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  Zionism is the doctrine and movement which seeks to bring Jews together in Palestine to establish and maintain their own state. ‘Zion’ is the name of a hill in Jerusalem and also signifies the ‘Promised Land’. The doctrine\'s founding text is Theodor Herzl\'s The Jewish State (1896); its author was a Viennese journalist. The first Zionist World Congress was held in 1897, and led to the creation of an organization dedicated to buying land in Palestine and encouraging colonial settlements. Following the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, through war and the expulsion of Palestinian Arabs, Zionism become an official state ideology.

In its origins Zionism is a species of political nationalism and settler colonialism rather than a theological movement. It has four key premises: (1) the present-day Jewish people are the descendants of the Jews who originated in Zion before being dispersed throughout the world (following the Roman assault on the Jews in the 2nd century  BCE); (2) Jews cannot be assimilated into other societies; (3) Jews have the right to return to Zion; and (4) Ottoman Palestine was ‘a land without people for a people without a land’. Each of these key articles of Zionist faith is hotly disputed, both by Jews and non-Jews. The fourth is palpably false: Palestine was not a land without people when Zionists embarked upon their schemes of colonization in the early 20th century; it had an extensive Arab-speaking population, and adherents of three religious faiths, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, lived in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Zionism succeeded in winning support among the Jewish populations of Europe and the USA because of their fears of anti-semitism, and the pogroms launched against Jews in central and eastern Europe from the 1880s onwards. Zionists were also astute in winning backing from the governments of the British Empire, Tsarist Russia, Wilhemite Germany and the Ottoman empire, who were persuaded to back the Zionist project for a diverse set of narrowly instrumental motives. However, Zionism received decisive impetus only after the genocide of six million European Jews during the Nazi dictatorship (1933-45). Creating a separate state in Palestine made sense to many Jewish survivors of the genocide, and in response the USA and the European powers agreed to support the establishment of a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. A Jewish state has been established in Palestine, the state of Israel, but to date no Arab state.

Whether Zionism\'s doctrinal objectives have been successfully realized in the state of Israel is a matter of debate. The central objective, the creation of a safe state for Jews, has not been established: the state of Israel, founded and expanded through colonial conquest, does not live in peace with its neighbours. The second objective, the creation of a Jewish homeland in which most Jews would live, has only been partially realized: only a minority of the world\'s Jewish population lives in Israel. Moreover its critics maintain that although Zionism was an understandable reaction to European anti-semitism in the hands of many of its proponents, it has become a species of anti-Arab racism. BO\'L

Further reading W. Lacquer, History of Zionism; , E. Said and , C. Hitchens (eds.), Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question.



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