For the first time in many decades, the debate between Zionism and anti-Zionism seems to be at the center of public discourse throughout America and the West. But what are the fundamental beliefs, assumptions, and narratives behind these two opposing ideas? Why do some embrace the idea of a state for the Jewish people, while others so passionately resist it?

In this series, join Dr. Einat Wilf, a former member of Israel’s parliament and a scholar of Zionist thought, and Zoé Tara Zeigherman, a filmmaker and former Tikvah Fellow, for a comprehensive look at the history of Zionism—political, social, and religious—and the schools of anti-Zionism that have opposed it.

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Episode 1 – Politics: Emancipation & Political Zionism

Jews lived in Judea for thousands of years, but even after the exile, they were still set apart from other societies. That changed in the 19th century, when Jews were offered the political equality they had hitherto been denied. But with those liberties came a question: what is to become of Jewish identity in the modern world? Many argued that Jews would have to give up their distinctive identity to make full use of their new freedoms. It was this problem that political Zionism sought to solve, and it is this tension that Dr. Wilf probes in this first episode. Download the study guide here.

Episode 2 – Labor: Communism, Socialism, Bundism & Labor Zionism

At the turn of the 20th century, political Zionism was just one of many responses to the “Jewish question.” Communism and Bundism, two variants of anti-Zionism, were also attractive answers. And even within the Zionist movement, competing types of Zionism emerged, including Labor Zionism, the most popular variant. In this episode, Dr. Wilf shows why Communism, Bundism, and Labor Zionism were attractive to Jews, and why the verdict of history ultimately discredits the first two. Labor Zionism, on the other hand, remains an influential school of thought in modern Israel. Download the study guide here.

Episode 3: Religion: Religious Anti-Zionism & Religious Zionism

Zionism began as a secular movement, but it has always inspired deep religious sentiments, both positive and negative. Over time many religious Jews became fervent Zionists, while some ultra-Orthodox Jews remain opponents; Christian evangelicals are now Israel’s biggest international supporters, while even secular Western opponents of Zionism today are often unconsciously inspired by a kind of Christian anti-Zionism. In this episode, Dr. Wilf explains how all those religious influences figure into the contemporary and historical conversation. Download the study guide here.

Episode 4 – The Middle East: Islamic and Arab Anti-Zionism & The Birth of the State of Israel

As more and more Jews moved to the land of Israel, Arabs across the Middle East began to react violently to this new sense of Jewish agency. The Jews, who were once second-class citizens in Arab countries, now asserted themselves as equals. It is this sentiment, Dr. Wilf argues in this episode, that lies behind much of Arab anti-Zionism today. She charts the pre-state history of Israel, placing a special focus on the conflict between Arabs and Jews, and looks at how the Jewish state ultimately came into being despite so much opposition. Download the study guide here.

Episode 5 – Secularism: Soviet and Left Wing Anti-Zionism

In the final episode of this course, Dr. Wilf looks at the Soviet roots of modern-day left-wing anti-Zionism, and how it has taken traditional anti-Semitic tropes and applied them to Zionists instead of Jews, without in practice meaning anything different. She also outlines three distinct types of anti-Zionism, compares the threats of left-wing anti-Zionism and right-wing anti-Semitism, and examines the arguments and rhetoric of prominent anti-Zionists today. Download the study guide here.

Dr. Einat Wilf is a leading thinker on Israel and Zionist thought. She was a member of the Israeli parliament from 2010 to 2013, where she served as chair of the Education Committee and a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Dr. Wilf is the author of seven books, including her most recent, We Should All Be Zionists (2022), and her co-authored book, The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace. Dr. Wilf was previously a visiting professor at Georgetown University, where she gave a seminar on “Zionism and Anti-Zionism.” Zoé Tara Zeigherman was one of Dr. Wilf’s students in that seminar. As a 2022 Tikvah Beren Summer Fellow, she worked to develop the course curriculum into the series before you today. She currently works as a production assistant in New York City.