SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

History of Zionism

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2017/2018
Taught in:
Full Year

Zionism is one of the most fascinating political-cultural projects of the twentieth century – and one whose enduring legacy and current meaning are still fiercely contested. Focussing on the development of Zionism before the 1948 establishment of Israel, this multi-disciplinary course examines Zionism’s key ideological factions, its cultural and everyday manifestations, in gender, art, and architecture. Critical approaches to Zionism are explored in their historical and contemporary forms.



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course a student will have read a range of primary and secondary material on the background, development and modern implications of the various strands of Zionist ideology and culture, placing a special emphasis on the relation of Zionism to Palestine and the Middle East. The student will be familiar with the main texts of political, socialist, cultural and religious Zionism and will be able to situate them in an apposite cultural and political milieu. The student will be able to understand the background to  the emergence of the State of Israel and the different strands of ideological perspective both within Israel and within the Jewish community elsewhere.


Two hours per week

Scope and syllabus

The syllabus includes:

  • The European context: East European Jewry in 19th century. Nationalism, Socialism, Imperialism
  • Christian Zionism; Jews, Palestine and the Second Coming of Christ in 19th century Britain and 21st century USA
  • Key ideological factions: Herzl’s Political Zionism, Ahad Ha'am’s Cultural Zionism, Labour Zionism, and Revisionist Zionism
  • Zionism and “the Arab Question”: Orientalism and the relation to Arab Palestine
  • Radical visions: Brith Shalom’s bi-nationalism and the Canaanite movement
  • Is Zionism a form of colonialism?
  • Middle Eastern Jews (Mizrahim) and Zionism: yearned-for salvation or forced migration and cynical exploitation?
  • Zionism and Gender: Jewish Masculinity and Femininity; Zionism and Feminism?
  • Zionism in Visual Art and Architecture
  • Neo-Zionism: the religious settler movement after 1967: an organic continuation or a break?
  • Post-Zionism – critical approaches to Zionism in the 1990s and beyond

Method of assessment

Assessment will be by two term essays of 2500 words each, submitted by the first days of Terms 2 and 3 respectively (20% of the total mark), and one three-hour written examination in May-June (80%).

Suggested reading

Basic bibliography:
  • Avineri, S., 1981. The making of modern Zionism : intellectual origins of the Jewish state, New York: Basic Books.
  • Shimoni, G., 1997. The Zionist Ideology Hanover: Brandeis University Press.
  • Hertzberg, A., 1997. The Zionist idea : a historical analysis and reader, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
  • Laqueur, W., 2003. A History of Zionism 3rd ed., London: Tauris Parke.
  • Shafir, G., 1989. Land, labor, and the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 1882-1914, Cambridge [England];;New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Eyal, G., 2006. The disenchantment of the Orient: expertise in Arab affairs and the Israeli state, Stanford University Press.
  • Manor, D., 2005. Art in Zion: the genesis of modern national art in Jewish Palestine, Routledge.
  • Yacobi, 2004. Constructing a Sense of Place: Architecture and the Zionist Discourse, Aldershot: Ashgate
  • Bernstein, D., 1992. Pioneers and homemakers: Jewish women in pre-state Israel, SUNY Press.
  • Almog, O., 2000. The Sabra: the creation of the new Jew, University of California Press.
  • Shenhav, Y.A., 2006. The Arab Jews: a postcolonial reading of nationalism, religion, and ethnicity, Stanford University Press.
  • Kimmerling, B., 2001. The Invention and Decline of Israeliness: State, Society, and the Military, Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press.
  • Beinart, P., 2012. The Crisis of Zionism First Edition., Times Books.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules