Sunday, March 17, 2024

The beginning of modern Israel: Zionism

One of the fallacies surrounding the establishment of modern Israel is that early Zionists were simply products of 18th century nationalism or a reaction to European Imperialism (Kayyali, 1977). But if you look at their early manifestos and statements, they have a Biblical awareness of Jewish people's connection to the land. The Bilu Group Manifesto from 1882 begins "Nearly two thousand years have elapsed since, in an evil hour, after a heroic struggle, the glory of our Temple vanished in fire and our kings and chieftains changed their crowns and diadems for the chains of exile." (Laqueur & Rubin, 2008) Theodor Herzel is conscious that his proposal of a modern Jewish state has continuity with the past. "In the preface to Der Juden staat (1896) he says: 'The idea which I have developed in this pamphlet is a very old one: it is the restoration of the Jewish State." (Laqueur & Rubin, 2008) 

The histrography and definition of Zionism is a complex topic, made up of many layers and developing over time (Selwyn, 1993). But in summary Zionism is about the establishment of a Jewish community in the land of Israel. It is both a positive ideology, emphasising the cultural goodness of Judaism plus an appeciation of the long history of Jewish people, but it's also a reactive ideology, its a response to the global history of anti-semitism. Herzel has his eye on both themes when he organized the Zionist movement at the turn of the 20th Century  (Avineri, 1998). 


Abdul-Wahab Kayyali, 'Zionism and Imperialism: The Historical Origins', Journal of Palestine Studies , Spring, 1977, Vol. 6, No. 3 (Spring, 1977), pp. 98-112.

Ruth and Tom Selwyn, 'Zionism', European Judaism: A Journal for the New Europe, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Spring 93), pp. 28-34.

Shlomo Avineri, 'Herzl's Road to Zionism' The American Jewish Year Book, Vol. 98 (1998), pp. 3-15.

Walter Laqueur and Barry rubin, eds. The Israel-Arab Reader: A documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, LondonPenguin Books, 2008.