General Zionists

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GENERAL ZIONISTS , Zionist and Israeli party. The General Zionists were originally a loose political group within the Zionist movement, made up of those Zionists who were neither socialists nor religious and who at first did not draw up a program of their own. Their number at the Zionist Congresses kept dwindling from one Congress to the next. In Ereẓ Israel the General Zionists began to organize in 1922, the first meetings being attended by *Aḥad Ha-Am, Meir *Dizengoff, B. Mossinson, Ze'ev *Gluskin, and others.

The first world conference of the representatives of these "civilian circles," as they were called, occurred in 1929, in the course of the Zionist Congress that took place in Zurich. The moving force behind this organization was Isaac Ignacy *Schwarzbart. In 1931 the World Union of General Zionists held its founding conference, adopting the following principles: (1) Ereẓ Israel and the Jewish people take priority over class and sectarian interests; (2) labor and property should unite to serve the people; (3) in addition to the support afforded by the national funds for the activities of the pioneers, encouragement should be given to private enterprise and the settlement of individuals with limited means; (4) partisan control over all educational, health, and welfare institutions should be abolished. These principles remained the basis of the General Zionist program throughout the years.

Among the founders of the World Union were Leo *Motzkin, Stephen S. *Wise, Louis *Lipsky, Kurt *Blumenfeld, Menahem *Ussishkin, Benzion *Mossinson, Moshe *Gluecksohn, Yehoshua *Suprasky, Peretz *Bernstein, Emil Schmorak, and Schwarzbart. Though operating most of the time on his own, Chaim *Weizmann was also associated with the new movement.

The World Union did not survive as a unified organization for long, and the General Zionists formed numerous factions, the main ones being General Zionists A, headed by Weizmann, which was closer to the Labor movement, and General Zionists B, headed by Ussishkin. The reasons for the frequent splits varied, and combined elements of personal rivalry and ideological issues on the political, economic, and social levels.

As was common among the other Zionist parties and groupings, the General Zionists had their own youth movements from the 1920s, especially in Eastern Europe. These movements bore names such as Ha-No'ar ha-Ivri, Ha-Shomer ha-Tahor, Ha-No'ar ha-Ẓiyyoni, and Akiva. Some of them advocated pioneering and formed the General Zionist He-Ḥalutz.

The first group of General Zionist youth, made up of members of Ha-No'ar ha-Ivri in Galicia, settled in Ereẓ Israel in 1930 and established the first General Zionist kibbutz, near Petaḥ Tikvah. They were followed by others, from various countries, constituting the core group of a General Zionist labor movement. In the initial stage, they all joined the *Histadrut, though they objected to the Histadrut's socialist ideology, advocating a syndicalist approach. In 1934 an independent General Zionist workers organization was established by some of the General Zionist workers, though others remained in the Histadrut as the Oved ha-Ẓiyyoni faction. However, most of the General Zionists in Ereẓ Israel belonged to the middle class rather than the working class. In Ereẓ Israel, as in the Diaspora, splits also took place within the ranks of the General Zionists, especially over the question of whether to fight for their views from within the *Va'ad Le'ummi (and later the Government of Israel) or as an external opposition.

In the early 1940s the various factions reunited, under Moshe *Sneh. In 1946 the General Zionist workers' organization rejoined the Histadrut, and became a separate faction in it, side by side with Ha-Oved ha-Ẓiyyoni.

The reunion of the General Zionists did not survive, and prior to the establishment of the State in 1948, they entered the political scene as two separate parties, one by the name of the General Zionist Party and the other, which also included members of Aliyah Ḥadashah, which had been formed in 1942 by immigrants from Central Europe, by the name of the Progressive Party. Both parties participated in the Provisional Government, but while the Progressive Party also joined the first regular government formed by David *Ben-Gurion after the elections to the First Knesset, and joined most of the governments formed in subsequent years, the General Zionists remained in opposition, except for the years 1952–55. Both parties opposed the over-politicization of the labor-dominated system that controlled the employment agencies and public health system, and fought against the separate trends in education. Both also supported a liberal approach to economic policy.

The General Zionists ran independently in elections to the First to Fourth Knessets, receiving 7 seats in the First Knesset, 20 seats in the Second (which grew to 23 when the Sephardi and Yemenite parliamentary groups joined it), 13 seats in the Third, and 8 seats in the Fourth.

In 1961 the General Zionist Party and the Progressive Party united and established the Liberal Party. Four years later, in 1965, the general council of the Liberal Party voted in favor of the establishment of a joint bloc with the *Ḥerut movement for elections to the Sixth Knesset and the local authorities (see *Gaḥal). It was finally mostly the former General Zionists who joined the new bloc, while most of the former Progressives broke away to form the *Independent Liberal Party.

In the Zionist Organization, both parties belonged to the World Union of General Zionists and participated in its work, but by the late 1960s the Independent Liberals became an independent group on the Zionist scene as well.


K. Sultanik (ed.), General Zionist Movement (1956); M. Kol, Misholim (1964); J. Klausner, Mahutah u-She'ifoteha shel ha-Ẓiyyonut ha-Kelalit (1943); M. Gluecksohn, Im Ḥillufei Mishmarot, 1 (1939), 98–105 and passim; M. Kleinman, Ha-Ẓiyyonim ha-Kelaliim (1945). add. bibliography: Y. Drori, Bein Yamin le-Semol: ha-Ḥugim ha-Ezrahiyyim bi-Shnot ha-Esrim (1990); D. Sha'ari, Mi-"Setam Ẓiyyonut" le-"Ẓiyyonut Kelalit": Iḥud u-Fillug be-Reshit Darka shel ha-Ẓiyyonut ka-Kelalit ha-Olamit 1929–1939 (1990); S. Zalman Abramov, Al Miflagah She-Ne'elmah ve-al-Liberalizm (1995); N. Shiloah, Merkaz Holekh ve-Ne'alam: Ha-Ḥugim ha-Ezraḥiyyim be-Ereẓ Yisrael bi-Shnot ha-Sheloshim (2003).

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]

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General Zionists

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