Israel and Palestinian Studies Guide-v1

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About This Guide

Welcome to the new Temple Israel “Israel and Palestinian Studies Guide.” Here you will find links to many subjects, organizations, and web pages, organized by topics that deal with the historic and modern day State of Israel, including current events, newspapers, politics, the history of Zionism, and Reform and Progressive movements, to name a few.  All resources and web links listed are open source, so you do not need a subscription, account, or password to view the information. Books from Temple Israel’s collection are also included, which you can check out and read at home.

We hope you will find this a useful guide and welcome any suggestions, additions, or edits. Please email your thoughts to Susie Levin and Deb Mandel.

Background/Reference Information

E Resources (in Temple Israel’s Collection)
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia
    Published in the early 1900s, and completely online. Provides  historical, not time-sensitive information about Judaism.
  • Jewish Virtual Library
    Includes Information from different sources on politics, history, Jewish people, and Israel.
  • My Jewish Learning
    A great resource about anything to do with Judaism, past and present.
General Research
  • Internet Archive
    A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more.
  • JSTOR
    A full-text academic journal index. Through cooperation with the Boston Public Library (BPL), Temple Israel members may access JSTOR. Please contact the librarian for access instructions.
  • Worldcat
    A global catalog of library collections. You can search for books, music, video, articles, and much more.
Hardcover, in Temple Israel’s Library Check out and take home!

For more subjects and titles search the library catalog.

  • Ben-Ami, Jeremy, A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation.
    New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Call #:E183.8 .I7B4
    J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami examines myths related to the politics of the American Jewish community, discusses how they have shaped pro-Israel advocacy, and shares details about his evolution toward a moderate viewpoint.
  • Burg, Avraham. In Days to Come: A New Hope for Israel; translated by Joel Greenberg.
    New York, Nation Books. 2018. Call #:DS126.6 .B87
    This is Burg’s philosophical inquiry into what Jewish-Israeli identity means today if you are personally, ethically, and politically opposed to what your country stands for.
  • Cohen, Richard. Israel: Is it Good for the Jews?
    New York, Simon & Schuster. 2014.
    This book is part reportage, part memoir — an intimate journey through the history of Europe’s Jews, culminating in the establishment of Israel.
  • Gartman, Eric. Return to Zion: the History of Modern Israel.
    Philadelphia,The Jewish Publication Society, 2015.  Call #:DS126.5 .G35
    From the rise of Zionism to the founders of the Jewish State, this is the story of a strong-willed people fighting to keep a land their ancestors called home.
  • Gershon, Hundert, editor in chief. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe / Volume 1.
    New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2008. Call #: REF DS125 .E8Y5 v.1
  • Gilbert, Martin. Israel: A History.
    New York, William Morrow, 1988. Call #:DS126.5 .G53
    Beginning with Israel’s founding in May 1948, this comprehensive history of Israel explores its political, religious, cultural, and economic development.
  • Lacquer, Walter and Rubin, Barry, editors. Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict.
    New York, Penguin Books, 2008. Call #: DS119.7.I8
    This collection of documents presents a particular and chronological interpretation of history in Palestine over the past century.
  •  Miller, Aaron David. The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace.
    New York, Bantam Books. 2009. Call #:DS119.7 .M4947
    The author, an advisor to U.S. presidents and secretaries of state on the Arab-Israeli conflict for nearly twenty years, examines the history of U.S. involvement in the peace process in the region.
  • Morris Bennie. One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel-Palestine Conflict.
    New Haven, Yale University Press, 2009. Call #:DS119.7 .M658
    This book scrutinizes the history of the goals of the Palestinian national movement and the Zionist movement, then considers the various one- and two-state proposals made by different streams within the two movements.
  • Ross, Dennis. Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace.
    New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.  DS119.76 .R68 2004
    The respected ambassador and chief Middle East negotiator in both the Clinton and Bush administrations offers a sober, candid assessment of the peace process, covering Camp David, Oslo, Geneva, and Egypt; the assassination of Yitzak Rabin; and more.
  • Shapira, Anita. Israel: a History; translated from the Hebrew by Anthony Berris.
    Waltham, MA, Brandeis University Press. 2012. Call #:DS149 .S497
    Written by one of Israel’s most notable scholars, this volume provides a history of Israel from the origins of the Zionist movement to publication date.
  • Shehadeh, Raja. Where the Line is Drawn: A Tale of Crossings, Friendships, and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel-Palestine.
    New York, The New Press. 2017. Call #:DS119.7 .S382
    Shehadeh explores how occupation has affected him personally, chronicling the various crossings that he undertook into Israel over a period of forty years to visit friends and family, to enjoy the sea, to argue before the Israeli courts, and to negotiate failed peace agreements.
  • Sokatch, Daniel. Can We Talk About Israel?: A Guide for the Curious, Confused, and Conflicted.
    New York, Bloomsbury Pub., 2021. Call #: DS119.7 .S6
    Sokatch is head of the New Israel Fund, an organization dedicated to equality and democracy for all Israelis, not just Jews. Well-versed on the Israeli conflict, he attempts to explain why Israel — and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — inspires such extreme feelings.
  • Tolan, Sandy. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East.
    New York: Bloomsbury Pub, 2007.  Call #:DS126.6 .A2T65
    This tale, a simple act of faith between two young people — one Israeli, one Palestinian — symbolizes the hope for peace in the Middle East.
  • Waxman, Dov. Trouble in the Tribe.
    Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press. 2016. Call #:DS132 .W39
    This book explores the increasingly contentious place of Israel in the American Jewish community.
  • Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; edited with introductions by Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon.
    New York, Grove Press, 2003. Call #:DS132 .W74 2003.
    Leading Jewish writers, activists, and scholars share their reflections on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East as they address such topics as the link between American Jews and Israel, the need for Palestinian justice and Jewish survival, and the meaning of Zionism.
  • The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland — Then, Now, Tomorrow; edited by Gil Troy.
    Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press. 2018. Call #: DS149 .T71
    This book showcases more than 170 visionaries, shedding light on the surprisingly diverse and shared visions for realizing Israel as a democratic Jewish state.
Non-Fiction Recommended by Librarian Ann Abrams
  • Glidden, Sarah. How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less.
    New York, Vertigo/DC Comics, 2010. Call #: PN6727 .G55H6
    This graphic memoir details the author’s exploration of Israel during a “Birthright Israel” tour and the rediscovery of her Jewish heritage.
  • Rosenthal, Donna. The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land.
    New York, Free Press. 2003. Call # DS113.3.R67.
    How does Israel look to Israelis? The answers are varied, and they have been brought together in this book. From battlefields to bedrooms to boardrooms, discover the colliding worlds in which an astounding mix of 6.8 million devoutly traditional and radically modern people live.
  • Shavit, Ari. My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.
    New York, Spiegel & Grau. 2013. Call #: DS119.7 .S381
    This is a personal narrative history of the State of Israel from journalist Ari Shavit, drawn from his family’s stories, interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters.

