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Aliyah to Israel and settlement
A rectangular flag, white background, blue bands close to the top and bottom, with a blue star of David in the middle. The flag is on a flagpole, with blue sky and sea in the background.

Pre-Zionist Aliyah
The Return to Zion • The Old Yishuv
Prior to the founding of Israel
First Aliyah • Second Aliyah • During WWI • Third Aliyah • Fourth Aliyah • Fifth Aliyah • During and after WWII • Berihah
After the founding of Israel
Operation Magic Carpet • Operation Ezra and Nehemiah • Jewish exodus from Arab lands • Polish aliyah in 1968 • Aliyah from the Soviet Union in the 1970s • Aliyah from Ethiopia • Aliyah from the Commonwealth of Independent States in the 1990s • Aliyah from Latin America in the 2000s
Judaism • Zionism • Law of Return • Jewish homeland • Yerida • Galut • Jewish Messianism
Persons and organizations
Theodor Herzl • World Zionist Organization • Knesset • Nefesh B'Nefesh • El Al
Related topics
Jewish history • Jewish diaspora  • History of the Jews in the Land of Israel  • Yishuv  • History of Zionism  • History of Israel  • Israeli Jews  • Anti-Zionism  • Revival of Hebrew language  • Religious Zionism  • Haredim and Zionism  • Anti-Zionism

The Zionist movement was created by Theodor Herzl in 1897, however the history of Zionism can be seen as beginning earlier and related to Judaism and Jewish history.

Before the Holocaust the movement's central aims were the creation of a Jewish National Home and cultural centre in Palestine by facilitating Jewish migration. After the Holocaust, the movement focussed on creation of a "Jewish state" (usually defined as a secular state with a Jewish majority), attaining its goal in 1948 with the creation of Israel.

Since the creation of Israel, the importance of the movement has declined as the Israeli state has grown stronger.

The Zionist movement continues to exist, working to support Israel, assist persecuted Jews and encourage Jewish emigration to Israel. While most Israeli political parties continue to define themselves as Zionist, modern Israeli political thought is no longer formulated within the Zionist movement.

The success of Zionism has meant that the percentage of the world's Jewish population who live in Israel has steadily grown over the years and today 40% of the world's Jews live in Israel. There is no other example in human history of a "nation" being restored after such a long period of existence as a Diaspora.


Background: The historic and religious origins of Zionism

Biblical precedents

The precedence for Jews to return to their ancestral homeland, motivated by strong divine intervention, first appears within Judaism in the Torah, and thus later adopted in the Christian Old Testament. After Jacob and his sons had gone down to Egypt to escape a drought, they were enslaved and became a nation. Later, as commanded by God, Moses went before Pharaoh, demanded, "Let my people go!", and foretold severe consequences, if this was not done. Most of the Torah is devoted to the story of the plagues and the Exodus from Egypt, which is estimated at about 1400 BCE. These are celebrated annually during Passover, and the Passover meal traditionally ends with the words "Next Year in Jerusalem."

The theme of return to their traditional homeland came up again after the Babylonians conquered Judea in 641 BCE and the Judeans were exiled to Babylon. In the book of Psalms (Psalm 137), Jews lamented their exile while Prophets like Ezekiel foresaw their return. The Bible recounts how, in 538 BCE Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon and issued a proclamation granting the people of Judah their freedom. 50,000 Judeans, led by Zerubbabel returned. A second group of 5000, led by Ezra and Nehemiah, returned to Judea in 456 BCE.

The Jewish presence in Israel

During the Hellenistic Age many Jews left Judea to live in other parts of the Mediterranean Basin.[1]

The third great Jewish exile is considered to have begun after the destruction of Judea by the Roman Empire in the year 70 (after the Great Jewish Revolt). A second Jewish revolt against the Romans, the Bar Kokhba revolt of 135, led to further dispersal of Jews to other parts of the Empire.[2]

A Jewish presence in the Land of Israel was maintained even after the Bar Kokhba revolt, and there is evidence of vibrant communities in the first millennium. For example, the Jerusalem Talmud was created in the centuries following the revolt. The inventors of Hebrew vowel-signs, the Masoretes (ba'alei hamasorah, Hebrew בעלי המסורה), groups of scribes in 7th and 11th centuries were based primarily in Tiberias and Jerusalem.

The Crusades were devastating for the Jewish presence in Israel [3]. The Crusaders massacred Jews, both on their path across Europe and in the Holy Land.[4] Palestine was later ruled by the Mamluks and Ottomans.

In 1160 David Alroy led a Jewish uprising in Kurdistan which aimed to reconquer the promised land. In 1648 Sabbatai Zevi from modern Turkey claimed he would lead the Jews back to Israel. In 1868 Judah ben Shalom led a large movement of Yemenite Jews to Israel. A dispatch from the British Consulate in Jerusalem in 1839 reported that "the Jews of Algiers and its dependencies, are numerous in Palestine. . . ." There was also significant migration from Central Asia (Bukharan Jews).

In addition to Messianic movements, the population of the Holy Land was slowly bolstered by Jews fleeing Christian persecution especially after the Reconquista of Al-Andalus (the Muslim name of the Iberian Peninsula). Safed became an important center of Kabbalah. Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias also had significant Jewish populations.

Aliyah and the ingathering of the exiles

Among Jews in the Diaspora Eretz Israel was revered in a religious sense. They thought of a return to it in a future messianic age.[5] Return remained a recurring theme among generations, particularly in Passover and Yom Kippur prayers which traditionally concluded with, "Next year in Jerusalem", and in the thrice-daily Amidah (Standing prayer).[6]

Aliyah (immigration to Israel) has always been considered to be a praiseworthy act for Jews according to Jewish law, and is included as a commandment in most versions of the 613 commandments which Jews are supposed to strive to fulfill. From the Middle Ages and onwards, many famous rabbis (and often their followers) immigrated to the Land of Israel. These included Nahmanides, Yechiel of Paris with several hundred of his students, Joseph ben Ephraim Karo, Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and 300 of his followers, and over 500 disciples (and their families) of the Vilna Gaon known as Perushim, among others.

Persecution of the Jews

Persecution of Jews played a key role in preserving Jewish identity and keeping Jewish communities transient, it would later provide a key role in inspiring Zionists to reject European forms of identity.

Jews in Catholic states were banned from owning land and from pursuing a variety of professions. From the 13th century Jews were required to wear identifying clothes such as special hats or stars on their clothing. This form of persecution originated in tenth century Baghdad and was copied by Christian rulers. Constant expulsions and insecurity led Jews to adopt artisan professions that were easily transferable between locations (such as furniture making or tailoring).

Persecution in Spain and Portugal led large number of Jews there to convert to Christianiy, however many continued to secretly practice Jewish rituals. The Church responded by creating the Inquisition in 1478 and by expelling all remaining Jews in 1492. In 1542 the inquisition expanded to include the Papal States. Inquisitors could arbitrarily torture suspects and many victims were burnt alive.

In 1516 the state of Venice decreed that Jews would only be allowed to reside in a walled area adjacent to Venice called the Ghetto. Ghetto residents had to pay a daily poll tax and could only stay a limited amount of time. In 1555 the Pope decreed that Jews in Rome were to face similar restrictions. The requirement for Jews to live in Ghettos spread across Europe and Ghettos were frequently highly overcrowded and heavily taxed. They also provided a convenient target for mobs (pogrom). Jews were expelled from England in 1290. A ban remained in force that was only lifted when Oliver Cromwell overthrew the Catholic monarchy in 1649 (see Resettlement of the Jews in England).

Persecution of Jews began to end following Napoleon's conquest of Europe after the French Revolution although the short lived Nazi Empire resurrected most practices. In 1965 the Catholic Church formally ended the doctrine of holding Jews collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.

