The birth of the State of Israel
For centuries, Jews have lived all over the world. Almost every country has its own Jewish minority. Two countries have a large Jewish community: Israel and the United States (both around 6 million people). But out of a population of more than 300 million, the 6 million Jews in the United States are but a small minority. In Israel, on the other hand, almost 80% of the population is Jewish.
The state of Israel was founded after the Second World War, in 1948. In the Middle East, in a place where Jews had lived for thousands of years with their Arab neighbours. Because of their history and religion, Jews had felt a strong connection with this region for generations. Many European Jews who had survived the Holocaust, went to live in Israel after the war. Many Jews from Arab (Muslim) countries also fled or migrated to Israel.
The United Nations supported the division of what was then still called Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab part. And they supported the creation of the new state of Israel. Among the Arab population, however, there was a lot of resistance. Immediately after the creation of the State of Israel, five neighbouring Arab countries declared war on Israel. Israel won that war. Many Arab residents of the region had to flee the country. The seventy-year history of the State of Israel is characterised by the struggle with the Palestinians. They see Israel as the occupying force.
The difference between Zionists, Jews and Israelis
Back to the question. So a Zionist is someone who strives for an independent Jewish state. To many religious Jews, Israel is 'the promised land'. But many non-religious Jews, too, value the fact that there is a country where Jews can live in freedom and safety.
Nowadays, the word Zionist is often used as a swearword. As a negative label. Many Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinian cause no longer distinguish between the words 'Jew', 'Israeli' and 'Zionist'. That is not correct. Most Jews do not live in Israel. Not every inhabitant of Israel is Jewish; there are also many non-Jews living in Israel. And not all Jewish Israelis are 'settlers' who want to conquer more and more Palestinian land.
The vast majority of Jews believe that the State of Israel should continue to exist. But many Jews, both living in Israel and elsewhere, are in favour of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a possible solution to the conflict.
To cut a long story short: although many Jews identify with Zionism, there are still many different points of view. That is reason enough not to mix up the words 'Jew', 'Israelis' and 'Zionists'.