>>>Ideological Streams in Zionism
Ideological Streams in Zionism 2018-02-19T22:12:01+00:00

Ideological Streams in Zionism

Two Jews – Ten Views

The Zionist Movement was an umbrella organization which included many different Zionist bodies and embodied a great variety of opinions and views. What they all shared was the hope to find a national Zionist solution. They all agreed that it was essential to organize the Jews into a broad popular movement and to establish a state and a homeland. However there were sharp divisions as to how to realize their goal and what the character of the future state would be. The structure of the Zionist movement was democratic, which enabled every stream to express its views as to the nature of the Zionist solution and the way to realize it.
Herzl made every effort to prevent an ideological fissure in the Zionist movement. Therefore clearly ideological questions and issues were pushed aside at the Zionist Congresses in order to avoid discussing them. For example, the question of “culture”, meaning the attitude of Zionism towards religion was pushed aside by Herzl for as long as he could.

Political Zionism

Political Zionism, headed by Herzl, believed that anti-Semitism prevented the Jews from becoming integrated into the non-Jewish society. Therefore, it was necessary to separate the Jews from the non-Jews. Herzl believed that the nations afflicted by anti-Semitism also had an interest to help find a solution to the problem of the Jews. The solution suggested by Herzl was for the Jews to receive a charter, with the agreement of the international community, to settle the Land of Israel. Herzl opposed “sneaking” into the Land of Israel as in the style of “Hovevi Zion” groups. He insisted on public negotiations regarding the Jewish question, which would lead in the end to the Jews getting what they wanted.

Cultural Zionism

This movement was headed by “Ahad Ha’am” (Asher Ginzburg). He claimed that the solution to the Jewish problem (Eastern European Jews) was for them to move to the West. His main fear concerned the future of Judaism, which he felt was threatened by assimilation. He believed that the real issue was the problems facing Judaism and not the problems facing the Jews. After visiting the Land of Israel, he claimed that the Land of Israel would be unable to absorb all the Jews of the world. He said that it was a small and backward country. He wrote two essays, The Wrong Way and A Truth from Eretz Yisrael, in which he was highly critical of the First Aliyah and the work of the Baron Rothschild. Ahad Ha’am suggested not establishing a Jewish state, rather a spiritual center. He believed that only a select group of Zionists, those who were suited ideologically and had the physical strength to cope with the difficult physical conditions in the Land of Israel should go there. He called them the “Cohens”. Their role in the spiritual center was to build an exemplary Jewish society which would be a light unto the nations, in other words, a role model for Jews of the world and a means of preventing the collapse of Judaism.

Theodor Herzl and the delegation on their way to visit Palestine

Just as their faces are different… The first Congress participants
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Practical Zionism: Pioneers returning from work

Revisionist Zionism: Beware of imitations!

Practical Zionism

Another powerful and important group in the Zionist movement were those who saw actual work in the Land of Israel as an immediate goal of the movement. The supporters of Practical Zionism were mostly “Hovevi Zion” in Russia, Romania, and Galicia. In other words, they were mostly Jews of Eastern Europe who saw this as a practical solution and a way to escape the pogroms and anti-Semitism. Ussishkin, Tschlenow and Otto Warburg, who was the third president of the Zionist Organizayion were among the leaders of this group. They believed that facts should be established in the Land of Israel: another house and another goat, without waiting to obtain a charter from other nations.

Synthetic Zionism

Chaim Weizmann and Martin Buber stood at the head of this movement. The meaning of the word synthetic is combined. In other words, the aim of the movement was to combine Political Zionism and Practical Zionism.
Following the rejection of the Uganda Proposal, the disagreements between advocates of Practical Zionism and advocates of Political Zionism increased. The new approach to Zionism favoured combining political action with practical steps in the Land of Israel. They believed in creating facts on the ground, realizing the principles of Practical Zionism: immigration to Israel and settling and working the land. At the same time, diplomatic steps should be continued. They maintained that the two were connected and mutually dependent. The facts created on the ground would increase the chance of political achievements with the international community and the political achievements would facilitate settlement activity.

Revisionist Zionism

Revisionist Zionism demanded a “revision” – a re-examination of the Zionist movement’s modes of action and a clearer definition of its aims. The Revisionists’ leader was Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who began to work on the formation of a political party and a youth movement, Beitar. The party would support “Zionist Activism” – the creation of a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel on both banks of the Jordan River, the formation of a Jewish army and an insistence that Britain would not veer from the spirit of the Balfour Declaration. The Revisionists first appeared at the 14th Congress in 1925. They called for the gradual transformation of the Land of Israel to an “independent community under the protection of the existing Jewish majority” and vehemently rejected allowing non-Zionists to join the Jewish Agency. At the time, they had only four delegates, but at the 17th Congress, in 1931, they were already the third largest faction in the World Zionist Organization and they pushed for redefining the “final goal” of Zionism (the establishment of a Jewish state with an independent government). When Jabotinsky learned that his proposal wasn’t even brought to a vote, because of a majority decision, he tore up his Congress representative card and he and his fellow party members demonstratively stormed out of the Congress.
On April 25, 1935 Jabotinsky and his followers left the World Zionist Organization and shortly thereafter they established the “New Zionist Organization”, which existed until 1946. Its center was in London. Jabotinsky independently conducted widespread political activity, yet he was unable to provide an alternative to the World Zionist Organization, which he had left. When he was called to testify before official committees that investigated the situation in the Land of Israel and recommended dividing the land, he did so loyally, and his claims were not very different from the views expressed by other Zionist leaders. He rejected the Partition Plan and suggested a ten-year plan for settling 1.5 million Jews in the Land of Israel. Especially outstanding was his call for “evocation” – the immediate voluntary evacuation of the Jews of Europe because of the fear of the approaching Holocaust. He made many attempts to advance this plan by meeting with European leaders and speaking in front of Jewish audiences, however, nothing came out of his efforts.

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