political movement for the establishment of a Jewish nation-state in the area of Palestine, since 1860
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Zionism (Hebrew: צִיּוֹנוּת‎ Tsiyyonut after Zion) is both an ideology and nationalist movement that espouses the establishment of, and support for a Jewish state centered in the area roughly corresponding to Canaan, the Holy Land, the region of Palestine or Eretz Israel on the basis of a long Jewish connection and attachment to that land.

Theodor Herzl, the seminal leader of early Zionism.


  • Zionism proceeds from the assumption that the Jews are still a people or nation, many of whom cannot or will not assimilate themselves to other peoples, and wish to retain their identity as a national community.
    • The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, 5th ed. 1977, art. Zionism, p. 2016.
  • Zionism is as old as the Babylonian Exile, which began in 586BCE. Separation from the Land of Israel as they were being led into captivity by their conquerors rested crushingly upon the spirits of the Jewish exiles; a longing for the homeland consumed them. Turning in the direction of Judah, they then took an awesome vow: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy" (Psalms 137:5-6).
    • Nathan Ausubel, The Book of Jewish Knowledge, 1964, art. Zionism p. 526.
  • I'm not anti-Semitic at all, but I am anti-Zionist. I don't believe they had the right, after 3,000 years, to reclaim the land with Western bombs and guns on biblical injunction.
For many of us, anti-Semitic feeling had little to do with our dedication [to Zionism]
We emigrated not for negative reasons of escape but for the positive purpose of rebuilding a homeland ...
~ David Ben-Gurion
  • For many of us, anti-Semitic feeling had little to do with our dedication [to Zionism]. I personally never suffered anti-Semitic persecution. Płońsk [Ben-Gurion's hometown] was remarkably free of it ... Nevertheless, and I think this very significant, it was Płońsk that sent the highest proportion of Jews to Eretz Israel from any town in Poland of comparable size. We emigrated not for negative reasons of escape but for the positive purpose of rebuilding a homeland ... Life in Płońsk was peaceful enough. There were three main communities: Russians, Jews and Poles. ... The number of Jews and Poles in the city were roughly equal, about five thousand each. The Jews, however, formed a compact, centralized group occupying the innermost districts whilst the Poles were more scattered, living in outlying areas and shading off into the peasantry. Consequently, when a gang of Jewish boys met a Polish gang the latter would almost inevitably represent a single suburb and thus be poorer in fighting potential than the Jews who even if their numbers were initially fewer could quickly call on reinforcements from the entire quarter. Far from being afraid of them, they were rather afraid of us. In general, however, relations were amicable, though distant.
  • There were three possible responses to such discrimination. The first was to leave. Yet despite the importance of Zionism in Polish-Jewish politics, only a small proportion of Polish Jews drew the conclusion that they would be better off trying to find a Jewish state in the new 'home' their people had been granted in what was now the British 'mandate' in Palestine. Even in the 1930s just 82,000 Polish Jews emigrated there, though as we shall see this also reflected British nervousness about the effect of continued Jewish immigration on Palestine's internal stability. In fact, only a minority of Polish Zionists were committed to systematic colonization of the Holy Land; the majority were just as interested in what could be achieved in Poland itself. It was easier in more ways than one for a West Prussian to leave Poland for neighbouring Germany than for a Jew to leave Poland for the more distant Holy Land.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), p. 171
  • Zionism in its spiritual sense is a lofty aspiration. By spiritual sense I mean they should want to realise the Jerusalem that is within. Zionism meaning reoccupation of Palestine has no attraction for me. I can understand the longing of a Jew to return to Palestine, and he can do so if he can without the help of bayonets, whether his own or those of Britain. In that event he would go to Palestine peacefully and in perfect friendliness with the Arabs. The real Zionism of which I have given you my meaning is the thing to strive for, long for and die for. Zion lies in one’s heart. It is the abode of God. The real Jerusalem is the spiritual Jerusalem. Thus he can realise this Zionism in any part of the world.
