anti-Judaism" – had existed, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a new form of "racial" hatred emerged, which was coined then as anti-Semitism.[10] While old-style, religious Jew hatred offered at least the theoretical way out by converting to the dominant religion of the time (usually Christianity or Islam), anti-Semitism left no escape. Zionism arose in that milieu and as a response to it.

As to location of a Zionist state, Herzl exhibited flexibility in Der Judenstaat: "Shall we choose Palestine or Argentina? We shall take what is given us, and what is selected by public opinion." However, shortly before his death in 1904, Herzl declared that the Jewish State he envisioned must be in Palestine.[11] Moreover, by 1902, when Herzl wrote a letter to Cecil Rhodes, he had explicitly adopted a European, colonialist model for Zionism:

You are being invited to help make history,” Herzl wrote to Rhodes. “[I]t doesn’t involve Africa, but a piece of Asia Minor; not Englishmen but Jews… How, then, do I happen to turn to you since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you? How indeed? Because it is something colonial… [Y]ou, Mr. Rhodes, are a visionary politician or a practical visionary… I want you to.. put the stamp of your authority on the Zionist plan and to make the following declaration to a few people who swear by you: I, Rhodes have examined this plan and found it correct and practicable. It is a plan full of culture, excellent for the group of people for whom it is directly designed, and quite good for England, for Greater Britain….[12]

The Balfour Declaration[edit]

In the midst of World War I, when many Jews supported Germany as it was fighting Russia, Great Britain came under increasing pressure to attempt to secure the support of American Jews, and in turn influence the US towards the allied side. To this end, the UK's foreign secretary issued a memo known as the Balfour Declaration,[13] reading 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.
—James Balfour

Of course, the British Empire's notions of what constitutes not "prejudicing" the rights of an existing population had not generally met especially rigorous standards of justice, a reality that might have given some pause concerning this proposal. Moreover, it's almost quaint how the British felt that the land of Palestine was theirs to divvy up and award to others.

Long story short, the British Empire defeated the Turks in WWI and the League of Nations gave the former control over what would be Mandate Palestine – under British rule until 1948.[14] For those several decades the British would permit varying levels of Jewish immigration and oversee the struggle between two mutually antagonistic peoples: Zionist Jews whose increasing numbers seriously annoyed Arabs who weren't asked for their opinion of the project.

Jabotinsky, the Iron Wall, and the legacy[edit]

Ze'ev Jabotinsky (Russian: Владимир Евгеньевич Жаботинский - Vladimir Yevg'enevich Zhabotinskiy), a Russian[15] Jew (now honored in Israel,[16] but who for a time was controversial there,[17]) developed a more extreme faction of Herzl's political Zionism; his "Revisionist Zionism"[18] opposed British control over Palestine (see below) and advocated the establishment of a Jewish state in that land by military means.[19] Jabotinsky moved to Palestine in the 1920s and published various works supporting his Revisionist Zionism, including The Iron Wall,[20] a 1923 piece elaborating on the political and military requirements of making a Jewish state happen. Despite including an introduction stating that he is politely indifferent to Arabs, Iron Wall declares "[t]here can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves [Zionist Jews] and the Palestine Arabs", asserting that no peaceful exchange could ever secure for the Jewish people a homeland in Palestine. He continues, "we keep spoiling our own case, by talking about 'agreement' which means telling the Mandatory Government that the important thing is not the iron wall [of soldiers], but discussions. Empty rhetoric of this kind is dangerous." Jabotinsky makes it clear that military force, e.g. "bayonets," is necessary to bring about the Jewish State, whether these are "Jewish bayonets" or "British bayonets."

Moreover, Jabotinsky explicitly defended the "morality" of stealing land from an existing population:

Let us consider for a moment the point of view of those to whom this seems immoral. We shall trace the root of the evil to this – that we are seeking to colonise a country against the wishes of its population, in other words, by force. Everything else that is undesirable grows out of this root with axiomatic inevitability. What then is to be done?

The simplest way out would be to look for a different country [other than Palestine] to colonise. Like Uganda. But if we look more closely into the matter we shall find that the same evil exists there, too. Uganda also has a native population, which consciously or unconsciously as in every other instance in history, will resist the coming of the colonisers.


Yet if homeless Jewry demands Palestine for itself it is "immoral" because it does not suit the native population. Such morality may be accepted among cannibals, but not in a civilised world....Self-determination means revision – such a revision of the distribution of the earth among the nations that those nations who have too much should have to give up some of it to those nations who have not enough or who have none, so that all should have some place on which to exercise their right of self-determination.

