The Communist International and Zionism, 1942–1967

Poster by the Israeli Communist party to celebrate Joseph Stalins birthday (1949)

The outbreak of World War Two and the subsequent anti-fascist alliance provoked changes in the traditional communist approach to Zionism. Following the German attack on the Soviet Union, communists sought unity with all Jews including Zionists in order to maximize international support for the Soviet war effort. The Mufti was denounced for his alliance with the Axis powers, and the British White Paper condemned. Communists began to revise their traditional hostility towards Zionism (Kelemen, 2006; Knee, 1975; Srebrnik, 1995).

Equally, Zionists sought closer ties with the Soviet Union. During the war, Moshe Sharett, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency Political Department, met regularly with Soviet diplomats in London and Cairo to discuss common goals. In addition, Palestinian Jews formed a ‘V-League to help the Soviet Union’ in its fight against fascism. Such activities impressed visiting Soviet diplomats including Ivan Maisky, the Deputy Foreign Minister of the USSR.

Following meetings with Zionist leaders David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir and visits to kibbutzim, Maisky expressed considerable sympathy for Palestinian Jewish aspirations (Cohen, 1976; Gilboa, 1971; Srebrnik, 1995a). A number of Soviet statements immediately following the war suggested support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. But, equally, the Soviet attitude continued to be clouded by considerable ambiguity and contractions. At the 1945 Congress of Trade Unions in London, for example, the Soviet representative endorsed the establishment of a national home in Palestine for all Jews who wished to immigrate there. A similar resolution was passed
at the founding convention of the new Trade Union International in Paris.

The Soviet Union and its allies voted in favour of United Nations
Resolution 181 (tabled on 29 November 1947) which called for the partition of Palestine into two sovereign states, one Jewish, the other Arab. They then strongly supported the creation of the State of Israel and its war of independence. They provided vigorous diplomatic support including arguing in United Nations debates in favour of Israel’s right to self-defence, and a condemnation of the ‘armed aggression’ directed
against the Jewish state.

Source: Jews and the Left
The Rise and Fall of a Political Alliance, Philip Mendes

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