The rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th cent. was influenced by nationalist currents in Europe, as well as by the secularization of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, which led many assimilated Jewish intellectuals to seek a new basis for a Jewish national life. One such individual was Theodor Herzl, a Viennese journalist who wrote The Jewish State (1896), calling for the formation of a Jewish nation state as a solution to the Diaspora and to anti-Semitism. In 1897 Herzl called the first World Zionist Congress at Basel, which brought together diverse proto-Zionist groups into one movement. The meeting helped found Zionist organizations in most countries with large Jewish populations.
The first issue to split the Zionist movement was whether Palestine was essential to a Jewish state. A majority of the delegates to the 1903 congress felt that it was essential and rejected the British offer of a homeland in Uganda. The opposition, the Territorialists led by Israel Zangwill, withdrew on the grounds that an immediate refuge for persecuted Jews was needed. Within the Zionist movement a broad range of perspectives developed, ranging from a synthesis of nationalism with traditional Jewish Orthodoxy (in the Mizrahi movement, founded 1902) to various combinations of Zionism with utopian and Marxist socialism.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.