Pre-Zionist Initiatives 1799–1897

The Enlightenment and the Jews

HaYishuv haYashan
A sepia photograph shows three elderly Jewish men sporting beards and holding open books, posing for the camera. Against a backdrop of leafy vegetation, the man in the centre sits, wearing a black hat and caftan, while the two others stand, wearing lighter clothes and turbans.
Jewish life in the Holy Land before Modern Zionism
NahmanidesYechiel of Paris
BartenuraYehuda he-Hasid
RambanAriHurvaShomrei HaChomos
Related articles:
History of the Jews in the Land of IsraelHistory of Zionism (Timeline) • Haredim and ZionismEdah HaChareidisNeturei KartaShaDaRYishuvThree Oaths

The Age of Enlightenment in Europe led to an 18th and 19th century Jewish enlightenment movement in Europe, called the Haskalah. In 1791, the French Revolution led France to become the first country in Europe to grant Jews legal equality. Britain gave Jews equal rights in 1856, Germany in 1871. The spread of western liberal ideas among newly emancipated Jews created for the first time a class of secular Jews who absorbed the prevailing ideas of enlightenment, including rationalism, romanticism, and nationalism.

However, the formation of modern nations in Europe accompanied changes in the prejudices against Jews. What had previously been religious persecution now became a new phenomenon, Racial antisemitism and acquired a new name: antisemitism. Antisemites saw Jews as an alien religious, national and racial group and actively tried to prevent Jews from acquiring equal rights and citizenship.

Persecution in Russia (before the revolution)

Jews in Eastern Europe faced constant pogroms and persecution in Tzarist Russia. From 1791 they were only allowed to live in the Pale of Settlement. In response to the Jewish drive for integration and modern education (Haskalah) and the movement for emancipation, the Tzars imposed tight quotas on schools, universities and cities to prevent entry by Jews. From 1827 to 1917 Russian Jewish boys were required to serve 25 years in the Russian army, starting at the age of 12. The intention was to forcibly destroy their ethnic identity, however the move severely radicalized Russia's Jews and familiarized them with nationalism and socialism.[7]

The tsar's chief adviser Konstantin Pobedonostsev, was reported as saying that one-third of Russia's Jews was expected to emigrate, one-third to accept baptism, and one-third to starve.[8]

Famous incidents includes the 1913 Menahem Mendel Beilis trial (Blood libel against Jews) and the 1903 Kishinev pogrom.

Between 1880 and 1928, two million Jews left Russia; most emigrated to the United States, a small minority chose Palestine.


Proto-Zionists include the (Lithuanian) Vilna Gaon, (Russian) Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, (Bosnian) Rabbi Yehuda Solomon Alkalay[9] and (German) Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer. Other advocates of Jewish independence include (American) Mordecai Manuel Noah, (Russian) Leon Pinsker and (German) Moses Hess.

Auto-Emancipation by J.L. Pinsker, 1882

In 1862 Moses Hess, an associate of Karl Marx, wrote Rome and Jerusalem. The Last National Question calling for the Jews to create a socialist state in Palestine as a means of settling the Jewish question. Also in 1862, German Orthodox Rabbi Kalischer published his tractate Derishat Zion, arguing that the salvation of the Jews, promised by the Prophets, can come about only by self-help.[10] In 1882, after the Odessa pogrom, Judah Leib Pinsker published the pamphlet Auto-Emancipation, arguing that Jews could only be truly free (automatically emancipated) in their own country and analyzing the persistent tendency of Europeans to regard Jews as aliens:

"Since the Jew is nowhere at home, nowhere regarded as a native, he remains an alien everywhere. That he himself and his ancestors as well are born in the country does not alter this fact in the least... the living the Jew is a corpse, to the native a foreigner, to the homesteader a vagrant, to the proprietary a beggar, to the poor an exploiter and a millionaire, to the patriot a man without a country, for all a hated rival." [11]

Pinsker established the Hibbat Zion movement to actively promote Jewish settlement in Palestine. In 1890, the "Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Eretz Israel" (better known as the Odessa Committee) was officially registered as a charitable organization in the Russian Empire, and by 1897, it counted over 4,000 members.

Early British and American support for Jewish return

Ideas of the restoration of the Jews in the Land of Israel entered British public discourse in the early 19th century, at about the same time as the British Protestant Revival.[12]

Not all such attitudes were favorable towards the Jews; they were shaped in part by a variety of Protestant beliefs,[13] or by a streak of philo-Semitism among the classically educated British elite,[14] or by hopes to extend the Empire. (See The Great Game)

At the urging of Lord Shaftesbury, Britain established a consulate in Jerusalem in 1838, the first diplomatic appointment in the city. In 1839, the Church of Scotland sent Andrew Bonar and Robert Murray M'Cheyne to report on the condition of the Jews there. The report was widely published[15] and was followed by a "Memorandum to Protestant Monarchs of Europe for the restoration of the Jews to Palestine." In August 1840, The Times reported that the British government was considering Jewish restoration.[12] Lord Lindsay wrote in 1847: "The soil of Palestine still enjoys her sabbaths, and only waits for the return of her banished children, and the application of industry, commensurate with her agricultural capabilities, to burst once more into universal luxuriance, and be all that she ever was in the days of Solomon."[16]

Benjamin Disraeli wrote in his article entitled "The Jewish Question is the Oriental Quest" (1877) that within fifty years, a nation of one million Jews would reside in Palestine under the guidance of the British. Moses Montefiore visited the Land of Israel seven times and fostered its development.[14]

In 1842, Mormon leader Joseph Smith, Jr. sent a representative, Orson Hyde, to dedicate the land of Israel for the return of the Jews.[17] Protestant theologian William Eugene Blackstone submitted a petition to the US president in 1891; the Blackstone Memorial called for the return of Palestine to the Jews.

The first aliya

In the late 1870s, Jewish philanthropists such as the Montefiores and the Rothschilds responded to the persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe by sponsoring agricultural settlements for Russian Jews in Palestine. The Jews who migrated in this period are known as the First Aliyah.[18] Aliyah is a Hebrew word meaning "ascent," referring to the act of spiritually "ascending" to the Holy Land and a basic tenet of Zionism.

The movement of Jews to Palestine was opposed by the Haredi communities who lived in the Four Holy Cities, since they were very poor and lived off charitable donations from Europe, which they feared would be used by the newcomers. However from 1800 there was a movement of Sephardi businessmen from North Africa and the Balkans to Jaffa and the growing community there perceived modernity and Aliyah as the key to salvation. Unlike the Haredi communities, the Jaffa community did not maintain separate Ashkenazi and Sephardi institutions and functioned as a single unified community.

Founded in 1878, Petah Tikva was the first modern Jewish settlement.

In 1881-1882 the Tzar sponsored a huge wave of progroms in the Russian Empire and a massive wave of Jews began leaving, mainly for America. So many Russian Jews arrived in Jaffa that the town ran out of accommodation and the local Jews began forming communities outside the Jaffa city walls. However the migrants faced difficulty finding work (the new settlements mainly needed farmers and builders) and 70% ultimately left, mostly moving on to America. One of the migrants in this period, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda set about modernizing Hebrew so that it could be used as a national language.

Rishon LeZion was founded on 31 July 1882 by a group of ten members of Hovevei Zion from Kharkov (today's Ukraine). In 1887 Neve Tzedek was built just outside Jaffa. Over 50 Jewish settlements were established in this period.

In 1890, Palestine, which was part of the Ottoman Empire, was inhabited by about 520,000 people, mostly Muslim and Arab Christians, but also 20-25,000 Jews.

Establishment of the Zionist movement 1897–1917


In 1883, Nathan Birnbaum, 19 years old, founded Kadimah, the first Jewish student association in Vienna and printed Pinsker's pamphlet Auto-Emancipation.

