Zionism, by definition, is the belief in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and sovereignty in their indigenous homeland, the land of Israel.

Zion (Hebrew: צִיּוֹן‎‎ Tziyyon) is mentioned in the Tanakh over a hundred times, in reference to the center of Hebrew civilization; Jerusalem and the specifically the Temple Mount. In the golden age of ancient Israel, Zion represented Hebrew unity, national and spiritual oneness. So when foreign conquerors invaded our homeland (Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, or Brits), it was Zion that served as the Israelite national rallying cry for liberation. In 135 CE, when the Jewish general Shimon Bar Kokhva fought the Roman Empire and re-established an independent Jewish state for two years, the coins he minted read “For the Freedom of Zion.”

Naturally, when the “children of Zion” (Lamentations 4:2) were finally exiled by their enemies, Zion became a symbol for Jews in every corner of the Diaspora. A symbol of the homeland they longed for and prayed to return to, three times a day.

For nearly two thousand years of exile the Jewish people suffered terrible persecution at the hands of their host governments and peoples. In Arab/Islamic countries in both Africa and the lands of the east, Jews were relegated to second class status (Dhimmi in Arabic) where they were often victims of massacres and institutional (legal) humiliation. In Ethiopia, Jews were designated landless foreigners (Falasha in Ge’ez), and suffered innumerable genocides, enslavements, and forced Baptisms. In Europe, Jews were hounded as Semitic foreigners for their Hebrew faith, culture, and appearance. Pogroms (massacres) in Europe were a regular occurrence, and until the Emancipation movement in the 18th century, most Jews throughout Western Europe were legally confined to Ghettos, prevented from holding certain jobs and also from owning land. Informed by the spirit of the 19th century rise of nationalism in Europe, a number of Jewish spiritual leaders and intellectuals responded to global anti-Semitism and the degraded and at-risk state of the Jewish people by advocating a return to their ancestral homeland: Zion.

In the 1840-60s Rabbis Yehudah Alkalai, Tzvi Hersch Kalischer, and Moshe Hess laid the ideological framework for motivating a mass return to Zion for the children of Israel in exile in based in both religious, socialist, and nationalist philosophical underpinnings.

Influenced by the teachings of Rabbi Alkalai and after witnessing French society (the birthplace of the Emancipation) both devolve and relapse into vicious anti-Semitism during the Dreyfus Affair, Binyamin Ze’ev (Theodor) Herzl wrote the “Jewish State” and began to rally Jewish leaders around the notion of a Hebrew Homeland as a solution to global anti-Semitism. Fourteen years earlier, after experiencing savage pogroms in Russia, Leon Pinsker likewise came to the conclusion that the answer to perpetual Jewish suffering in Europe was a Jewish return to national consciousness and self-determination. That Hebrew freedom can only be achieved through our own efforts; “auto-emancipation.”

The World Zionist Organization was established in 1897 at the First World Zionist Congress where Jewish leaders set out the movement’s short term goals in accomplishing a return to the Jewish people’s ancestral and indigenous homeland, as well as re-establishing Hebrew sovereignty there.

Jews fleeing from a pogrom in Europe. The Holocaust, while unprecedented in its speed and scale, was only the most recent genocide suffered by the Israelites in Europe. From the Spanish Inquisition, to the hundreds of expulsions and pogroms, to the Cossack Massacre, even before the Holocaust began Jabotinsky and other Zionist thinkers knew that the Jewish wandering in Europe needed to end for the very safety and survival of the children of Israel.

Staunch anti-assimilationist Ze’ev Jabotinsky may have inherited the national pride and self-actualization tenets of the Zionist ethos from the likes of Herzl and Pinkser,  but he quickly made it his own. Amidst the outbreak of bloody anti-Semitic pogroms that struck Russia in the turn of the century, Jabotinsky founded the Jewish Self-Defense Organization; where he began to preach his message of Jewish strength and honor in the face of our enemies as well as the personal struggle that the establishment of a Jewish state demanded from each individual Hebrew. His prolific writing and oratory skills propelled his election to the Sixth World Zionist Congress in 1903.

