Historical and contemporary Zionism have countless factions, but unite around a common core of belief. Zionists advocate the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland in Palestine, where they would have sovereignty, continued development of cultural identity and protection from outside threats. Both Jews and non-Jews align themselves with Zionism.

Origins

The movement originated in the late 19th century as a socio-political response to anti-Semitism and persecution in Europe at which time Jewish leaders called for the establishment of a modern Jewish home in the land of Palestine. Simultaneously Jews from Northern Africa and the Middle East immigrated to the region as a sort of spiritual pilgrimage to the land of Zion, a term describing Jerusalem or more specifically the Temple Mount.

Sovereignty

Zionists believe that the land of Palestine historically and rightfully belongs to the Jewish people. Zionism holds that the nation of Israel, officially established in 1948, has the right to exist in this ancient homeland, to govern itself and to protect itself from outside threats. Actual geographic boundaries, specifically those of Gaza and the West Bank, seem less important to Zionists than Israel’s sovereignty of state and the freedom to defend itself.

Return

Zionists believe that Jews around the world should return to Zion to reinforce national and cultural identity. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the desire to return to Zion has been the cornerstone of Jewish life since its invasion before the time of Christ and successive destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D.

Identity

Both Jews and non-Jews may align themselves with Zionism; thus, not all Zionists are Jews and not all Jews subscribe to Zionism. Those claiming to espouse Zionist beliefs come from around the globe. The term Zionist is at times pejoratively ascribed to someone who has sympathies toward Israel's actions, though the individuals might not align themselves with Zionism. Some consider any violence against Palestinians an example of Zionism, though the movement itself would not necessarily endorse it.

Conflict

Some critics of Zionism describe it as racist and colonialist, but Zionists contest these descriptions, even indicating that the criticism itself is another form of anti-Semitism. Additionally, some Jews disagree with Zionism. The group Jews Against Zionism argues that the movement has created a pseudo-Judaism, replacing the Torah with nationalism. The group says on its website that the confusion between Judaism and Zionism endangers Jews worldwide, particularly those in Israel.