Theodore Herzl.jpg DE Herzl Judenstaat 01.jpg

Theodor Herzl and his 1896 book, The Jewish State.

The Dreyfus Affair, which erupted in France in 1894, profoundly shocked emancipated Jews. The depth of antisemitism in the first country to grant Jews equal rights led many to question their future prospects among Christians. Among those who witnessed the Affair was an Austro-Hungarian (born in Budapest, lived in Vienna) Jewish journalist, Theodor Herzl, who published his pamphlet Der Judenstaat ("The Jewish State") in 1896 and Altneuland ("The Old New Land") [2] in 1897. He described the Affair as a personal turning point, Herzl argued that the creation of a Jewish state would enable the Jews to join the family of nations and escape antisemitism.[19]

Herzl infused political Zionism with a new and practical urgency. He brought the World Zionist Organization into being and, together with Nathan Birnbaum, planned its First Congress at Basel in 1897.[20]

The objectives of Zionism

During the First Zionist Congress, the following agreement, commonly known as the Basel Program, was reached:

Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law. The Congress contemplates the following means to the attainment of this end:

  1. The promotion by appropriate means of the settlement in Palestine of Jewish farmers, artisans, and manufacturers.
  2. The organization and uniting of the whole of Jewry by means of appropriate institutions, both local and international, in accordance with the laws of each country.
  3. The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment and national consciousness.
  4. Preparatory steps toward obtaining the consent of governments, where necessary, in order to reach the goals of Zionism.[21]

"Under public law" is generally understood to mean seeking legal permission from the Ottoman rulers for Jewish migration. In this text the word "home" was substituted for "state" and "public law" for "international law" so as not to alarm the Ottoman Sultan.[22]

The organizational structure of the Zionist movement

For the first four years, the World Zionist Organization (WZO) met every year, then, up to the Second World War, they gathered every second year. Since the creation of Israel, the Congress has met every four years.

Theodor Herzl addresses the Second Zionist Congress in 1898.

Congress delegates were elected by the membership. Members were required to pay dues known as a "shekel," At the congress, delegates elected a 30-man executive council, which in turn elected the movement's leader. The movement was democratic and women had the right to vote, which was still absent in Great Britain in 1914.

The WZO's initial strategy was to obtain permission from the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II to allow systematic Jewish settlement in Palestine. The support of the German Emperor, Wilhelm II, was sought, but unsuccessfully. Instead, the WZO pursued a strategy of building a homeland through persistent small-scale immigration and the founding of such bodies as the Jewish National Fund (1901 - a charity which bought land for Jewish settlement) and the Anglo-Palestine Bank (1903 - provided loans for Jewish businesses and farmers).

Cultural Zionism and opposition to Herzl

Herzl's strategy relied on winning support from foreign rulers, in particular the Ottoman Sultan. He also made efforts to cultivate Orthodox rabbinical support. Rabbinical support depended on the Zionist movement making no challenges to existing Jewish tradition. However, an opposition movement arose which emphasized the need for a revolution in Jewish thought. While Herzl believed that the Jews needed to return to their historic homeland as a refuge from antisemitism, the opposition, led by Ahad Ha'am, believed that the Jews must revive and foster a Jewish national culture and, in particular strove to revive the Hebrew language. Many also adopted Hebraized surnames. The opposition became known as Cultural Zionists. Important Cultural Zionists include Ahad Ha'am, Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow and Menachem Ussishkin.

The "Uganda" proposal

In 1903, the British Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, suggested the British Uganda Programme, land for a Jewish state in "Uganda" (in today's Uasin Gishu District, Eldoret, Kenya). Herzl initially rejected the idea, preferring Palestine, but after the April 1903 Kishinev pogrom, Herzl introduced a controversial proposal to the Sixth Zionist Congress to investigate the offer as a temporary measure for Russian Jews in danger. Despite its emergency and temporary nature, the proposal proved very divisive, and widespread opposition to the plan was fueled by a walkout led by the Russian Jewish delegation to the Congress. Nevertheless, a committee was established to investigate the possibility, which was eventually dismissed in the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905. After that, Palestine became the sole focus of Zionist aspirations.

Israel Zangwill left the main Zionist movement over this decision and founded the Jewish Territorialist Organization (ITO) . The territorialists were willing to establish a Jewish homeland anywhere, but failed to attract significant support and were dissolved in 1925.

The death of Herzl

By 1904, cultural Zionism was accepted by most Zionists and a schism was beginning to develop between the Zionist movement and Orthodox Judaism. In 1904, Herzl died unexpectedly at the age of 44 and the leadership was taken over by David Wolffsohn, who led the movement until 1911. During this period, the movement was based in Berlin (Germany's Jews were the most assimilated) and made little progress, failing to win support among the Young Turks after the collapse of the Ottoman Regime. From 1911 to 1921, the movement was led by Dr. Otto Warburg.

Zionism breaks with Orthodox Judaism and moves towards Communism

Jewish Orthodox and Reform opposition

Under Herzl's leadership, Zionism relied on Orthodox Jews for religious support, with the main party being the orthodox Mizrachi. However, as the cultural and socialist Zionists increasingly broke with tradition and used language contrary to the outlook of most religious Jewish communities, many orthodox religious organizations began opposing Zionism. Their opposition was based on its secularism and on the grounds that only the Messiah could re-establish Jewish rule in Israel.[23] Therefore, most Orthodox Jews maintained the traditional Jewish belief that while the Land of Israel was given to the ancient Israelites by God, and the right of the Jews to that land was permanent and inalienable, the Messiah must appear before the land could return to Jewish control.

While Zionism aroused Ashkenazi orthodox antagonism in Europe (probably due to Modernist European antagonism to organized religion), and also in the United States, it aroused no such antagonism in the Islamic world.

Prior to the Holocaust, Reform Judaism rejected Zionism as inconsistent with the requirements of Jewish citizenship in the diaspora.[24]

The second aliya

Widespread pogroms accompanied the 1905 Russian Revolution, inspired by the Pro-Tzarist Black Hundreds. In Odessa, Leon Trotsky provided arms so the Zionists could protect the Jewish community and this prevented a pogrom. Zionist leader Jabotinsky eventually led the Jewish resistance in Odessa. During his subsequent trial Trotsky produced evidence that the Police had organized the effort to create a pogrom in Odessa[25].

The vicious pogroms led to a wave of immigrants to Palestine. This new wave expanded the Revival of the Hebrew language. In 1909 a group of 65 Zionists laid the foundations for a modern city in Palestine. The city was named after the Hebrew title of Herzl's book "The Old New Land" - Tel-Aviv.

Tel Aviv was founded on empty dunes, purchased from Arabs, north of the existing city of Jaffa. This photograph is of the auction of the first lots in 1909.

Tel Aviv had a modern "scientific" school, the Herzliya Hebrew High School, the first such school to teach only in Hebrew. All the cities affairs were conducted in Hebrew.

In Jerusalem, foundations were laid for a Jewish University (the Hebrew University), one which would teach only in Hebrew and which the Zionists hoped would help them prove their usefulness to the Turks (this did not come to fruition until 1918). In Haifa, the cornerstone was laid for a Jewish Technical school, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

Jewish migrants and organizations began making large land purchases, in particular buying malarial swamps (of which there were many) and draining them to produce highly fertile land.[26]

In 1911 a socialist commune was given some land near the Sea of Galille, forming the first Kibbutz, Degania.


