USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

Annie Zirin: The Hidden History of Zionism

Posted by uscsjp on May 19, 2007

International Socialist Review, July-August 2002

The web site of the Anti-Defamation League defines Zionism as:

[T]he Jewish national movement of rebirth and renewal in the land of Israel–the historical birthplace of the Jewish people. The yearning to return to Zion, the biblical term for both the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, has been the cornerstone of Jewish religious life since the Jewish exile from the land two thousand years ago…. Zionism, the national aspiration of the Jewish people to a homeland, is to the Jewish people what the liberation movements of Africa and Asia have been to their peoples…a vindication of the fundamental concepts of the equality of nations and of self-determination. To question the Jewish people’s right to national existence and freedom is…to deny to the Jewish people the right accorded to every other people on this globe.1

We need to ask: What kind of national liberation movement allies itself in every case and at every moment in its history with the powers of world imperialism? What national liberation struggle built its very existence on the colonization of another people, on the obliteration of that people’s history, their culture, and their land? The founding fathers of Zionism were much more honest about what they stood for. Over and over, one word appears in their writing: not national “liberation,” but “colonization.” Vladimir Jabotinsky, one of the founding fathers of the Zionist movement, wrote in 1923:

[It is the] iron law of every colonizing movement, a law which knows of no exceptions, a law which existed in all times and under all circumstances. If you wish to colonize a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison on your behalf. Or else–or else, give up your colonization, for without an armed force which will render physically impossible any attempts to destroy or prevent this colonization, colonization is impossible, not “difficult,” not “dangerous” but impossible!… Zionism is a colonizing adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. It is important to build, it is important to speak Hebrew, but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot–or else I am through with playing at colonization.2

Even among today’s peace activists who call for an end to Israel’s 35-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, there is still a general assumption that Zionism itself is a legitimate movement and that the State of Israel must be defended. The organization Americans for Peace Now issued this statement in December 2001:

[C]ontinued Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip will, within one generation, mean the end to Israel as a democratic state with a Jewish majority.…

This scenario would be a nightmare for Israel and all of us who support the Jewish state. It is not the Zionist vision for Israel’s future for which APN, or the majority of Jews and Israelis, have fought for generations.3

These activists are right to oppose the occupation. But they fail to recognize that the current occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is a continuation of the process of occupation and colonization of Palestine that began with the first Zionist settlers in the 19th century. The entire state of Israel occupies stolen land that is backed up with armed force. Sharon’s military invasions, the massacres of Palestinians in Jenin, the widespread call for the “transfer” (i.e. ethnic cleansing) of Palestinians in Israel today, are not aberrations from the Zionist project but are absolutely consistent with “the Zionist vision for Israel’s future for which…the majority of Jews and Israelis have fought for generations.” (continued)

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