Clergy Reading Recommendations



Current Events  E-Resources

 

Key Sources

Other Notable Sources

Lists were derived from Honest Reporting: “The Top 7 Israeli News Sources in English.”

Examining the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab Conflicts:

Documents, Maps, Oral Histories and Other Primary Sources

The “Green Line”: a section of the map of the Armistice Lines with Jordan with handwritten notations, part of a secret agreement with King Abdallah, 23 March 1949. Courtesy of the Israel State Archives.

The 1967 Census of the West Bank and Gaza Strip: A Digitized Version

The 1967 Census of the West Bank and Gaza Strip: A Digitized Version (Levy Economics Institute of Bard College)
In the summer of 1967, just after the Six-Day War brought the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Israeli control, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) supervised a census in these territories. The ICBS prepared seven volumes of reports based on this enumeration—the first modern census reports on the Palestinian population.

The Avalon Project from Yale University

The Avalon Project from Yale University contains a section called “The Middle East 1916-2001: A Documentary Record.” This is the best place to find diplomatic primary sources related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as treaties, UN resolutions, and similar documents.

Maps of The Middle East

This browsable collection of  Middle Eastern maps from the Perry Castaneda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin is arranged by country. Most of the maps were created by the CIA and are available in a variety of sizes, all of which are marked. Many maps of Israel and the West Bank are included.

Museum of the Palestinian People

The Museum of the Palestinian People is here to tell our stories; stories that encompass the rich history, vibrant arts, and culture of a people who thrive even in the face of adversity. Our stories are many; our hearts are one.”

Need updated software to open.

