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Why Did the Soviet Union Support UN Resolution 181?

Cast your mind back to the 29th of November 1947 when the United Nations formerly adopted Resolution 181 for the creation of Jewish and Arab States living side-by-side in Palestine.

Both independent of each other, culturally and economically.

The Resolution was passed with nearly 60% of the United Nations Members voting in the affirmative. One of the supporters of the Resolution was, perhaps surprisingly, the Soviet Union.

In his statement to the United Nations in support, the Soviet delegate Andrei Gromyko claimed that no Western European State had been able to ensure the safety of the Jewish people and as a safeguard against fascist tyranny.

There was no mention of Soviet antisemitic treachery dating back many generations.

On closer examination, it was clear the Soviets were seeking a presence in the Middle East. Stalin adopted a pro-Zionist policy believing that a Jewish State would be socialist and would hasten the decline of British influence in the Middle East.

Degania. The First Kibbutz

Degania was founded by Aaron David Gordon (1856-1922). A Russian born philosopher and writer, he was very active in the Labor Zionist Movement and, together with many of his followers, emigrated to Palestine in 1904.

Gordon was very forthright in his belief for Jewish survival.

“The Jewish people has been completely cut off from nature and imprisoned within city walls for 2000 years. We have been accustomed to every form of life, except a life of labor. It is labor that binds the people to its soil and to its national culture.”

It is more than likely one of Stalin’s motives to vote for the creation of a Jewish State was enhanced by the Labor Zionists who supported a socialist society in preference to capitalism, even though not Marxist in philosophy.

But Stalin had a further objective. By voting for the freedom of the Jews, whom he really didn’t care for, he saw a geopolitical benefit.

All he wanted was to drive a wedge between the Arab States and the USA and UK who would undoubtedly support the Jewish State.

This would allow the Soviets to come to the aid of the Arabs as an international partner, enabling them to gain a presence in the Middle East with all the economic benefits accruing.

Why Did the United Kingdom Abstain?

Once again, it was a geopolitical decision the UK made by abstaining from the 181 Resolution vote. Ernest Bevin, British Ambassador to the United Nations commented in his address:

“ ……. so manifestly unjust for the Arabs that it is difficult to see how we could reconcile it with our conscience.”

No mention of the horrors from fascism the Jewish communities had faced and their struggle for survival, just a comment in pretty words for the benefit of his country.

They too wanted to curry favor with the Arab States to protect their own interests in the Middle East.

Actually, the British tried to work out an agreement acceptable to both Arabs and Jews, but their insistence on the former’s approval guaranteed failure because the Arabs would not make any concessions.

The British subsequently turned the task over to the United Nations in February 1947.

The United Nations About-Face

Certainly, the State of Israel owes a debt of gratitude to the United Nations for passing Resolution 181, but subsequent events with UN hostility to Israel have clearly shown the welfare of the Jewish people plays a secondary role to the geopolitical benefits for the majority of members.

Today, as world powers face critical decisions with complicated international alliances, Israel again finds itself caught up in the crossfire of a hostile region.

It’s nothing new!

Lloyd Masel made aliyah from Perth, Australia in 1999. He had been active in Zionist Federation programs in Australia, and was the Conductor and soloist of the Perth Hebrew Congregation male choir for 30 years.

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