Last updated on: 6/9/2017 | Author:

What is Zionism?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)


This site was archived on Aug. 3, 2021. The two-state solution is no longer the most popular solution among the jurisdictions involved. A reconsideration of the topic is possible in the future.

Ilan Wagner, Director of Student Activities at the Department of Education, Jewish Agency for Israel, in an article titled “The Challenges of Success: Secular Zionism since 1948” (accessed May 29, 2007) and found on the My Jewish Learning website, wrote:

I. Secular Zionism

“For millenia, Jewish thought concerning the Land of Israel was the job of theologians. But after Israeli independence in 1948, practical political thought about the Land became much more important than abstract theological musings.

Before the state of Israel was created, secular Zionism consisted of political and cultural variants. The transition from ideal to reality that accompanied statehood posed serious challenges to both these notions.

Secular political Zionists pursued the dream of reestablishing Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel through political means. Cultural Zionism strove to establish the new Jewish state on the basis of a revived Hebrew culture. Labor-socialist Zionism combined political and cultural elements, attempting to merge Jewish nationalism with an egalitarian, collectivist ideology that emphasized the value of labor, agriculture, and social justice.

Labor Zionism’s strong emphasis on institution building enabled it to establish ideological and cultural dominance in the pre-statehood period and continue its reign through the first 30 years of statehood. These institutions–which included the collective settlements (kibbutzim), the semi-collective settlements (moshavim), the labor union and workers cooperatives (histadrut), and the sick fund (kupat hulim)–became the foundations of the new socialist-leaning state of Israel.

The cultural goals of labor Zionism were advanced through the institutions such as the Davar and Al Hamishmar newspapers, publishing houses of the kibbutz movement, and hapoel sports clubs.”

May 29, 2007

The U.S. Library of Congress Country Studies, in a 1988 entry on “Israel – Political Zionism,” contained the following:

I.a. Political Zionism

Leon Pinsker

“Political Zionism was emancipated West European Jewry’s response to the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism and to the failure of the enlightenment to alter the status of the Jew. Its objective was the establishment of a Jewish homeland in any available territory–not necessarily in Palestine–through cooperation with the Great Powers. Political Zionists viewed the ‘Jewish problem’ through the eyes of enlightenment rationalism and believed that European powers would support a Jewish national existence outside Europe because it would rid them of the Jewish problem. These Zionists believed that Jews would come en masse to the new entity, which would be a secular nation modeled after the post-emancipation European state.

The first Jew to articulate a political Zionist platform was not a West European but a Russian physician residing in Odessa. A year after the 1881 pogroms, Leo Pinsker, reflecting the disappointment of other Jewish maskalim, wrote in a pamphlet entitled Auto-Emancipation that anti-Semitism was a modern phenomenon, beyond the reach of any future triumphs of ‘humanity and enlightenment.’ Therefore Jews must organize themselves to find their own national home wherever possible, not necessarily in their ancestral home in the Holy Land. Pinsker’s work attracted the attention of Hibbat Tziyyon (Lovers of Zion), an organization devoted to Hebrew education and national revival. Ignoring Pinsker’s indifference toward the Holy Land, members of Hibbat Tziyyon took up his call for a territorial solution to the Jewish problem. Pinsker, who became leader of the movement, obtained funds from the wealthy Jewish philanthropist, Baron Edmond de Rothschild–who was not a Zionist–to support Jewish agricultural settlement in Palestine at Rishon LeZiyyon, south of Tel Aviv, and Zikhron Yaaqov, south of Haifa. Although the numbers were meager–only 10,000 settlers by 1891–especially when compared to the large number of Jews who emigrated to the United States, the First Aliyah (1882-1903), or immigration, was important because it established a Jewish bridgehead in Palestine espousing political objectives.”