Although Jabotinsky was initially viewed by many of his contemporary Zionists as a fringe character, his views eventually became the basis for right-wing politics in Israel. In short, if you want to find the origins of the present policies of Israel vis-a-vis Palestinians – e.g., ever-increasing Jewish settlers taking over Arab land – Jabotinsky is a good place to start.[note 2]

Zionist continuity with Jabotinsky's Revisionist Zionism is in some ways literal. Benzion Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu's father, served as Jabotinsky's personal secretary, and a young Menachem Begin – who would one day be elected prime minister of Israel – was a primary Jabotinsky disciple.[21]

Jabotinsky even straight up admitted that Zionism is a colonial movement:

My readers have a general idea of the history of colonisation in other countries. I suggest that they consider all the precedents with which they are acquainted, and see whether there is one solitary instance of any colonisation being carried on with the consent of the native population. There is no such precedent. The native populations, civilised or uncivilised, have always stubbornly resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilised or savage. [...] Every native population, civilised or not, regards its lands as its national home, of which it is the sole master, and it wants to retain that mastery always; it will refuse to admit not only new masters but, even new partners or collaborators. This is equally true of the Arabs. Our Peace-mongers are trying to persuade us that the Arabs are either fools, whom we can deceive by masking our real aims, or that they are corrupt and can be bribed to abandon to us their claim to priority in Palestine , in return for cultural and economic advantages. I repudiate this conception of the Palestinian Arabs. [...] They feel at least the same instinctive jealous love of Palestine, as the old Aztecs felt for ancient Mexico , and their Sioux for their rolling Prairies. [...] Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonised.[22]

Herzl does however recognize that cleansing all Palestinians from Palestine would be "impossible." He follows that admission up with a qualification that all a Jewish state in Palestine would require is a Jewish majority.[22]

Spiritual Zionism, Judah Magnes[edit]

Some Jews rejected and were even horrified by Jabotinsky's vision of political Zionism and bayonets. Prominent among these was Judah Magnes, the president and founder of Jerusalem's Hebrew University. The California native, who had moved to Palestine in 1922,[23] wrote in 1929 that "a Jewish Home in Palestine built up on bayonets and oppression is not worth having, even though it succeed, whereas the very attempt to build it up peacefully, cooperatively, with understanding, education, and good will, is worth a great deal, even though the attempt should fail." To this end, he advocated "a pacific policy that treats as entirely secondary such things as a 'Jewish State' or a Jewish majority, or even 'The Jewish National Home.'" Magnes advocated a "spiritual Zionism" entailing development of a Jewish spiritual, educational, moral and religious center in Palestine:

The imperialist, military and political policy is based upon mass immigration of Jews and the creation (forcible if necessary) of a Jewish majority, no matter how much this oppresses the Arabs meanwhile, or deprives them of their rights. In this kind of policy the end always justifies the means. The policy, on the other hand, of developing a Jewish spiritual Center does not depend upon mass immigration, a Jewish majority, a Jewish State, or upon depriving the Arabs (or the Jews) of their political rights for a generation or a day; but on the contrary, is desirous of having Palestine become a country of two nations and three religions, all of them having equal rights and none of them having special privileges; a country where nationalism is but the basis of internationalism...[24]

Magnes had too few allies and did not prevail. But history seems to have borne out his concerns: He accurately predicted that a state that did not take into account the political strivings of both peoples would be doomed to perpetual strife. Magnes never surrendered, and until his death in 1948, he fought to establish a binational state in which Jews and Arabs could live as equals.[25]

Zionist terrorism[edit]

Yitzhak Shamir, center, on Palestine Police wanted poster for terrorism

Radical elements of Zionists have adopted terrorism; in our era, it is common to associate terrorism with Muslims, but radical Zionist Jews actually introduced a great deal of terrorist methods and ideology to modernity.[26] In 1954, Israel hijacked a Syrian airways civilian jet to obtain hostages,[27] and in 1956, Israel shot down an Egyptian civilian airplane, killing 16 civilians, in order to assassinate a military leader.[28][29] Moreover, without terrorism, the State of Israel likely would not have come to exist in 1948. Zionist terrorism demonstrated that "terrorism can, in the right conditions and with the appropriate strategy and tactics, succeed in attaining at least some of its practitioners’ fundamental aims.”[30] Indeed, "[i]n the end, the [Zionist] terrorists got what they wanted."[31]

Pre-state Zionists carried out extensive terror against Arab civilians, the British and politically unacceptable Jews. They also murdered UN mediator Folke Bernadotte, who as head of the Swedish Red Cross during WWII had rescued thousands of concentration camp survivors.[32] In 1943, Yitzhak Shamir wrote the article Terror for the journal of Lehi — the terrorist organization he headed — and therein advocated the "dismiss[al of] all the 'phobia' and babble against terror with simple, obvious arguments." "Neither Jewish morality nor Jewish tradition can be used to disallow terror as a means of war," he wrote, and "We are very far from any moral hesitations when concerned with the national struggle." "First and foremost, terror is for us a part of the political war appropriate for the circumstances of today, and its task is a major one: it demonstrates in the clearest language, heard throughout the world including by our unfortunate brethren outside the gates of this country, our war against the occupier."[33]

Additionally, Menachem Begin slaughtered many Arabs in pre-state Israel and was responsible for the infamous massacre of innocent Palestinians in their village of Deir Yassin. Both Begin and Shamir appeared on Palestine Police wanted posters for crimes of terrorism,[34] and both would some day be elected prime minister of Israel. So, although Israel doesn't negotiate with terrorists it evidently has no problem making them chief executive.

