The clearest, most comprehensive (& simplest) definition of Zionism, as an ideology & as a movement that has spanned & still spans many political parties &/or organizations & has been & is still supported or opposed by many individuals, is, to my mind, this:
Zionism aims at maintaining a Jewish state in Palestine.
(Until May 14, 1948, its aim was to establish such a state.)
I derive this from the key first sentence of the “Basel Declaration”, as resolved at the First Zionist Congress, held in Basel, Switzerland (1897) [see excerpt from Wikipedia at end of post, after my 2 personal disclosures. Note: all emphases in bold type are mine.]
“Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people
a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine.”
A few days after the congress ended, Herzl wrote in his diary (September 3, 1897):
“Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly – it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”
& to clarify the different terminology we find in the Basel Declaration & in Herzl’s diary entry, I add this quotation (also from Wikipedia):
” […] when Theodor Herzl who in 1896 wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) giving birth to the modern Zionist movement, he envisioned a state based on European models, which included religious institutions under the aegis of the state. In order to avoid alienating the Ottoman Sultan, there was no explicit reference to a Jewish state by the Zionist Organisation that he founded. The phrase “national home” was intentionally used instead of “state”.
– Support for a binational state is not Zionism – because a secular, egalitarian & democratic binational state will not be a Jewish state. Even if one views oneself as a Zionist when supporting such a solution. Many who call &/or called themselves Zionists sought &/or seek to fulfill the romantic dream of Jews being able to live in Palestine (Eretz-Yisrael, Israeland) again & to build a Jewish Hebrew community there – without feeling or thinking there needed or needs to be a Jewish ethnocratic state with sovereignty over all of Palestine while half or so of its inhabitants are denied basic civil rights & held under the Zionist State’s military occupation &/or blockade, & millions of Palestinian refugees & their descendants are denied return to their homeland… & though most of them have accepted the realities established in 1948–49–67, this does not mean that they would not accept or even prefer a binational state which assured equal rights to all citizens & cultural autonomy to the two nations & languages of Palestine/Israeland today, were it not for their fears & the absence of any positive blueprint for such a state that is agreeable to significant persons from both nations….
– Zionism, if not declaredly, aims for a “Jewish” state in all of Palestine. As Ali Kazak, a former Palestinian ambassador to Australia, wrote in 2015:
‘The aims of Zionism since its creation in 1897 […] was never for coexistence, nor was it to establish a Jewish state on part of Palestine. Instead, the aim of Zionism has been to colonise all of Palestine and parts of the neighbouring Arab states, and ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people. / In his Diaries, Theodor Herzl writes that the area of the Jewish state stretches: “from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates.” / The Zionists’ acceptance of the partition of Palestine was tactical, to gain international legitimacy. David Ben-Gurion, Chairman of the World Zionist Organisation and Israel’s first Prime Minister, wrote as much in a letter sent to his son explaining his reaction to the Peel Commission Report:
“From our standpoint … How can this land become ours? The decisive question is: Does the establishment of a Jewish state [in only part of Palestine] advance or retard the conversion of this country into a Jewish country? My assumption is that a Jewish state on only part of the land is not the end but the beginning. / “We will admit into the state all the Jews we can … We shall organize an advanced defence force – a superior army which I have no doubt will be one of the best armies in the world. At that point I am confident that we would not fail in settling in the remaining parts of the country, through agreement and understanding with our Arab neighbours, or through some other means. / “We must expel Arabs and take their place … I am confident that the establishment of a Jewish state, even if it is only in a part of the country, will enable us to carry out this task …”‘
Zionism, both overtly & covertly, represents itself as representing all Jews. This is Zionism’s “big lie”, which if repeated frequently enough gets to be believed by more & more people. It is implicit in the false & arrogant claim that Israel is “the nation state of the Jewish people” (false, because a people is not a nation; the Jews of the Diaspora are all citizens of other nations, & being Jewish is not their nationality; arrogant, well, that needs no explanation). This lie is spread in every reference in the world media to Israel as “the Jewish state” — another misnomer.
Israel is not & cannot be “the Jewish state”. Israel is a Jewish state, or, more precisely a, & the, Israeli-Jewish state. It is an ethnocratic nation-state, the state of the Israeli-Jewish nation. This is a distinct nation, in which vigorous nation-building has been active since the early 20th century, producing a national entity that is different from all other Jews in the world in that it has its own language, culture, economy, government, public & social institutions, armed forces, etc etc.”
[The two pars above are quoted from a response of mine published in 2015: https://medium.com/@thepalestineproject/a-response-to-is-anti-zionism-really-anti-semitism-39b7095ef5a6#.69yxggc2o]
– Zionism is (religional/ethnic) racism. In the Jewish state, a Jew is someone born of a Jewish mother: this is thus a matter of race. & I agree with all four statements by Asa Winstanley that I quoted in this meme a couple of months ago.
I was a Zionist, from 1949 when I was 13 until 1967 when I was 31. & thanks to Zionism I “ascended” to “Israel” in 1959, where I met my wife of now 53 years (she was born in Tel Aviv before there was a State of Israel, to parents who had come to Palestine from Poland/Ukraine because they were Zionists), & we raised our three sons there, & we lived there (though with some years in other countries) until 2001. So that personally, like many other Jews & perhaps more than a few non-Jews, I have much to be grateful to Zionism for. Yet I cannot silence within me – & I also feel I need to share – how I see what Zionism is & does, & my view that only the abolition of Zionist rule in Palestine can bring justice & peace to this tragically tortured country & its tormented & tormenting inhabitants.
What triggered this post was a question I was asked by Sol Salbe, who indefatigably continues posting on Facebook (among other interesting items) significant analyses of the situation in & related to Palestine/Israeland, in English translations & sometimes Hebrew updates. Two days ago I shared on Facebook an article from the English Haaretz, with an intro that prompted his question:
Sol asked: Out of curiosity Richard, do you have a definition of Zionism?
& another Facebook friend, Tom Pessah, commented: R. Binyamin defined himself as a Zionist.
I replied: Good question, Sol. I’ll have to get back to you on that one. & to Tom’s comment too.
So yes, I do have a definition of Zionism. & some corollaries (there’s more, nut these will have to do for now) – & this post… (Sol added in another comment that I don’t have to answer, & I accept that for him I don’t – but I had to, for me…)
The First Zionist Congress
The First Zionist Congress (Hebrew: הקונגרס הציוני הראשון) was the inaugural congress of the Zionist Organization (ZO) (to become the World Zionist Organization (WZO) in 1960) held in Basel (Basle), Switzerland, from August 29 to August 31, 1897. It was convened and chaired by Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionism movement. The Congress formulated a Zionist platform, known as the Basel program, and founded the Zionist Organization. It also adopted the Hatikvah as its anthem (already the anthem of Hovevei Zion and later to become the national anthem of the State of Israel). (Wikipedia)