A Two-Meaning Solution For Zionism

Why Amos Oz's Definition Is Far Too Narrow

Unpacking Zionism: Amos Oz says Zionism means support for the two-state solution. Not so, says Philologos.
Getty Images
Unpacking Zionism: Amos Oz says Zionism means support for the two-state solution. Not so, says Philologos.

By Philologos

Published January 28, 2013, issue of February 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

‘The Netanyahu government is the most anti-Zionist Israel has ever had,” Israeli author Amos Oz declared at a gathering for the left-wing Meretz party a few days before Israel’s elections. This is because, Oz said, Zionism means a Jewish state, and unless the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues have been loath to promote is implemented, “there will not [even] be a bi-national state here but an Arab state.”

One can agree or not agree with Oz’s prognosis, but is there any justification for using a word like “anti-Zionist” for Netanyahu and the Israelis who voted for him, or for parties allied with him in his bid for another term as prime minister?

I think not. Oz, who is not only an accomplished Hebrew writer but also a man with a knowledge of Zionist history, should know better than to make the word “Zionist” conditional on support for a two-state solution. Zionism has always meant different things to different people who participated in its struggle and its politics. Many of these people were for a one-state solution — and some were even ready, at one point or another in their political careers, to let this one state have an Arab majority.

But surely, you object, I am talking about a fringe element that was never taken seriously by the Zionist movement! Not at all. Take, for example, Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization for many years during the period of the British Mandate and first president of the State of Israel. In 1930, at a meeting in Berlin of the Zionist Executive, the political Cabinet of the WZO, he declared:

“A Jewish state was never a goal in itself, but only a means to a goal…. The Balfour Declaration [which spoke of the establishment of a ‘Jewish national home’ in Palestine] makes no mention of it. What Zionism is about is the creation in Palestine of the material foundations on which a productive, autonomous [Jewish] society can be constructed.” This society, Weizmann emphasized, did not even have to constitute a majority of the population of Palestine to satisfy Zionist aspirations.

Soon afterward, Nahum Sokolow, who was about to succeed Weizmann as the WZO’S president, issued a statement in the organization’s name that “a Jewish state is not part of the practical program of Zionism.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.