The Jewish Defense League, a group labeled as terrorists by the FBI, has also been active in Israel in the past several decades. It was founded by Meir Kahane, an Orthodox Rabbi and ultra-nationalist politican convicted for terrorism, in 1968. In 1994, JDL member Baruch Goldstein slaughtered 29 Muslims who were kneeling in prayer in a Hebron mosque.[35] Goldstein is revered as a hero by many Israelis, especially settlers.[36][37][38]

Most recently,Wikipedia Zionist terrorism has erupted among settlers staking claims on Palestinian land in the West Bank (and many of them were born in America).[39] According to Yuval Diskin, Israel’s former internal security service chief, many settlers "apply some level of violence or terrorism against the persons or possessions of Palestinians" and that these stand ready to also commit violence against Jews who are, in the terrorists' view, insufficiently Zionist. Diskin states that Jewish terrorists act with near impunity, that there are "two justice systems, one for Jews (Israeli law) and the other for Palestinians (martial law). Whether we want it or not, these two justice systems have divergent measures to adjudicate identical offenses."[40] For instance, Israeli citizens are subject to civilian trials and lesser legal penalties if convicted. Palestinians are subject to military trials and higher penalties.[41]

One example of this seeming double standard is a 2015 arson attack by settlers upon a family, killing a mother, father and toddler. For months, no one was charged for these murders, although a number of suspects were detained.[42] On December 3, 2015 three Jewish settlers were arrested for indirect involvement, and one was quickly released to house arrest in his home in an illegal settlement; another three were held for allegedly being directly involved.[43][44] In contrast with Israel's collective punishment policy for Palestinians,[note 3] the homes of the accused Jewish terrorists have not been demolished. A member of the Dawabshe family said "We don’t have any trust in the Israeli justice system any more – neither the courts, nor the army."[citation needed]

The transfer policy[edit]

The concept of transfer was essential to the ideology of Zionism; to create a Jewish state in an area that was overwhelmingly non-Jewish, removing the Arabs was required. Predictably, this component of Zionism exacerbated fear and anger among the Palestinians at the prospect of being dispossessed. Israeli historian Benny Morris notes "[f]or many Zionists, beginning with Herzl, the only realistic solution lay in transfer. From 1880 to 1920, some entertained the prospect of Jews and Arabs coexisting in peace. But increasingly after 1920, and more emphatically after 1929, for the vast majority a denouement of conflict appeared inescapable. Following the outbreak of 1936, no main- stream leader was able to conceive of future coexistence and peace without a clear physical separation between the two peoples—achievable only by way of transfer and expulsion".[45]

David Ben-Gurion promoted the benefits of compulsory transfer, writing in 1937 "The compulsory transfer of the [Palestinian] Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we never had, even when we stood on our own during the days of the first and second Temples . . . We are given an opportunity which we never dared to dream of in our wildest imaginings. This is MORE than a state, government and sovereignty-this is national consolidation in a free homeland".[46]

Ben-Gurion's enthusiastic support for transfer continued in the lead-up to the 1948 war, stating to the Mapal Council in February 1948: "From your entry into Jerusalem, through Lifta, Romema [East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood]. . . there are no [Palestinian] Arabs. One hundred percent Jews. Since Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, it has not been Jewish as it is now. In many [Palestinian] Arab neighborhoods in the west one sees not a single [Palestinian] Arab. I do not assume that this will change. . . . What had happened in Jerusalem. . . . is likely to happen in many parts of the country. . . in the six, eight, or ten months of the campaign there will certainly be great changes in the composition of the population in the country".[citation needed]

Moshe Sharett, the first Israeli foreign minister, declared in 1947 "Transfer could be the crowning achievements, the final stage in the development of [our] policy, but certainly not the point of departure. By [speaking publicly and prematurely] we could mobilizing vast forces against the matter and cause it to fail, in advance". He also added "[W]hen the Jewish state is established—it is very possible that the result will be transfer of [the Palestinian] Arabs".[47]

Israeli historian Benny Morris' conclusion regarding the transfer policy was: "[it] was inevitable and inbuilt into Zionism — because it sought to transform a land which was “Arab” into a “Jewish” state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of Arab population; and because this aim automatically produced resistance among the Arabs which, in turn, persuaded the Yishuv’s leaders that a hostile Arab majority or large minority could not remain in place if a Jewish state was to arise or safely endure".[48]

The State of Israel is Founded, Nakba occurs[edit]

In 1948, upon the expiration of the British mandate, the Jewish Agency declared an independent Jewish state over the objections of Palestinian Arabs. In 1914 Palestine, Jews had only constituted 7.6% of the population with Arabs constituting the huge remainder. By 1931, the Jewish percentage had more than doubled due to the Zionist immigration project. As of 1941 Jews were 30% of the population.[49] Some Zionists claimed divine entitlement to the land based on the Hebrew Bible's being virtually the Almighty's land deed, while others claim a continuous Jewish DNA presence over the centuries – however fractional – constitutes some "place-holding" claim.[50] Whatever their motives, the steady influx of Zionist Jews who were advocating the establishment of a Jewish national state – and discriminating against Arab workers via the Histadrut, the Jewish labor federation[51] – pissed off the Arab population, which was outraged when the State of Israel was declared in 1948.