  • Zionism views itself as the political expression of the Jewish nation. Indeed, it fulfills itself as the fulfillment of Jewish history. In a matter analogous to most other nationalisms, Zionism has constructed a three-part narrative that traces the unbroken history of the Jewish nation from its birth and efflorescence in Palestine through a period of decay and degeneration in exile to a period of redemption at the hands of the modern Zionist movement and its return to its ancestral homeland in Palestine. For Zionists, the Jewish claim to Palestine can be found in the Bible and corroborative archaeological evidence. Most commonly, the Zionist narrative of Jewish history begins with Abraham and his descendants, who immigrated to Palestine in the second millennium BC, possibly from Iraq. The standard Zionist narrative considers the tenth-century BC reigns of King David and King Solomon the highpoint of the Jewish presence in Palestine. Theirs was a period of cultural and political glory, when the Jewish nation was politically united and religious authority radiated from the great temple in Jerusalem. But their was also a short-lived period, lasting less than seventy years, about half of the length of the "golden age" of Greece.
    • James L. Gelvin, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: One Hundred Years of War (2014), Cambridge University Press, p. 6
  • Know that you Zionists do not represent Judaism and do not represent the Jewish people. . . You only represent the idea of a political movement whose ideas and values oppose the ideas and values of our holy Torah and the Jewish religion. We strongly condemn your aggressive actions and emphasize to the whole world: There is a big difference between Judaism and Zionism...
  • I have for many years opposed Zionism as the dream of capitalist Jewry the world over for a Jewish State with all its trimmings, such as Government, laws, police, militarism and the rest. In other words, a Jewish State machinery to protect the privileges of the few against the many. Reginald Reynolds (referring to an article he wrote called ‘Palestine and Socialist Policy’) is wrong, however, when he makes it appear that the Zionists were the sole backers of Jewish emigration to Palestine. Perhaps he does not know that the Jewish masses in every country and especially in the United States of America have contributed vast amounts of money for the same purpose. They have given unstintingly out of their earnings in the hope that Palestine may prove to be an asylum for their brothers, cruelly persecuted in nearly every European country. The fact that there are many non-Zionist communes in Palestine goes to prove that the Jewish workers who have helped the persecuted and hounded Jews have done so not because they are Zionists, but for the reason I have already stated, that they might be left in peace in Palestine to take root and live their own lives.
  • 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 Herzl in a diary entry, (3 September 1897), a few days after the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, as quoted in Nonstate Nations in International Politics: Comparative System Analyses (1997) by Judy S. Bertelsen, p. 37.
  • [It is the] iron law of every colonizing movement, a law which knows of no exceptions, a law which existed in all times and under all circumstances. If you wish to colonize a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison on your behalf. Or else – or else, give up your colonization, for without an armed force which will render physically impossible any attempts to destroy or prevent this colonization, colonization is impossible, not “difficult”, not “dangerous” but IMPOSSIBLE! … Zionism is a colonizing adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. It is important to build, it is important to speak Hebrew, but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot – or else I am through with playing at colonialization.
    • Ze'ev Jabotinsky, as quoted in Lenni Brenner, The Iron Wall: Zionist Revisionism from Jabotinsky to Shamir (1984), p. 78.
  • We cannot promise any reward either to the Arabs of Palestine or to the Arabs outside Palestine. A voluntary agreement is unattainable. And so those who regard an accord with the Arabs as an indispensable condition of Zionism must admit to themselves today that this condition cannot be attained and hence that we must give up Zionism. We must either suspend our settlement efforts or continue them without paying attention to the mood of the natives. Settlement can thus develop under the protection of a force that is not dependent on the local population, behind an iron wall which they will be powerless to break down.
    • Ze'ev Jabotinsky, as quoted in Avi Shlaïm, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, W. W. Norton: 2014, p. 14.
  • For many, Zionism was inherited at birth and they now think of it as synonymous with Jewishness. The threat of being labelled a traitor for questioning Israeli policies, and the allegation of self-hatred and anti-Semitism have inhibited an in-depth study of Zionism, its diverse political tenets, its history in relation to other Jews and to non-Jews and its role in defining Jewish identity in the States.
    • Irena Klepfisz "Khaloymes/Dreams in Progress: Culture, Politics, and Jewish Identity" in Dreams of an Insomniac: Jewish Feminist Essays, Speeches and Diatribes (1990)
  • Just as many contemporary Yiddishists romanticize and depoliticize the past, so do most contemporary Zionists romanticize and depoliticize the Israeli present. Such nostalgia is rightfully condemned by those who want Jews to engage in the political present. But these critics erroneously conclude that any focus on their Jewish identity will inherently foster Jewish escapist tendencies.