Ami Isseroff, Director of MidEastWeb for Coexistence, in an essay posted on The MidEastWeb website titled “Labor Zionism and Socialist Zionism,” wrote the following (accessed on 5/30/07):

I.a.i. Labor / Socialist Zionism

Ber Borochov

Nachman Syrkin

“Zionists of the second wave of immigration, the second Aliya, who came to Palestine between about 1903 and 1914, were greatly influenced by socialist, anarchist and Tolstoyan ideology which abounded in their native Russia in that period. Ber Borochov and Nachman Syrkin became disillusioned with the program of Russian socialists, and founded the Poalei Tziyon (workers of Zion) socialist Zionist movement. Borochov synthesized Marxism and Zionism, by fitting the national struggle into the rubric of class struggle. His famous essay, National Question and the Class Struggle maintained that the nation was the best institution through which to conduct the class struggle. He maintained that Jews could participate in the revolutionary movement meaningfully only through a Jewish society controlling its own economic infrastructure, because real political power could not be gained without real economic power, based on the fundamental economic endeavors in capitalist society.

Labor Zionists and Socialist Zionists held diverse opinions. Some were anarchists, some Marxists, some were probably closest to Tolstoy. Central ideas include:

  • Jews are socially inferior because they are landless and do not do ‘productive’ labor (in agriculture and basic industry).
  • Jewish ‘restoration’ had to be brought about by changing the economic and social reality of the Jewish people, because political power was rooted in the reality of economics and society. Political solutions would be possible only when there were Jewish workers and Jewish farmers with the economic power to influence events.
  • The dream of Zionism, rebuilding the Jewish national home, could only be implemented through the agency of the Jewish working class, a working class that would be reconstructed in the land of Israel.
  • Jewish life in the Diaspora (exile) could never be normal as long as Jews do not have their own homeland.

    The idea that the Jewish proletariat would bring about the Zionist revolution was a unique contribution of Labor Zionism, and represented a revolution in the way that Jews thought about themselves… The Jewish national fund could not raise funds for settlement from rich Jews, and so it devised the little charity boxes, which were placed in every Jewish home and place of business, and made it possible for the ‘little people’ to finance the restoration of the Jewish people. Instead of a ‘restoration’ from above, Labor Zionism brought about a Zionist revolution, a Jewish homeland created by the labor of the Jewish people. This revolution was at first all encompassing, so that a large part of the Zionist movement in Palestine was Labor Zionist.

In mainstream Jewish society, Labor Zionists and Socialist Zionists were outsiders in all senses. In addition to being workers, they were usually Jews from Eastern Europe, rather than the elite of Western Europe. Moreover, they were not religious Jews in the conventional sense. They often recognized and valued the traditions embodied in the Old Testament as well as facets of later Jewish religious philosophy, as part of the Jewish national heritage and in part, as a basis for their ideals. However, this agnostic or atheistic respect for Jewish tradition was hardly enough to endear them to the rabbinical establishment.

During the last years of Ottoman rule, Poalei Tziyon, Hapoel Hatzair [‘The Young Worker’, First Jewish workers’ party founded in 1905, Palestine] and some smaller socialist factions more or less dominated organized Zionist activity in Palestine. An early feature of Poalei Tziyon was the ability to take initiatives that were adopted by the entire Zionist community. Though pioneers like Manya Shochat and others chose the kibbutz form of organization for ideological reasons, Kibbutz Degania, the first kibbutz, became a model for settlement of Palestine, not because of ideological correctness, but because it worked. It provided a way for the Zionist movement to settle young people on the land, and to ensure that the settlement would have continuity and would not fall apart. This was true of the kibbutz movement and of the Hashomer organization, an organization of Jewish guards that prevented raids on Jewish settlements. The spread of Labor Zionism and Labor Zionist ideology was not confined to kibbutzim and self defense. It was also true both of the general ideology of conquest of labor and return to the soil, which became the mainstay of Zionist aspirations in Palestine and of the specific, controversial project to exclude Arab workers from Jewish plantations.”

