The term Mount Zion appears in 2 Samuel 5:7, 1 Chronicles 11:5; 1 Kings 8:1, 2 Chronicles 5:2 but its meaning shifted from and came to mean the Temple Mount to the name of ancient Jerusalem’s Western Hill. It can be used as a synonym for Jerusalem.
Zionism is the desire of the Jewish people to establish (some would say reclaim) a secure homeland. It became a political organisation in 1897.
The homeland Jews call Israel is also the are inhabited by Palestinians. It is obvious that relationships between Jewish settlers and Arabs could never be simple in such circumstances.
However, there are two strands of Zionism, left and right wing versions.
David Ben-Gurion founded the state and became the first Prime Miinster. He believed Arabs inn what became Israel should have equal rights with equal pay and be able to become Prime Minister in turn.
The strand led by Likud is ultra-nationalist often racist, treating Arabs as unwanted and unequal. Benjamin Netanyahu is a right wing populist leader who represents this form of Zionism. (seehttps://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n16/adam-shatz/the-sea-is-the-same-sea)
So, what is it to be anti-zionist, as opposed to antisemitic?
Some rabbis think Israel should not exist as Jews should await the Messiah.
Some Arabs think Israel should not exist because it is on their land and made them refugees.
Some people think Israel has a right to exist but should treat its citizens equally, claiming that immigrant Jewish settlers ill-treat Arabs
Some Israeli citizens, Jews or Arabs, feel the right wing government and it supporters have betrayed the principles of early Zionism and given it a bad name.
To some Arabs, angry at their treatment, Zionist comes to mean Israeli = Jew.
British citizens, protesting about Netanyahu’s treatment of Palestinians, may find when they use the term Zionist (meaning his right wing government) they are accused of being antisemitic (i.e. using the term as if it refers to all Jews)
Could it be more complicated?
Yes. It is.
Although a number of Jews, for various reasons, do not support either form of Zionism, evangelical Christians have been very supportive, because they believe the ‘return’ would hasten a Second Coming. Which is why you will find right wing Americans supporting Israel very strongly, even when they come from communities that have been anti-semitic in the past, and might remain so. That is just one of the areas explored in an article by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in London Review of Books, discussing Margaret Thatcher and The Middle East (Azriel Bermant, 2017) – https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n17/geoffrey-wheatcroft/the-finchley-factor
Does opinion divide by left and right wing?
No. Support for Israel’s right to exist has come from a wide range of governments, on both sides, but so has a mistrust of some Israeli governments. Churchill, in 1937, claimed he had no sympathy for Palestinians because, like the American Indians and the Australian aborigines, it was a case of a weaker group being replaced by “a higher grade race” – the kind of traditional anti-Arab ideology discussed by Edward Said in Orientalism. Margaret Thatcher, on the other hand, could see very clearly that no peace was possible without an even handed approach. She subscribed to the Venice Declaration, calling for a Palestinian state and proposed a role for the PLO. She also bore in mind the fact that one strand of the early supporters of Zionism had used what the British government called “terrorism” to including massacres, blowing up a hotel with British citizens in it and hanging two British sergeants, their bodies booby trapped. She mistrusted Begin and Shamir.
Now, when Corbyn’s government is attacked for ‘antisemitism’ because it supports Palestinian rights, is it odd to have to support his stance by citing Thatcher as agreeing with him. When conspiracy theorists claim Israel is orchestrating attacks on him, this claim is said to be itself antisemitic. Of course, antisemites would support such a claim, but equally the history of the last few decades means one might explore such a theory without in any way being antisemitic. It is much easier to negotiate these murky waters if we make a clear division between Jews, Israeli citizens and the Israeli government at any given moment, and use the term Zionism with a lot more care.
Meanwhile, it is useful to put Thatcher and Corbyn on the same side, with Churchill on the other side. And to avoid using words like “terrorist ” about either side – see Talking to terrorists.