I regard Zionism as a problematic political project. The essence of it entails the exclusion of everything non-Jewish, and its actual implementation in the shape of the state of Israel has created a militarist state that oppresses and dispossesses a large number of human beings – because they are not Jewish. I suspect that this state of affairs not only causes suffering externally, but also causes suffering among Jews in Israel because of the violence and the negative effects of militarism. A martial society blocks many forms of social development.
My understanding is that ZIonism is a response to the European Nationalist projects of the 19th century. These projects both challenged what it meant to be Jewish in a European Nation-state, and suggested a way out of the dilemmas that arose (“am I Danish or Jewish?”) in the shape of a Jewish Nation-state. Thus Israel is no different from, say, Poland: a country for Poles.
There are differences, though, and these are generally not recognised by the world in general. They are certainly not part of the public discussions about Israel. In my view the Israeli, Zionist project, entails a far more extensive and more sinister form of exclusion than most Nationalist projects – but I admit this is open to debate. The Kurds in Turkey spring to mind
More on that elsewhere.
The ideal of Zionism is a state that is for Jews only. Exactly what this entails in terms of the role of the Jewish Church, I do not know; it is sufficient to note that a state FOR Jews must exclude the others, those that are not defined as Jews.
How does this compare to, say, the Danish notion of Nation? After all, Denmark exists to look after the interest of the Danish people, by drawing a border around them and letting them tend to their own affairs. And indeed, the notion that non-Danes, Turks for instance, have any business in Denmark, is anathema to many Danes. But not all, and not to the law, nor to the Danish state institutions. So while migration challenges the concept of the Danish Nation state, the reality of the Danish state absorbs the challenge: the migrant is allowed in by a vetting process, and once inside, gains the same rights as the “indigenous” population. Everyone is equal before the state and the law.
In Israel, this is not true. Everyone is not equal, since the Jews are a lot more equal than everyone else. This is a fact, though not widely acknowledged. One of the reasons it is not acknowledged, is that it is hidden in plain sight. Everybody knows of the Law of return, the settlements, the Occupation, the Wall. These all operate along the same divide: Jew and non-Jew. What´s more, in Israel, large quasi-non-governmental organisation like the Jewish National Fund fulfill key roles in controlling access to land. These organisations exist, according to their charters, to look after the interests of Jews. This in itself is not problematic, but when these organisations are given huge power by the state, and the state withdraws from the same areas of jurisdiction, the net effect is that the state discriminates in favour of some of its own citizens, and by extension, against other citizens. Reading the Wikipedia articles on eg JNF give some idea of their character, but you need to dig deeper. Try Adalah.
While the modern Nations-states all embody the contradiction of inclusion / exclusion, none are anywhere near Israel in their commitment to excluding those persons that are not included, those that are not Jews. For Zionism, they are are not wanted. But they are there.
Post scriptum: If you Google this topic, you may stumble upon this article: http://www.meforum.org/370/can-arabs-buy-land-in-israel . It is a well written piece of propaganda, but gives the game away in some of the details (the odd Bedouin gets some land for his flock) and omits the big picture. It is also worth googling the author and visiting the homepage at http://www.meforum.org to see which angle this is coming from.
Update October: Ilan Pappe on a similar topic: http://www.globalresearch.ca/reclaiming-judaism-from-zionism/5355123