The Palestine Chronology: Institute for Palestinian Studies

Since the beginning of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, the Institute for Palestinian Studies has chronicled daily political and military events surrounding the Palestine question. These day-by-day summaries are based on Palestinian, Arab, Israeli, and international sources. Prior to August 2018, the chronology was published quarterly in the Journal of Palestine Studies. It is now updated monthly.

Progress is Possible: S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace

The Progress is Possible  website considers the core issues at the heart of the conflict, the world views that the populations hold, the unwritten history of insider religious mediation, and offers some detailed sequenced steps that the parties and US should take.

Settlements and Solutions: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

The Washington Institute’s interactive project, Settlements and Solutions, is a first-of-its-kind web-based geographic database that provides users engaged with the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a reliable source to explore Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Users of this mapping tool can explore settlement geography and demography and decide for themselves whether, given the circumstances on the ground, a two-state solution is still possible.

Toldot Yisrael: Documenting Israel’s 1948 Generation

This oral history project focuses on those who were at least 16 years old at the founding of the State of Israel. It is housed at the National Library of Israel.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East: A Photo and Film Archive for Palestine Refugees

Since its establishment, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has recorded all aspects of the life and history of Palestine refugees through film and photography. This has led to a rich audiovisual archive, containing more than 430,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides, 75 films, and 730 videocassettes.

From the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies Research Guide

Israel’s Political System

Israel has a parliamentary system, in which the head of the legislature, the Prime Minister, also serves as the chief executive. The President of Israel is a largely ceremonial office.

Definitions

Proportional Representational System

Israel’s election system is a proportional representational system, in which parties are rewarded the number of seats proportional to the number of votes it receives. This system uses a closed-list, in which voters vote for a party, as opposed to specific candidates running within any party. Some parties use a primary to determine their lists, while others announce their lists. There are also no constituencies, where an elected representative serves a particular region.

3.25% Electoral Threshold

Israel has many parties owing to its great political, cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity. One votes for the party, and not a person directly. While the parties themselves can shift in names and technical designations, parties can generally be broken down into left, right, and center, or representing certain minority groups such as Haredi Jews or Israeli-Palestinians.  For example, the Likud party, the party of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been known as Herut and Mahal at different points in Israeli history. In order for a party to receive any seats, they must pass the electoral threshold of 3.25%. If a party does not meet this threshold, they may align with another party, and the alliance as a whole must meet the electoral threshold.

Multi-party Coalition Government

Because Israel has a multi-party system, the Knesset is made up of coalition governments, as no party has ever won a majority [61] of the 120 seats.  After the elections, the Israeli President determines which leader holds a chance to develop a coalition government. Generally, this has been the leader of the party receiving the most seats, but that is not always the case. This leader then has 42 days to negotiate a coalition with the other parties. The coalition is presented and voted on in a vote of confidence by the other members of Knesset. Because they can often make or break the coalition, small parties have an outsized influence in Israeli politics.

Early Elections

Israeli law requires that elections take place every four years following the previous election, but governments generally do not serve an entire term in Israel. Early elections can be called in a number of ways, including a majority vote by Knesset members, a decision by the President, or if continued gridlock within Knesset is preventing the passage of legislation. Additionally, if the budget is not passed, the Knesset goes to early elections.

Elections and Parties Resources

Israel: 23rd Knesset Election Data Maps

Israel: 23rd Knesset Election Data Maps — This is a visualization of official Israeli election data. Zoom in to examine a particular geographic area. It also has the results for the 22nd election as well. Please note: The page defaults to US election data. Use the drop down menu above the map to select Israel.

Israel Democracy Institute: Elections and Parties

Israel Democracy Institute: Elections and Parties
This is an excellent guide to learn about Israel’s political parties, their ideologies, prominent figures, electoral achievements and representation. You can also find out about the results of Israel’s Knesset elections by year. This tool includes information about all the parties that ran in a given year, including those that did not pass the electoral threshold.

Knesset Archive
Digital Archives of the Israeli Knesset.

Knesset Research and Information Center
The Knesset Research and Information Center (RIC) was established in the year 2000 with the goal of providing Knesset members with professional, reliable, and objective information in-house. The RIC provides the Knesset members, committees, and departments with data, research papers, and background studies pertaining to current debates, legislation, and relevant parliamentary activity.

