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Zionism definition - Zionism Defined

Zionism definition by Zionism On The Web and other sources. Zionism defined as what Zionism is and what Zionism is not.

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These definitions of Zionism are put together to help students doing research and wanting useful references. If you are after a wider discussion on Zionism please see the short intro to Zionism, the Zionism articles collection and the forum section on Zionism. Christian Zionism is defined seperatly. If you have seen propoganda describing Zionism as Racism or Apartheid, please read both this page and our explanations on these topics. You may also find this article on Anti-Zionism is Racism useful.

What is Zionism?

Zionism is a political movement that includes many shades of opinion. Different factions of the Zionist movement and different commentators have offered different definitions of Zionism that suit their purposes and outlook. Not all of them are historically or ideologically accurate as generalizations. This page discussed a few definitions of Zionism and what Zionism is not. In short though, Zionism is the movement for self determination for the Jewish people, i.e. it is a liberation movement for a Jewish homeland in Israel. The page Zionism in brief provides more detail on what this means.

"Zionism" can be used in a number of ways:

1. Zionism as ideology - Zionist ideology holds that the Jews are a people or nation like any other, and should gather together in a single homeland. Zionism was self-consciously the Jewish analogue of Italian and German national liberation movements of the nineteenth century. The term "Zionism" was apparently coined in 1891 by the Austrian publicist Nathan Birnbaum, to describe the new ideology, but it was used retroactively to describe earlier efforts and ideas to return the Jews to their homeland for whatever reasons, and it is also applied (as Christian Zionism) to Evangelical Christians who want people of the Jewish religion to return to Israel in order to hasten the second coming. 

2. Zionism as a descriptive term -  As mentioned above, the term "Zionism" was apparently coined in 1891 by the Austrian publicist Nathan Birnbaum, to describe the new ideology.  Zionism was however also used to describe anyone who believes Jews should return to their ancient homeland.

3. Zionism as a political movement - The Zionist movement was founded by Theodore Herzl in 1897, incorporating the ideas of early thinkers as well as the organization built by Hovevei Tziyon ("lovers of Zion"). 

An accurate definition of Zionism - Here is a definition of the ideology that is historically correct and does not exclude any Zionist group or make Zionism the "property" of a particular political faction:

Zionism is the national revival movement of the Jews. It holds that the Jews are a people and therefore have the right to self-determination in their own national home. It aims to secure and support a legally recognized national home for the Jews in their historical homeland, and to initiate and stimulate a revival of Jewish national life, culture and language. 

Our document Zionism in brief gives further clarification on this and addresses the issue of Zionism and Palestinian Nationalism.

What isn't Zionism?

Not everything that the Zionist movement accomplished, or that Zionists do or say, is a necessary part of Zionism

Zionism is not just about a state - Zionism was not, historically, officially a movement to create a "Jewish State." The first Zionist congress in Basle, Switzerland, in 1897  resolved:

Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.

Zionists therefore sought charters from governments to establish a national home under their protection. The objectives of the Basle Program were thought by many  to have been realized with the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the Mandate for Palestine granted to the British in 1922. However, the British eventually reneged on their mandate obligation to support a Jewish homeland. In 1942 the Biltmore Conference resolved to adopt the goal of creating a Jewish state in Palestine, in opposition to British policy. In a sense, this was not the original goal of Zionism, but a departure from it forced by circumstances.

Zionism is bot just about religion - There are many religious Zionists, and early proponents of return to Zion in the 19th century were rabbis. However, the founders of the Zionist movement were not religious and the Zionist movement is not about religion or return to a "promised land."

Zionism is not about borders - Zionism was never about borders. Some Zionist programs envisioned a Jewish homeland outside of Palestine, some Zionists envisioned a bi-national state (the Mapam party) , while others ("Revisionists") insisted that the Jewish state must be established on both sides of the Jordan river, in the full territory of the British Mandate.

Zionis is not about taking from others or excluding others - Though the history of Zionism quickly became entangled with Arab nationalist aspirations, Zionism was not about taking land from others or excluding others. The Zionist "colonial" project aimed to buy land in Palestine, not to conquer it by force.

