“Zionism: A Very Short Introduction” by Michael Stanslawski— Short and Sweet

Stanislawski, Michael. “Zionism: A Very Short Introduction”, (Very Short Introductions), Oxford University Press, 2017.

Short and Sweet

Amos Lassen

I often find myself at a need for something to bolster the definition of Zionism today with all that is going in the State of Israel. I used to think of myself as being fairly proficient when speaking about it especially after having lived in Israel for many years and having come through the Zionist youth movements. The classic text, “The Zionist Idea” by Arthur Hetzberg is wonderful but a bit too bulky to carry around so when this small book was published, it proved to be just what I needed. Oxford University’s “Very Short Introduction” series is an excellent way to get information quickly and concisely and there are books on almost every topic.

The traditional definition of Zionism “is the nationalist movement affirming Jewish people’s right to self-determination through the establishment of a Jewish national state in its ancient homeland”. Who knew when Zionism was born that it would become one of the most controversial ideologies in the world. Its supporters cheer its success in liberating the Jewish people after thousands of years of persecution and at securing the creation of Israel. Opponents however claim that Zionism relies “on a racist ideology culminating in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and is one of the last manifestations of colonial oppression in the world”. Since the late 1990s, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has become central in world news and media has sharpened the controversy and politicized any attempt to understand Zionism and its significance as an intellectual and cultural movement. It must be seen as what it is— a movement.

Michael Stanislawski has the credential to presents an impartial and disinterested history of Zionist ideology from its origins to the present. This little book charts the crucial moments in the ideological development of Zionism, including the emergence of modern Jewish nationalism in early nineteenth century Europe, the founding of the Zionist movement by Theodor Herzl in 1897, the Balfour Declaration, the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, the Six Day War in 1967, the rise of the “Peace Now” movement, and the election of conservative prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Stanislawski gives a balanced analysis of these controversial events and explains that even with the wonderful success in creating a Jewish state, there are still profound questions about the long-term viability of Zionist ideology in the destabilizing Middle East.

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