Zionism - what is it, and why does it matter?
A Zionist is someone who believes the Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their historic homeland. This is shown by the existence of the State of Israel. In the 20th Century, the right to self-determination for all peoples became enshrined in international law..
Modern political Zionism began, of course, with Theodor Herzl in the late 19th Century. For Herzl it was an entirely secular reaction to antisemitism, notably the Dreyfus Affair and the rise of Austrian politician Karl Lueger. When Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (1896), the creation of an independent Jewish state was seen as an opportunity for Jews to be free from persecution.
However, the principle of Zionism to Jews and Christians is at least as old as the text of Genesis 17:8, where Abraham is told - " The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (NIV) The entire book of Exodus (Shemot in the Torah) is devoted to the life of Moses and his divinely-ordained mission to return the Hebrew slaves to Canaan.