    • Irena Klepfisz "Khaloymes/Dreams in Progress: Culture, Politics, and Jewish Identity" in Dreams of an Insomniac: Jewish Feminist Essays, Speeches and Diatribes (1990)
  • now it seems to me that Zionism asks too little, not too much! They have traded in that City of the vision for a cramped fortress tower, believing that Jews will always be persecuted, hunted. That most of humanity couldn't care less if it happened again. Would let it happen. Knowing some of humanity would even applaud. Believing there is no other way for Jews to survive. I want to shout it at them from the rooftops, to cry it out loud: you have never asked for enough! Zionism, at least as it's lived today, accepts anti-Semitism, says it's permanent in the world: As long as there are Jews, there will be Jew-haters, Jew-killers, so we'll build a wall of bodies around us and live behind it, a menace to our neighbors, trying to feel safe. I stand here and cry out to you: "Come out of the trenches! Ask for it all! I demand for myself, and my children who will also be Jews, and for you, too, my soldiering kin, a world where fortresses are unknown and unnecessary."
  • All forms of Zionism hold the perception that a certain extent of anti-Semitism benefits the Zionist enterprise. To put it more sharply, anti-Semitism is the generator and ally of Zionism. Masses of Jews leave their place of residence only when their economic situation and physical safety are undermined. Masses of Jews are shoved to this country rather than being attracted to it. The yearning for the land of Zion and Jerusalem is not strong enough to drive millions of Jews to the country they love and make them hold on to its clods.
  • As the Jews in Israel long for immigrants with a certain affiliation to their people, and as Zionism—like any other ideology—needs constant justification, we have a secret hope in our hearts that a moderate anti-Semitic wave, along with a deterioration in the economic situation in their countries of residence, will make Diaspora Jews realize that they belong with us. ... Is proof even necessary? No one will protest the assertion that the rise in anti-Semitism in France gave us some satisfaction, in the sense of “we warned you, didn’t we?” Late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not hesitate to make such a declaration, angering the French government and many Jews who see themselves as unconditional French citizens. Thousands of Jews from France who see Israel as a lifeboat, as an insurance policy, purchased apartments here and raised real estate prices in the coastal cities. That’s good. It proves Zionism was right.
  • In order to remove these malignant doubts, it would be good to have some anti-Semitism in America. Not serious anti-Semitism, not pogroms, not persecutions that will empty America from its Jews, as we need them there, but just a taste of this pungent stuff, so that we can restore our faith in Zionism.
  • One can be a Zionist without being a nationalist, even an unaggressive one. The earlier Zionism, that which has had a far longer career than the Neo-Zionism of to-day, was none the less Zionist, even though it had no tinge of nationalism in the modern semi-aggressive sense. That Zionism was not based on a Jewish nation, whose existence in the modern sense it did not admit, but on the Jewish people. The earlier Zionism had no political connotation. It was no less successful on that account. It was certainly one of the instruments that kept Judaism alive and Jewry in existence. That early - it may be termed spiritual - Zionism still exists even though its voice is drowned by the more blatant shouts of a nationalism that differs from it in many respects. And as that earlier Zionism, which is a large part of Judaism, flourished for centuries before Political Zionism was conceived, it will not inconceivably survive Political Zionism as a living force, for centuries.
  • perhaps the nineteenth-century word Zionism-so incendiary, so drenched in idealism, dissension, ideas of blood and soil, in memories of victimization and pursuant claims of the right to victimize-perhaps the use of this word, by Zionists, post-Zionists, and anti-Zionists alike, needs to dissolve before twenty-first-century realities.
    • Adrienne Rich "Jewish Days and Nights" in Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, eds., Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2003) and A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society, 1997-2008 (2009)
  • Political Zionism is problematic for obvious reasons. But I can never forget what it achieved as a moral force in an era of complete dissolution. It helped to stem the tide of 'progressive' leveling of venerable, ancestral differences; it fulfilled a conservative function.
