Our understanding of Bible prophecy, based on Ezekiel chapter 38 and related texts, casts Russia as the enemy of Israel: the latter day head of a confederacy determined to subjugate the prosperous Jewish state. All of this is correct but it is also true that Russia played a pivotal role in the establishment of the State of Israel.
In November 1947, the newly formed United Nations met to consider the problem of Palestine. Britain had referred the Palestine problem to the judgement of the United Nations because the British government had not been able to negotiate a satisfactory proposal with the Jews and Arabs for the future of Palestine.
The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) had investigated the issue and recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. In the lead up to the vote on the partition plan, a number of representatives addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations.
When the Russian Ambassador, Andrei Gromyko, spoke before the General Assembly, he supported the UNSCOP recommendation. He argued that partition was “the only workable solution”, and that the Jews had suffered terribly in World War 2 because Western Europe failed to protect them from persecution by Nazi Germany.1 When the vote was taken on 29 November 1947, Russia and the Eastern European Communist states ensured the two-thirds majority needed for victory.
This is quite remarkable. Gromyko and the Soviet Eastern Bloc were representing the view of the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin, who was known for his fierce anti-Semitism. Indeed, Stalin’s support for the formation of the State of Israel seems completely out of character with his feelings about Jews. Stalin regarded Jews as disloyal because they resisted the Soviet ideal of complete assimilation of national identity.2 He tried to discourage relationships his daughter Svetlana had with Jews and did not approve of her marriage to a Jew.3 In the years from 1948 until his death in 1953, Stalin actively pursued a policy to eliminate Jewish influence on Russia’s social, political and cultural life.4
Stalin also refused the request of many Russian Jews to travel to Israel in 1947 and 1948 to join the fight against the Arabs. Thousands of Jews had served as officers, and some as generals, in the Red Army in World War 2 and their skills and training would have been invaluable to the struggling Jewish armed forces.5 Yet, ironically, Russia was one of the first countries to recognise the new State of Israel and welcome a visit by Golda Meir, the ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1948.6
Stalin even approved the sale of arms by Czechoslovakia to the Zionists as they prepared for the coming war with the Arabs in 1948. Czechoslovakia also supplied weapons to Syria but a clever move by the Zionists found these arms redirected to Israel instead. It has been suggested that without Czech arms, the Jewish state may not have survived the onslaught of the Arab armies.7
What, then, did Stalin hope to achieve by supporting the birth of the State of Israel? It seems he hoped that the creation of Israel would destabilise the Middle East and ensure the collapse of the British Empire. He also thought that the Soviet Union would be able to influence Israel through its socialist government. Stalin’s desire for the demise of the British Empire was partly realized but Israel’s declared neutrality in the Cold War effectively frustrated Russia’s other ambitions. By the mid-nineteen-fifties, Stalin’s successors had shifted their support to the Arab states in the conflict with Israel.8
The creation of modern Israel can only be described as a miracle. The circumstances that worked together are truly exceptional. Behind these events was the unseen guiding hand of our Heavenly Father. Not only Russia, but Britain, the United States, Australia9 and almost every other nation played a role in the founding of the Jewish state. Thus, God’s purpose has been brought about by nations acting in self-interest and according to their own choice. Surely Israel is the great sign to us that the return of the Lord Jesus Christ is near: “When Yahweh shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory” (Ps 102:16).
- Andrei Gromyko, “Speech by Andrei Gromyko, USSR, before the General Assembly of the United Nations, 26 November 1947”, in TG Fraser [editor], The Middle East 1914-1979, (Documents of modern history), London: Edward Arnold, 1980, p60
- Rosemary Sullivan, Stalin’s daughter: the extraordinary and tumultuous life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, New York: Harper, 2015, p150
- Rosemary Sullivan, p130
- Jonathan Adelman, “Russia’s forgotten role in the creation of Israel”, Ynetnews.com 12 December 2015 [Online]:http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4737624,00.html
- Rosemary Sullivan, p149
- Christopher Sykes, Cross roads to Israel, London: Nel Mentor, 1967, p352-353
- Jonathan Adelman
- Australian politician Dr H.V. Evatt was chairman of the United Nations ad hoc committee on Palestine at the time, see: Allan Dalziel, Evatt, the enigma, Melbourne: Lansdowne Press, 1967, p59