In 1923, Jabotinsky left the mainstream Zionist movement to found the Alliance of Revisionist Zionists. Jabotinsky revisioned the Zionist movement as one that was not only focused on re-settling the land of Israel, but was unequivocally advocating for the establishment of a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan river and was preparing its people to defend themselves and fight for their right to their ancestral homeland. Jabotinsky’s proudest achievement was the establishment of the Jewish Legion that fought alongside the British against the Ottomans in WWI. This and Jabotinsky’s own military training of Jews in the land of Israel, infused the Jewish people with a warrior spirit that inspired the Jewish Revolt against the British in the 1940s, which ultimately led to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Upon the reestablishment of the independent State of Israel, former Irgun leader Menachem Begin and his compatriots founded the political party Herut. Herut quickly became one of the nation’s largest parties, winning 14 seats, 11.5% of the votes, in the Israeli government’s first election in 1949. In 1965, to gain strength in the Knesset, Herut merged with several other liberal parties which shaped Gahal (Gush Herut Liberali), that developed into the Likud. In 1977 national elections, Gahal won and formed the government, making Menachem Begin Prime Minister. In 1988, the Likud dissolved its internal factions, including Herut, to become a unitary party. In 1992, the Labor party led by Yitzchak Rabin won elections and signed the Olso Accords ceding large swaths of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza to the newly formed Palestinian Authority. In the aftermath of the Second Intifada and 1,000 murdered Israelis (organized by this same Palestinian Authority), the Likud returned to power in 1996. Instead of reversing the Oslo Accords, the government continued to cede land, including most Hebron and 2% of Samaria in 1999. Those true to the principles of Jabotinsky understood this as a violation of fundamental Jewish rights advocated by Zionism, and a dangerous chink in the “Iron Wall” strategy of deterrence and Israeli survival.

As a result, Benny Begin, Michael Kleiner, and David Re’em broke away from Likud during the 14th Knesset and formed the new Herut party in 1999.

The breakaway was explicitly caused by disagreements with the Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, over these aforementioned compromises produced by the Wye River Memorandum and the Hebron Agreement.

The New Herut – the National Movement, as political party participated in 1999, 2003, and 2006 elections.

However, by 2009 the founders of the New Herut party reintegrated with the Likud.

Nevertheless, those true to the Herut ideology continued to advocate for the integrity of the land of Israel and the unity of the people of Israel. Herut continues to be registered in the Israeli government’s Party Registry. The Herut party remains intact and reserves the right to compete in future elections, should suitable circumstances arise.

In 1999, when Benny Begin and Michael Kleiner split from the Likud on the political level, Karma Feinstein-Cohen, along with other Jabotinsky ideological adherents, left the Betar youth movement to start World Herut and its youth movement, Magshimey Herut (achievers of liberty); the reborn Jabotinsky movement for Zionist education and activism.

World Herut has established itself as an independent non-profit organization in eleven countries throughout the world. Each separate organization provides educational services for the participants located in their respective host countries. World Herut initiates, promotes, and supports the activities of students, olim (Jews returning to Israel) and social action groups which are consistent with the Movement’s objectives. World Herut works in conjunction with the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Keren Kayemet LeIsrael on projects that advance their common goals.

The land of Israel has traditionally been understood as one of the three pillars of Jewish civilization: The G-D of Israel, the People of Israel, and the Land of Israel. Regardless, of one’s personal beliefs and/or level of observance, every Jew is connected by his/her roots to this land, the land of their recent and ancient ancestors. In this land we became a people, developed a rich culture/spiritual system, and established an independent state. In fact, the only sovereign states to have ever existed in this land have been Israelite ones: the Kingdom of Israel, the Hasmonean Kingdom, Israel under Bar Kochva, and the Modern State of Israel. Despite the fact that successive foreign conquerors and have invaded and colonized this land (the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, and Brits) sending most of our people into exile, the children of Israel have always maintained a presence in their ancestral homeland.

