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Zionism and the Creation of Israel

Zionism is a movement that led to the creation of Israel, a nation for Jewish people, but what started this zealous movement for a Jewish nation in Palestine? 

It began in the late 1800s by an Austro-Hungarian man named Theodor Herzl, whose initial intentions with the Zionist movement was to encourage the assimilation of Jewish people in their respective European nations. However, after a series of horrific anti-Semitic attacks throughout Europe, Herzl soon came to the conclusion that assimilation into European life would never happen and that the Europeans’ hate for Jewish people would never fade away. [1] Instead of walking away from Zionism entirely, Herzl changed his tactics for Zionism, no longer wishing for the successful assimilation of Jewish people in Europe, but for the creation of a nation solely for Jewish people. 

During the creation of the Zionist movement, Herzl initially stated that he wished to create a Jewish state in Palestine. In fact, in the early 1890s, he reached out to the ruler of the land at that time, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He stated that European Jews could not settle there as there were already over 500,000 people residing on the land and there was no room for European Jews to create a separate nation. [2] After being told this, Herzl began to search for places in Latin America and Africa. 

However, as Herzl began to gain further support, he found that a majority of his supporters refused to consider any site other than Palestine. Herzl conceded, and from that point on Zionism’s goal was to create a Jewish nation in Palestine. Herzl quickly realized that to create a nation in Palestine they would need the support of a powerful nation, with the resources to help facilitate the process of settling. [3]

In 1896, Herzl released a pamphlet titled The Jewish State in which he explained the need for a Jewish state and for support from the European Powers, specifically Britain, France, and Russia. Herzl also laid out the benefits of creating a Jewish state in two places, Argentina and Palestine. For Argentina, Herzl wrote, “Argentine is one of the most fertile countries in the world, extends over a vast area, has a sparse population and a mild climate. The Argentine Republic would derive considerable profit from the cession of a portion of its territory to us." [4] As for Palestine, Herzl stated, “Palestine is our ever-memorable historic home. The very name of Palestine would attract our people with a force of marvelous potency. If His Majesty the Sultan were to give us Palestine, we could in return undertake to regulate the whole finances of Turkey. We should there form a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism." [5]

Herzl died in 1904 from a heart ailment, but the Zionist movement lived on. In 1917, during World War I, Britain gained control of Palestine and enacted the Balfour Declaration, which was an official public statement supporting the establishment of a Jewish nation in Palestine. [6] This was the first European Power to support the Zionist movement, the others only supporting it after World War II. 

However, even before this declaration was made, Zionists had already begun settling in Palestine in two waves known as aliyah, or ascent in Hebrew. The first aliyah was between the years 1881 to 1903. In this aliyah, Zionists began to slowly remove Arabs from their land so they could purchase it. The second aliyah was between the years of 1904 to 1914, and during this time, Zionists began to remove Arabs that were working on the land they had bought, and placed more Zionists to work there instead. Zionists were slowly creating their ideal state, a land owned, worked, and cared for by Zionists. [7]

After World War II, in 1947, the United Nations created a new mandate to split Palestine and create a Jewish state using 56 percent of the land. At this time, Zionists were about a third of the population, and owned 10 percent of the land. [8] Naturally, Palestinians rejected this proposal, and war broke out. The Zionists, supported by Britain, wiped out the Arab armies and quickly occupied a majority of the land. When the war ended in 1948, the Zionists ended up taking 75 percent of former Palestine and the nation state of Israel was created. [9] The day of Israel's creation was also the day of the nakba (catastrophe in Arabic), the forced displacement of 750,000 Palestinians from their land. [10] This is how a movement created for the support of Jewish people in their separate countries led to the creation of a nation for Jewish people within the span of fifty years. 


[1] Marvin Gettleman and Stuart Schaar, The Middle East and Islamic World Reader (Grove Press, 2012): 165.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ella Shohat, “Rupture and Return,” Social Text 21, no. 2. (January 2003): 50.

[4] Theodor Herzl, “The Jewish Pamphlet,” 1896. 

[5] Ibid.

[6] Arthur Balfour, Balfour Declaration, 1917.

[7] Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity (1997): 99.

[8] Ibid., 96.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 100.


Balfour, Arthur. Balfour Declaration. 1917.

Gettleman, Marvin and Stuart Schaar. The Middle East and Islamic World Reader. Grove Press, 2012.

Herzl, Theodor. “The Jewish Pamphlet.” 1896.

Khalidi, Rashid. Palestinian Identity. 1997.

Shohat, Ella. “Rupture and Return.” Social Text 21, no. 2 (January 2003): 49-71.


“Theodor Herzl”, Britannica, December 10, 2023.

“Der Judenstaat”, Wikipedia, December 10, 2023.

“Balfour Declaration”, Wikipedia, December 10, 2023.


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