In Eastern Europe the General Jewish Labour Bund called for Jewish autonomy within Eastern Europe and promoted Yiddish as the Jewish language. Like Zionism, the Bund was founded in 1897. It also claimed national rights for Jews, but within Eastern Europe. The Bund was part of the socialist movement and claimed Jewish national rights within the socialist movement, which recognized various national groups but not Jews. The socialist movement had failed to publicly condemn the pogroms. The Bund leadership opposed Zionism and Orthodox Judaism. Socialist Zionism competed with the Bund (and other socialist parties) for the hearts and minds of Jewish socialists.

In 1917 there was a Russian revolution and the Bolsheviks took power. At this point the Bund had 30,000 members in Russia, compared to 300,000 Zionist members (about 10% of these were Marxists).[27] Antisemites assumed the Bolsheviks were largely Jewish (calling it Jewish Bolshevism) and the Bolsheviks did give Jews equal rights as individuals, however they were intolerant of religious Judaism (see Karl Marx#Marx and antisemitism) and of Zionism, which was eventually banned.

The Bund disbanded and most members joined the Yevsektsia, a Jewish section of the Bolshevik organization created by Stalin who was People's Commissariat of Nationalities.The Yevsektsia worked to end Jewish communal and religious life:

The Communist party and its Jewish sections regarded the values of the Jewish community as so alien to Marxist ideology and to the new society to be based on it that they were determined to eradicate them as soon as possible.[28]

The 1918 - 1923 Russian civil war followed the revolution and saw terrible atrocities against Jews, particularly in the Ukraine:

...the one and a half million Jews of the Ukraine became the victims of the most vicious attacks since the days of Khmelnitsky. Estimates of the numbers killed run as high as one Jew out of every thirteen. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless.[29]

During the Civil War, the Marxist Zionist movement, Poale Zion led by Ber Borochov, requested to form Jewish Brigades within the Red Army. Trotsky supported the request but opposition from the Yevsektsia led to the proposal's failure.[30] Poale Zion continued to exist in the USSR until 1928. The future Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion was a member of the Israeli branch of the movement.

In 1924 Stalin became the ruler of the USSR and in 1928 Trotsky was sent into exile. In 1928 a Jewish Autonomous Oblast was created in the Russian Far East and Hebrew was outlawed (the only language to be outlawed in the USSR[31]). Few Jews were tempted by the Soviet Jewish Republic and as of 2002 Jews constitute only about 1.2% of its population.[32]

Socialist Zionism

Socialist Zionists believed that the Jews' centuries of being oppressed in anti-Semitic societies had reduced Jews to a meek, despairing existence which invited further anti-Semitism. They argued that Jews should redeem themselves by becoming farmers, workers, and soldiers in a country of their own. Socialist Zionists rejected religion as perpetuating a "Diaspora mentality" among the Jewish people and established rural communes in Israel called "Kibbutzim". Major theoreticians of Socialist Zionism included Moses Hess, Nachman Syrkin, Ber Borochov and A. D. Gordon, and leading figures in the movement included David Ben-Gurion and Berl Katznelson. Socialist Zionists rejected Yiddish as a language of exile, embracing Hebrew as the common Jewish tongue.

Gordon believed that the Jews lacked a "normal" class structure and that the various classes that constitute a nation had to be created artificially. Socialist Zionists therefore set about becoming Jewish peasants and proletarians and focussed on settling land and working on it. According to Gordon "the land if Israel is bought with labour: not with blood and not with fire".

Socialist Zionism became a dominant force in Israel. However, it exacerbated the schism between Zionism and Orthodox Judaism.

Socialist Zionists formed youth movements which became influential organizations in their own right including Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Machanot Halolim and HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed. During British rule the lack of available immigration permits to Palestine, led the youth movements to operate training programs in Europe which prepared Jews for migration to Palestine. As a result most Socialist-Zionist immigrants arrived already speaking Hebrew, trained in agriculture and prepared for life in Palestine.

Zionism and Feminism

The Zionist movement never restricted female suffrage. Women were active in Zionist parties in many countries before women gained the franchise, and ran for office in Poland where Zionist and other Jewish parties won seats in parliament. In 1911, Zionist activist Hannah Meisel Shochat established Havat Ha'Almot (the girl's farm) to train Zionist women in farming so as to assist in the Zionist program of developing the land for mass settlement. The famous poet Rachel Bluwstein was one of the graduates. Zionist settlers were usually young and far from their families so a relatively permissive culture was able to develop. Within the Kibbutz movement child rearing was done communally thus freeing women to work (and fight) alongside the men. Roza Pomerantz-Meltzer was the first woman elected to the Sejm, the Parliament of Poland. She was elected in 1919 as a member of a Zionist party. [33][34] In Mandatory Palestine women in Jewish towns could vote in elections before women won the right to vote in Britain.

Zionism in the Arab World

The 1911 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia noted the movement's spread: "not only in the number of Jews affiliated with the Zionist organization and congress, but also in the fact that there is hardly a nook or corner of the Jewish world in which Zionistic societies are not to be found."[35]

Support for Zionism was not a purely European and Ashkenazi phenomenon. In the Arab world, the first Zionist branches opened in Morocco only a few years after the Basel conference, and the movement became popular among Jews living within the Arab and Muslim world. Although levels of persecution were generally lower there, Jewish residents still faced some religious persecution, prejudice and occasional violence. A number of the founders of the city of Tel Aviv were Moroccan Jewish immigrants. Ottoman Salonika had a vigorous Zionist movement by 1908.[36]

Early Zionism and the non-Jewish population of Palestine

Before 1917, Palestine's Arab population mostly saw themselves as Ottoman subjects. They feared the objectives of the Zionist movement, but they assumed the movement would fail. After the Young Turk revolution in 1908, Arab Nationalism grew rapidly in the area and most Arab Nationalists regarded Zionism as a threat, although a minority perceived Zionism as providing a path to modernity.[37]

While Zionist leaders and advocates followed conditions in the land of Israel and travelled there regularly, their concern before 1917 was with the future of the small Jewish settlement. A Jewish state seemed highly unlikely at this point and realistic aspirations focussed on creating a new centre for Jewish life. The future of the land's Arab inhabitants concerned them as little as the welfare of the Jews concerned Arab leaders.

The Zionist Movement in World War I and the Balfour Declaration

The Jewish population of the USA increased about ten times between 1880 and 1920, with the immigration of poorer, more liberal and radical, "downtown", Eastern European immigrants fleeing persecution. It was not until 1912, when the secular “people’s lawyer” Louis Brandeis became involved in Zionism, just before the First World War, that Zionism gained significant support.[38] By 1917, the American Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs, which Brandeis chaired had increased American Zionist membership ten times to 200,000 members, and “thenceforth became the financial center for the world Zionist movement”. [39]

As in the US, England had experienced a rapid growth in their Jewish minority. About 150,000 Jews migrated there from Russia in the period 1881–1914.[40] With this immigration influx, pressure grew from British voters to halt it; added to the established knowledge in British society of Old Testament scripture, Zionism became an attractive solution for both Britain and the Empire.

In the search for support, Herzl, before his death, had made the most progress with the German Kaiser, joining him on his 1898 trip to Palestine.[41] At the outbreak of war in 1914, the offices of the Zionist Organization were located in Berlin and led by Otto Warburg, a German citizen. With different national sections of the movement supporting different sides in the war, Zionist policy was to maintain strict neutrality and "to demonstrate complete loyalty to Turkey,"[42] the German ally controlling Palestine.

Following Turkey's entry into World War I in August however, the Zionists were expelled from Tel Aviv and its environs. In England the Polish Zionist, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, worked to create a Jewish division in the British army.

When the war started in 1914, most Jews viewed Tsarist Russia, on the Allied side, as the historic enemy of the Jewish people and there was tremendous support for Germany. In much of Eastern Europe the advancing Germans were regarded as liberators by the Jews. Russian Jewish immigrants to Britain avoided the draft. The Jewish Legion was established as a means of recruiting Russian immigrants to the British war effort and was dominated by Zionist volunteers.

