By Day Ulrich

Zionism is a concept first coined by Nathan Birnbaum in 1890 to describe the movement that would return the Jewish people to their motherland in Israel and restore their rule there. The movement has evolved extensively over the years to include several other points both spiritual and political, which would bring about the restoration and protection of the Jewish people and ending the continuing and widespread anti-Semitic discrimination. This evolution has also created rifts within the Jewish communities due to differences in the belief of how this goal is to be attained, these variations in belief resulted in the fracturing of the movement into four separate philosophies; the fractured movement includes, Political Zionism, Religious Zionism, Socialist Zionism, and Territorial Zionism. (Several smaller factions also exist, considered sub factions of the primary four; we will not be covering these factions). Where each faction represents different spiritual idealizations and methods by which to achieve these goals, they all still share the same root desire, the attainment or reclamation of Israel for the Jewish people.

Political Zionism first branched out away from Zionism in 1896, when Theodore Herzl authored the book The Jewish State. His book was published only six years after Birnbaum first named the idea that had long lived within the Jewish community. In his program Herzl expressed his ideology regarding the establishment and political formation of ‘Zion’. He also explained his idea of what the state would look like politically once formed. His idealization that the state would be a type of republic was based on the older traditions of the Jewish people that dictated the vote of the males of the religion to elect the leaders and thusly gained a great deal of support and the that the laws would be strongly based within the laws of the Jewish faith. Even though this original book did not express the location of Zion it did lay the framework for the coming movement and ultimately Jerusalem.

Herzl’s next book Altneuland “Old New Land”, expounded on the basic principal of all Zionism that the Jewish people could and should obtain their motherland of Israel through legal means and set up a political system that would include a military force. This government and military force would protect and shield the people from the persecution that they had suffered throughout history and maintain their control and border. This new state, in Herzl’s view, would end anti-semitic activities and prejudices across the world, giving the Jewish people a land of peace, prosperity, and cultural identity, much like China had done with the building of the Great Wall and the Ming Dynasty’s installation and rejuvenation of traditional Chinese culture. Many believe that the history of China’s Cultural Revolution was very likely one of the inspirations for the original movement of Zionism (Clay).

Herzl seems to have left out or simply forgotten the other religions and cultures already occupying Israel, the Muslims and the Christians, who had cohabitated for over five hundred years with the Jewish people in their motherland. Perhaps feeling that the conquering of Israel by the Ottoman Empire in 1517, who had proceeded a mass genocide and exile of all Jewish people, had been so very long ago that the current inhabitants felt that it truly was their native land. Either way, this disregard for the current habitation of Israel that Herzl seems to have had; overlooked the massive war and even genocide, that would be required for his program and idealizations to truly be possible. At the time of his publication of Altneuland, many others immediately saw the possibilities and implications of such an action and spoke out against it, causing unrest in Austria, the country of Herzl, as well as anti-Semitic activities in other western European nations and throughout the Middle-east. (Cohen) People viewed the movement as a radical form of racism that would destroy the culture of Israel and began rallies and protests against it, where supports made similar displays that gave speeches and expounded on the solid principles and potential that the Jewish community had of success in maneuvering into a political power position to achieve such a cause. The general populations of the world had driven out many Jews into other more tolerant nations and viewed them as an inferior race or religious scourge; the movement heightened this sense that they were separate both culturally and religiously from the rest of the world’s populations and set the stage for greater discrimination and could even be said that it contributed to the mass genocide of World War II.

In 1940, Theodore Kaufman wrote Germany Must Perish, a controversial, self-published work that outlined how and why the German people were the main antagonists against the Jews and why the Zionist Movement and ideal was an imperative for the world and the Jewish people. Where we find later that the war actually started long before its release people still hold on to the belief that the Nazi’s propagated, we can still date the killings in the concentration camps, to just after the release of the pamphlet. Aside from the dates of the pamphlet and the start of the Holocaust not correlating, we also see a reference within the work that shows dated publications by German doctors doing experiments on mentally and physically disabled Jews, which were used to support the claims of the Zionist that they were annihilating the Jewish people and that they must have their own land. Hitler did in fact use this particular pamphlet to encourage anti-Semitic feelings by expounding the racism contained within the work. (Kaufman) This pamphlet would go on to further demonize the already extremely controversial Zionist Movement.

Since the conception of the Zionist Movement it has been attacked on many fronts, especially where it concerns the possibility or probability of racism. The United Nations General Assembly met four times between 1953 and 1975 to discuss and pass resolutions specifically against Zionism. These resolutions determined that Zionism as a whole was wrong, citing that “any doctrine of racial differentiation or superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous”. (U.N. Thirtieth Session, Agenda 38) These views would be shared worldwide, however, prior to this new establishment; much of the major powers of the western world were sympathetic and supportive of the Zionist movement, especially Britain who would intervene on the behalf of the National Congress of Zionism, multiple times with what was called “The White Papers”.