Zionism, like any political ideology, is not immune from criticism and empirical analysis. Some of the claims promoted by Zionists constitute pseudohistory.

Historian Yosef Gorny wrote of Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, who was influential in formulating Zionism's politics, that he acted

above all, on the assumption that the alliance with Great Britain was the sole external guarantee for the achievement of Zionist goals ... Hence Weizmann’s untiring efforts to persuade the British Government of the identity of interests between the national goals of the two peoples. In this respect there was a consensus from the first within the Zionist movement, encompassing all sectors".

Gorny also writes that Weizmann attempted to persuade "the British leaders that a large Jewish community in Palestine would effectively further British imperialist interests in the Middle East and elsewhere".[52] Additionally, sociologist Uri Ben-Eliezer mentions that among the Jewish settlers of Palestine they felt the "worker-fighter was...the archetypal figure...conquer[ing] the land with a popular, militia-like army which would complete the work of settlement", whereas the kibbutzniks preserved the "ideal and perfect fusion between the plow and the rifle."[53]

"It was a wasteland!"[edit]

A relatively common talking point is the claim that the land of Israel was relatively unpopulated and undeveloped, exemplified by the phrase referring to it as "a land without people for a people without land.Wikipedia"[54] In reality, not only was the place populated, the Palestinian Arabs who lived there sought for national independence at a time when nationalism was on the rise. A British royal commission report chaired in 1936 by Lord William Robert Peel was charged with determining the causes of conflict in Mandate Palestine. The report found that

[t]he overriding desire of the Arab leaders...was...national independence". It also stated that “[i]t was only to be expected that Palestinian Arabs should...envy and seek to emulate their successful fellow-nationalists in those countries just across their northern and southern borders. For now of all the Arab peoples in the Middle East they were the only people, except the people of Trans-Jordan, who had not attained or were not soon to attain full national freedom: and...the Government of Trans-Jordan had long been recognized as an ‘independent government'".[55]

Jews and Zionism[edit]

The effects of WWII, support for Zionism increases[edit]

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 anti-Semitic rage that followed the Dreyfus affair (see above) convinced him that even the most assimilated Jews would always be perceived as "other". But liberal Jews often had commitments to liberal internationalism or socialism, and regarded Zionism as subversive of those values.

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.

The case of secular American Jews is illustrative of the change: they were not especially supportive of Zionism before WWII, but they largely became so after the abomination that was Hitler's Germany. The Holocaust seemed to have blinded a great many liberal Jews to what political Zionism entailed. In his review of John Judis' recent book, Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, Paul L. Scham addresses Judis' puzzlement that liberal American Zionists in 1948 "evinced no recognition that Zionism involved, in practice, dispos­sessing the Palestinian Arabs of their own homeland." Scham, however, observes:

I think Judis underestimates the sublimated tribal passions of many liberal non-observant American Jews, which may have been sublimated or repressed but came to the fore with revelations of the Holocaust and the fight for a Jewish state that so closely followed it. (My own parents illustrated that process, though they eventually became dovish on the issue after 1967.) It would have been surprising if more than a small fraction of Jews had been able, in that context, to sympathize with Palestinian Arabs, a people of whom they knew little and who seemed to be irreconcilable enemies.[56]

Judis documents in his book that against his better judgment Truman recognized the State of Israel in 1948. Though he privately expressed concern that doing so could help launch WWIII, he said the fact was that he and his fellow Democrats didn't face Arab voters while there were significant blocs of Jewish ones. According to Judis, this was when America's Israel Lobby first made its pressure felt in American politics.[57]

Religious Jews underwent a similar change of theological opinion after WWII.[58]

Secular opposition reemerges[edit]

Though he invokes the Jewish "prophetic tradition," Jesse Alexander Meyerson writes in The Village Voice that younger Jews are rejecting Zionism; his endorsement and defense of the phenomenon is fundamentally nonreligious.[59] Addressing his liberal Zionist critic, J.J. Goldberg, Meyerson declares that Goldberg gets him right on some things:

My insistence on "linking...anti-Zionism with the prophetic tradition of social justice" implies that I think "Zionism is...somehow opposed to the best in Judaism." Bingo! He is also correct to associate me with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which I support. BDS is "gaining adherents at an alarming rate," Goldberg hyperventilates, "turning well-meaning young Jews into enemies of the Jewish state." The alarm this causes Goldberg is complemented by the apprehension he feels about the "worrisome rifts between Israel and American Jews" that are opening up.