In the United States, still officially neutral, many Russian and German Jews supported the Germans as did much of the large Irish American community. Britain was anxious to win US support for its war effort, and winning over Jewish financial and popular support in the US was considered vital.[43] The most prominent Russian-Zionist migrant in Britain was chemist Chaim Weizmann. Weizmann developed a new process to produce Acetone, a critical ingredient in manufacturing explosives that Britain was unable to manufacture in sufficient quantity. In 1915, the British government fell as a result of its inability to manufacture enough artillery shells for the war effort. In the new Government, David Lloyd George became the minister responsible for armaments, and asked Weizmann to develop his process for mass production.

Lloyd George was an evangelist Christian and pro-Zionist. According to Lloyd George when he asked Weizmann about payment for his efforts to help Britain, Weizmann told him that he wanted no money, just the rights over Palestine.[44] Weizmann became a close associate of Lloyd George (Prime-Minister from 1916) and the First Lord of the Admiralty (Foreign Secretary from 1916), Arthur Balfour.

In 1916 Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca (in Arabia), began an "Arab Revolt" hoping to create an Arab state in the Middle East. In the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence British representatives promised they would allow him to create such a state. They also provided him with large sums of money to fund his revolt.

In February 1917 the Tzar was overthrown and Kerensky became Prime Minister of the Russian Empire. Jews were prominent in the new government and the British hoped that Jewish support would help keep Russia in the war. In June 1917 the British army, led by Allenby, invaded Palestine. The Jewish Legion participated in the invasion and Jabotinsky was awarded for bravery. Arab forces conquered Transjordan and later took over Damascus.

In August 1917, as the British cabinet discussed the Balfour Declaration,[45] Edwin Samuel Montagu, the only Jew in the British Cabinet and a staunch anti-Zionist, "was passionately opposed to the declaration on the grounds that (a) it was a capitulation to anti-Semitic bigotry, with its suggestion that Palestine was the natural destination of the Jews, and that (b) it would be a grave cause of alarm to the Muslim world."[46]. Additional references to the future rights of non-Jews in Palestine and the status of Jews worldwide, were thus inserted by the British cabinet, reflecting the opinion of the only Jew within it. As the draft was finalized, the term "state" was replaced with "home", and comments were sought from Zionists abroad. Louis Brandeis, a member of the US Supreme Court, influenced the style of the text and changed the words "Jewish race" to "Jewish people".[38]

On November 2, the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, made his landmark Balfour Declaration of 1917, expressing the government's view in favour of "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people", and specifically noting that its establishment must not "prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

As the declaration was being finalized, the Bolshevikstook over Russia. On 23 November, they released a copy of the previously secret Sykes–Picot Agreement, among others, publishing its full text in Izvestia and Pravda, and it was subsequently printed in the Manchester Guardian on November 26.[47] This caused Britain great embarrassment, because of the conflicting plans and promises it revealed.

The British Mandate and the struggle for Palestine 1918–1939

Weizmann becomes leader

In late 1921, the 12th Zionist congress was held in Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia; it was the first congress to be held since 1913, because of World War I, and much change, both positive and less-so, had occurred. Four hundred-fifty delegates attended, representing 780,000 fee paying Zionist members worldwide.[48] Following Chaim Weizmann's "clash" with Louis Brandeis and American Zionism, and the latter's resignation as honorary president of the Zionist Organization,[49] Weizmann was elected its president in recognition of his role in obtaining the Balfour Declaration and the international acceptance of it that had accrued since. With this new impetus however, conditions in Palestine were less than favorable, and the conference passed a proposal for an "Arab-Jewish Entente",[50] which called on Zionist leadership to "forge a true understanding with the Arab nation".[48] Weizmann led the movement until 1931. From 1931 to 1935 the WZO was presided by Nahum Sokolow (who had also spent the first world war in Britain). Weizmann resumed presidency of the WZO in 1935 and led it until 1946.

The League of Nations endorses Zionism

Poster from the Zionist Tarbut schools of Poland in the 1930s. Zionist parties were very active in Polish politics. In the 1922 Polish elections, Zionists held 24 seats of a total of 35 Jewish parliament members.

After the defeat and dismantling of the Ottoman Empire by European colonial powers in 1918, the League of Nations endorsed the full text of the Balfour Declaration and established the British Mandate for Palestine (Full text: [3]).

In addition to accepting the Balfour Declaration policy statement, the League included that “[a]n appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognised as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine..." This inclusion paralleled a similar proposal made by the Zionist Organization during the Paris Peace Conference.[51]

The Zionist movement entered a new phase of activity. Its priorities were encouraging Jewish settlement in Palestine, building the institutional foundations of a Jewish state and raising funds for these purposes. The 1920s did see a steady growth in the Jewish population and the construction of state-like Jewish institutions, but also saw the emergence of Palestinian Arab nationalism and growing resistance to Jewish immigration.

Expansion of the movement: the third and fourth aliya

The success of Zionism in getting international recognition for its project led to growth in the membership and development of new forms of Zionism. The period 1919-1923 saw migration by Jews escaping the civil war in Russia, the period 1924-1929 migration by Jews escaping antisemitic regimes in Poland and Hungary.

Religious Zionism

In the 1920s and 1930s, a small but vocal group of religious Jews, under such leaders as Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine) and his son Zevi Judah, began to develop the concept of Religious Zionism. At the time, Kook was concerned that growing secularism of Zionist supporters and increasing antagonism towards the movement from the largely non-Zionist Orthodox community might lead to a schism between them. He therefore sought to create a brand of Zionism which would serve as a bridge between Jewish Orthodoxy and secular Jewish Zionists, for the benefit of the overall Zionist endeavor.

The Religious Zionists established a youth movement called Bnei Akiva in 1929, and a number of Religious Kibbutzim.

Revisionist Zionism

The Revisionist Zionists were established in 1923 and originally led by Ze'ev Jabotinsky. After his involvement against the 1929 Arab riots, the British banned Jabotinsky from re-entering Palestine, and until his death in 1940, he advocated the more militant revisionist ideology in Europe and America. In 1935, he and the Revisionists left the mainstream Zionist Organization and formed the New Zionist Organization. Following mainstream Zionism's' acceptance of their earlier militant demand for a Jewish state they eventually rejoined in 1946.

During this period, Revisionist Zionism was detested by the competing Socialist Zionist movement, which saw them as being capitalist and influenced by Fascism; the movement also caused a great deal of concern among Arab Palestinians.

Revisionism was popular in Poland but lacked large support in Palestine. The Revisionists refused to comply with British quotas on Jewish migration, and, following the election of Hitler in Germany, the Revisionist youth movements HeHalutz and Beitar began to organize illegal Jewish migration to Palestine. In Europe and America they advocated pressing Britain to allow mass Jewish emigration and the formation of a Jewish Army in Palestine. The army would force the Arab population to accept mass Jewish migration and promote British interests in the region.

Zionism and the Arabs

Arab nationalists predominantly perceived Zionism as a threat to their own aspirations. This sense was heightened, by the growth of Zionist labor movement and its "Hebrew labor" program. The latter was an effort to increase Jewish immigrant employment, secure the creation of a Jewish proletariat, and to prevent Zionist settlement from turning into a standard colonial enterprise. Initially, it sought to develop separate settlements and economies and campaigned for the exclusive employment of Jews; it later campaigned against the employment of Arabs. Its adverse effects on the Arab majority were increasingly noted by the mandatory administration.

In 1919 Hashemite Emir Faisal, signed the Faisal–Weizmann Agreement. He wrote:

We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our delegation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist organization to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper.