The cities of Tiberias, Tzfat, Hebron, Jerusalem, and a number of smaller villages always maintained Jewish communities inhabited by descendants of both the Judean (and Samaritan) inhabitants who avoided expulsion and Jews returning to Zion from the Diaspora. When the mass return of Diaspora Jewry began around the turn of the 19th century with the modern Zionist movement these two populations became one in an effort to demand the Jewish people’s natural rights to self-determination and sovereignty in their indigenous homeland.

“There can be no forfeiture, no shortcut to Zion. Zion in its entirety belongs to us.” – Ze’ev Jabotinsky

When Zionists declared independence and the return of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, the founding fathers of Zionism understood that they were making a proclamation of the justice of the Jewish people’s return to sovereignty in their indigenous homeland. That is why Israel’s Declaration of Establishment proclaims:

“Eretz-Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here, their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.”

This is the original language of Zionism. This is about the Jewish people’s indigenous rights in the land of Israel. This is also about justice; the justice of Zionism. Thus, every chance we get, we need to remind people that Zionism is the first successful indigenous movement of a dispossessed and colonized people regaining sovereignty in their indigenous homeland.

The facts are on our side. Even though it is an oft-repeated mantra of anti-Israel activists that Israel is a “colonial outpost” or a “colonial settler-state,” there is indisputable evidence that the Jewish people are indigenous to the Land of Israel. Arabs, in contrast, originated in the Hejaz region of the Arabian Peninsula before they colonized much of the Middle East and Africa at the expense of many different indigenous populations (such as Copts, Yazidis, Assyrians, Amazighs and Jews).

Under the common-sense definition of Indigenous set forth in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the only living people who are uniquely indigenous to the land of Israel are Jews.

Read more: http://forward.com/scribe/368369/the-tribal-case-for-israel/

The Iron Wall, Jabotinsky’s treatise— a cornerstone of Zionist thought— contextualizes the often misunderstood elements that underpin Zionism. Its legitimacy, necessity, and most importantly the justice it demands in the goal of liberating the exiled Jewish people via a revolutionary Return to Zion; their ancestral and indigenous homeland.

Zionism, the idea of one of humanity’s most hated and persecuted minorities returning to their native homeland to self-determine and be sovereign, is a radical notion. Like most radical ideas, Zionism elicits an emotional response- positive and negative. Ze’ev Jabotinsky understood that. In The Iron Wall, Jabotinsky addressed the misconceptions surrounding his feelings toward Arabs; our cousins. “Emotionally, my attitude to the Arabs is the same as to all other nations – polite indifference. Politically, my attitude is determined by two principles.  First of all, I consider it utterly impossible to eject the Arabs from Palestine. There will always be two nations in Palestine – which is good enough for me, provided the Jews become the majority.”

Zionism, and the justness of its goals, exists irrespective of the Arabs living alongside us in our indigenous homeland; whether in the coastal plain, the Negev, Judea, or Samaria. The Jew seeks the same freedom and equality the nations of the world have been able to achieve through nationalism. To be represented in the international arena, not as a perpetual vagabond, but a nation rooted in its past, seizing the present, and preparing for the future. However, without a Jewish majority, the Land of Israel may once again become a place of Jewish exile, rather than redemption.

Indeed, all we Zionists seek is a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel; equal rights to all of the Land’s inhabitants is non-negotiable. Yet, the Jewish return met harsh violence and anti-Semitic propaganda. This is as it should be, for all native people resist the immigration of who they perceive as a foreign partner, as Jabotinsky notes in the Iron Wall. They understand what we want, and act accordingly.

This is the moral misunderstanding. The belief that the Arab world will accept our immigration with “moderation,” understanding, and sympathy is a wishful thinking par excellence. As long as the Arab world (whether in their Palestinian or Saudi regional expression) refuses to accept the Jewish people as the aboriginal population of “Palestine” and/or refuses the right of Jews to exist outside of dhimmitude, the Jewish State will remain an anathema to their sensibilities.

Justice is justice, independent of the current reality. Justice enforced through strong will, the Iron Wall, is justice realized. Only with our intentions acted upon, fortified by this impervious wall, will justice become reality. Only with this Iron Wall will Israel’s enemies drop their desire to destroy her. Only with this Iron Wall will Jews and Arabs coexist in peace, according to the laws of nature.

