Soviet Union and the Arab–Israeli conflict

Soviet Union and the Arab–Israeli conflict

The Soviet Union played a significant role in the Arab-Israeli conflict as the conflict was a major part of the Cold War. For related developments after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, see "Russia and the Arab-Israeli conflict".

Marxism-Leninism and Zionism

Political Zionism was officially stamped out for the entire history of the Soviet Union as a form of bourgeois nationalism. Although Leninism emphasizes self-determination, this did not make the state more accepting of Zionism. Leninism defines self-determination by territory, not culture, which allowed Soviet minorities to have autonomous oblasts, regions, or republics, which were nonetheless symbolic until its later years. Jews, however, did not fit such a theoretical model; Jews in the Diaspora did not even have an agricultural base, as Stalin often asserted when attempting to deny the existence of a Jewish nation, and certainly no territorial unit. Marxian notions even denied a Jewish identity beyond religion and caste; Marx defined Jews as a "chimerical nation."

Lenin, claiming to be deeply committed to egalitarian ideals and universality of all humanity, rejected Zionism as a reactionary movement, "bourgeois nationalism", "socially retrogressive", and a backward force that deprecates class divisions among Jews.

Establishment of the State of Israel

Without changing its official anti-Zionist stance, from late 1944, until 1948 and even later, Stalin adopted a pro-Zionist foreign policy, apparently believing that the new country would be socialist and would speed the decline of British influence in the Middle East. [Paul Johnson, "A History of the Jews" (1987) p.527]

The USSR began to support Zionism at the UN during the 1947 UN Partition Plan debate. It preferred a Jewish-Arab binational state. But if this proved impossible, as did happen, it indicated that it would support partition and a Jewish state. So on May 14, 1947, the Soviet ambassador Andrei Gromyko announced::"As we know, the aspirations of a considerable part of the Jewish people are linked with the problem of Palestine and of its future administration. This fact scarcely requires proof... During the last war, the Jewish people underwent exceptional sorrow and suffering...: The United Nations cannot and must not regard this situation with indifference, since this would be incompatible with the high principles proclaimed in its Charter...: The fact that no Western European State has been able to ensure the defence of the elementary rights of the Jewish people and to safeguard it against the violence of the fascist executioners explains the aspirations of the Jews to establish their own State. It would be unjust not to take this into consideration and to deny the right of the Jewish people to realize this aspiration." [ [ UN Debate Regarding the Special Committee on Palestine: Gromyko Statement. 14 May 1947 77th Plenary Meeting] Document A/2/PV.77] This speech was not published in the Soviet media, tightly controlled by the state.Fact|date=October 2007 Shortly after this speech, the Soviet media stopped publishing anti-Zionist material. [cite book | author=Khouri, Fred | title=The Arab-Israeli Dilemma (3rd edition) | publisher=Syracuse University Press | year=1985 |pages = 43 | id=ISBN 0815623402]

It followed this policy and gave critical support to the UN plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine, which led to the founding of the State of Israel.Three days after Israel declared independence, the Soviet Union legally recognized it de jure. In addition to the diplomatic support, arms from Czechoslovakia, part of the Soviet bloc, were crucial to Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Effects of the Cold War

The USSR gradually switched sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It tried to maintain a policy of friendship with Israel at first, abstaining from and allowing the passage of Security Council Resolution 95 in September 1951, which chastised Egypt for preventing ships bound for Israeli ports from travelling through the Suez Canal, asking them to cease interference on shipping for political purposes. In the latter part of 1953 it began to side with the Arabs in armistice violation discussions in the Security Council. As late as December, 1953, the Soviets were the first state to instruct their envoy to present his credentials to the President of Israel in Jerusalem, the Israeli annexation of and usage as the capital being controversial. This move was followed by other nations and strongly protested by the Arabs as "flouting" UN resolutions. [cite book | author=Khouri, Fred | title=The Arab-Israeli Dilemma (3rd edition) | publisher=Syracuse University Press | year=1985 |pages = 110 | id=ISBN 0815623402] On January 22, 1954 the Soviets vetoed a Security Council resolution (relating to a Syrian-Israeli water dispute) because of Arab objections for the first time, and soon after vetoed even a mild resolution expressing "grave concern" that Egypt was not living up to Security Council Resolution 95. This elicited Israeli complaints that resolutions recognizing its rights could not pass because of the Soviet veto policy. At the same time, however, the Soviets did support the Israeli demand for direct negotiations with the Arab states, which the Arab states opposed. [cite book | author=Khouri, Fred | title=The Arab-Israeli Dilemma (3rd edition) | publisher=Syracuse University Press | year=1985 |pages = 207 | id=ISBN 0815623402] Like the earlier deal with Israel, a major episode in the Soviet relation to the conflict was the Czech deal with Egypt for arms from the Soviet bloc in August, 1955: After the mid-50's and throughout the remainder of the Cold War the Soviets unequivocally supported various Arab regimes over Israel.