Zionism is not about militarism - Though the history of Israel and Jewish settlement in Palestine often seems like one long war with interruptions, not all Zionists were militarists. Most Zionists believed that their cause would triumph by moral force alone. An early Zionist argued:

We shall never possess cannons, even if the goyim shall bear arms against one another for ever. Therefore, we cannot but settle in our land fairly and justly, to live and let live. "
(Meir Dizengoff (writing as "Dromi") "The Workers Question," Hatzvi, September 21, 22, 1909)

Are You a Zionist?

Every Jew  has to decide for themselves if they are a Zionist. If you believe that the Jews are a people, and support the right of the Jews to a national home, and you are willing to stand up for that right when it is challenged, then you can call yourself a Zionist, whether or not you belong to any organized Zionist group or accept any "official" definition of Zionism, and whether or not you live in Israel or plan to live in Israel.

Definitions of Zionism on the Web

Here are some links to definitions of Zionism on the Web, compiled from Google and other sources. We are not responsible for the ideological content or historical or linguistic accuracy of these definitions. 

Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, brought about the establishment of the State of Israel, and views a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and secure State of Israel to be the expression of the common responsibility of the Jewish people for its continuity and future.

The foundations of Zionism are:

1. The unity of the Jewish people, its bond to its historic homeland Eretz Yisrael, and the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital, in the life of the nation;

2. Aliyah to Israel from all countries and the effective integration of all immigrants into Israeli Society.

3. Strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state and shaping it as an exemplary society with a unique moral and spiritual character, marked by mutual respect for the multi-faceted Jewish people, rooted in the vision of the prophets, striving for peace and contributing to the betterment of the world.

4. Ensuring the future and the distinctiveness of the Jewish people by furthering Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education, fostering spiritual and cultural values and teaching Hebrew as the national language;

5. Nurturing mutual Jewish responsibility, defending the rights of Jews as individuals and as a nation, representing the national Zionist interests of the Jewish people, and struggling against all manifestations of anti-Semitism;

6. Settling the country as an expression of practical Zionism.



"The 28th Zionist Congress, meeting in Jerusalem 1968, adopted the five points of the "Jerusalem Program" as the aims of Zionism today. They are:

1. The unity of the Jewish People and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life;

2. The ingathering of the Jewish People in its historic homeland, Eretz Israel, through Aliyah from all countries;

3. The strengthening of the State of Israel which is based on the prophetic vision of justice and peace:

4. The preservation of the identity of the Jewish People through the fostering of Jewish and Hebrew education and of Jewish spiritual and cultural values;

5. The protection of Jewish rights everywhere."



"Every people has the right to live in freedom and develop its own culture, language and society. Jews are people like any other people. The Jewish people is a people like any other. We,  the Jewish people, have the right to self-determination in our own national home, where we can speak our own language and develop our own culture. Those are the basic ideas of Zionism.

Political and cultural movement calling for the return of the Jewish people to their Biblical home.

Movement of Jewish national revival calling for the return of the Jewish people to Palestine and the establishment of a nation-state there.

The doctrine that the Jews are a nation without a country and should have a country of their own in Israel/Palestine. The Zionist movement was founded as an official organization by Theodore Herzl in Basle in 1897.

There are many "Zionisms"-religious, political, and cultural-all of which have in common the desire to see Jews from around the world settled permanently in a homeland in Palestine, the historical land of Israel. Religious Zionists believe that the gathering together of world Jewry into the land of Israel will fulfill biblical prophecy and bring on the millennium. Political Zionists seeks to build a nation state for the Jewish people, and cultural Zionists seek to strengthen Jewish cultural identity within their historic homeland. Jews who are not Zionists either oppose the existence of the Jewish state for religious reasons

Movement founded by the Viennese Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl, who argued in his 1896 book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) that the best way of avoiding anti-Semitism in Europe was to create an independent Jewish state in Palestine. Zionism was named after Mount Zion in Jerusalem, a symbol of the Jewish homeland in Palestine since the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BC. The movement culminated in the birth of the state of Israel in 1948.

The movement to establish and maintain a Jewish homeland.

"Zionism is the Jewish national movement of rebirth and renewal in the land of Israel - the historical birthplace of the Jewish people." http://www.adl.org/durban/zionism.asp

Belief in the centrality of Israel in Jewish historical & religious experience.
http://www.jajz-ed.org.il/100//  www.jafi.org.il/education/hasbara/glossary.html

The movement that arose at the end of the 19th century with the aim of establishing a homeland for Jews in (then) Palestine.

