Monday, March 23, 2015

Getting to the Bottom of Zionism

Back in the 1880s, when Zionism started, it was nothing more than an idea to create a homeland for beleaguered Jews.  In that way, it paralleled efforts through the years by Armenians, Serbs, Slovaks and other ethnic groups to find a refuge from the attacks of their neighbors.  The Czech Republic and Slovakia grew out of such a commitment.  The breakup of Yugoslavia led to the rebirth of several ethnic countries, including Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia.

In the same way, Zionism eventually led to the creation of Israel.

None of the other nationalistic efforts, however, have resulted in the kinds of verbal abuse heaped on Zionism, which is accused of fomenting genocide against Palestinians to trying to control the world.  I read one website which lambasted Zionists for working with anti-Semites in Nazi Germany, as if both sides didn’t have the same objective: to get Jews out of Europe.

Such claims often arise from widespread anti-Semitism, something that Croatians, Serbians etc. have never had to deal with.  Jews, who are outside the Christian culture, have been easy targets of hate, abuse and outright murder since Christianity became the sole religion of the dying Roman Empire in the late 4th century.   
Holocaust victims

A Stanford University study of anti-Semitism placed the blame squarely on churches for using that hatred to bolster their own positions.  Even today, after the Holocaust that killed around 6 million Jews during World War II, anti-Semitism remains alive and well, especially in Europe, the Arab world and this country.
A 2014 study by the Anti-Defamation League found that about one in four adults worldwide are “deeply infected with anti-Semitic attitudes.”  The survey of 53,100 adults in 102 countries revealed that almost half had never heard of the Holocaust.  Of those who had, most don’t believe that the accounts are accurate.
I have Arab friends who say they are not anti-Semitic, but dislike Israel.  Unfortunately, their countries often won’t admit anyone whose passport identifies the holder as Jewish.  That’s anti-Semitism, not anti-Israeli.

It’s also why Zionism started in the first place.

In the 1890s, Jewish Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl saw evidence of widespread anti-Semitism in France and in Austria.  Although having only limited involvement with Judaism, Herzl wrote a play and several papers in which he said anti-Semitism “could not be defeated or cured.”  To him, then, the only solution was the creation of a Jewish homeland where Jews would not suffer from such hatred. 

His writings attracted widespread attention in Jewish communities.  Naturally, early proponents focused on creating a homeland in what was then called Southern Syria, but, in the Bible, had been “given” to the descendants of Abraham.  “On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land...’” (Genesis 15:18)
There are actually several similar promises in the Bible: they don’t agree on boundaries or even how the Jews are supposed to assume control of the land.  Nevertheless, Jews have claimed the land even when not living there. 

Homeland proponents chose the name Zionism, which had been coined two decades earlier and was derived from the old name of the mountain in Jerusalem, Mt. Zion. Ironically, Herzl was ousted from the World Zionist Organization for accepting Uganda after England proposed that country as a substitute for Israel.

Jewish financiers like Rothschild and Belmont helped fund the purchase of land in Israel and to create collective farms there.  Still, by the 1920s, there were only five such kibbutzim and a few thousands Jews.   That number increased, of course, as anti-Semitism took hold in Europe.

After World War II, however, shocked by the mass murder of Jews, the United Nations agreed with the Zionistic aims and voted to create Israel as a Jewish homeland while creating a separate Palestinian homeland for Arab residents.

English statesman Winston Churchill called the creation of Israel “an event in world history to be viewed in the perspective not of a generation or a century, but in the perspective of a thousand, two thousand or even three thousand years.”  He added that it is “one of the most hopeful and encouraging adventures of the 20th century.”

Not everyone agreed with him then or now. 

Today, Zionism is demonized.  It is still linked to the fraudulent Protocol of the Elders of Zion, which supposedly outlined a policy of Jewish world domination even though it was based on French farcical essays that predated the term Zionism by 30 years and had nothing to with Zionism, Judaism or Israel.  It was revised in the early 1900s to poke fun at Herzl and then adopted by American anti-Semites like Henry Ford (who later apologized) and German leader Adolf Hitler (who insisted schoolchildren study it).

In addition, Zionism is accused today of such absurdities as fostering an apartheid policy in Israel, of helping fund the Arab terrorists of 9/11 and so on.

Jews against Zionism
Zionism remains nothing more than a philosophy behind the successful creation of a Jewish homeland.  That’s it.  Not all Jews are Zionists.  In fact, many Jews continue to oppose imposition of a Jewish state on the land, which has often been to the detriment of non-Jewish residents.

Not all Zionists are Jews.  Many ultra-conservative Christians believe that Jews must return to Israel to rebuild the Temple to hasten Jesus’ return and the end of the world.  Evangelicals actually have been some of the strongest supporters of Zionism.

Nevertheless, Zionism continues to be the focus of intense hatred, which only supports the Zionistic belief that Jews need a homeland to be safe from such misguided abuse.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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