“The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people - the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe - was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the [Jewish] problem…”
In the end British “Zionism” and imperial realpolitik combined to create conditions favorable to the Balfour Declaration and Jewish immigration to the British “protectorate” was opened (but only so long as it served British interests).
While the inspiration for Political Zionism was secular (both Pinsker and Herzl) the movement represented the entire universe of Jewish identity from Orthodox to Reform to atheist; cultural to religious to nationalist! But the main ideological force behind the nuts and bolts creation of the state was socialist and secular. And from that wing emerged David Ben-Gurion, “Israel’s founding father.”
"Suffering makes a people greater, and we have suffered much. We had a message to give the world, but we were overwhelmed, and the message was cut off in the middle. In time there will be millions of us - becoming stronger and stronger – and we will complete the message… the unity of the human race.” (Time Magazine, August 16, 1948)
Ben-Gurion, as leader of the Jewish Agency, was de-facto head of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in pre-independence Israel. He was also a primary drafter of the Declaration of Independence that defined Israel as Zionist:
“In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
“The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people - the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe - was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew... (emphasis added)
The Declaration was written in the midst of the War for Independence. It appealed to the Arabs living in newly-independent Israel to remain and “enjoy full benefits of and participate in the building of the state.” To the Arab nations it pledged “a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.” For a complex of reasons many Palestinians left to create its own diaspora and the relationship between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states remains, for the most part, unbridgeable.
Israel’s Basic Laws are a step towards a constitution for the state. The first Law, for example, defines the role of Knesset. And as the 33rd governing coalition was sworn in on 18 March, 2013 one issue raised was a proposal for a new Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. By title at least it appears to reinforce Israel’s Zionist identity as did the earlier, Basic Law: the Law of Return passed in 1950. In 1970, facing challenge from Israeli Orthodoxy to limit Jewish identity to religion the Knesset passed an Amendment reaffirming Israel’s adherence to its the Zionist responsibilities as homeland to the Jewish People under the Law of Return. The Grandparent Clause makes clear that under the Law “Jewish” is not limited to religion but applies to anyone potential victim based on genealogy. By Israeli law even the grandchild of a convert to Christianity is provided immigrant status if threatened by the host country, a direct response to the nazi 1935 Nuremberg Laws classifying as “Jew” a person with a single Jewish grandparent.
Over the years various segments of Israel’s population have challenged the Law of Return based on its definition of Jewish identity or other, more secular/social concerns. And these challenges will be discussed in the next chapter.