    • Green, K. H. (editor), Strauss, Leo, Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity : Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought, 1997, State University of New York Press, pp. 413–14
  • Anti-Zionists, last of all, exhibit a distaste for certain words. It was Thomas Hobbes who, anticipating semantics, pointed out that words are counters, not coins; that the wise man looks through them to reality. This counsel many anti-Zionists seem to have neglected. They are especially disturbed by the two nouns nationalism and commonwealth, and by the adjective political. And yet these terms on examination are not at all upsetting.
    Jewish nationalism means no more than recognition of the peoplehood of Israel, and of the propriety of that people's being a religio-cultural group in America, a nationality in Eastern Europe, and in Palestine an actualized nation.
    Nor is the word political more horrendous, even when it precedes Zionism. For what does it signify? It refers either to methods for realizing the Zionist objective or to the objective itself. If to the former, it denotes the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and their transactions with the Mandatory Power and others on immigration into Palestine and related problems. If this be political Zionism, what can be wrong with it? Anyone wishing Jews to be free to enter Palestine knows that governments must be dealt with and understandings negotiated. Or are there some so naive as to approve of results but not of the only means for attaining them?
  • The idea that Zionism is essentially racist is only consistent with the view that all nationalism is a form of racism. In that case all states that claimed to be based on nationalism would need to be removed as well. Anti-Zionism, however tends to argue one or some of the following ideas:
    (a) Jews are not a nation
    (b) Jews are only identifiable by attachment to Judaism as religion
    (c) there is only tenuous evidence linking Jews to Torah historical accounts
    (d) the Jews come from Eastern Europe, not the Middle East
    (e) Jews are not a homogeneous group
    (f) Jews have collaborated with oppressors (Imperialism, the Nazis)
    (g) Zionism inevitably means oppressing the Palestinians.
    There are of course other views. These arguments all lead to an uncomfortable position that whereas all other self-declared nationalisms have validity, the Jews have no such claims. Yet in different ways the arguments about Zionism can be easily adopted to almost all other national situations. Yet no one asks ‘So exactly how is it that you are Australian?’ This question is posed to Jews a great deal. While there are honorable Anti-Zionist positions they are few. On the whole Anti-Zionism is close to, or a mask for, Anti-Semitism.
  • I never heard [my parents] talk between themselves about Palestine or Zionism, and I suspected they had no strong convictions on the subject, at least until after the war, when the horror of the Holocaust made them feel there should be a “National Home.” I felt they were bullied by the organizers of these meetings, and by the gangsterlike evangelists who would pound at the front door and demand large sums for yeshivas or “schools in Israel.” My parents, clearheaded and independent in most other ways, seemed to become soft and helpless in the face of these demands, perhaps driven by a sense of obligation or anxiety. My own feelings […] were passionately negative: I came to hate Zionism and evangelism and politicking of every sort, which I regarded as noisy and intrusive and bullying.
  • …the difficulty of Zionism is essentially one thing only, its attempt to settle a country that is already settled.
    • Vincent Sheean, Personal History. New York, 1935, p.381
  • I think that there's something really capacious about Jewish anarchism and its multilingualism, its “Yes, and…”-ness. Think about the importance of multilingualism and contrast that with Zionist single-language ideology: just Hebrew and nothing but Hebrew.
  • Zionism as a philosophy, even in its leftist versions, doesn't appeal to me. I've never envisioned sovereignty over a piece of land as a solution to anti-Semitism, a negation of the Diaspora, a necessary focus of Jewish identity and culture, or the basis for building a socialist utopia. I see nationalism of all sorts, including national liberation movements, as problematic-an understatement when applied to the Middle East. Yet I support the existence of Israel because Zionism is, among other things, a strategy forced on Jews by a particular historical situation. What it comes down to is that Israel has given Jews something whose lack cost millions of lives: a place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. These days, however, the Israeli government seems to believe that, far from the state's existing to insure the survival of Jews, Jews exist to insure the survival of the state.
    • Ellen Willis “What the Pollard Case Means to Jews” (1987) included in No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays (1992)
  • the "revisionist" strain of Zionism, with its roots in Deir Yassin and its followers in Lebanon, has propelled Israel toward disaster.
    • Ellen Willis “Ministries of Fear” (November 1985) included in No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays (1992)
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