Examining Zionism: Yesterday and Today

  • by:
    • Susan Heller Pinto
  • March 9, 2016

Zionism is a movement and ideology which has religious, cultural political and practical meaning.  The connection to Zion – Jerusalem – and the commitment to a national Jewish and democratic homeland in Israel, the birthplace of Judaism, has been a source of inspiration, a call to action, and a safe harbor for Jews fleeing persecution. 

Herzl bridge

But while Zionism is a positive in the Jewish historical narrative, the term and movement has been the object of increasing demonization and delegitimization. From passage of the  “Zionism is Racism” resolution in the U.N. General Assembly in 1975 (repealed in 1991), to recent charges by New York college students that a “Zionist Administration” was responsible for high tuition, to British students calling political opponents “Zios,” Zionism is used by some as a politically charged term with negative connotations.

Enter Colliding Dreams, a compelling documentary by Joseph Dorman and Oren Rudavsky that examines the meaning of Zionism and the history of the building a modern Jewish state. Somewhere along the 150-year path from Zionism’s origins with Moses Hess and Theodore Herzl, to the present Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, remarkable things, both amazing and regrettable, have occurred in Zionism’s name.  With the birth of the State of Israel, the continued survival of the Jewish people was insured. At the same time, Palestinians have been personally and nationally impacted by this Jewish nationalist movement.

The challenges, competing narratives, inconsistencies and messiness of Zionism are fully on display in this documentary, from the controversies over Israeli settlements, to the treatment of Palestinians, to enhanced militarism and fundamentalism. But also in full focus is the pride, promise and commitment of what Zionism has meant and continues to mean for so many, Jews and non-Jews alike.

For those who consider themselves Zionists, for those who know little or nothing about the movement and its history, and even for those who consider themselves opposed to Zionism, Colliding Dreams offers much-needed historical context with diverse narratives. The film takes a reasoned and fresh look at the conflict, and provides a truthful tale of achievement and woe. And while the film makes an important contribution to the necessary dialogue, what’s left is the question of the next chapter for Zionism’s future.