Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second As we have already seen when examining the Russian Empire, the antisemitism of this time had a direct effect on the way the Jews of Europe felt in their countries of residence. Whether integrated or segregated, modern expressions of antisemitism caused many Jews to feel unsure about their future in Europe. Since our course deals with the development of antisemitism, our main focus is on the groups and ideologies that brought about the major antisemitic theories and perceptions throughout history. We therefore do not expand on the ways the Jews themselves reacted to antisemitism and anti-Jewish traditions. However, it is important that we acquaint ourselves with one such reaction - Zionism.
Skip to 0 minutes and 42 seconds The emergence of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century was not the only form of Jewish response to the events and ideologies of the time. At its early stages it wasn’t even the most popular one. But it is important that we focus on it because of the important place it will hold in the formulation of new forms of antisemitism in the 20th and 21st centuries. Let’s begin by asking what is Zionism and what were the catalysts that led to its emergence. Zionism is the movement of national liberation of the Jewish people. It started in the last quarter of the 19th century and it was impacted by two in a way contradictory trends.
Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds On the one hand, the Jews had before their eyes the liberation of European countries from the imperial powers, Bulgaria, the Balkans in general, earlier on Greece. On the one hand, there was this positive example, this positive aspiration of people who wanted to get free - to get liberated. But on the other side, was also the negative power, the fact that in the last quarter of the 19th century appeared racial antisemitism, namely a movement that denied the Jews the right to emancipation in the countries where they already got emancipation.
Skip to 2 minutes and 52 seconds This new hatred of the Jews that concentrated not on culture, not on their being different from other nations but on being emancipated and on sharing the same culture of the people in which they dwelt. Some of the Jews said if they don’t want us, so be it. Let’s leave them. So Zionism was a result of two poles, a positive pole of national liberation and a negative pole of antisemitic exclusion. Inspired by other national movements and in reaction to the rise of modern forms of antisemitism, the Zionist movement’s main goal was the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, also known as the Land of Israel.
Skip to 4 minutes and 0 seconds The name of the movement itself is derived from the word “Zion,” a place name used as a synonym for Jerusalem in the Bible and in Judaic tradition. When the movement emerged in the late 19th century, this territory was part of the Ottoman Empire and in 1917 it came under British rule. Zionist thought viewed the Jewish people scattered around the world as one unified nation and not only as a religious group. The Zionists demanded that the existence of the Jewish nation, with a common past, present and even future, be recognized. They strove to create a modern Jewish culture, drawing upon the European ideologies in schools of thought of the time and on shared Jewish history and traditions.
Skip to 4 minutes and 45 seconds The movement also revived the Hebrew language, changing the usage of the language from the sacred language of Judaism to a spoken and written one. An important turn in the development of the Zionist movement came with one of its key figures - Theodor Herzl. Herzl, an assimilated Austro-Hungarian Jew laid the foundations for “political Zionism,” which used diplomacy to engage with the world empires of the time in order to get consent for the establishment of a Jewish state. Herzl was able to establish this political approach in 1897 with the first Zionist Congress which took place in Basel, Switzerland. Herzl died in 1904 and the efforts to procure a political charter were continued by the leaders of the Zionist movement.
Skip to 5 minutes and 30 seconds A major accomplishment came in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration. Issued by the British, the declaration acknowledged the right of the Jews for a national home in Palestine. Zionist immigration waves to Palestine known as “Aliyot”, began in fluxes from 1881 onwards. The groups of Jews arriving in these waves founded new settlements alongside small older Jewish communities. The relationship between the Jewish community or Yishuv, and the Arab population of the area, who was not pleased with the changing nature of the mutual living space, was fragile and sometimes hostile. The tenuous dynamic became particularly intense following the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the growth of both the Zionist movement and the Palestinian national movement.
Skip to 6 minutes and 16 seconds This relationship reached a major turning point with the 1947 UN Partition Plan and the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. As we will see in future weeks, these events and tensions will have an important effect on the development and spread of antisemitism, both during this time and in years to come.
The emergence of Zionism
Prof. Anita Shapira
Since our course deals with the development of antisemitism, our main focus is on the groups and ideologies that brought about the major antisemitic theories and perceptions throughout history. We therefore do not expand on the ways the Jews themselves reacted to antisemitism and anti-Jewish traditions. However, it is important that we acquaint ourselves with one such reaction - Zionism.
What is Zionism and why did it emerge?
Avineri, Shlomo, The Making of Modern Zionism: Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State (New York: Basic Books, 1981).
Laqueur, Walter, A History of Zionism (New York: Schocken Books, 1976).
Reinharz, Jehuda and Anita Shapira, eds., Essential papers on Zionism (New York: New York University Press, 1996).
Shapira, Anita, Israel: A History (Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 2012).
Shapira, Anita, “Anti-Semitism and Zionism,” Modern Judaism, vol. 15, no. 3 (Oct., 1995), pp. 215 - 232.
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