The Political World of American Zionism

By Samuel Halperin | Go to book overview

1
the origins, program and early development of american zionism

THE ORIGINS AND PROGRAM OF WORLD ZIONISM

The student of Zionist affairs in America will find it no simple task to determine the nature of the Zionist movement and its goals or the specific quality which distinguishes the "Zionist" from the "non-Zionist." Study of the vast quantity of discussions and explanations of Zionism produced in the United States in the past six decades reveals a broad range of thinking on the aims of, and rationale for, the Zionist program. Yet, despite the existence of this confusing mass of exposition and argument, some basic conception of the nature of Zionism is clearly required in order that readers and investigators may devote their attention to a common phenomenon.

Concerning the origins of Zionism there is considerable uniformity of thinking. Beginning with the destruction of the First Jewish Commonwealth by Babylonian legions in the year 586 B.C., longing for a restoration to Jerusalem's holy Mount Zion became a cardinal feature of Jewish thought, prayer and ritual. When, in 70 A.D., a similar fate befell the restored Second Commonwealth, this time at the hands of Rome, a renewed emphasis on the importance of Palestine to the Jewish people and the Jewish faith again became central to great portions of the observant Jew's daily life.1 History is replete with instances of Jewish attempts to regain and resettle the Holy Land; the chain of Jewish settlement in that land was never broken. 2

The modern social and political movement called Zionism is

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