While Jews have certainly been labeled by certain leaders and societies as belonging to a specific “race”, Jewish identity is rooted in concepts that are much deeper than blood and biology. While many Jews share genetic ancestry with the ancient Hebrew ancestors of the Jewish people, the heritage inherited from those ancestors defined Hebrew identity by tribal and spiritual continuity. In other words, the shared genetic ancestry between the majority of Jews living today is a mere byproduct of an ancient Semitic belief system and lifestyle that placed the highest value on family, national unity and continuity.

That being said, we are certainly an ethnic group. The primary difference between race and ethnicity is that the former emphasizes perceived physical and biological community, whereas ethnicity emphasizes a cultural community.

That is not to say that we aren’t comprised of micro Hebrew ethnicities (i.e. Mizrahi, Sephardic, Ashkenazic, Beta Israel, Igbo, etc.) but as a nation/tribe (macro ethnicity) our root culture and national origins are in the Levant. As a result of the various exiles which produced core communities of sojourning Israelites and Judaeans throughout the world, influence and cultural diffusion (and genetic admixture) produced Diaspora Jews with identities distinct from one another. These identities are what I would define as a micro ethnicity. These Diaspora Jewish communities, when compared to their Gentile host population and each other, are more similar to their fellow Hebrews than different. It’s this stratum of cultural, ancestral, religious, and linguistic similarity that ties them to their origins. This what I define as the macro Jewish ethnicity.

Where ever Jews are in the Diaspora we are a Semitic people. And like other ancient Afro-Asiatic (Semitic) peoples our national religion/spiritual system is an inseparable part of our identity, and for us the most meaningful aspect. So being an indigenous Levantine people who defines its tribal membership on cultural/religious terms, the Jewish people can and DO look like any of the artificial “races” that define diversity in the Western World.

Ok so maybe “race” isn’t an appropriate term in that context, but what about xenophobia?

The assumption that Jewish people are racist or xenophobic, or more correctly, more xenophobic than other nations/ethnic groups is rooted some of the most ancient anti-Semitic tropes that have targeted the Hebrew nation since antiquity.

“For the Jews have long been in revolt […] against humanity; and a race that has made its own a life apart and irreconcilable, that cannot share the pleasures of the table with the rest of mankind nor join in their libations or prayers or sacrifices, are separated from ourselves by a greater gulf than divides us from Susa or Bactra or the more distant Indies.”

[Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5.33;]

The Jews, with their spiritual system, religion, philosophy, and way of life: Judaism, have long defined themselves as a nation apart. “Chosen” by the Creator of the Universe, and commanded by Him to be “different.” And while from our modern, Western perspective this may appear on the surface to be a xenophobic (or at least a separatist) notion, its the Hebraic conception of what it means to be “Chosen” and “different” that precludes racism/xenophobia from an authentic expression of Judaism and Jewishness.

Judaism is defined by its litany of laws and customs the Jewish people have preserved and observed for thousands of years. While legalistic on the surface, the Mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah (Divine Instruction) are moralistic in character. Israel’s prophetic tradition grant us insight into what purpose these commandments carry and the mission the Hebrew nation is tasked with by the performance of these cultural, spiritual, and moral imperatives. This created one of the most important maxims of Jewish civilization: that action defines who you are. Therefore Jewish “Choseness” and “difference” according to the wellsprings of Hebrew thought is predicated on Jewish action. The preservation of the Jewish nation is focused on creating an ideal society, defined by unity, love, and justice. As such, the Jewish people despite being a particularist Semitic nation of the Levant, have always maintained universalist aspirations. A particularist goal of national sovereignty and security in its indigenous homeland so that it can fulfill its universalist aspirations of creating a strong example for the rest of humanity.

For some that may strike them as an arrogant notion. However, ultimately any claim to true speech, ideas, and behavior is subject to being criticized as arrogant. That being said, what makes Israel’s “truth” unique in the history of national cultures and ideologies is the manner is which we “advocate” it.

