What is Zionism?: The Existing Zionist Movement

Part I

How many “Zionist” organisations are there in the UK? According to Jewdas, the left wing Jewish group, there are none. But according to my research, there are at least 220 groups or organisations which are formally members of the Zionist movement. Who is right?

What is Zionism? Does it just refer to institutions or is it also a set of ideas? Is it a complex notion to which people attach their own varied meanings? Is it thus sensible to argue that the left should stop using the word Zionism? An alternative gambit is to claim that Zionism is used as a catch all to wrap up groups and individuals far beyond the actual reach or meaning of the term. Thus the “leftist” Jewish group Jewdas has suggested that “actual Zionism” is “The Israeli State” and the IOF.  And that’s it.

It is a mark of the extent to which non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jewish groups have drunk the Zionist Kool-Aid that they would advance such a transparently ridiculous proposition. The force of Zionist ideology is so strong that they literally ignore all of their personal and communal knowledge to attempt to confine criticism of “Zionism” only to the “state”. This is fundamentally a “Zionist” move.

A moment’s investigation of the evidence on the actually existing Zionist movement, shows such statements are categorically false. It also shows that the Zionist movement – at least its formal elements – can be described with a high degree of precision.

The Zionist movement

A quick historical lesson on what is constituted by “Zionism” seems needed. Zionism is first and foremost a social movement, which was created in order to pursue the political demands of the ideology of Zionism. The pre-eminent demand at its founding in the 1880s in Basel at the first Zionist Congress, was the creation of a “Jewish state”. Once this was achieved by occupying Palestine in 1948, the movement did not shut up shop.


At the head of the movement is the World Zionist Organisation. The clues are in the name: Zionist indicating the ideology; ‘world’ (added in 1960) its claim to be global. The WZO is governed by the World Zionist Congress described by the WZO itself as the “supreme ideological and policy-making body” of the movement.

The most recent Zionist congress was the 38th, held in 2020. 525 delegates were either elected or selected, from “Israel” – 199 (38%), the US – 152 (29%); rest of the world – 173 (33%). The UK got 19 seats.

The national institutions

One step down in the leadership are three other institutions. These are the Jewish National Fund (founded 1901), Keren Hayesod (1920) and the Jewish Agency for “Israel” (1929). They function to encourage and facilitate settlers (JAFI), obtain and allocate land for settlement (JNF), and fund these activities worldwide (KH). Together all four are called the National Institutions. They are all housed in National Institutions House in King George St in al-Quds. The four organisations are curious in that they are “para-statal” bodies –  not quite part of the “state” and not quite independent of it. This allows them, as many critics have said, to evade the legal responsibilities of a state. The WZO has member federations in thirty-one countries, the JNF in twenty-two, and Keren Hayesod in thirty.

The “Jerusalem Program” and the “Duties of the Individual Zionist”

I have been accused of seeing “Jewish orgs and individuals” as agents or puppets – as “under ‘Israel’ government”. The actual relationship of Zionist groups (which is what I was in fact discussing) – and individuals – to the movement, is, though, codified in some detail in the various statutes and rules drawn up by the sprawling bureaucracy which is the WZO.

Individuals are no longer able to join the WZO directly and must join one of its member organisations. The organisations are required to sign up to the “Jerusalem” Program of the WZO, first agreed upon in 1951, and most recently revised in 2004. The “foundations” of Zionism include: The “bond” of the Jewish people to “Eretz Yisrael” which should be settled “as an expression of practical Zionism”. British Zionist organisations thus support settler colonialism in “Eretz ‘Israel’” (a term usually meaning land far beyond the current occupation, spreading into Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt); to support a “Jewish” state and “defend” the “right of Jews… as a nation” – meaning structural privileges for Jews – a clearly racist proposition.

