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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Racist Zionism 01: The word "Zionism" and its meaning

Zion = Jerusalem - Zionism - "synthetic" Zionism

from: Zionism; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 16

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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[Zion = Jerusalem - Zionism - "synthetic" Zionism]

<The root of the term "Zionism" is the word "Zion", which very early in Jewish history became a synonym for Jerusalem. It had a special meaning as far back as after the destruction of the First Temple in expressing the yearning found in the Psalms,

"By the rivers of Babylon, /
There we sat down, yea,we wept, /
When we remembered Zion" (Ps. 137:1);

[[According to the latest archeology king David and a "first temple" did not exist because there is not one single stone of a Jerusalem of this time found, and there is not one single stone found of a "First Temple"; see the work of the famous Jewish archaeologists: Finkelstein / Silberman: The Bible Unearthed. So, the "First Temple" seems to be very doubtful - or the "First Temple" was at another place at this time and still has not been found]].

-- in the prayer, "And let our eyes behold Thy return in mercy to Zion";
-- in the poem, "Zion! Wilt thou not ask if peace be with thy captives /
That seek thy peace - that are the remnant of thy flocks" (Judah Halevi);
-- and frequently elsewhere in religious and secular literature.

The modern term Zionism first appeared at the end of the 19th century, denoting the movement whose goal was the return of the Jewish people to Erez Israel (Ereẓ Israel) [[Land of Israel]]. It was coined by Nathan *Birnbaum in his journal Selbstemanzipation [[self emancipation]] (April 1, 1890). Birnbaum himself explained the term (in a letter of Nov. 6, 1891) as the "establishment of an organization of the national-political Zionist party in juxtaposition to the practically oriented party that existed until now."

The term was thus intended to express a political orientation toward Erez Israel (Ereẓ Israel) [[Land of Israel]] in place of the prevailing philanthropic approach. The extent to which the new word filled a need in the young movement can be gauged from the plethora of subtitles of Selbstemanzipation [[self emancipation]] from its first appearance until the May 18, 1893 issue, when the definition "Organ der Zionisten" ("Organ of the Zionists") was adopted.

However, despite the precise meaning which Birnbaum intended to convey by it, the terms "Zionism" and "Hibbat Zion" (Ḥibbat Zion [[Love of Zion]]) (see below) were still used interchangeably, and it was only gradually that the meaning of political [[racist]] Zionism, as distinguished from its "practical", almost wholly philanthropic aspect, gained acceptance. This happened finally and unequivocally with the appearance of [[racist]] *Herzl. (col. 1032)

Herzl, who knew nothing of the semantic developments of the word Zionism, first used it to denote philanthropic-supported small-scale settlement. It was only when preparations for the First Zionist Congress had commenced and when, at the last moment, two of the speakers at the Congress - R. Hirsch *Hildesheimer and Willy *Bambus, leading members of the *Ezra Society - withdrew their participation, due to Herzl's explicit political orientation, that Herzl began to stress the importance of the "Zionist" Congress, to be distinguished from the Hibbat (Ḥibbat) Zion movement. The Basle [[Basel, Switzerland]] program adopted at the First Zionist Congress explicitly endorsed Herzl's political conception of Zionism.

From then on [[racist]] Zionist history was viewed as being divided into two epochs:

Hibbat (Ḥibbat) Zion [[Love of Zion]] up to the First Congress and from then on [[racist]] "Zionism", i.e., political [[racist]] Zionism. This did not, however, put an end to the prolonged struggle between the two concepts inside the [[racist]] Zionist movement, between the [[racist]] "political" and the [[racist]] "practical" Zionists, each of whom regarded their approach to the realization of the [[racist]] Zionist aim as the genuine meaning of the term "Zionism".

It was at the Eighth Zionist Congress (1907) that [[racist Zionist leader]] Chaim *Weizmann coined a new term, "synthetic" Zionism, which stipulated that the two approaches supplement each other and are in reality two sides of the same coin: political activity is meaningless unless it is based upon practical settlement in Erez Israel (Ereẓ Israel) [[Land of Israel]], and settlement alone could not develop into desirable proportions without the support of political efforts.

[G.K./ED.]> (col. 1033)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Zionism, vol.
                        16, col. 1031-1032
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Zionism, vol. 16, col. 1031-1032
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Zionism, vol.
                        16, col. 1033-1034
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Zionism, vol. 16, col. 1033-1034

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