2. More specifically, Zionism is a Jewish nationalist movement, founded by Theodor Herzl, which sought the creation of a Jewish state in Israel. (Some early Zionists proposed that a Jewish state might be established elsewhere instead, such as in Uganda, but nothing ever came of these proposals.)
Zionism believes that Israel should be a Jewish state. This is a different issue from whether Israel has a right to exist, since not all Israelis are Jews. There is a significant minority of Arab Israelis, and there are Israelis of many other ethnic and religious groups as well.
The desire of Jews to return to what they consider their rightful homeland was first expressed during the Babylonian exile and became a universal Jewish theme after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. and the dispersal that followed.
But whilst Israel was a universal Jewish theme, that universal Jewish theme is not the same thing as Zionism. Until the rise of Zionism, most Jews believed that the Jewish people would return to Israel with the coming of the Messiah, i.e. only after divine intervention; some proposed that Jews attempt to return earlier, by their own devices, but until the rise of Zionism in the 19th century they were in a minority.
When Zionism was first proposed it was highly controversial and a great many Jews opposed it. Many Jews would rather try to integrate into the society they lived, than try to return to Israel. This was the position taken by Reform Judaism at the time. Reform Judaism changed its opinion, at least in theory, after the Holocaust. However while what it said did change, in practice many Reform Jews still did not want to emigrate to Israel, especially those in the United States, who had avoided the traumas suffered by European Jews.
Many Hasidim and other ultra-Orthodox Jews believed that any attempt to return to Israel before the coming of the Messiah was sacriligeous. At one time the Lubavitcher Rebbes were anti-Zionist, though the more recent Rebbes have changed their position from one of anti-Zionism (i.e. active opposition to Zionism) to one of mere non-Zionism (i.e. neutrality towards it).
Today, the majority of all Jewish organizations and denominations is strongly pro-Zionist.
Jewish anti-Zionism Today
Though by far the majority of Jews today are Zionists, there are nonetheless a small number of ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews who are opposed to it. Major Jewish anti-Zionist movements include Satmar and Neuteri Karta. These groups are not only anti-Zionist; they are also explicitly against the legitimacy of all of Reform Judaism, all of Conservative Judaism, and most of Orthodox Judaism as well. Thus, these groups are not seen as part of the larger Jewish community by the rest of the Jewish world; some in the Jewish community view them as virtually anti-semetic.
Is Zionism Racist?
The United Nations General Assembly declared that "Zionism is a form of racism" in Resolution 3379 of Nov 10, 1975. The General Assembly rescinded this resolution in Resolution 46/86 of December 16, 1991.
The State of Isarel gives full civil rights to all Israeli citizens, of all national, ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Jews, Chrisitians, Bedouins, Druze, Arabs, Karaites and Vietnamese; this includes a very large number of Palestinians. Israel is the only nation in the Middle East where elected Jews and elected Arabs work together in a nation's parliament.
Similar to Italy, Morocco, Germany and few other nations (including some Arab nations), Israel has ethnically preferential immigration laws, that prefer Jews to non-Jews; Zionists argue this is so because Judaism has never been an ethnicity or religion, but rather a "nationality in exile". (Since the 20th century, is often considered by American Jews to be an evolving religious civilization with a national component.) From the Israeli point of view, the Jewish nation has only recently has been to reconstitute itself within its original borders. In contrast, most other Western countries have abolished all ethnic or racial criteria in their immigration laws and treat members of all races and ethnicities equally for immigration purposes.
The Law of Return of 1951 stated, basing on the Rabbinical practice, that:
- 4B. For the purposes of this Law, "Jew" means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism.
In 1970, an ammendment was made so that the law read as:
- 4B. For the purposes of this Law, "Jew" means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.
The origins of this ammendment lie in the case of Brother Daniel (Daniel Rufeisen), a Polish Jew persecuted by the Nazis and who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite monk. Israel's Supreme Court ruled that he was not eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return because he converted to Christianity. The rationale given by the Court was that the Law of Return was intended to sponsor Zionist consolidation of the Jewish nation in Israel; and by converting and choosing a life path outside of this nation, Rufeisen effectively gave up his intention to become a part of the Zionist effort, thus not qualifying for the Law of Return.
The decision aroused a controversy in the Israeli public. The consensus that emerged from the following public debate, was that since Judaism is not seen by Jews exclusively as a religion (see above), once someone rejects one's nationality, one can no longer simultaneously demand membership in it. Moreover, as a member of European clergy, Rufeisen's personal safety from possible persecution by Nazis was guaranteed. Having spent several years in Israel using a temporary permit, Rufeisen was granted citizenship by the Israeli Ministry of Interior, on the basis of the Law of Citizenship.
Section 4b of the Law of Return argues that being Jewish is both a nationality and a religion. Some could argue, basing on this, that the authors of the Law of Return intended it as a religious measure, thus effectively creating religious discrimination.
The Israeli constitution (like the British, contained in several pieces of legislation) provides that Israel is a Jewish state, yet also makes clear that non-Jewish Israelis are have equal rights in respects to Jewish citizens. Making certain that these rights are carried out in practice, however, has proven to be a difficult balancing act.
Many people in fringe groups, such as the Neo-Nazi party and Hamas claim that the true aim of Zionism is world dominance; they call this the Zionist conspiracy and use this to support anti-Semitism. This position has historically been associated with Fascism and Nazism. See also conspiracy theory. The most imporant text in this regard may be the Protocols_of_the_Elders_of_Zion.