But membership in any Zionist organisation also requires certain “Duties of the individual Zionist”, adopted in 1978. These enjoin Zionists: “To implement Aliyah [the Zionist term for settler colonialism] to ‘Israel’”; and “bring [children] up towards Aliyah”; to “be an active member of the [Zionist Federation]”; “contribute to … Zionist Funds”; and “strengthen Zionist influence within the community”. In other words, one’s private conception of Zionism is of no consequence to join the movement, one has to affirm the racist settler colonial ideology.

Hundreds of WZO members in the UK

To understand the reach of Zionism, it is worth calculating the sheer number of formal Zionist organisations in the UK. Should anyone be foolish enough to again claim there are no Zionist organisations in the UK, outside direct representatives of the state such as the Embassy in London, the data will be available. Total number in [square brackets] below.

UK affiliates of the WZO

There are three UK affiliates of the “national institutions”. There are also a number of UK branches of direct members of the WZO, including:

· International organisations, including the Union of Jewish Students, B’nai B’rith UK [5];

· Youth and young adults groups [13];

· Political factions (including the revisionist Likud-Herut UK, the Jewish Labour Movement, also affiliated to the UK Labour Party) [9].

UK Affiliates of the “national institutions”

The JNF Charitable Trust is the UK branch of the Jewish National Fund, with around 13 linked groups [14]. The UK branch of Keren Hayesod is the United Jewish “Israel” Appeal, the largest UK fundraiser for the Zionist entity. It spends £ millions supporting Zionism in the UK – which would be odd if no such thing existed – and has around 4 linked groups [5]. The WZO and the Jewish Agency both maintain UK offices [2].

The Zionist Federation of the UK and its members

The UK affiliate of the WZO is the Zionist Federation, with 40 members, though some [29] are also direct WZO members [11]. Other members include Academic Friends of “Israel”Christian Friends of “Israel”, and European Friends of “Israel”.

Zionist Synagogues

Perhaps surprisingly there are several members that represent Synagogues: The Movement for Reform Judaism, Liberal Judaism, Masorti Judaism. All of their member Synagogues are thus members too, [42, 37, and 15 respectively]. The largest Synagogue movement, United Synagogue, explicitly states that it is “Zionist” but is not listed as a member. It has around 62 members and around eleven additional companies/charities [73]. There are, thus, over 160 Zionist organisations associated with UK synagogues – according to their own statements.

All in all – this is a conservative estimate since local branches, schools, colleges, and other groups are not included here – there are at least 220 formally Zionist organisations in the UK. The number is so large that it seems odd that Jewdas have not noticed any of them.

The informal Zionist movement

Perhaps even more interestingly, the formal Zionist movement makes up much less than half of the Zionist movement in the UK as a whole. The largest, most prominent, “informal” groups include the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership CouncilBICOM the PR group, and the Community Security Trust – set up by convicted fraudster Gerald Ronson – to push “Israel’s” foreign policy positions that antisemitism equals anti-Zionism.

There are many hundreds more “friends of ‘Israel’” groups, think tanks, policy groups and Zionist foundations and charities. Many of the latter are engaged in raising money for Zionist lobbying in the UK or supporting the occupation in Palestine. There are simply too many to discuss here. One very rough indicator is there are 1,786 charities with the term “Israel” in the register of charities.

What is the point of Jewdas?

If Jewdas and similar groups want to be seen as having any credible position on Zionism or Palestinian rights they must exorcise Zionist assumptions and refrain from participating in the Zionist-led witch hunt against the left, Muslims, and Palestinians. Just as there is no Zionist “partner for peace” with the Palestinians, so there is no partner for the liberation of Palestine in the Jewdas left, while it remains trapped in racist Zionist assumptions. The pro-Palestine movement should treat these Zionist surrogates with the contempt they deserve.

Note: This is the first in a series of articles describing and analysing the Zionist movement by using publicly available data. This will show that Zionism is necessarily described in part by data on the organisations that make up the formal and informal Zionist movement, in addition to analysis of the ideas and activities of the actors in the movement.

Contemporary Zionism Pursues its Assigned Role as an Advanced Military and Intelligence Base of Anglo-American, European Imperialism