Modern Zionism

The textbook defines Zionism as “a nationalist ideology that advocates the creation of a secure Jewish homeland in Palestine for the worldwide community of Jews in fulfillment of their historical and religious associations with the region.”[1]  While this definition is definitive and highlights the ideals that encompass modern Zionism, the definition that resonated more completely with me was the one found in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel from May 14, 1948.  This direct quote states that “(Israel) was the birthplace of the Jewish people.  Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped…After being forcibly exiled from their land, (the people) never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.  By virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”[2]  Nationalist Zionism was born in a turbulent period of Persecution and was viewed in light of the historic persecution of Jews throughout Europe, and was a secular more than a religious ideology related to nationalism and the right to an independent Jewish state.  Although Zionism was not solely linked to Palestine, as WWI came to a close, more and more prominent European Zionists pushed for an Independent Jewish state within the borders of their religious and historic homeland.

It’s simple to see why this posed a problem that related to Arabs which were comprised of both Muslims and Jews, not only in Palestine but in the surrounding countries as well.    Although the Jews ruled and controlled Palestine from 850-725 BCE (and then again from 140-63 BCE), they lost control of Palestine through captivity to the Babylonians and then were subjugated to Roman and Byzantine rule until 638.[3]  From 638 onward to the collapse of the Ottoman empire at the end of WWI, Arabs (primarily Muslims) had controlled Palestine, with brief periods of Crusader rule over parts of it.  Establishing an independent nation state in Palestine for the Jews would mean the displacement or necessary inequality of the Arabs who had called Palestine home for thousands of years.  Although Zionism took many different forms, the Labor Party’s idea of Zionism meant the labor to be completed in Palestine in Jewish communities should be completed solely by Jewish workers, which would result in the construction “of a Jewish state where Arabs had no political rights and were excluded from Jewish economy.”[4]  Since the aim for Jewish immigration were wealthy or, at the very least, middle class European Jewry, the influx of cash into Jewish settlements was pronounced at a time when the Arab economy was struggling.  To be excluded from the benefits of Jewish immigration economically and to be excluded from governmental decision making policies that would affect the entire pre-existing Arab population clearly caused tension with Palestinians both Muslim and Christian alike.



[1] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 9th Edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017): 563.

[2] “Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel,” May 14, 1948, quoted in Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 9th edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017): 215-216.

[3] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 598.

[4] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 115.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s