Prior to the onset of European colonization a century ago, generations of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Palestinians cohabited in the Holy Land with little or no conflict. Zionism's arrival opened a vein of intolerance that eventually grew into a river of bloodshed that flows directly into the sea of violence and chaos gripping the region today.
Like their present-day descendants, early Zionist colonizers glorified Jewish separation from non-Jews. They set themselves apart from the people and dreamed openly of claiming all of Palestine for the Jews. Foreign intruders and a law unto themselves, they posed a self-declared threat to the lives and land of the indigenous population.
Political Zionism had grown up in the ethnic nationalist fervor that swept Europe for several decades before and after World War I. These movements, which still smolder today, tended to borrow from the self-idolizing annals of 19th century racialist science, which in turn were a product of Europe's centuries of genocidal colonialism.
European ethnic nationalists held that a 'people' define a nation, which has the right to an independent state. By extension, residents of the state who not are not of the 'people' can be excluded from the affairs of the nation, if not expelled or exterminated. Nationalist movements in central and eastern Europe were often supported by Britain and France, to undercut Germany and the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.
Zionists took ethnic nationalism a step further by claiming the right of statehood for a religion. By promoting a 'Jewish race' with its own speculative bi-racial history, they leveraged the notion that a 'racial type' can define a (nation-deserving) 'people'. With the other hand, they accepted a religious definition of Jewishness. In this way they were able to hijack Judaism to serve the purposes of their politics.