In their first meeting in June 1918 Weizmann had assured Faisal that[52]

the Jews did not propose to set up a government of their own but wished to work under British protection, to colonize and develop Palestine without encroaching on any legitimate interests

Initially Palestinian Arabs looked to the Arab-nationalist leaders to create a single Arab state, however Faisal's agreement with Weizmann led Palestinian-Arabs to develop their own brand of nationalism[53] and call for Palestine to become a state governed by the Arab majority, in particular they demanded an elected assembly.

Zionist supporters were by now aware of Arab opposition, and this led the movement in 1921 to pass a motion calling on the leadership to "forge a true understanding with the Arab nation".[54]

The Mufti and the emergence of Palestinian Nationalism

In 1921, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni was appointed as Grand Mufti of Jerusalem by the Palestine High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, after he had been pardoned for his role in the 1920 Palestine riots. During the following decades, he became the focus of Palestinian opposition to Zionism.

The Mufti believed that Jews were seeking to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem on the site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. This led to a long confrontation over the use of the Kotel, also known as the Wailing Wall, which was owned by the Moslem authorities but was sacred to Jews.[citation needed]

Religious tension, an international economic crisis (affecting crop prices) and nationalist tension (over Zionist immigration) led to the 1929 Palestine riots. In these religious-nationalist riots Jews were massacred in Hebron and the survivors forced to leave the town. Devastation also took place in Safed and Jerusalem.

In 1936 an Arab uprising occurred, which lasted for three years. The Supreme Muslim Council in Palestine, led by the Mufti, organized the revolt. During the revolt the Mufti was forced to flee to Iraq, where he was involved in a pro-Nazi coup during which the Jewish areas of Baghdad were subjected to a pogrom.

In 1939 he rejected as insufficient the British White Paper which imposed restrictions on Jewish immigration and land acquisition by Jews.

After the British reoccupied Iraq the Mufti joined the Nazis. He worked with Himmler and aided the SS[55] his main role was broadcasting propaganda and recruiting Moslems, primarily for the Waffen SS in Bosnia[56]. There is also evidence that he was active in promoting the Nazi extermination program.[57]

In 1948 the Mufti returned to Egypt. He was involved in the short-lived All-Palestine Government sponsored by Egypt but was sidelined by most of the Arab countries.[citation needed]

Roosevelt-Ibn Saud correspondence

As the Second World War was drawing to its close, the King of Saudi Arabia expressed his concern in a letter to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt lest the US support for Zionism will infringe on the rights of the Arabs of Palestine. On April 5, 1945, the President replied in a letter to the King that

I would take no action, in my capacity as Chief of the Executive Branch of this Government, which might prove hostile to the Arab people.[58]

Following Roosevelt's death, the Truman administration publicly adhered to the policy announced in the letter in an official statement released on October 18, 1945.

Growing conflict with the Palestinian Arab population

One issue fatally divided Arab and Jew in Palestine: immigration. Jews would not compromise over immigration which they needed as a means of escaping European persecution and which was a core doctrine of Zionism. The Arabs for their part could not compromise on immigration because to do so would effectively end their majority in Palestine. As time went on the conflict between the two communities became increasingly bitter.

British immigration restrictions

British support for Zionism was always controversial and the issue was periodically debated in Parliament.

Churchill also restricted Jewish migration to an annual quota decided by the British. Certificates allowing migration were distributed by the Jewish Agency. Jews with 1000 Pounds in cash or Jewish professionals with 500 Pounds in cash could emigrate freely. Churchill's reforms made it hard for Arab Jews, Orthodox Jews and Revisionist Zionists from Poland[59] to migrate to Palestine as the Jewish Agency was dominated by European Zionists, and increasingly by Socialist Zionists. Immigration restrictions did, however mean that Jewish immigrants to Palestine had to prove their loyalty and dedication by spending years preparing for migration. Many immigrants arrived after rigorous preparation including agricultural and ideological training and learning Hebrew.

The rise of Hitler: the Fifth Aliyah and illegal migration

During the 1920s concerns about antisemitism increased across Europe. By 1928, nations were increasingly legislating immigration, which at times prevented Jews from entering, and some of the new European states, established after the First World War, perceived Jewish immigrants as a threat to their political stability. Many countries feared that immigrating Jews from the east would bring revolutionary political ideas with them; Jews were also perceived as being a negative moral influence on society.

The rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1933 produced a powerful new impetus for increased Zionist support and immigration to Palestine. The long-held assimilationist and non-Zionist view that Jews could live securely as minorities in European societies was deeply undermined, since Germany had been regarded previously as the country in which Jews had been most successfully integrated. With nearly all other countries closed to Jewish immigration, a new wave of migrants headed for Palestine. Those unable to pay the fees required for immediate entry by the British had to join the waiting lists.

Nazi efforts to induce Jews to leave Germany were made, but were undermined by their refusal to allow them to take their property also. In response, Haim Arlozorov of the Jewish Agency negotiated the Haavara Agreement with the Nazis, whereby German Jews could buy and then export German manufactured goods to Palestine. In Palestine the goods were later sold and the income returned to the migrants. As a result of this agreement, the influx of capital gave a much-needed economic boost in the midst of the great depression. Arlozorov, however, was assassinated shortly after his return, it was generally believed by members of the Irgun (in recent years it has been suggested that Nazi propaganda Minister Goebbels may have ordered the assassination to hide Arlozorov's connection with his wife).

Starting in 1934, the Revisionists also began organizing illegal immigration, and combined, the Jewish population of Palestine rose rapidly. While these conditions also led to increased Arab immigration, the rapid rise in Jewish immigrants eventually led to the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.

By 1938, the increasing pressure put on European Jews also led mainstream Zionists to organize illegal immigration.

The Struggle Against Britain and the Nazis 1939–1948

The 1939 White Paper and the British break with Zionism

In Britain as elsewhere in Europe, the 1930s saw an increase in antisemitism. British Labour Party politician,Oswald Mosley, established a new party, the British Union of Fascists, which claimed that "the Jews" were leading Britain to war and campaigned for peace with Germany.[60] British support for Zionism was further undermined by the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine and concern that millions of Jews would soon be seeking entry to Palestine. The Nuremberg Laws effectively ended the 500,000 Jews of Germany status as citizens, making them refugees in their own country. In March 1938 Hitler annexed Austria making its 200,000 Jews stateless refugees. In September the British agreed to Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland making a further 100,000 Jews refugees.

In the absence of alternative destinations, over 100,000 German Jews headed for Palestine.[citation needed]

In 1939 the British issued a White Paper, in which they declared that a Jewish National Home now existed and that their obligations under the mandate were fulfilled. Further migration would be harmful to the Arab population. A further 10,000 Jews a year were to be admitted from 1939 to 1944 as well as a one-time allowance of 25,000 in view of the situation in Europe. After that Jewish migration would require (the extremely unlikely) agreement of the Arab majority (by this time Jews were about a third of the population). The British promised Palestinians independence by 1949 and imposed restrictions on land purchases by Jews.[61]

The British were concerned about maintaining Arab support as Italian Fascist and German Nazi propaganda was targeting the Arab world (and winning support).[62] Jewish support in the fight against Fascism was guaranteed.[63] In Palestine, Zionists increasingly viewed the British as an enemy, but they deemed the fight against the Nazis more important. In 1940 a group led by Avraham Stern, later known as Lehi, left the Irgun over its refusal to fight the British.

State of the Zionist movement on the eve of World War II

In 1938–39 the Zionist movement had 1,040,540 members in 61 countries. Total world Jewish population at this time was about 18 million. Zionism was banned in Turkey. Likewise though a significant proportion of the movement's supporters originally came from the USSR, under Stalin. Zionism and Orthodox Judaism were banned and Jews were prominent among the victims of the Soviet genocide. These figures suggest Zionism was very popular among Jews.

