“Zionism seeks to secure for the Jewish people a publicly recognized, legally assured homeland in Palestine. For the attainment of this purpose, the Congress considers the following means serviceable: (1) The promotion of the settlement of Jewish agriculturists, artisans, and tradesmen in Palestine. (2) The federation of all Jews into local or general groups, according to the laws of the various countries. (3) The strengthening of the Jewish feeling and consciousness. (4) Preparatory steps for the attainment of those governmental grants which are necessary to the achievement of the Zionist purpose.” These points form the Basel Program, developed by a committee at the first Zionist Congress in 1897. It’s interesting to note that the program covers the aims and methods of Zionism, but never defines Zionism. In fact, Zionism was never actually defined.
As Herzl’s Zionist movement grew, it began to split into different sub-groups, each with their own approaches to Zionism. Political Zionism, Practical Zionism, Religious Zionism, and Revisionist Zionism are just some examples of different forms of Zionism, and many were not only different from each other, but opposed each other’s positions. As each group jockeyed to prove it was most aligned with Zionism, the lack of a consensus definition of Zionism prevented any one group from claiming to represent Zionism more than any other group. While Zionism has never been officially defined, there is a widely used description of Zionism that almost all Zionists ascribe to when discussing Zionism. “The Jewish people deserve self-determination in their historic homeland, the land of Israel,” is widely used by Zionists to describe their movement.
A perceived notion exists that right-wing Zionists are “More Zionist” than left-wing Zionists. This perceived notion is given fuel by a numbers game: loud and prolific Zionist on-line voices tend to be right-wing Zionists. While many right-wing Zionists argue it’s no coincidence that right-wing Zionists are louder and more prolific, raised voices and proliferation aren’t metrics of greater Zionism. The only data point to be taken from the online right-wing voices is that they’re louder and more prolific. Great Zionism is measured in many ways, on-line advocacy is only one way of many different metrics.
The left-wing Zionist is accused of not being sufficiently Zionist because of the policies they advocate for Israel. It is easier to sound “more” Zionist when you’re advocating for more right-wing and conservative policies. Issues like land expansion, taking a strong stand against enemies and opponents, and refusing to compromise, come off as proud Zionist stands. Opposing building and development in favor of peace, advocating for reconciliation with opponents and enemies and preaching compromise can makes one’s Zionism seem weak or even secondary.
While none of the above stereotypes are true, and an argument can be made for opposing building as a method of bringing peace is more Zionist than stubbornly building and offending Israel’s enemies, the left wing Zionist opens themselves to the accusation of not being a staunch enough Zionist with their more liberal positions. Rarely is the accusation made against the right-wing Zionist that their ideology can damage Israel’s long term future and is therefore anti-Zionist. In truth, right and left-wing Zionism agree on so much, their differences can be ascribed more to tone and emphasis rather than significant partisan divisions.
Left wing Zionism is more liberal in its approach. It stands for pluralism, equality in all social areas, and normalized relations with Arab and Palestinian neighbors through granting Palestinian freedoms and independence. Left wing Zionists are more willing to compromise and more open to a Jewish State whose diversity is shown by both Jews and Arab citizens. Right wing Zionism is more conservative in its approach. It stands for land expansion; it puts more emphasis on Israel as a Jewish State than a state for all its people and is less willing to compromise.
No one side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on Zionism. Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was a right wing Prime Minister and its second longest serving Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, was a left wing Prime Minister. Zionist leaders, soldiers, artists and scholars have come from both the left and right wing camps. While a little bit of each of us wants to live in an echo chamber of our own positions constantly boomeranging back to us, Zionism is richer when it has more members, and its ideas are more diverse. Instead of each side trying to best its opponent by arguing it has the more authentic Zionist approach, each side should celebrate Zionism’s inclusivity and diversity.