The first true governmental support of the Political Zionist movement came in 1917 at the height of World War I when an outcry came out of the National Congress of Zionism due to the massive amount of Jewish deaths and persecutions, where they were driven out of their homes and lands or killed throughout Europe and into Russia. ‘The Avalon Project: Balfour’s Declaration’ would start the beginning of a real foothold for the Political Zionist Movement, when the British government would first give open and full support to their cause. Years of negotiations and the end of World War I would create the ‘British White Paper of 1922’ (Yale) where Palestine would be cut, essentially in half, to provide a location for the Jewish people to relocate, the first signs of their ‘Zion’. However, the Jewish people were greatly limited on their immigration, employment, and property rights and the Zionist Movement fought for a greater addition to their given lands.

In 1930 the ‘Passfield’ White Paper was negotiated, changing the original White Paper of 1922 due to massive riots in Palestine in 1929. This White Paper, also called the ‘British Mandate of Palestine’ would limit the immigration, employment, and the purchasing of land by the Jews so extremely that it made it nearly impossible for new Jewish people to immigrate. Jews who owned land would be able to buy more land with permission, however, Jews who did not own land, would no longer be able to purchase the land, due to claims that there was not enough cultivable land in which they could settle. Where many called this revision of the original White Paper fair, others ‘viewed the tone and limitations to be decidedly anti-Semitic.’ (Jewish Library)

In 1936 the Arab Riots broke out in Palestine in protest to the active British Mandate of Palestine, the riots were ended by martial law imposed by Britain that took the lives of countless Arabs and Jews alike. These riots resulted in the International Congress calling a meeting between Arabic, Jewish, and neighboring countries, delegations, in 1939. The result of this meeting of countries was the Macdonald White Paper of 1939. This mandate would for the final time, revise the original Palestine Mandate to embodied all of the previous mandates as well as voiding the parts of them that they felt would no longer apply or were unrealistic either to enforce, or to the peaceful cohabitation of Palestine by all parties. This final mandate included a constitution as well as many modifications to the number of immigrants, amount of land, and access to holy sites. Much of the Zionist rebelled against this mandate and felt that the Jewish people had been greatly injured by the changes to the laws. This feeling of oppression in their gains, caused many Jewish Political Zionists to rebel, leading to a large contingent of Jewish forces and peoples invading Palestine in large numbers during World War II. This disregard of the ‘White Papers’ caused upheaval and war in Palestine and lead to further deaths of innocent Jews who were fleeing the rest of European persecution and the Nazi forces.

World War II change the view and face of the world in a great many ways, one of the most notable, besides the geographic reallocation of political land, was the creation of the United Nations on October 24th, 1945. The United Nations was a hard blow to the Political Zionist Movement, especially with the new found sensitivity to racial and cultural prejudices and racism. The mass genocides perpetrated during World War I and World War II had changed the perception of the major western powers. Where once Britain and America were staunch supporters of the Political Zionist Movement, they withdrew their support in the wake of the devastation of the Nazi doctrine. This change in perspective of the world led to the United Nations National Assembly denouncing Zionism as a whole, as it continues to be denounced today. When the State of Israel was first recognized on May 14th, 1948 the Political Zion movement became encouraged even more to fight for the right to ‘own’ Israel for the Jewish people. The war for Israel continues to rage today. Though 62 years later, the Israeli Palestinian debate still rages in the politics of countries across the world, especially the United States.

Zionism has an extensive history, existing long before the idea was given a name in 1896 by Birnbaum, it lived as a hope among the Jewish populations, even a religious belief mentioned in both the Hebrew Bible (Torah) and the Christian Bible, that the ‘chosen people’ (the Jewish people), would return to Zion (Jerusalem). “From the day Jerusalem was destroyed, God has no joy, until He rebuilds Jerusalem and returns Israel to it.” The Muslims, sharing the root religion of Judaism also view Jerusalem as the Holy City, and thusly maintain that they are also the chosen people and therefore ‘Zion’ is there for them also. Countless numbers of people have died in the name of the reclamation of Zion and the Political Zionist Movement and more will die until a resolution is found. Whether a person chooses to believe in or support the Political Zionist Movement is irrelevant, but all should come to realize that it has not died, and will not die, but continues to live on in the hearts of those who have been persecuted so harshly for their beliefs. A political settlement establishing a final resolution of where and what Zion is, without the exclusion of the inhabiting people of other faiths or races, and without bloodshed, is the only thing that can and will end this movement and create peace between the Palestinians and the Israelites.



Clay, Robert T. “Political Zionism.” The Atlantic Monthly February 1921: 268-284. Periodical. <;.

Cohen, Israel. Theodore Herzl Founder of Political Zionism: Journals in Translation. Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 58-9743. New York: American Book-Stratford Press, Inc, 1959. Book. <;.
Herzl, Theodore. Altneuland (Old New Land). Austria, 1902. Book.

—. The Jewish State. Austria, 1896. Book/Program. <;.

Kaufman, Theodore. Germany Must Perish! 1940. Book. <;.

Library, Jewish Virtual. The Passfield White Paper. 2014. Web. 29 September 2015. <;.

U.N. Thirtieth Session, Agenda 38. No. Resolution 1904 (XVIII). United Nations General Assembly. 20 November 1963. Document, Public Record. <;.

Yale, Goldman Law Library:. The British White Paper of 1922. Yale, 1995. Internet Library. <;. Electronic Copy of Balfour’s Declaration Electronic Copy of the Passfield White Paper Electronic Copy of the British Mandate of Palestine