With Israel was emerging as a close Western ally, Zionism raised Communist leadership fears of internal dissent and opposition, leading to the declaration of Zionism as an ideological enemy. During the later parts of the Cold War Soviet Jews were persecuted as possible traitors, Western sympathisers, or a security liability. Jewish organizations were closed down, with the exception of a few token synagogues. These synagogues were then placed under police surveillance, both openly and through the use of informers.

As a result of the persecution, both state-sponsored and unofficial anti-Semitism became deeply ingrained in the society and remained a fact for years: ordinary Soviet Jews were often not being allowed to enter universities or hired to work in certain professions. Many were barred from participation in the government, and had to bear being openly humiliated.

The official position of the Soviet Union and its satellite states and agencies was that Zionism was a tool used by the Jews and Americans for "racist imperialism." The meaning of the term "Zionism" was misrepresented to conform to a policy of the ruling Communist Party of the Soviet Union: "the main posits of modern Zionism are militant chauvinism, racism, anti-Communism and anti-Sovietism,... overt and covert fight against freedom movements and the USSR." [ru icon [ Сионизм] (Большая советская энциклопедия) (Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition. 1969-1978)]

Howard Sachar described the allegations of global Jewish conspiracy resurrected during the Soviet "anti-Zionist" campaign in the wake of the Six-Day War:

"In late July 1967, Moscow launched an unprecedented propaganda campaign against Zionism as a "world threat." Defeat was attributed not to tiny Israel alone, but to an "all-powerful international force." ... In its flagrant vulgarity, the new propaganda assault soon achieved Nazi-era characteristics. The Soviet public was saturated with racist canards. Extracts from Trofim Kichko's notorious 1963 volume, "", were extensively republished in the Soviet media. Yuri Ivanov's "Beware: Zionism", a book essentially replicated "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", was given nationwide coverage." [Howard Sachar, "A History of the Jews in the Modern World" (Knopf, NY. 2005) p.722]

A similar picture was drawn by Paul Johnson: the mass media "all over the Soviet Union portrayed the Zionists (i.e. Jews) and Israeli leaders as engaged in a world-wide conspiracy along the lines of the old "Protocols of Zion". It was, "Sovietskaya Latvia" wrote 5 August 1967, an 'international Cosa Nostra with a common centre, common programme and common funds'". [Paul Johnson, "A History of the Jews" (1987) p.575-576] The Israeli government was also referred to as a "terrorist regime" which "has raised terror to the level of state politics." Even regarding Entebbe hostage crisis Soviet media reported: "Israel committed an act of aggression against Uganda, assaulting the Entebbe airport." [Newspaper "Novoye Vremya", cited in edition "Välispanoraam 1981" ("Foreign Panorama 1981"), (Tallinn, 1982) p.156]

In March 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became the Secretary General of the CPSU and in April he declared perestroika. It took more than six years before Moscow consented to restore diplomatic relations with Israel on October 19, 1991, when the USSR had already de facto collapsed.


* [ How The USSR Planned To Destroy Israel in 1967] by Isabella Ginor. Published by "Middle East Review of International Affairs" (MERIA) Journal Volume 7, Number 3 (September 2003)
*"Inside the Kremlin During the Yom Kippur War" by Victor Israelyan, 1995. ISBN 0-271-01489-X, ISBN 0-271-01737-6
*" [ Put an end to Israeli aggression] ", an article printed in the "Pravda" newspaper on October 12, 1973 (translation at CNN)

ee also

*Russia and the Arab-Israeli conflict
*Arms shipments from Czechoslovakia to Israel 1947-1949
*History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union
*Anti-Zionist committee of the Soviet public

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