The national liberation movement of the Jewish people, which holds that Jews are entitled to a homeland in the Land of Israel. Theodore Herzl, the "father of modern Zionism," formally organized the Zionist movement in 1897.

Philosophy of Theodor Herzl, late nineteenth-century German Jewish author of Der Judenstaat (1896). Herzl theorized that growing hatred of Jews in Europe and the slow assimilation of Jewish culture into wider European culture could only be stopped by the establishment of a Jewish homeland.

Jewish ideology that has focused on establishing a homeland. The name is derived from the hill Zion, on which the Temple of Jerusalem was situated.
http://i-cias.com/cgi-bin/eo-direct.pl?zionism.htm  www.libraryreference.org/index.php

The movement to restore the Jewish people to a sovereign homeland of their own.

...a political movement, founded in the late nineteenth century by Theodor Herzl, aimed at fostering Jewish identity and nationalism. Its eventual goal was to found a Jewish homeland state in Palestine. Many Jews in Nazi Germany identified with the movement. Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the world Zionist movement has led the effort to support it financially and morally, and encourages Jews to emigrate there.

[A] modern political movement for reconstituting a Jewish national state in Palestine.

Mount Zion is an ancient Hebrew designation for Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). In Biblical times it began to symbolize the national homeland. The goal of Zionism is the political and spiritual renewal of the Hebrew-Israelite people in their ancestral homeland.

Jewish nationalist movement to establish a homeland in Palestine. This movement began in the late 1800s, as anti-Semitic feelings intensified in Europe. The main leader of this movement was a journalist by the name of Theodor Herzl. Herzl's dream of a homeland for Jewish peoples was realized in 1948 with the creation of Israel.

Political movement securing the Jewish return to the land of Israel.

Idea to establish an autonomous Jewish home in Palestine. In modern times it was resurrected by Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl (1860-1904). The Balfour Declaration of 1917 promised the British would hand over Palestine to the Jews. At the time many Jews viewed Palestine as their spiritual home only, but Hitler's prosecution changed their minds and the modern state of Israel came into being in 1948. In 1942 Zionist leaders met in New York (at the Biltmore Hotel) and demanded a Jewish Democratic Commonwealth as part of the new world order after the war - this became the Biltmore Programme.

The movement that has encouraged the creation and support of the nation of Israel.

Here is the dictionary definition for Zionism from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition: A Jewish movement that arose in the late 19th century in response to growing anti-Semitism and sought to reestablish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Modern Zionism is concerned with the support and development of the state of Israel. Put simply, Zionism is the right of the Jewish state of Israel to exist within defined and defended borders, and the right to provide security for its citizens.

Jewish nationalist movement advocating the migration of Jews from all over the world to Palestine; was instrumental in establishing the Jewish state of Israel on May 14, 1948.

[T]he political movement of support for the modern State of Israel, especially that based on the religious belief that Palestine was the Promised Land which God gave to the ancient Israelites and therefore which ought now to belong to the Jewish people by divine right.

...movement originating in Eastern Europe during the 1860s and 1870s that argued that the Jews must return to a Middle Eastern Holy Land; eventually identified with the settlement of Palestine. (p. 973)

...a policy for establishing and developing a national homeland for Jews in Palestine 

a movement of world Jewry that arose late in the 19th century with the aim of creating a Jewish state in Palestine

Zionism is a political movement among Jews (although supported by some non-Jews) which maintains that the Jewish people constitute a nation and are entitled to a national homeland. Formally founded in 1897, Zionism embraced a variety of opinions in its early years on where that homeland might be established. From 1917 it focused on the establishment of a Jewish national homeland or state in Palestine, the location of the ancient Kingdom of Israel.

Please join our Forum where you can offer suggestions, provide new materials and debate the issues.

Zionism On The Web Directory

Learn more about this site at our Zionism Main page. Comment and add your thoughts to our Zionism and Israel discussion forums. See our Resource Centers on the British Academic Boycott of Israel, and the Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism Resource Center, and the special section on the Palestinian state. Learn more from our articles on Zionism in the commentary collection. Extend your learning through out links about Zionism or at our Zionism links directory.

