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Zionism is a nationalist, political ideology that calls for the creation of a national state for a socio-religious group, namely the Jewish people. Theodor Herzl, an Austrian Jew, is considered the “father” of political Zionism. The Zionist movement started in the late 19th century, amidst growing European anti-Semitism. The movement secured support among Western European governments, particularly after Zionists agreed to create their Jewish state on Arab land, in historic Palestine.

 

Zionists’ early objective was to claim as much of historic Palestine as possible, by driving out as many Palestinians as possible.  Zionists actively encouraged the mass migration of European Jews to Palestine during the first half of the 20th century. Despite their efforts, and the sharp rise in anti-Semitism in Europe during WWII, Arabs still outnumbered Jews in Palestine. This is why Israeli historian Ilan Pappe argues that during the 20th century Zionist leaders were well aware that implementing the Zionist project would result in ethnic cleansing or the forcible removal of the indigenous Palestinian population.

 

In 1948, David Ben-Gurion, then head of the World Zionist Organisation, proclaimed the founding of the state of Israel in Palestine. Zionists argued Israel would provide a safe national home for Jews, allowing any Jewish person from anywhere in the world to immigrate there and claim citizenship. Critics however, argue Zionism functions like colonialism. They point to the violent ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population and the building of illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories as evidence of the colonialist behaviour Zionism produces.

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