Zionism is the nationalist movement affirming Jewish people’s right to self-determination through the establishment of a Jewish national state in its ancient homeland. It is one of the most controversial ideologies in the world. Its supporters laud its success at liberating the Jewish people after millennia of persecution and at securing the creation of Israel. But to its opponents, Zionism relies on a racist ideology culminating in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and is one of the last manifestations of colonial oppression in the world. Since the late 1990s, the centrality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the world news has sharpened this controversy, dramatically politicizing any attempt to understand Zionism and its significance as an intellectual and cultural movement.
In this Very Short Introduction, Michael Stanislawski presents an impartial and disinterested history of Zionist ideology from its origins to the present. Sharp and accessible, this book charts the crucial moments in the ideological development of Zionism, including the emergence of modern Jewish nationalism in early nineteenth century Europe, the founding of the Zionist movement by Theodor Herzl in 1897, the Balfour Declaration, the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, the Six Day War in 1967, the rise of the “Peace Now” movement, and the election of conservative prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Stanislawski’s balanced analysis of these controversial events illuminates why, despite the undeniable success in its goal of creating a Jewish state, profound questions remain today about the long-term viability of Zionist ideology in a rapidly destabilizing Middle East.