What Is Zionism, Anyway?

It’s a little late to be asking this question (since this blog has been up and running for months now) but it seems that there as many definitions of Zionism as there are Zionists.

Zionism on the Web defines it this way:

Zionism is the national revival movement of the Jews. It holds that the Jews are a people and therefore have the right to self-determination in their own national home. It aims to secure and support a legally recognized national home for the Jews in their historical homeland, and to initiate and stimulate a revival of Jewish national life, culture and language.

Haaretz recently interviewed former Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak, asking if he agrees with those who call him a post-Zionist.  His response:

[I am] a Zionist who believes in a Jewish nation-state that is intended to solve the Jewish problem. A Zionist who thinks that a binational state would be a disaster. A Zionist who thinks that the Law of Return is not discriminatory, but a just law that provides an answer to the historic outcry of the Jewish people. To pogroms, to suppression, to the Holocaust.

I am a Zionist at the personal level as well. Believe me, I had many opportunities not to reside in this country. The best universities, a salary of millions, even a judgeship. I rejected all those offers without even considering them, because I am a Zionist. I have four children. One of the greatest calamities that could befall me is for a child of mine to emigrate. And they are all here. All of them absorbed their mother’s and my Zionism.

But the question is what Zionism is. My lesson from the Holocaust is that Israel has to be the state of the Jewish people but also the state of all its citizens. Israel is a home to which a Jew, as a Jew, is given a special key with which to enter. A golden key, which is not given to others. But once you enter the home, all those who reside in it are equal. Non-Jews, too…The principle of equality is obligatory not only because we are a democratic state but also because we are a Jewish state.

According to Barak there are two aspects to being a Zionist.  There is the philosophical aspect – how you view the State of Israel and the rights of its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens.  And then there is the practical aspect – living in the Land of Israel, even when that is a hard choice to make.

How else can Zionism be defined?  Has the meaning of Zionism changed since the establishment of the State of Israel?  Are Israelis “better” Zionists than Diaspora Jews?

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