He should have seen it coming. These rifts were prophesied as early as 1948 by the sage Hannah Arendt, when she predicted that the "Palestine Jewry would eventually separate itself from the larger body of world Jewry and in its isolation develop into an entirely new people."

Meyerson argues that many, if not most, young American Jews are pretty well to the left, and they find Zionism incompatible with their worldview. These younger people, claims Meyerson, understand "that Jewish ethnocentric nationalism is no different from other forms of ethnocentric nationalism, and that ethno-nationalist endeavors inevitably favor right-wing politics."

See also:

Christian Zionism[edit]

See the main article on this topic: 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[60]

Many Christians in the United States, 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 fulfilling prophesies of the end times and the Second Coming of Christ.[61] Some of them even believe that all but 144,000 (male, celibate) 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.

The underlying belief system generates political support for Israel in the United States, but this conceals an anti-Semitic core[62] that includes John Hagee's depraved notion that God's "loving plan" for Jews caused God to send the Holocaust to make them found Israel.[63] Dispensationalists believe that in a coming Rapture, all the world's Christians, or at least the ones that are fundamentalist enough, will be magically poofed up to Heaven.[64] This, in turn, will be the cue for the world's surviving Jews to abandon Judaism and convert to Christianity, thus -being forced to- accept Jesus as their Messiah and savior. These converted Jews will remain to evangelize the world while Israel endures the hostility of the Antichrist and suffers through the plagues of the Tribulation period. Eventually, the world's armies will muster against Israel at the battle of Armageddon. Jesus will then return to defeat these hordes, kill billions of people, and establish the remaining converted Jews as rulers of an earthly Zion, while the saved Christians enjoy the kingdom of Heaven.[65][66]

These Christian Zionists believe that the return of Jews to Israel light the fuse that leads to the end of the world, a notion that suddenly seemed plausible in the born-again world after the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War.[67] The prophecy also means that attempts to achieve peace between Jews and Palestinian Arabs are foredoomed. Middle Eastern conflict is ordained by God, and peace proposals for the region may in fact be the work of the Antichrist. These beliefs lead these Christians to applaud Israeli belligerence and support settlements in the occupied territories. Non-Christian Arabs are doomed and damned anyways (Christian Arabs are simply ignored). They also believe that alliance with Israel will spare the United States the worst of the Tribulation, even if the United States plays only a minor role in biblical prophecy, while others as John F. MacArthurWikipedia mix in characters of the Book of Revelation as to identify the red dragon described there with the Soviet Union/Russia and her Arab(-European) allies, who will attack Israel -in turn defended by the United States-.

In modern times Israel has been willing to take Christian Zionist money to fund Zionist projects in the West Bank.[68] Further, Israel enjoys their tourist dollars; wingnuts such as Mike Huckabee and many others conduct Christian Zionist tours of the Holy Land.[69]

As for Christians actually from the Middle East, well, it's mixed. Some lukewarmly support Israel because MaronitesWikipedia and other Christians are concerned about what will happen if Israel fallsWikipedia. The Maronite community experienced their own series of ethnic cleansings at the hands of Pan-Arabists, including the PLOWikipedia. At the same time, Robert Kennedy was murdered by a Christian Palestinian nationalistWikipedia upset about Robert's support of Israel and the Six Day War. Maronites committed their own massacres (allegedly with Israeli support) of Palestinians, such as Sabra and Shatila. The Damour massacre was itself a reprisal for the Maronites' Karantina massacreWikipedia.[70][71]

Islamic Zionism[edit]

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

Some Muslims support Israel's existence,[72] and some consider themselves Muslim Zionists,Wikipedia such as Major Ala Wahib, the highest ranking Muslim in the Israel Defence Force.[73]

But throughout the rest of the Islamic world, Zionism is a fringe opinion. It was for a short time much more popular during the early days of Arab NationalismWikipedia (though never a majority opinion), when Jews were still considered fellow Arabs of a sort; specifically, highly educated Arabs, with connections in the European world that would enable the Arab world to modernize without being subject to European rule. However, Arab Nationalism aimed at creating a united super-state dominated by Arabs, something that was incompatible with Zionism's goal of an independent Jewish state, so the two views were ultimately at odds. Any significant amount of support for Zionism from the Islamic world was thus short-lived.

Within Israel itself, according to a 2015 poll, 48% of Arabs preferred that Israel returned to its 1967 borders with an independent Palestinian state next door, 19% were not interested in answering the question, 14% chose one state for two peoples between the Jordan River & Mediterranean Sea, 11% chose Israel as it is today, while 8% would like to have a country that is part of a larger Islamic Caliphate.[74] For comparison, 52% of Israeli Jews support returning to the '67 borders with adjustments[75] and more support some sort of independent Palestinian state but, well, domestic and international politics are in the way.