The following figures relate to the last pre-war Zionist congress in Geneva, 1939. Elections for the congress were held in 48 countries and 529 delegates attended. Members of the movement voted for the parties. Each party submitted a delegate list. Seats were distributed to the parties according to the number of votes they obtained and candidates elected in the order in which they were named on the list. This system today forms the basis for Israeli elections.

Members and delegates at the 1939 Zionist congress, per country[64]
Country Members Delegates
Poland 299,165 109
USA 263,741 114
Palestine 167,562 134
Rumania 60,013 28
United Kingdom 23,513 15
South Africa 22,343 14
Canada 15,220 8
Delegates per political party at the 1939 Zionist congress[64]
Party Number Percentage
Worker's Party 216 41
General Zionists (centre) 143 27
General Zionists (conservative) 28 5
Mizrahi (Orthodox religious) 65 12
Radical Workers [far left] 3 2.5
State Party [right-wing] 8 1.5
Others 66 11

Zionism during the Holocaust

During the Holocaust Europe's Jews were cut off from and disowned by the outside world. Jews were systematically impoverished, starved and murdered. Where Jews did try to fight the Nazis, Zionists were prominent in the resistance. However those fighting never had a chance of success, and were always bloodily suppressed by the Nazis. The only instances where Jews had been successful, were when they fought in the woods as partisans, for example the Bielski partisans, a group of 1213 Jews who survived the whole war while making trouble for the Nazis.[65] Nazi allies (Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Croatia (mainly Romania) were responsible for the deaths of at least 10% of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. Axis governments, local police forces and local volunteers across Europe played a critical role in rounding up or executing Jews for the Nazis.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of January and April 1943 included the participation of both right- and left-leaning Zionist organizations. Zionists of all political spectra played a leading role in the struggle.[59] The uprising's left-leaning survivors eventually made their way to Palestine and founded two Kibbutzim, Lohamei HaGeta'ot and Yad Mordechai.

In Palestine the Zionist leadership instructed all able-bodied Jews to volunteer for the British Army. In addition there was an effort to parachute fighters into Europe, though little came of this. Fearing a Nazi invasion, the Jewish community prepared for a final stand to be made against the Nazis.[66]

Overall the yishuv leaders had not done enough in publicizing and trying to stop the Holocaust.[67] While they could have succeeded in saving thousands of Jews if rescuing Jews had been their top priority, rather then state creation, they had no power to "stop" the Holocaust. In the words of Tom Segev:

"The story of the yishuv leaders during the Holocaust was essentially one of helplessness. They rescued a few thousand Jews from Europe. They could, perhaps have saved more, but they could not save millions."[68]

Efforts were made to offer the Nazis money for the release of Jews. However, these efforts were systematically (and, according to Segev, cynically) destroyed by the British.[69]

The 1942 Zionist conference could not be held because of the war. Instead 600 Jewish leaders (not just Zionists) met at the Biltmore Hotel in New York and adopted a statement known as the Biltmore Program.[4] They agreed that the Zionist movement would seek the creation of a Jewish state after the war and that all Jewish organizations would fight to ensure free Jewish migration into Palestine. Regrettably, Jewish efforts at rescue from the Holocaust were not a major part of the program, neither was it a major part of any Zionist conference, except where immigration to Palestine was involved.

Impact of the Holocaust

The Nazi-inspired genocide in Europe had grave consequences for the Zionists.

  1. A large section of the membership was wiped out. The damage was particularly great in Poland where about a third of the Zionist members had lived (the Russian membership had been lost to communism).
  2. Those Jews who were not killed lost their possessions; the ability of the Zionist movement to raise money in Europe was severely reduced.

This calamity led to important changes in Jewish and Zionist politics:

  1. Many Jews were now desperate to leave Europe and willing to take grave risks for that purpose
  2. All Jews now agreed on the need for a Jewish state where Jews could live free of the fear of persecution and which would provide a haven in times of persecution.
  3. The Jews of the USA were now the dominant force in Jewish politics.
  4. More Jews were prepared to mobilize on behalf of their brethren.
  5. Britain was now weakened and less able to resist international pressure.

The rapid growth of illegal immigration to Palestine

In 1945, President Truman sent a personal representative, Earl G. Harrison, to investigate the situation of the Jewish survivors ("Sh'erit ha-Pletah") in Europe. Harrison reported that

substantial unofficial and unauthorized movements of people must be expected, and these will require considerable force to prevent, for the patience of many of the persons involved is, and in my opinion with justification, nearing the breaking point. It cannot be overemphasized that many of these people are now desperate, that they have become accustomed under German rule to employ every possible means to reach their end, and that the fear of death does not restrain them.[70]

Despite winning the 1945 British election with a manifesto promising to create a Jewish state in Palestine, the Labour Government succumbed to Foreign Office pressure and kept Palestine closed to Jewish migration.

In Europe former Jewish partisans led by Abba Kovner began to organize escape routes ("Berihah"[71]) taking Jews from Eastern Europe down to the Mediterranean where the Jewish Agency organized ships ("Aliyah Bet"[72]) to illegally carry them to Palestine.

The British government responded by trying to force Jews to return to their places of origin. Holocaust survivors entering the British Zone were denied assistance or forced to live in hostels with former Nazi collaborators (Britain gave asylum to a large number of Belorussian Nazi collaborators after the war). In American-controlled zones, political pressure from Washington allowed Jews to live in their own quarters and meant the US Army helped Jews trying to escape the centres of genocide.

Despite the death of almost a third of the world's Jews during the Second World War, the number of fee paying members of the Zionist movement continued to grow. The December 1946 Zionist congress in Basle (Switzerland) attracted 375 delegates from 43 countries representing two million fee paying members. As before the largest parties were the Socialist Zionist parties although these lacked a full majority. Only ten of the delegates were British Jews.[73]

The 1947 UN decision to partition Palestine

In 1947 Britain announced its intention to withdraw from Palestine. An United Nations Special Committee investigated the situation and offered two solutions :

  1. to establish a bi-national state in Palestine (the minority option);
  2. to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.

From the Zionist point of view, the second option corresponded to their goal and they gave full support to this.

On 29 November the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state (with Jerusalem becoming an international enclave). Amid public rejoicing in Jewish communities in Palestine, the Jewish Agency accepted the plan. The Palestinian Arab leadership and the Arab League rejected the decision and announced that they would not abide by it. Civil conflict between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine ensued immediately.

Zionism after the creation of Israel

David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel, beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl, founder of modern political Zionism.

On 14 May 1948 the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine made a declaration of independence, and the state of Israel was established. This marked a major turning point in the Zionist movement, as its principal goal had now been accomplished. Many Zionist institutions were reshaped, and the three military movements combined to form the Israel Defense Forces. The continuing conflict with the Arabs can be read in the article on the History of Israel or the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

Since 1948 the international Zionist movement has undertaken a variety of roles in support of Israel. These have included the encouragement of immigration, assisting the absorption and integration of immigrants, fundraising on behalf of settlement and development projects in Israel, the encouragement of private capital investment in Israel, and mobilization of world public opinion in support of Israel. Most Jews have come to identify as Zionists, in the sense that they support the State of Israel even if they do not choose to live there. This worldwide support has been of vital importance to Israel, both politically and financially.

The 1967 war between Israel and the Arab states (the "Six-Day War") marked a major turning point in the history of both Israel and of Zionism. Israeli forces captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the holiest of Jewish religious sites, the Western Wall of the ancient Temple. They also took over the remaining territories of pre-1948 Palestine, the West Bank (from Jordan) the Gaza Strip (from Egypt) as well as the Golan Heights (from Syria).