Official Results for the Election of the 24th Knesset
Hebrew only. The official results for the most recent Israeli election, which seated the 24th Knesset. Results can be viewed by party or by geography.

Information is derived from from Brandeis University’s Schusterman Guide

Palestinian Literature and Non-Fiction

Books with Call #s are in Temple Israel’s Library

Fiction

Dabbagh, Selma

"Out of It." United Kingdom, Bloomsbury. 2012. British Palestinian author Dabbagh depicts the lives and pressures of a family living in Gaza, (in the westernmost corner of Israel), England, and the Gulf.

Alyan, Hala

"Salt Houses." Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2017. This work chronicles three generations of a Palestinian family as they face two life-altering displacements – the first after 1967’s Six-Day War, and the second following Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Glanville, Jo, Editor

Qissat: Short Stories by Palestinian Women. Telegram Books, 2007. This collection of 12 stories by Palestinian women authors depict experiences and difficult situations of Palestinian families living under Israel occupation or displaced because of it.

Kanafani, Ghassan, et. al.

Palestine’s Children: Returning To Haifa & Other Stories. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000. Each story involves a child who is victimized by political events and circumstances, but who nevertheless participates in the struggle toward a better future.

Khalad, Khamis

Haifa Fragments. Spinifex Press, 2015. As a designer of jewelry, Maisoon wants an ordinary extraordinary life, which isn’t easy for a tradition-defying activist and Palestinian citizen of Israel who refuses to be crushed by the feeling that she is an unwelcome guest in the land of her ancestors.

McCann, Colum

Apeirogon. Random House, 2021. Two fathers, one Palestinian and one Israeli, who have both lost their daughters to the violence that surrounds them. Over the course of the day, these two men’s lives intertwine as they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace.

Shibli, Adania

Minor Detail. New Directions, 2020. This novel offers a meditation on war, violence, memory, and the sufferings of the Palestinian people.

Non-Fiction

Shehadeh, Raja

"Where the Line is Drawn: A Tale of Crossings, Friendships, and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel-Palestine." New York, The New Press. 2017. Call # DS119.7.S382. Shehadeh explores how occupation has affected him personally, chronicling the various crossings that he undertook into Israel over a period of forty years to visit friends and family, to enjoy the sea, to argue before the Israeli courts, and to negotiate failed peace agreements.

Grossman, David

"Death as a Way of Life: Israel 10 Years After Oslo." New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. Call # DS119.76.G77.2003. In a series of essays, the Israeli author explores both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an attempt to understand the breakdown of the peace process begun in Oslo by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat.

Grossman, David

"The Yellow Wind." New York, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,1988. Call # DS119.7.G7. Grossman visited the West Bank and listened to men and women, Jewish and Arab, students and teachers, old and young, and reported the bitterness of Israelis and Arabs. He tells how Arabs live, their aspiration, frustrations, bitterness, and rage.

American, Israeli and Palestinian Organizations Working Towards (Democracy), Human Rights and Social Justice

 

These descriptions are edited from the organizations’ websites.
American Organizations

American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 
AIPAC’s mission is to encourage and persuade the U.S. government to enact policies that create a strong, enduring and mutually beneficial relationship with Israel.

Americans For Peace Now
APN’s mission is to educate and persuade the American public and its leadership to support and adopt policies that will lead to comprehensive, durable, Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace, based on a two-state solution, guaranteeing both peoples’ security, and consistent with U.S. national interests.

Encounter
Committed to informed, courageous, and resilient Jewish communal leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Encounter educates and equips Jewish leaders with the experiences, networks, and resources to help positively shape their constituents’ engagement with Israel as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Israel Policy Forum
The Forum works to shape the discourse and mobilize support among American Jewish leaders and U.S. policymakers for the realization of a viable two-state solution. They educate political and communal leaders on pragmatic policy ideas developed by credible security experts.

J Street
J Street organizes pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans to promote U.S. policies that embody Jewish and democratic values, and that help secure the State of Israel as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.

The New Israel Fund (NIF)
The Fund’s aim is to build a stronger democracy in Israel, rooted in the values of equality, of inclusion, and of social justice.

Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.
Established in 1989 to support peace in Israel, the Center works with leaders, policymakers, and constituencies in the United States, Middle East, and worldwide to advance steps to narrow, and ultimately resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli-Palestinian Organizations

The Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF)
The Forum is a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member to the ongoing conflict. The PCFF has concluded that the process of reconciliation between nations is a prerequisite to achieving a sustainable peace, and uses resources in education, public meetings, and the media to spread these ideas.

Israeli Organizations

Adva Center
The Center is a leading Israeli progressive think-and-do tank that monitors social and economic developments. Adva’s studies of Israeli society present critical analyses of public policy in the areas of budgets, taxation and social services.

B’tselem (“Image of” or “Dignity”): The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Founded by a group of Israeli academics, attorneys, and MPs in 1989 during the height of the First Intifada. Their goal was to document and educate the Israeli public about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.

Breaking the Silence
This organization includes veteran soldiers who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.

Gisha
Founded in 2005, Gisha’s goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents. Gisha promotes rights guaranteed by international and Israeli law.

Molad: The Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy
Molad is an independent, non-partisan Israeli think tank that works to reinvigorate Israeli society by injecting new ideas into all spheres of public discourse. “Our vision combines progressive values with a realistic approach to the political and geopolitical challenges of Israeli reality.”

Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR)
Founded in 1988, RHR is active in three main areas — work within and about the Occupied Territories; work to promote social and economic justice within Israel; and activities in the fields of education and interreligious dialogue.

Shalom Hartman Institute
The Institute is a leading center of Jewish thought and education, serving Israel and world Jewry. Their mission is to strengthen Jewish peoplehood, identity, and pluralism, and ensure that Judaism is a compelling force for good in the 21st century. Shalom Hartman has locations in both Israel and North America.

Palestinian Organizations

Adalah (Justice): The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Adalah’s mission is to promote human rights in Israel in general and the rights of the Palestinian minority, citizens of Israel, in particular.

Al-Haq (The Law)
Al-Haq, established by a group of Palestinian lawyers in 1979 in the West Bank city of Ramallah, documents human rights violations in the Occupied Territories and conducts research and studies on breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
Al-Mezan seeks to promote respect and protection for all human rights as enshrined in international law for residents of the Gaza Strip. Through research, legal intervention, and advocacy, it works to build the individual and collective human rights of Palestinians.

Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network
Based in New York, Al-Shabaka is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.

Taghyeer (Change)
Taghyeer is a Palestinian organization that leads a national nonviolence movement of grassroots communities and emerging leaders practicing nonviolence as a unifying identity for the Palestinian people.


Reform Judaism in Israel

 

What is Reform Judaism?

Reform Judaism maintains faith in the Covenant between God and Israel as expressed over the generations in the teachings of an ever-evolving Torah and tradition. Stirred by the mandate of tikkun olam, Reform Judaism seeks to be the living expression of those teachings. It welcomes all who seek Jewish connection to pursue a life of meaning, as inspired by the Divine and proclaimed in the truths grasped by Jewish teachers throughout time.

The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), New York, NY

ARZA is the Zionist arm and voice of the Reform Movement, serving 1.8 million Reform Jews in North America. Operating under the umbrella of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), ARZA acts as the vehicle for the collective participation of American Reform Jews in the Israel engagement agenda with an emphasis on advocacy, travel, and Zionist education in North America. 

Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) in Jerusalem, Israel

IMPJ is the communal, spiritual, and social Jewish movement that acts to promote the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state according to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. It enriches Jewish identity among the vast and diverse Israeli public, and merits to significantly influence religious, educational, and public discourse in the State of Israel and in the entire Jewish world.

Their work in Israel includes: Progressive Jewish education; establishing pluralistic Jewish communities; youth and young adult leadership; social action and advocacy for religious pluralism in Israel; engaging immigrants from the Former Soviet Union with their Judaism; deepening ties between Israeli and Diaspora Jews. 

The website includes links to IRAC and other Reform sites, youth movements, and promotes the Western Wall initiative to provide an egalitarian worship space at the Western Wall.

Union for Reform Movement and Israel Engagement (URJ)

The URJ and the broader North American Reform Movement are partners and supporters of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), whose work seeks to complete the Zionist dream of a modern State of Israel that is inclusive, moral, and a home for us all.

Israel Religious Action Center, Jerusalem

The Israeli Center for the Reform Movement Religious Action Center promotes the Reform movement agenda of progressive Judaism and Reform Jewish values in Israel.

