What is ZIONISM?
When the Jews, exiled from their land in the seventh century before the Christian era, sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept, but also prayed and sought ways to go home, that was already Zionism. When in a mass revolt against their exile they returned and rebuilt the Temple and re-established their State, that was Zionism.
When they were the last people in the Mediterranean basin to resist the forces of the Roman Empire and to struggle for independence, that was Zionism.
When for centuries after the Roman conquest they refused to surrender and rebelled again and again against the invaders, that was Zionism.
When uprooted from their land by the conquerors and dispersed by them all over the world, they continued to dream and to strive to return to Israel, that was Zionism.
When they volunteered from Palestine and from all over the world to establish Jewish armies that fought on the side of the Allies in the First World War and helped to end Ottoman subjugation, that was Zionism.
When they formed the Jewish Brigade in the Second World War to fight Hitler, while Arab leaders supported him, that was Zionism.
When Jews went to gas chambers with the name of Jerusalem on their lips, that was Zionism.
When in the forests of Russia and the Ukraine and other parts of East Europe, Jewish partisans battled with the Germans and sang of the land where palms are growing, that was Zionism.
When Jews fought British colonialism while the Arabs of Palestine and neighboring Arab States were being helped by it, that was Zionism.
Zionism is one of the world’s oldest anti-imperialist movements. It aims at securing for the Jewish people the rights possessed by other nations. It harbors malice towards none. It seeks cooperation and understanding with the Arab peoples and with the national movements.
Zionism is as sacred to the Jewish people as the national liberation movements are to the nations of Africa and Asia. Even if the Arab States are locked today in conflict with the Jewish national liberation movement, they must not stoop in their attitude towards it to the fanaticism and barbarism of the Nazis. If there is to be hope for peace in the Middle East, there must be between Israel and the Arab States mutual respect for each other’s sacred national values – not distortion and abuse.
Zionism was not born in the Jewish ghettos of Europe, but on the battlefield against imperialism in ancient Israel. It is not an outmoded nationalistic revival but an unparalleled epic of centuries of resistance to force and bondage. Those who attack it attack the fundamental principles and provisions of the United Nations Charter.
(Excerpts from a speech by the Permanent Representative of Israel at the U. N. Security Council on October 21, 1973.)
WHAT IS ZIONISM?
Once a word becomes linked with other words often enough, it loses its original meaning because the sense of every word in any language is decided by the context in which it appears, not by some definition in a dictionary. This plain fact is known very well to Arab and Communist propagandists, and their insistent linkage between Zionism and evil-sounding words like racism, colonialism and aggression is evidence of their design to fight the Jewish people everywhere; otherwise they would have attacked only the State of Israel, but their onslaught on Zionism is intended to malign Jews in all countries. This is a very effective technique of propaganda, because it automatically puts every Zionist on the defensive; he has to explain why Zionism is not racist, or not colonialistic, or not aggressive, which is much more complicated than the simple name-calling, and has much less impact. Some recent international forums have adopted this tactic, and we are going to experience it again and again. It is necessary, therefore to return to fundamental facts, and to use a self-evident, clear and unambiguous definition of Zionism. This is not difficult, because Zionism does not have an intricate ideology; it is a simple answer to a simple question.
The question that Zionism asks is this: Can the Jewish people exist when all its communities are scattered around the world, and subject to different non-Jewish regimes and States, whose policies change from day to day and where anti-Semitism may flourish from time to time? The Zionist answer is: No! The Jewish people can continue to exist only if it has an independent State in its one and only Homeland, the Land of Israel. There is nothing more to add to that basic definition of Zionism: Jewish independence in the Land of Israel. Anyone who agrees that such a State should exist is a Zionist; anyone who opposes it is a non-Zionist. Anyone who thinks that this State should be destroyed is an anti-Zionist.
Zionism does not define what kind of State the Jews should have, whether a democratic or a Communist one, governed by a President or a Prime Minister, with an agricultural or an industrial economy, and so on. All that Zionism requires is a Jewish State in the Land of Israel. Zionism does not define the borders of it, whether it should include this village or that. Zionism is only the demand for the existence of the Jewish State in the Land of Israel. All other questions, the policy, economy and borders of that State, are subject to discussion and dispute – between those who agree that it should exist. Those who oppose Zionism, and therefore also the existence of the Jewish State, care very little for its policies, or even its borders.
The dividing line is, therefore, completely clear: Anyone who opposes Zionism is demanding the destruction of the Jewish State in the Land of Israel, and declaring that the Jewish people should not have a State at all, anywhere, regardless of any problem of borders or of its policies. The fight against Zionism is a very thin disguise of the demand to destroy the Jewish State and the Jewish people.
(Professor Joseph Dan, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)