The 28th Zionist Congress (Jerusalem, 1968) adopted the following five principles, known as the "Jerusalem Program", as the aims of contemporary Zionism:[74]

  • The unity of the Jewish people and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life
  • The ingathering of the Jewish people in the historic homeland, Eretz Israel, through aliyah from all countries
  • The strengthening of the State of Israel, based on the "prophetic vision of justice and peace"
  • The preservation of the identity of the Jewish people through the fostering of Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education and of Jewish spiritual and cultural values
  • The protection of Jewish rights everywhere.

The election of 1977, characterized as “the revolution”, brought the nationalistic, right-wing Revisionist Zionists to power, after thirty years of opposition to the dominant Labor party and indicated further movement to the political right. Joel Greenburg, writing in The New York Times twenty years after the election, notes its significance and that of related events; he writes:[75]

The seed was sown in 1977, when Menachem Begin of Likud brought his party to power for the first time in a stunning election victory over Labor. A decade before, in the 1967 war, Israeli troops had in effect undone the partition accepted in 1948 by overrunning the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ever since, Mr. Begin had preached undying loyalty to what he called Judea and Samaria (the West Bank lands) and promoted Jewish settlement there. But he did not annex the West Bank and Gaza to Israel after he took office, reflecting a recognition that absorbing the Palestinians could turn Israel it into a binational state instead of a Jewish one.

Control of the West Bank and Gaza placed Israel in the position of control over a large population of Palestinian Arabs. This policy was partially abandoned in 2004 leading to the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Since Israel founding, Zionism and its ideological underpinnings have become less important in Israeli politics, except for on-going national debate over the nature of what is meant by a "Jewish State," and the geographic limits of the State of Israel.

The campaign to free the Jews of the USSR

After 1967, the Zionist movement mounted a major campaign to pressure the USSR to allow Soviet Jews to migrate to Israel.[76] In 1975 the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 was passed. It stated that "zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination."[77] Resolution 3379 was rescinded in 1991 by the Resolution 4686.[78] This issue is discussed in length in the article on anti-Zionism.

Further reading

  • Brenner, Michael, and Shelley Frisch. Zionism: A Brief History (2003) excerpt and text search
  • Cohen, Naomi. The Americanization of Zionism, 1897-1948 (2003). 304 pp. essays on specialized topics
  • Laqueuer, Walter. A History of Zionism: From the French Revolution to the Establishment of the State of Israel (2003) good history by a leading scholar excerpt and text search
  • Medoff, Rafael. "Recent Trends in the Historiography of American Zionism," American Jewish History 86 (March 1998), 117-134.
  • Sachar, Howard M. A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust (1995), the standard history
  • Wigoder, Geoffrey, ed. New Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel (2nd ed. 2 vol. 1994); 1521pp

Primary sources

  • Hertzberg, Arthur. The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader (1997), 648pp, major primary sources plus very good introduction


  1. ^ The Jewish Diaspora in the Hellenistic Period
  2. ^ Yearning for Zion by Briana Simon (WZO)
  3. ^ Brown, Michael L. Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the "Church" and the Jewish People. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 1992 (ISBN 1560430680)
  4. ^ See The History of the Jews in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem by Joshua Prawer, 1988, see alo (accessed No 2007)
  5. ^ Taylor, A.R., 1971, 'Vision and intent in Zionist Thought', p. 10,11
  6. ^ "Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles and gather us together from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:12) Blessed are you, O Lord, Who gathers in the dispersed of His people Israel."
  7. ^ Jews in the Russian Army, 1827–1917: Drafted into Modernity by Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, Cambridge 2008
  8. ^ History of the national question in Russia at Russian Committee in defense of the human rights (in Russian), also in AXT: Russia and in Studies in Comparative Genocide by Levon Chorbajian (p.237)
  9. ^ Zionism and Israel - Biographies - Yehuda Alkalai (Akalay)
  10. ^ Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (Jewish Encyclopedia)
  11. ^ Autoemancipation by Leon Pinsker, 1882 accessed January 2009
  12. ^ a b British Zionism - Support for Jewish Restoration (
  13. ^ The Untold Story. The Role of Christian Zionists in the Establishment of Modern-day Israel by Jamie Cowen (Leadership U), July 13, 2002
  14. ^ a b Rethinking Sir Moses Montefiore: Religion, Nationhood, and International Philanthropy in the Nineteenth Century by Abigail Green. (The American Historical Review. Vol. 110 No.3.) June 2005
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  19. ^ Hannah Arendt, 1946, ' Der Judenstaat 50 years later', also published in: Hannah Arendt, The Jew as pariah, NY, 1978
  20. ^ Zionism & The British In Palestine, by Sethi, Arjun (University of Maryland) January 2007, accessed May 20, 2007.
  21. ^ The Basle Program. Resolutions of the First Zionist Congress August 30, 1897 (mideastweb)
  22. ^ C.D. Smith, 2001, 'Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict', 4th ed., ISBN 0-312-20828-6, p. 55
  23. ^ "Most Orthodox Jews originally rejected Zionism because they believed the Jews must await the Messiah to restore them to nationhood." Settings of Silver: An Introduction to Judaism. Stephen M. Wylen, 2000, Paulist Press, page 356
  24. ^ "Reform Jews originally rejected Zionism as inconsistent with the acceptance of Jewish citizenship in the Diaspora." Settings of Silver: An Introduction to Judaism. Stephen M. Wylen, 2000, Paulist Press, page 356
  25. ^ Joseph Nedava, Leon Trotsky and the Jews, Jewish Publication Society of America 1972, chapter 3
  26. ^ Healing the Land and the Nation: Malaria and the Zionist Project in Palestine, 1920-1947‏, Sandra Marlene Sufian, Chicago 2007, see also the Peel Commission report
  27. ^ Zvi Y. Gitelman, A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present, 2001, pages 60-61 and 64.
  28. ^ Zvi Y. Gitelman, A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present, Indiana 2001, pages 72-74
  29. ^ Red Victory: A History Of The Russian Civil War, 1918-1921 by Bruce Lincoln, 1999 pages 319-320
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  40. ^ Estimates of the number of Jewish migrants vary widely, ranging from 100,000 to 300,000. This figure is taken from the Jewish Museum website: accessed Nov 2007.
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  56. ^ Antisemitism: The Generic Hatred By Simon Wiesenthal, Michael Fineberg, Shimon Samuels, Mark Weitzman 2007 page 49
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  66. ^ Tom Segev, The Seventh Million, chapter 3
  67. ^ tsm: The seventh million: the Israelis and the Holocaust author=Tom Segev year=1994. Hill and Wang. ISBN 0809015706. 
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  69. ^ Tom Segev op. cit., page 94
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  73. ^ The Times, "Zionists at Basle" 9/12/1946 page 3
  74. ^ The Jerusalem Program (WZO)
  75. ^ The World: Pursuing Peace; Netanyahu and His Party Turn Away from 'Greater Israel'
  76. ^ Jewish Standard The Soviet Jewry campaign transformed American Jewry, too
  77. ^ The UNGA Res 3379 was passed at the 2400th plenary meeting on 10 November 1975. (PDF).
  78. ^ The UNGA resolution 4686 was passed at the 74th plenary meeting on 16 December 1991 by a vote of 111-25-13. The text of the resolution is available here.

See also

Types of Zionism

Zionist institutions and organizations

History of Zionism and Israel



  • Taylor, A.R., 1971, 'Vision and intent in Zionist Thought', in 'The transformation of Palestine', ed. by I. Abu-Lughod, ISBN 0-8101-0345-1, Northwestern university press, Evanston, USA
  • David Hazony, Yoram Hazony, and Michael B. Oren, eds., "New Essays on Zionism," Shalem Press, 2007.

Other resources

For other resources and external links, see Zionism and anti-Zionism (resources)

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