Zionism

“Zionism” is derived from the word Zion (Hebrew: ציון, Tzi-yon), a hill in Jerusalem, widely symbolizing the Land of Israel. The idea of a return of the Jews to Palestine has its roots in many passages of Holy Writ.

Zionism became “the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.”

From inception, Zionism advocated tangible as well as spiritual aims. Jews of all persuasions — left, right, religious, and secular — formed the Zionist movement and worked together toward its goals.

A Brief History

In 1890, Nathan Birnbaum, from Vienna, Austria, coined the terms “Zionist” and “Zionism.” In 1893, he published a brochure, “Die Nationale Wiedergeburt des Juedischen Volkes in seinem Lande als Mittel zur Loesung der Judenfrage” (“The National Rebirth of the Jewish People in its Homeland as a Means of Solving the Jewish Question”). He founded, published, and edited “Selbst-Emancipation!” (“Self-Emancipation!”), 1884-1894, a periodical promoting “the idea of a Jewish renaissance and the resettlement of Palestine,” which incorporated and developed the ideas of Leon Pinsker, a doctor and a founder and leader of the Hibbat Zion pre-Zionist movement which began in in the 1880s, advocating revival of Jewish life in the Land of Palestine. Its adherents worked toward the physical development of the Land, and founded agricultural settlements in Palestine.

Austrian journalist Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl was the visionary behind modern Zionism and the reinstitution of a Jewish homeland. He concluded that antisemitism was a stable and immutable factor in human society, which assimilation did not solve. In 1896 he published “Der Judenstaat” (The Jewish State), which argued that the essence of the Jewish problem was not individual, but national. The Jews are one people, he said, and their plight could be transformed into a positive force by the establishment of a Jewish state with the consent of the great powers. He saw the Jewish question as an international, political question to be dealt with in the arena of international politics.

Herzl’s ideas were met enthusiastically by the Jewish masses in Eastern Europe, but Jewish leaders were less ardent. Herzl appealed to wealthy Jews, such as Baron Hirsch and Baron Rothschild, to join the national Zionist movement, but in vain. He then appealed to the people, and the result was the convening of the First Zionist Congress, in Basel, Switzerland, on August 29­, 1897. Birnbaum played a prominent part in this Congress, however, he and Herzl developed ideological differences. Birnbaum had begun to question the political aims of Zionism and to attach increasing importance to the national-cultural content of Judaism. Birnbaum eventually left the Zionist movement and later became a leading spokesman for Jewish cultural autonomy in the Diaspora.

At the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel on August 26, 1903, Herzl proposed the British Uganda Program as a temporary refuge for Jews in Russia in immediate danger. The Program was rejected by the Zionist movement at the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905.

Chaim Weizmann was elected to the General Zionist Council, supreme body of the World Zionist Organization. His scientific assistance to the Allied forces in World War I brought him into close contact with British leaders. On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour, British Foreign Secretary during World War I, wrote a letter to Lord Walter Rothschild, which became known as the Balfour Declaration in which Britain committed itself to the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine. With the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, Weizmann was chosen to serve as its first president. He filled this role until his death on November 9, 1952.

Zionism in the 21st Century

Perhaps the Anti-Defamation League’s statement best summarizes Zionism’s current meaning:

“Today, with a Jewish sovereign state a reality, Zionists believe in and support the right of the democratic State of Israel to exist as a Jewish homeland. Israel is the only Jewish state in the world. Being a Zionist is distinct from supporting the policies of the government of Israel.

Zionism is a big tent movement that includes those across the spectrum from progressives, moderates and conservatives and those who are apolitical. There are Zionists who are critical of Israeli policies, just as there are Zionists who rarely voice disagreement with the Israeli government. There are diverse views among Zionists about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about how to promote peace, whether to support a two-state solution, and about approaches to Israeli settlements. Being critical of Israeli policies is no more anti-Zionist than being critical of American policies is anti-American.

Zionism does not preclude support for Palestinian self-determination and statehood. For some Zionists, support for a two-state solution is the realization of self-determination for Jews and Palestinians alike.

There are also millions of non-Jews who consider themselves Zionists and supporters of the Jewish state, who are motivated by factors including religion, history, security or politics.”

May 3, 2022 Anti-Defamation League. Accessed on January 6, 2022.

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For More Information
617-566-3960 Susie Levin and Deb Mandel