Several anti-nationalists and universalists reject Zionism for being rooted in tribal affiliation;[76][77][dead link] Tony Judt wrote in the NYRB that Zionism's problem is not its colonialist method, but its separatist ethnocratic nature that no longer belongs in "a world of individual rights, open frontiers, and international law."[78] Despite what some may say, it must once again be stated unequivocally that, as seen with Jewish organizations against Zionism and Orthodox movements against Zionism, that anti-Zionism is not automatically anti-semitic.

Decolonization and Palestinian nationalism[edit]

Opposition to Zionism often stems from the belief that the Palestinian people should have autonomy and sovereignty. Israel's settlement is seen as oppressive, resulting in subjugation and apartheid. Within Palestinian politics, this stance is held both by extreme wings such as Hamas and by more moderate parties, such as those found in the PLO. This form of anti-Zionism is fundamentally concerned with the emancipation of Palestinians. However, anti-semitic currents can still be found, such as in the now-obsolete (changed in 2017[79]) 1988 Hamas charter.[80] There also are some religious elements to some factions; Muslims hold Palestine sacred for various reasons.[81] This form of anti-Zionism is deeply influenced by the decades of conflict and settlement in the region. These anti-Zionists typically call for an end to settlements in the West Bank, an end to the occupation/blockade of Gaza, the right to return for Palestinians, and they may support a binational solution.

Such anti-Zionism is found outside of Palestine, as well. Many far-left movements in the USA and UK identify with anti-Zionism. Jewish Voice for Peace is a major American anti-Zionist organization led by Jewish activists. In addition, there is also the International Jewish Anti-Zionism Network. BDS (described further below) is also a major international movement opposed to Zionism.

White Supremacist anti-Zionism[edit]

Many conspiracy theories, particularly those that revolve around the supposed "New World Order," refer to a Zionist conspiracy to establish and maintain a "Zionist government" in the U.S. Adherents will often claim that "Zionists" control the United States for the purpose of realizing fiendish plots involving world domination. Thus, the U.S. is saddled with the Zionist Occupation Government, or ZOG. When used by these cranks, the term "Zionist" is an obvious stand-in for "Jewish" — the groups using the term are anti-Semitic and/or neo-Nazi.

Religious anti-Zionism[edit]

A number of fringe Jewish groups believe that Zionism is a form of heresy and is incompatible with true Judaism;[82] such are usually found among Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish sects, many of which teach that Zionism goes against the Three Oaths, found in a midrash in the Talmud, and that Israel thus is an attempt to restore the Land to the Jews that only the Messiah was supposed to do (when HaShem feels good and ready).

Some Jewish religious websites opposed to Zionism include:

However, it's not like many of these Jews are peace-loving hippies. Many of them would be happy to clear out Arabs when the Messiah comes and establish a state according to Jewish law. Several anti-Zionist Hasidic theologians have blamed the Holocaust on Zionists and other forms of secular Jewish culture. In more recent times, these extremists have also compared the State of Israel to Nazis, and blamed civilian victims of Palestinian terrorism on "Zionists".[citation needed]

Comparing Zionism and Nazism[edit]

Protest sign in Edinburgh, Scotland calling Israel "New Nazis" and "Facist[sic] Murderers"

Many opponents of Zionism often compare it to Nazism, given the perceived opportunity to call Zionists hypocrites and the extreme nationalism in the Israel's popular, very right-wing government.

Even Israelis have made this comparison, such as Avraham Shalom, former director of Shin Bet, who said Israel had become "a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II",[83] and Ofer Cassif, political science lecturer and politician, who called Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked "neo-Nazi scum."[84] Yeshayahu Liebowitz, an Israeli intellectual, was also extremely critical of Israel, and referred to their actions as "Judeo-Nazism", and said about Israeli military that if "the law... can allow the use of torture as a way of getting confessions out of prisoners, then this testifies to a Nazi mentality."[85]

While Zionism and Nazism are both forms of ethnic nationalism with an expansionist project to "repossess" ancestral lands in the name of "blood and soilWikipedia"[86][87][88][89] from the "savage" indigenous people,[note 4][citation needed] an argument could've been made that Israel did not intend to elimininate the Palestinian population, "merely" expel them. However, the actions of Israel in Gaza during the 2023 Israel-Hamas warWikipedia have been directly labeled as "genocidal" by experts.[90] The UN has also warned of a "new instance" of mass ethnic cleansing in Palestine as a result of this war.[91]

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement[edit]

Palestinians nationalists founded the anti-Zionist Boycott, Divestment and SanctionsWikipedia movement in July of 2005, "when a broad alliance of more than 170 Palestinian political parties, trade unions, refugee networks, NGOs and grassroots associations published an open boycott call to international civil society organizations and people of conscience."[92] BDS's stated goals are three: end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories since 1967, including dismantling the wall and colonies; an end to Israel’s system of racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and respecting the UN-sanctioned, fundamental right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