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A report on three days at UC Irvine as a witness to hate speech and gross misrepresentations of Jews, Israeli's Americans and Zionists

Rachel Corrie, Rachel Thaler and many other Rachels besides 

Comparison of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict with Apartheid South Africa Shimon Zachary Klein
These days it is becoming very popular to compare the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict with apartheid South Africa prior to 1994. This article explains both situations and perverseness of such a comparison.

The myth of international law Gerald M Steinberg The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 15, 2005
Has international law has become another weapon in political warfare, without any moral authority?

Muslim antisemitism and anti-Zionism explained Denis MacEoin provides a history of Muslim attitudes to Jews and the background to Islamic antisemitism and anti-Zionism, a ZOTW feature

Irene Lancaster is alarmed by the anti-Semitism that she finds in the Church of England Irene Lancaster, the Church Times, August 19th,2005

Academic Freedom and the AUT Boycott Campaign: Examining the Lessons Prof Gerald Steinberg, National Postgraduate Committee (UK) Annual Conference, August 12 2005

Why I am A Zionist Gil Troy The Montreal Gazette, 26 April 2001

Anti-Zionism is Racism Judea Pearl, The New York Jewish Week,  2005

Israel Zionism and the Church Prof Paul C Merkely , the campaign of the Churches is against Israel's very right to exist

Zionism is not a 'settler-colonial undertaking' David Hoffman , Mail & Guardian (South Africa), 28 June 2005

A forum explanation of Zionism Transc3ndent , an Israeli corrects the misconceptions in a forum

Do not treat Israel like apartheid South Africa Ian Buruma, The Guardian, July 23, 2002

Reclaiming Zionism's Good Name and Proud History: A Challenge for the Jewish Intelligencia  Gil Troy Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Online Digest - 11.2.03

Self-critical without self-loathing  Gil Troy The Canadian Jewish News Internet Edition - August 27, 2003

Language as a tool against Jews and Israel  Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, February 1, 2004

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Urban Kibbutz - Socialist-Zionist Pioneering in Israeli Cities Spring 2005

External links on Israel and Zionism

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Recommended sources on Zionism

On the subject of Zionism we recommend the following sites:

Wikipedia article about Zionism - A comprehensive article including the history of Zionism as well as links to specific topics and articles about anti-Zionism.
Zionism - Table of contents at the Jewish Virtual Library
Zionism article at Infoplease
Zionism - Definition and Brief History - A balanced article that covers the definitions and history of Zionism as well as opposition to Zionism and criticisms by Arabs,  Jewish anti-Zionists.
Zionation - Progressive Zionism and Israel Web Log A community blog updated regularly
Labor Zionism - Early History and Critique - Contribution of Labor Zionism to the creation of the Jewish state, and problems of Labor Zionism in a changing reality.
Essential Texts of Zionism
Jewish Agency Zionism pages - Links to basic information about Zionism from the Jewish Agency
Ambassador Herzog explains Zionism in the UN

US Library of congress on Zionism
The US Library of congress has a comprehensive and balanced set of articles about Zionism:
Zionist Precursors - US Library of Congress
Political Zionism - US Library of Congress
Cultural Zionism - US Library of Congress
Labor Zionism - US Library of Congress
Revisionist Zionism - US Library of Congress

Zionism advocacy sites
Active Zionism - A Zionist advocacy site with many useful links
Realistic Religious Zionism - moderate religious Zionist Web site
Zionism- 100 Years - Selected Materials - Israel Ministry of Information

Recommended sources on Israel

Israel is a small, high tech, democratic country in the Middle East. It's capital Jerusalem is central to Judaism and highly important to Christianity and Islam. We recommend the following sites:

Wikipedia article about Israel - A comprehensive article including the history of Israel
Israel - Table of contents at the Jewish Virtual Library

US Library of congress & CIA World Fact Book on Israel
Main article on Israel - US Library of Congress
The Israeli Parliment (the Knesset) - US Library of Congress
Government and Politics of Israel - US Library of Congress
World Facts: Israel

Israel today - beyond the conflict

Virtual Jerusalem
Israel21C - A focus beyond the conflict
Beyond Images

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