Why Stalin midwifed the birth of Israel

It’s generally forgotten today that the Soviet Union played a key role in the birth of the state of Israel, by supporting the partition of Palestine and lending the Jewish state military and political support during the War of Independence. This policy represented a startling reversal of the Soviet Union’s previous hardline stand against Zionism (which had been based on the notion that Zionism was a form of Western imperialism), and, not unlike the Hitler-Stalin pact, caused considerable upheaval within the Communist world. Why did Stalin so dramatically change course? As explained in this fascinating excerpt from an article by an anti-Zionist Marxist, it had nothing to do with any belief in the Zionist cause, but with the Soviets’ geopolitical aim to push Britain out of the Mideast while preventing the United States from replacing Britain as the dominant power there:

Probably the essential aim of Soviet foreign policy was to support Israel’s struggle against British imperialism. Moscow hoped to boot the United Kingdom out of Palestine by backing the partition plan while seeking to prevent the USA from actively entering the area at Attlee’s request. It was probably hoped that the small Jewish state would choose to be neutral and perhaps even afford a foothold in the Middle East to the USSR – the Kremlin may have cherished some illusions about the “progressive” inclinations of the Israeli leaders. In any case, the Soviet Union strongly opposed any attempt to prolong the British mandate or to institute a trusteeship which would have been placed in the hands of the Western states.

One fact alone demonstrates that the Russian position, rather than being inspired by any sort of sympathy for Zionism, simply expressed Stalin’s desire to contribute to the collapse of the British Empire: Moscow also sent arms to Syria, which was at war with Israel at the time. [62] Moreover, the USSR refused to recognise Transjordan’s territorial conquests in Palestine, considering that the Hashemite state was no more than a cover for the maintenance of the British presence.

The unconditionally pro-Israeli position of the Soviet Union in 1947 was therefore part of a general opportunist line and undoubtedly revealed an underestimation of the ties between the Zionist leaders and the United States. It was followed blindly by the local Communist Parties, which discredited the Arab Communists among the masses. All the more so in that the Kremlin, with characteristic Stalinist cynicism, totally disregarded the interests of the Arab liberation movement. Thus the Soviet delegate Jacob Malik, speaking in the Security Council on March 4th, 1949 (in the debate on Israel’s admission to the United Nations), flatly denied Israel’s responsibility for the tragedy of the refugees. It has to be said in this respect that the USSR was not content with noting the practical impossibility of Arab-Jewish coexistence in 1947-48 in the framework of a Palestinian state. It chose, in the words of Boris Eliacheff, the role of “Israel’s godmother”, with everything such a policy implies …

I publish this information because it shows how, just as the independence of the United States was made possible by the help of the kingdom of France, a power that for ideological reasons should have totally opposed an American republic, the birth of the Jewish state was made possible by a Communist power which should have totally opposed the appearance of a Western-style democracy in the Mideast. This wholly unpredictable and unexpected turn of events suggests that the birth of the state of Israel was as providential as that of the United States.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 09, 2003 09:40 AM | Send

I think this also factors into President Truman’s decision to quickly recognize Israel over the fierce objections of Sec. of State Marshall. It would not have been helpful if Comrade Stalin had beat us to the punch.

Providential indeed! coming on the heels of the Holocaust. God’s purposes will not be thwarted, nor His promises broken.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on October 9, 2003 2:29 PM

These facts tend to put a dent in the edifice of the “Israel the 51st state” argument, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for Israel’s opponents to acknowledge it.

Posted by: Paul Cella on October 9, 2003 2:32 PM

Although the analogy of the 2 births (U.S. & Israel) appears accurate, the position of the entire documents seems just a bit crude. There are two majors flaws: first of all, it isn’t as if the American aid to Israel wasn’t based on self-interest either, so why bother proving this entire argument when all the opposition needs to reply is: “And what about the U.S.”?
Secondly, the biggest similarity between the two isn’t HOW they were founded, but rather their ultimate influence: both were persecuted refugees, who in turn persecute others in the end… How ironic.

Posted by: DogHead on April 4, 2004 9:11 PM
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