Liberal BDS critics have said that while many liberal Zionists might support the first two goals, the third is a deal-breaker: "[it] means putting an end to Israel as a Jewish state. This is a demand that virtually no Israeli Jews, even the most liberal, would accede to"; BDS is, then, anti-Zionist.[93] Some liberal Zionists, however, such as the organization J Street, strongly urge acceptance of BDS supporters, taking the positions that:

Opposition to the Global BDS Movement that refuses to countenance any criticism of the occupation or of Israeli policy will never succeed in winning over any Movement supporters, and will only drive more and more frustrated and concerned people into their camp. It is precisely the wrong approach, and it is having a devastatingly counter-productive effect, especially on campus.[94]

Zionists, however, argue that BDS is antisemitic[95] because it "singles out Israel."[96]

Nevertheless, there are many Jewish BDS supporters such as Jewish Voice for Peace,[97] a phenomenon which is causing controversy within the Jewish community.[98] Indeed, in the 21st century, many Western Jews have become very critical of Israel, and even rejecting of Zionism.

In January 2023, Jewish-German artist and BDS activist Adam Broomberg was alleged to be an antisemite by the antisemitism commissioner of Hamburg, reportedly because of his solidarity with Palestine. Broomberg, who denies the allegations, reported that his life was put "in danger" by these allegations.[99] Apparently the remarks by Broomberg that led him to be accused of being an antisemite was to (accurately)[100] accuse Israel of being an apartheid state. Broomberg notably grew up in South Africa.[99]

Israel's reaction to BDS[edit]

In late March of 2016, Israel's best-selling newspaper held an international conference in Jerusalem for brainstorming about how to combat BDS.[101] That BDS is impacting Israel economically and destroying its reputation is evidenced by the extreme proposals expressed there:

Speaker after speaker stepped up to the podium and said, in the same breath, that although BDS is succeeding, it is not a success; that it is not a threat but must be taken as a serious threat; that it has not negatively impacted Israel’s economy but that Israel must allocate more of its budget to fighting it. Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said (Heb) that Israel should engage in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence, intentionally using language that plays on the Hebrew term for “targeted assassinations.”

Around that same time, Bar Heffetz, an Israeli farmer and peace activist wrote on Facebook:

Contrary to what you get told, the boycott and BDS are working, and how. At you can feel it everywhere, at least in my field of agricultural exports to Europe. And that’s apart from the fact that you must sign a document that your produce does not come from the settlements, with aerial photographs attached. Even plain Israeli products [from inside the Green Line] encounter a lot of problems because the buyers cannot think of a reason why they need all that hassle.... The conclusion? The road to South Africa has never been shorter.[102]

In the United States, even some Zionists are coming out in favor of BDS.[103][104] The controversy within the Jewish community can, then, be expected to continue as more Jews sign on to BDS while Israel is gearing up to combat it, and allocating significant funds to do so.

Weaponizing antisemitism[edit]

Zionists will often weaponize allegations of antisemitism as a silencing tactic against legitimate criticisms of Israel.[105] Some Zionists actually warn against engaging with discussions of the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a whole, as "it is difficult to win there":

The issue here is not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole. It is very difficult for us to win there. October 7 is about war crimes committed by Hamas, an organization that people abroad for some reason do not perceive as terrorists, no matter how much we try to say that they are. Now there is proof. It’s our 9/11, and that’s a relatable analogy for most Westerners.[106]

This is called hasbara by Israel, and is part of a longstanding strategy to control the narrative around Israel-Palestine in the popular discourse.[107] The antisemite label has even been applied to Jews who are critical of Israeli policy or are Anti-Zionist.[108]

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Zionism.

External links[edit]


  1. i.e. granting equal civil and social rights to Jews and gentiles
  2. Although, to be sure, even before Jabotinsky Zionist violence was contemplated. Israel Zangwill, an ardent Zionist, realized that trying to form a Jewish majority in Palestine would require force. In 1905 Zangwill stated, "Palestine proper has already its inhabitants. The pashalik of Jerusalem is already twice as thickly populated as the United States, having fifty-two souls to the square mile, and not 25% of them Jews ..... [We] must be prepared either to drive out by the sword the [Arab] tribes in possession as our forefathers did or to grapple with the problem of a large alien population, mostly Mohammedan and accustomed for centuries to despise us". Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 140
  3. In a typical example "Israeli forces on Monday demolished the family home of a Palestinian attacker killed in October and sealed off the home of another attacker's family with cement...The homes...belonged to relatives of Alaa Abu Jamal and Baha Elayyan who were both shot dead on Oct. 13 [2015] after carrying out separate attacks that left four Israelis dead. Israeli forces reportedly stormed the homes and ordered the families to evacuate them before they proceeded with the demolitions."
  4. Even proponent of "spiritual Zionism" Judah Magnes referred to the native Arabs as "savage."


