What is the role of Zionism in the Israel-Arab war? Essay

A.    Plan of Investigation


What is the role of Zionism in the Israel-Arab war?

Plan of the Investigation:

The Zionist movement is one of the focal points when it comes to the issue of the Israeli-Arab war that has been going on for generations. For many Jews, Zionism is a fitting response to the pressures that their Arab neighbors are bringing upon their nation. The aim of this investigation is to find out what the role of the Zionist movement is in the ongoing conflict. The paper will explore the ideologies and concepts of the Zionist movement, followed by an inspection of its emergence in history, and its role in the Middle-Eastern conflict. Also discussed will be the role of Zionism on the world scene today. After these, an analysis, followed by a conclusion will be done in the latter part of the paper.

B.     Summary of Evidence

1.      The Ideologies and Concepts of Zionism

Zionism is the embodiment of the Jewish experience throughout their existence in history. It represents the “recovery of institutional nationhood, the restoration to the ancestral homeland, and the resumption of Israel’s role in the reconciliation of history and metahistory” (Taylor 1972, 35). These beliefs of the Zionist movement are what many Jews have considered a rallying point for their continuous existence and fight against their Islamic neighbors to secure their place in the Middle East. This ideology was focused on carving out for the Jews a land of their own in Palestine in the midst of the threats on the Jewish Diaspora (Kelman 1998, 48). The focal point of Zionism was to free themselves from oppression from other states and to be liberated as a nation.

2.      History of Zionism

Religiously, Zionists have pushed for their agenda in the midst of the threat of anti-Semitic persecutions throughout Europe. Its purpose was to secure a long-term security for Jews during the Diaspora. Politically, it went beyond its protective function and has become a model for liberation (i.e. Jewish identity, national culture and language, building new social and economic institutions), enabling them to live the life of normal people (Kelman 1998, 48). Zionism is known to be the Jewish “enlightenment” as ideas and institutions developed within the communities from Europe’s own enlightenment. The first of the influences came from Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86), who sought to influence his German audiences of the Jewish traditions and beliefs. Another part was the movement in Eastern Europe, Haskalah. It was geared to “seek acceptance” from the external community and broke traditions. In the 1870’s the response was towards Russia. Championed by Judah Loeb Gordon, they used the Russian language to spread the enlightenment to Jewish communities, keeping the assimilation tradition (Taylor 1972, 35-37). With the increase of anti-Semitism in the 1890’s (such as the Dreyfus affair in France) European Jewish leaders, led by Theodore Herzl, proposed the return to Palestine. They argued that the dispersion of the Jews was a “social anomaly” and would always produce anti-Semitism unless it becomes a sovereign nation. Because of Socialism embedded in Russian Jews, they also included in their agenda, social redemption from “non-productive professions.”  The British and the Arabs’ emphasis on national and territorial claims only increased the Zionists’ claims on the Palestinian territory (Seliktar 1983, 118-120).

3.      Documents Associated with the Creation of Israel

In creating Israel, the Balfour Declaration, gave Zionists the right to represent the Jewish people in Palestine, assuming the role of a “Jewish Parliament” (Taylor, 1972, 45). Another document that led to the creation of Jewish settlements in Jerusalem was the U.N. participation proposal of 1947, embodying the concession of Arab nations and the Jews to the territories the latter would be settled (Seliktar 1983, 120). Informally, numerous documents supported the creation of a Jewish state including pamphlets from George Eliot (Daniel Deronda, supporting Israel’s return to the Holy Land), writings from Leo Pinsker, Elizar Ben Yehuda, and Moses Loeb Lilienblum (popularizing the Zionist ideologies among Jewish intellectuals) (Taylor 1972, 38-39) and Jewish laws, such as the Law of Return, which seeks to grant Jews the “automatic right to settle in Israel and attain Israeli citizenship (Kelman 1998, 49).

4.      Post-Zionism

With the completion of many of Jewish goals, Zionists are no in-transition into the so-called Post-Zionism where the primary commitment of the state would be to “protect and advance the interests of its citizens.” This includes the shift from favoring Jews in land use, housing, economic development, and others, to giving equal opportunities to non-Jews (Kelman 1998, 49-50).

C.     Evaluation of Sources

The research involved sources from journal articles which complement each other in the spectrum of the time frames and disciplinary focus on which they were conducted. The first of the three sources by Alan Taylor focuses on the History of Jews and Zionism. This proved to be powerful in providing background information on Jews and the Zionist movement. The literature has covered the main areas of interest from a historical point of view. However, I felt that Taylor’s focus on history has limited its views and has detached itself from the impacts to the Israeli-Arab war that this paper seeks to find out. It also lacked the political focus of the Zionist movement which is one of the ways by which the roles of Zionism could be seen to affect the current state of affairs in the middle-east.