May 30, 2007

The Jewish Virtual Library, an online encyclopedia, in an article titled “Religious Zionism” states (accessed on May 29, 2007):

I.a.ii. Revisionist Zionism

Ze’ev Jabotinsky

Chaim Weizmann

“Revisionist Zionism is an outgrowth of Herzl’s Political Zionism, augmented by the ideas of Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky. In 1925, Jabotinsky established the Revisionist Zionist Alliance, which advocated a revision, i.e., reexamination, of the principles of Political Zionism. The party’s principal aim was to change Chaim Weizmann’s moderate policies toward the British Mandatory regime.

The declared goals of Revisionist ideology included relentless pressure on Great Britain, including petitions and mass demonstrations, for Jewish statehood on both banks of the Jordan River; a Jewish majority in Palestine; a reestablishment of the Jewish regiments; and military training for youth.

The Revisionists waged a heated debate in the Zionist Organization [ZO] concerning the immediate and public stipulation of the final aim of Zionism. When their approach was rejected, they seceded from the ZO (1935) and established the New Zionist Organization. They returned to the ZO in 1946, explaining that this became possible after the Biltmore Program had proclaimed the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine as the goal of Zionism.

The National Military Organization (Etzel [the Irgun]) and some members of the Jewish Freedom Fighters (Lehi) came from the ranks of the Revisionists. After the State of Israel was established, the Revisionist Zionist Organization merged with the Etzel-founded Herut movement to form the Herut party, a component of the Likud, one of Israel’s two main political parties.”

May 29, 2007

The Jewish Agency for Israel, an Israeli government agency dedicated to facilitating economic development and the absorption of Jewish immigrants in Israel, in an article titled “The Story of Zionism: Background” stated (accessed on May 29, 2007):

I.b. Cultural Zionism

Ahad Ha’am
(Asher Ginsberg)

“The second group were the Cultural Zionists, traditionally associated with their great intellectual leader, Ahad Ha’am (the pen name for Asher Ginsberg)…

He used religious language and injected it with secular content. He believed that the Jews had developed a unique system of values and beliefs that had evolved throughout the course of Jewish history. For the religious, these values were, of course, transcendent – the source of the values was G-d…

Only a restoration of values at the heart of a reborn culture could possibly deal with the contemporary sickness of the Jewish people. He believed, moreover, that any Herzlian hope of bringing the majority of the world’s Jews to the new Jewish centre was unrealistic, and that the country would only attract – could only attract – a minority of Jews. He called, instead, for a small group to come to the new society and dedicate themselves to a mission – the building of a Jewish culture based on the prophetic ideas of justice and righteousness. He believed that the new society, having built up its base in its own soil, could then start to radiate its message and experience to the Jewish communities of the world thereby reinforcing Judaism in the Diaspora – this, he felt, was realistic.”

May 29, 2007

The Jewish Virtual Library, an online encyclopedia, in an article titled “Religious Zionism” stated (accessed on May 29, 2007):

II. Religious Zionism

Avraham Yitzhak
Hacohen Kook

“Religious Zionism can be traced to the ‘augurers of Zion’ (Mevasrei Zion, precursors of Hibbat Zion), including Rabbis Yehudah Alkalai, Zvi Kalischer, Shmuel Mohilever, and Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin. Based on a fusion of Jewish religion and nationhood, it aims to restore not only Jewish political freedom but also Jewish religion in the light of the Torah and its commandments. For Religious Zionism, Judaism based on the commandments is a sine qua non [an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient] for Jewish national life in the homeland…

In Palestine, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook [first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community in British Mandate Palestine] gave Religious Zionism his personal and spiritual endorsement, regarding settlement in the Land of Israel as the beginning of Redemption.

Religious Zionism has pledged much of its efforts and resources to constructing a national-religious education system. Hapoel Hamizrahi branched away from the main movement (1922) to focus on Orthodox rural settlement in Palestine under the slogan ‘Torah va­’Avodah’ (Torah and Labor). In 1956, the two movements, Mizrachi and Hapoel Hamizrahi, united under the umbrella of the National Religious Party, active in Israeli politics today.”

May 29, 2007