SOAS University of London

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

Zionist Ideology

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Year of study:
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. This multi-disciplinary module focusses on the development of Zionism before the 1948 establishment of Israel, exploring the political and conceptual genealogies of the movement and its key ideological factions; it examines Zionism’s cultural and everyday manifestations, in gender, art, and architecture. Critical approaches to Zionism are explored both historically and in their contemporary forms.


An interest in the subject and a desire to learn more.

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.


A total of 22 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week, consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

This module shares teaching hours with the BA module in History of Zionism. Two hours of teaching are shared with BA students and there is one additional hour of Masters-tailored tuition per week.

Module outline

The syllabus includes:

  • Zionism – Ideology, Project, Movement?
  • 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
  • Early Zionist thinkers: anti-Semitism and Jewish nationalism
  • Theodor Herzl and the emergence of Political Zionism
  • Ahad Ha'am: Zionism as a project of cultural revival
  • Labour Zionism: marrying Jewish ethno-nationalism with universal struggle for workers’ rights? The origins of the Kibbutz movement, Second Aliya
  • Revisionist Zionism: Vladimir Jabotinsky and the Far Right
  • 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
  • A “Jewish State”? On the goal of Zionism and its meanings
  • Neo-Zionism: the religious settler movement after 1967, an organic continuation or a break with earlier Zionism?
  • Post-Zionism – critical approaches to Zionism in the 1990s and beyond

Method of assessment

One 2500 word essay to be submitted on Day 1, Week 1, Term 2 (30%); one 3500 word essay to be submitted on Day 1, Week 1, Term 3 (50%) ; a response paper (20%)

Suggested reading

  • 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.
  • Ravitzky, A., 1996. Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish religious radicalism, University of Chicago Press.
  • Campos, M., 2010. Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine, Stanford University Press.
  • Goldman, S., 2009. Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, & the idea of the Promised Land, UNC Press Books
  • Shafir, G., 1989. Land, labor, and the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 1882-1914, Cambridge [England];;New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gorni, Y., 1987. Zionism and the Arabs 1882-1948: A Study of Ideology, Oxford: Clarendon.
  • 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.
  • Nimni, E., 2003. The challenge of Post-Zionism: alternatives to Israeli fundamentalist politics, Zed Books.
  • 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