Zionism – its origins and aspirations

  • Outline the biblical attachment of the Jewish people to the Middle East up to their expulsion by the Romans
  • Define the concept of Zionism
  • Describe the development of Zionism in the 19th Century - How did it begin? What did it hope to achieve?
  • Describe the persecution of Jews in Europe up to World War I
  • Explain the Palestinian response to Jewish settlement in Palestine up to World War I

Outline the biblical attachment of the Jewish people to the Middle East up to their expulsion by the Romans

Descendants of Abraham through his son, Isaac. Israelites were the Chosen People of the Hebrew God. Led by Moses from the desert to the Promised Land.
  • 586 BC, destruction of first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Jewish exile and captivity in Babylon.
  • 66 BC, Romans occupy Judea.
  • AD 70, Jewish Temple destroyed by the occupying Romans.
  • AD 135, expulsion of Jews from "Syria Palestina": dispersion of Jews, the Diaspora.
  • AD 600s - spread of Islam from Arabia - Palestine converted.
  • 1099-1291 Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
  • 1517 - Palestine comes under the control of the Ottoman Turks.
  • World War I - during the war, the Ottoman Empire was defeated After the war, Palestine came under the control of Britain.

Biblical references:
Shem, son of Noah - descendants of Shem: Semites

Abraham (descended from Shem)
Genesis 12, 2: "I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you."
Genesis 12, 7: The Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land."

The Covenant - Genesis 15, 18: It was on that occasion that the Lord made a Covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I give this land…"
Sarah presents Hagar to Abraham

Abraham's wife, Sarah, could not bear children. She asked Abraham to lie with her maid, Hagar, who later bore him a child, Ishmael.

Genesis 17, 4-8: "My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father of a host of nations. No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations. I will render you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings shall stem from you. I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God."

Genesis 17, 19-21: God replied: "Nevertheless, your wife Sarah is to bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. I will maintain my covenant with him as an everlasting pact, to be his God and the God of His descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I am heeding you: I hereby bless him. I will make him fertile and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve chieftains, and I will make of him a great nation. But my covenant I will maintain with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you by this time next year."

Sarah demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be cast out.
Genesis 21, 12-13: But God said to Abraham: "Do not be distressed about the boy or about your slave woman. Heed the demands of Sarah, no matter what she is demanding of you; for it is through Isaac that descendants shall bear your name. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a great nation of him also, since he too is your offspring."

Jacob, son of Isaac
Genesis 35, 11-13: God said to him: "You whose name is Jacob shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name… The land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac I now give to you; And to your descendants after you will I give this land."

Joseph, the favourite son of Jacob (Israel), was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, where he prospered. Jacob and his brothers later followed him to Egypt. They were then enslaved. Moses led the Israelites (descendants of Israel/Jacob) out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised land. After 40 years wandering in the desert, Moses died within sight of the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 24, 4-5)

The successors of Moses then set about the conquest of the Promised Land, eventually resulting in the anointing of David as King and the building of the first Temple.

Psalm 137

By the streams of Babylon
we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the aspens of that land
we hung up our harps,
Though there our captors asked of us
the lyrics of our songs,
And our despoilers urged us to be joyous:
"Sing for us the songs of Zion!"

How could we sing a song of the Lord
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand be forgotten!
May my tongue cleave to my palate
if I remember you not,
If I place not Jerusalem
ahead of my joy.

Jews For Justice:
  • Original inhabitants of Palestine were the Canaanites. This was the main racial tree that survived through the Jewish Kingdom period and the Roman Empire, and which was converted to Islam in the 600s.
  • Jerusalem was a well-developed city before the migration of the Jews under Abraham.
  • The Jewish Kingdom lasted only 73 years (or 414 at the most down to 586 BC).
  • From the Islamic conquest the population was predominantly Arabic, right up to the creation of Israel as a nation (1948).

Define the concept of Zionism

Text: the desire to establish a national home for Jewish people in Palestine. Zion = Jerusalem
Jewish Board of Deputies: "...the restoration of the land of Israel." From the Hatikva: "To live as a free people in our own land." "… the Jewish people's historical longing to return to their own land".

Describe the development of Zionism in the 19th Century - How did it begin? What did it hope to achieve?

  • First wave of Zionist immigration 1881-1903, 10000 migrants, twenty agricultural settlements. Finance from foreign benefactors e.g. Baron Rothschild.
  • Theodor Herzl: Austrian Jew. 1896 pamphlet "The Jewish State" described isolation of Jews in European society. Following, esp. among Jews in Eastern Europe - 'new Moses'. First Zionist Congress, Basle, August 1897 - a significant first step though there were many different views; it was a blasphemy, assimilation was better.
  • 1900 - Jewish national Fund established to buy land in Palestine for Jewish occupation.
  • Herzl willing to accept sites other than Palestine, e.g., Uganda. With death of Herzl in 1904, the Uganda option died and led to the second wave of immigrants (2nd Aliyah).

Read Documents 5.1. and 5.2 and answer the five questions.

Jews For Justice:
  • The Zionist movement was an old-style colonialist movement that gave no regard to the rights of original inhabitants. The aim of Zionism was the dispossession of the Arabs to create a completely Jewish state. Land bought by the Jewish National Fund could not be sold or leased back to Arabs.

Describe the persecution of Jews in Europe up to World War I

Text: Periodical persecution for centuries: Christ killers; scapegoats.
Worst persecution in Eastern Europe: in the Russian Empire, Jews forced to live primarily in the Jewish Pale of Settlement. Ghettos in other towns.
Pogroms: e.g. 1881 (led to 1st Aliyah), 1903 (led to 2nd Aliyah)

Explain the Palestinian response to Jewish settlement in Palestine up to World War I

Text "The Beginnings of Conflict" p.75
Conflict, quarrels, disputes, over land. Jews purchased land from absentee landlords and then dispossessed the Arab farmers who worked the land.
Increasing Jewish migration, and spread of knowledge of the ideas of Zionism led to Arab resistance for fear of losing their homes and land. The attitudes of Arabs in Palestine was little understood by migrant Jews.

Jews For Justice:
  • The Arabic farmers who worked the land considered it their own. It was only when land was sold to Jews and the Arabs were dispossessed that they realised they had no legal title, though they still regarded it as theirs.
  • The increasingly violent opposition to Jewish settlement in Palestine was not based on anti-Semitism but on a fear for the existence of Arabs in Palestine.
  • Jewish people had lived in harmony in Palestine for centuries. Hostility towards them only came with Zionist immigration and the fears of Arabic dispossession.
  • The Jews of the Diaspora, who had been persecuted in Europe, became the persecutors on their arrival in Palestine.
  • Zionism was a response of a small minority of European Jews. Most fled persecution (especially in Russia) by emigrating to the United States (over 1 million by 1900; 2¼ million by 1914)