  1. The Anniversary of the First Zionist Congress by Benjamin Shapell & Sara Willen (August 29, 2017) Shapell Manuscript Foundation.
  3. Jewish leaders a century ago had complicated feelings about Israel by Daniel Schulman (November 19, 2023 at 7:00 a.m. EST) The Washington Post.
  9. Der Judenstaat at Project Gutenberg
  18. See the Wikipedia article on Revisionist Zionism.
  22. 22.0 22.1 The Iron Wall by Vladimir Jabotinsky (1923)
  23. Judah Magnes: A Disappointed American Zionist
  25. Judah Magnes: A Disappointed American Zionist (page number needed)
  28. International Terrorism: Image and Reality by Noam Chomsky
  33. Chomsky, ibid.
  45. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–1999 (New York, 1999), p. 139
  46. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–1999 (New York, 1999), p. 142
  47. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–1999 (New York, 1999), p.254
  48. Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge: 2004), p. 60
  52. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, p. 300
  53. Uri Ben-Eliezer, The Making of Israeli Militarism, pp. 62,89
  55. Palestine Royal Commission Report, pp. 76,94
  58. "Undoubtedly the growth and importance of such groups as the World Jewish Congress and the fact that longtime critics of Zionism .... Rabbi Louis Wolsey (who was originally associated with the Euclid Avenue Temple in Cleveland) went over to the Zionists in 1945 may be attributed to historic pressures: after World War II and the Holocaust, the establishment of a Jewish state seemed both necessary and just. (The Palestinians were peripheral to this decision; many Americans believed Palestine was largely unsettled before European Jews went there to live.)"
  59. Sorry, Forward, You're Wrong About Bernie
  60. When Billy Graham Urged Nixon to Kill a Million People
  61. An example. Don't read while sober.
  64. Either that or Jesus will come back over Jerusalem -not Rome (read: the Vatican), New York (read: the UN building), or any other place of power-
  65. Boyer, Paul, Bible Prophecy Belief in American Culture and Its Political Implications
  66. Lindsey, Hal, The Late Great Planet Earth (Bantam, 1969)
  70. William W. Harris (January 2006). The New Face of Lebanon: History's Revenge. Markus Wiener Publishers. p. 162. ISBN 978-1-55876-392-0. Retrieved July 27, 2013. "the massacre of 1,500 Palestinians, Shi'is, and others in Karantina and Maslakh, and the revenge killings of hundreds of Christians in Damour" 
  71. Noam Chomsky, Edward W. Said (1999) Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians South End Press, Template:ISBN pp 184–185
  72. Canadian Imam claims Muslims should learn English, accept Israel as part of Quran
  73. "An officer and a Muslim Zionist", Israel Hayom, 2012.
  75. [ Polls on Israeli opinion of '67 borders
  76. "Hostages to Zionism". Mondoweiss. 14 February 2011.
  77. "A Zionist Changes His Mind". Tikkun. 1 November 2007.
  78. "Israel: The Alternative". The New York Review of Books. 23 October 2003.
  83. "The Gatekeepers: In New Film, Ex-Shin Bet Chiefs Denounce Occupation, Compare Israel to Nazi Germany". Democracy Now!. 29 January 2013.
  84. Israeli professor: Justice minister is 'neo-Nazi scum' - ynetnews
  85. MAVERICK ISRAELI PROFESSOR GIVES UP STATE PRIZE AMID FLAP. Hoffman, David. Washington Post. 25 January 1993.
  86. An Ethical Tradition Betrayed - Holocaust survivor, Hajo Meyer. HuffPost.
  87. "Netanyahu’s Blood and Soil: The Racist-Nationalism of his “Jewish State” Ideal". Informed Comment. 5 June 2014.
  88. Land and Desire in Early Zionism - Brandeis University. PDF version
  89. Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land
  95. On August 17th 2015, MatisyahuWikipedia, the ultra-Orthodox reggae singer, was banned from a Spanish reggae festival because he did not sign a letter stating his support for the BDS movement. Matisyahu, who is not Israeli and was the only obviously Jewish artist present, was the only person asked to sign any statement.
  99. 99.0 99.1 "Artist Adam Broomberg says ‘inflammatory’ allegations by German antisemitism chief put him in danger". Art Review. 31 January 2023. 
  100. "Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity" - Amnesty International
  101. In Israel, BDS is winning
  103. We are lifelong Zionists. Here’s why we’ve chosen to boycott Israel.
  105. Weaponizing the Antisemitism Accusation[a w]Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center
  106. Best practices[a w]Israel Under Fire
  107. Hasbara and the Control of Narrative as an Element of Strategy[a w]Middle East Policy Council
  108. Anti-Defamation League Maps Jewish Peace Rallies with Antisemitic Attacks[a w]The Intercept