A political movement founded in the nineteenth
century that postulated the national rebirth of the Jewish nation and
creation of a Jewish state.
The development of Zionism can be divided into two stages: the
first, early Zionist or pre-Herzl period, from the 1860's to 1896
(Khibat Tsiyon, conference in Katowice), and a second phase, "political
T. Herzl was political Zionism's founder and theoretician. In 1896,
in his book The Jewish State (Polish edition, 1917, Panstwo zydowskie),
he presented the idea of creating a Jewish national state, outlining the
methods and means by which this could be achieved. In 1897, at the
First Zionist congress in Basel, the World Zionist Organization (WZO)
was founded, which was involved in organizing emigration to Palestine
and defined the movement's main activities and basic aims, declaring
that "Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in
Eretz-Israel secured under public law." In 1901, at the next congress in
Basel, the Keren Kajymet Le-Israel was established, which was a fund
for the purchase of land in Palestine.
From its very inception, Zionism had several
ideological and political currents, which differed in terms of their
goals and methods. Cultural Zionism, whose founder and ideologist was
Akhad Ha-Am, emphasized the need to rebuild the consciousness of the
Jewish diaspora and focused less on practical political activities.
Before the First World War, a religious faction formed (Mizrachi), as
did leftist (Poalei Zion) and liberal factions (Zionist Organization in
Poland). The idea of creating a Jewish state somewhere other than
Palestine was also raised. Those who supported this idea were called
During the interwar period, other Zionist parties were founded,
including He-khaluts, Hitakhdut and the New Zionist Organization (Nowa
Organizacja Syjonistyczna) (organized by revisionists). Many Jews
opposed the Zionist movement. Diaspora nationalism, represented by the
Bund and the Yidishe Folks-Partay, was very much against Zionism.
Orthodox Jews and Chasidim (Agudas Isroel) were opposed to Zionism for
religious reasons, seeing it as a heresy and denial of Messianism.
Advocates of assimilation saw Zionism as a pipe dream.
A watershed was the Balfour Declaration, which pledged Great
Britain's support for the idea of building a Jewish national state.
After it was proclaimed, the movement gained many supporters. When Great
Britain was granted the Palestinian Mandate in 1920, first WZO and then
the Jewish Agency launched a colonization program.
The founding of the state of Israel in 1948
meant Zionism's main aim had been achieved. As a result, its goals were
modified, and its main task became to protect the young state and
strengthen its position in the world. The immigration program continued
to be fostered and organized. A bill passed by the Knesset in 1950
guaranteed Israeli citizenship for each Jewish new arrival. Zionist
parties supported efforts to help immigrants adjust and to equalize the
cultural differences among Jews who had arrived from a wide range of
Zionism focused on internal problems and the political division into
right and left grew more important. As a result, three blocs emerged:
the Marxist faction, Mapam (the Hebrew abbreviation of Mifleget
Ha-poalim Ha-meukhedet, United Workers' Party), the social-democratic
Mapai (the Hebrew abbreviation of Mifleget Poaley Erets Israel, Israeli
Workers' Party, popularly known as the Labor Party) and the rightist
Likud [Hebrew, Unification], uniting former revisionists and general
Zionists. They play a fundamental role in Israel's political life,
though there are many other small, non-Zionist parties, including
religious and Palestinian parties.