Herbert Kelman’s article which has a more political focus, supports the history-centric writings of Taylor. Kelman’s writings have added the insights where I would be able to derive the causes for Arabic hatred toward the Zionist movement. Also, the author’s viewpoint of an irrelevant Zionist ideology has sparked the discussion of the expansion of its history into Post-Zionism, broadening the narrow approach of the earlier literature.

Lastly, Ofira Seliktar’s writings have also included the effect of Zionism to world affairs. This is important since other nations also have a hand in the affairs of the Middle East (such as the British and American support of Israel and non-Middle-Eastern Islamic nations’ support of Arab countries). This is important since these countries also have an impact in the continuous conflict that is going on in the region.

Together, the sources provided the important points that would enable me to write about Zionism and covering as much ground as possible. Their different focuses proved to be helpful in providing insight as to why Zionism is very important in shaping affairs in the Middle East.

D.    Analysis

The perspectives given by the three sources gave a broad perspective on the role of Zionism in the Israeli-Arab war. In order to analyze the role of Zionism in the continuing Arab-Israeli war, the three readings have to be analyzed in a consolidated manner. Taylor’s discussion of the historical origins of the Zionist movement has gone a long way. From the simplistic need of the Jewish Diaspora for security against anti-Semitism, it has evolved into cutting for themselves a land for them to occupy. Because of this, the nationalism Zionists have created is construed as hostile and aggressive by anti-Zionists, particularly the Arab nations (Taylor 1972, 42-44). The aggression, as seen by their Islamic neighbors, is backed by the fact that Israel has taken an important land in their religious practice. The Arabs, particularly the Palestinians, were offended at having their borders cut down thus, igniting the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973) (Seliktar 1983, 120). Moreover, ultranationalists perceive the Zionist agenda as far from over. Their vision is to for the Jews to have complete sovereignty over the entirety of Israel’s biblical borders, which includes the borders given by the international community to Palestine. This belief, not only goes against the Oslo Accord, but also removes the right of Palestinians to self-determination (Kelman 1998, 55).

With the Zionist movement successfully taking a land for themselves, the issue that Israel faces now is the legitimization of their existence as a state. Though many nations perceive them as a state, their neighboring Arab states continue their dealings with hostility and continue their denial of Israel’s legitimacy as a nation (Kelman 1998, 49). Owing to the “social and psychological trauma” created by the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, the movement to delegitimize Israel was spurred on. However, it was also clear that this has facilitated the anti-Zionist movement outside the Arab borders (Seliktar 1983, 120).

With the issue of the legitimization of the state of Israel, the support by the United Nations on its creation, backed by the treatises it has brokered, can be traced back to the earlier support of the British and Americans who fought for Israel’s statehood and recognition as a nation with their writings and advocacies. Other countries have also joined in the fray coming from different cultural backgrounds, thus forcing the U. N. to reach a compromise giving a part of the land to the Jews to satisfy the international concern for the Jews especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust (Taylor 1972, 46).

E.     Conclusion

The role of Zionism in the Israel-Arab conflict has been an eye-opener as to the knowledge of how deep the conflict is between Israel and its neighbors. It can be surmised that one of the reasons why Zionism is one of those held responsible in the spurring of the war is because of its perceived aggression. This is backed by the fact that they have retrieved the land by means of conquest, forcing Palestinians out of their borders. Also, their departure and evolution from their early objectives has reduced the possibility of reconciliation with the Arabs to impossibility. It can also be concluded that that have triggered the Arabs’ distaste for their initial conquest of part of Palestine and that they have exacerbated it as well in the following years. The backing of other nations and Israel’s victories in the Yom Kippur and Six Day wars have prompted radical Zionists to continue pursuing the ideology of keeping retrieving their biblical borders. This triggered hatred throughout the Arab nations who are now seeking to eradicate and delegitimize Israel as a state.

F.      List of Sources & Word Count

Kelman, Herbert C., “Israel in Transition from Zionism to Post-Zionism,” American Academy of Political and Social Science, 555 (1998): 46-61

Seliktar, Ofira, “The New Zionism,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 51 (1983): 118-138

Taylor, Alan R., “Zionism and Jewish History,” Institute for Palestine Studies, 1, 2 (1972): 35-51

Word Count: 1,682