Jews are often dubious about the role of foreign states and groups in Jewish affairs. No other people has had to wait nearly 2,000 years for re-creating its own state. This apprehension has been reinforced by the massive role of antisemitism and the horrendous killing of six million Jews in the Holocaust.
There was the expulsion of Jews from many areas including England, France, Germany, Spain and Portugal, and the frequent repeated expulsion of Jews allowed “back in.” Even now almost one billion people worldwide are antisemitic and the numbers are growing, especially in the First World.
Even in the 20th century antisemitism has reared its ugly head. In Britain there is Jeremy Corbyn, who may become prime minister, and in Turkey there is Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Nearly all Russian leaders for centuries (save Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Lenin) have been antisemitic.
When Theodore Herzl went to Switzerland for the first Zionist Congress in 1897, he found little support from non-Jews and even many Jews. The Arab countries remained hostile to the Jews and launched wars in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982.
But there has been a different international environment. In late 1917, the British Army crushed the Turkish Army, which had controlled much of the Middle East for 400 years (1517-1917), and opened the door for the Jews. British foreign minister Arthur Balfour in the Balfour Declaration sent to Lord Rothschild in late 1917 declared support for the creation of “a national home for the Jewish people” in thinly Jewish Palestine.
At the end of World War I in 1918, the Western allies stopped the advance of German troops 55 miles from Paris and prevented a German victory in the war. This prevented the antisemitic Germans from winning the war, dominating the Middle East and preventing the Jews from regaining Israel.
The same happened even more so in World War II. The virulently antisemitic Nazi Germany that murdered six million Jews was stopped by the Western allies from seizing the Middle East. Had they failed, this would have permanently ended the Jewish campaign, as the 400,000 Jews in Palestine and nearly one million Jews in the region would have been killed.
The Americans came in late after Pearl Harbor in December 1941, as they were late in World War I. They missed a third round of sorties that might have sent the Americans back to California. They endangered the Jews by ensuring German dominance that would have wiped them off the map.
In 1948, the British refused to support the Jews and provided weapons to two Arab states. While the Americans supported the new Jewish state, they refused to provide any weapons to the Israelis until 1962, and then provided only helicopters. The Russians, who refused to let tens of thousands of Russian Jews fight in the war in 1948, became the surprising savior by selling tanks and airplanes to the Jews. Jews then intercepted the weapons sent to the Arabs and brought them to Israel.
Finally, there is the close relationship with the superpower United States.
This includes 10 years and $38 billion worth of American modern weapons sent to Israel, cutting off payment to families of suicide bombers, relocating the American Embassy to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and acknowledging the Golan Heights as a strategic Israeli defense necessity. It also includes the United States sending serious weapons to the Middle East and an aircraft carrier to contain Iran.
The creation of Israel was instrumental in overcoming regional threats, as well as enhancing the Western allies’ ability to actively stop the most hostile forces whether Turkish, German or Japanese. In the end the international environment has been both a positive and negative environment for Israel, both in its youth and maturity.
The writer is a full professor at the Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver, and has taught at two Israeli universities.