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Does Zionism even exist anymore?

TJI Pick
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Published: 6 September 2022

Last updated: 5 March 2024

ANSHEL PFEFFER: Since Israel became a reality, there's been no consensus on what defines Zionism, what it means and whether, between the Herzl cosplayers and haters, it still survives.

As low-hanging fruit goes, few events are riper for lampooning than the re-enactment of the first Zionist Congress that took place this week at the original venue in Basel, Switzerland on its 125th anniversary. It really is too easy. All those clapped-out former politicians, prematurely old jobsworths, vainglorious billionaires and their hangers-on getting together to pretend that their cosplaying has any relevance to life in Israel or its future.

Fifty-one years after the Basel Congress, Israel became a reality. Herzl’s Zionist dream had been fulfilled. No one has been able to work out ever since what Zionism means after that, or if it even still exists in the real world outside congresses and conferences.

The very word has become a cypher for Jews in general, a handy excuse for bigots – as in, “I’m fine with Jews, I just don’t like Zionists,” and a convenient label for virtue gesticulators of all stripes. 

But there is no consensus on its definition, not among those who claim to be Zionists or those who abominate it.

Another thing that the so-called Zionists and anti-Zionists have in common is how little the real Israel resembles their idealised or demonised Zion. Those who believe in Zionism in 2022, as a force for good or evil, are obsessing about an abstraction as an alternative to dealing with the less exciting, but very real, challenges and moral ambiguities of Israel.

Opinion | Does Zionism Even Exist Anymore? (Haaretz)

Photo: An image of Theodor Herzl displayed during a gala event marking the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress at its original venue, the Stadtcasino Basel, in Basel, Switzerland (Arnd Wiegmann/ Reuters/Haaretz)

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