A suitable metaphor is a gym. In every gym there are people who have dedicated significant time to fitness, naturally these people often stand out as extraordinarily fit. Often these individuals feel compelled to spread their knowledge to others, the less experienced gym-goers. In the most obnoxious case, this is expressed in a tyrannical manner whereas the fit feel entitled to compel others to train in what he/she sees as the “right” way.

Gym-goers are usually turned off by these individuals, and rightly so. However, there is another type of fitness expert that gym-goers tend to more readily learn from. This is the expert who leads by example. Confident in his/her path, his/her truth is clear for all who have eyes to see. If others want to adopt and integrate his/her lifestyle it’s their prerogative.

The insular character of the Jewish community, at home and in exile, can best be described in the form of analogy. Jews do not proselytize, but this age-old Israelite imperative not to proselytize isn’t based in ethnic chauvinism. Rather, the aforementioned creed that character is based on action, dictates to us that proselytization is unnecessary. One need not be a member of our tribe or follow the rituals of our faith to be righteous. Judaism may be best described as the cultural expression unique to the nation of Israel which express a universal moral standard. So as long as people behave in a manner which aligns with this objective morality (see the 7 Noachide laws), they are our allies in the pursuit of justice. That being said, since the beginning of Israel’s inception more than 3,000 years ago people of other nations have been able to naturalize and become Jews no different than anyone else (and our view no less a literal descendant of the Hebrew forefathers). Virtually every Jew alive today is the product of both descendants of native-born Hebrews and Gerim (naturalized members) who joined the nation in the ancient period.

Of course there are. Jews, like any other people, are prone to the same ills that afflict all of mankind. Judaism fundamentally rejects idol worship, yet Jewish history is replete with Jews relapsing into idol worship and other, far more immoral behaviors. A brief read through the books of the Judges or Prophets in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) reveals this. Likewise, many modern Jews (particularly those who were forced to sojourn in Europe and the Americas) struggle with the effects of colonialism, racism, and other social ills that pervade our societies. As with most colonized, displaced nations, the people of Israel have internalized much of the same prejudices that persecuted them and their ancestors. Perhaps a great illustrative example is the great medieval Sephardic Rabbi, Yitzchak Abarbanel. Steeped in the Hebrew spiritual tradition, Abarbanel was a renowned commentator of the Tanakh. However, his greatness in the world of Torah did not preclude him from the influences of his day and age; positive and negative. And having grown up in the country (Spain) that invented the concept of biological racism (Limpieza de Sangre), Abarbanel internalized these notions. In his writings, Abarbanel referred to the general dark complexion of Jews (himself included) as reflecting the curse of exile. That the Gentiles (in his context the Spaniards) were pale because they experienced their joy at the expense of the Jews, and the Jews are swarthy because their blessing awaited their national redemption. This notion, and ones similar to it, was produced via the anachronistic imposition of contemporary Arab and European ideas of skin complexion and race on Judaism.

So while individual Jews have certainly introduced racist and xenophobic notions into Jewish thought, the power of Talmud Torah (the founding texts of Judaism and its study) is that it’s concepts and system has the ability to correct its own limitations.

The language of “occupation” insinuates that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is both foreign and illegal. This is highly controversial and founded in fundamental prejudices regarding the Jewish people and the peace process.

The term “occupied territories” is laden with legal and moral prejudice against Israel. Legally speaking, to be an occupier is to illegally occupy the territory of another *state* as the result of a war of aggression. It’s undisputed that Israel gained control of Judea and Samaria in a *defensive* war against Jordan, who itself gained the territory in an offensive war (48’ War) and no longer lays claim to the land. Therefore, per the Oslo accords, sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is subject to a future agreement between Israel and the PA (Palestinian Authority), making the land disputed; not occupied.

In moral terms, the language of “occupation” paints Israel as a foreign entity and the Palestinian Arabs as native. Without denying the connection Palestinian Arabs have to Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are certainly no less connected. Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is an expression of indigenous sovereignty and does not deserve to be labeled as an occupation. Those who perpetuate the notion that Jews are foreigners in any part of the Land of Israel, often base this assertion on the lie that Jews are simply a religious group. The Jewish people, by definition, are an ethno-religious group. A diverse nation who are rooted and identified by their common descent from the aboriginal Judaean population.