Moscow and Jerusalem: the Other Cold War

- Peter Myers.

Date August 25, 2008; update June 27, 2023.

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Before the creation of Israel, Jews overwhelmingly supported the Soviet Union; it had been created by Jews, and many Jews were in top positions. Stalin stole it from them, but he used the same covert methods that Jews used, so it was not clear whether he or they were in charge; and as long as Trotsky was alive, there was a chance of his restoration. The assassination of Trotsky on August 20, 1940 might have caused Jewish disaffection, but they deemed Hitler the greater threat, and backed the USSR as the only power that could defeat him. Once Israel was created, and Stalin observed how Soviet Jews rallied to it, Jews were gradually removed from the top positions they had held. A Cold War broke out between Moscow and Jerusalem.

Making sense of Stalin: stalin.html.

Pavel Sudoplatov, Stalin's spymaster, made startling disclosures in his 1994 memoirs, Special Tasks. He notes the importance of Jewish support for the USSR during World War II, and says that the Soviet atomic program depended on assistance from Western scientists such as Robert Oppenheimer and Neils Bohr (both Jewish). Western Jews later overplayed their hand, promoting a plan for a part of the Crimea to be made a Jewish republic within the USSR; Stalin feared that such a proposal would draw American Jews to pour financial and other resources into such an area, threatening the independence of the USSR: sudoplat.html.

Stalin was also aware that the Baruch Plan for World Government, put to him by the US Government in 1946, had been drafted by two American Jews, and was overwhelmingly supported by American Jews. He felt that it would compronmise the independence of the USSR; his rejection of it was a marker of the start of the Cold War: baruch-plan.html.

Yuri Slezkine says in his book The Jewish Century that Communism began Jewish, but, through Stalin's seizure of control, diverged from Jewish nationalism.

The Jewish Century, by Yuri Slezkine (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2004)

{p. 313} The great alliance between the Jewish Revolution and Communism was coming to an end as a result of the new crusade against Jewish Communists. What Hitler could not accomplish, Stalin did, and as Stalin did, so did his representatives in other places. In the fall of 1952, a large show trial was staged in Czzechoslovakia. Eleven

{p. 314} of the accused, including the general secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Rudolf Slansk, were identified as ethnic Jews and accused of being agents of international Zionism and American imperialism. Other Soviet dependencies had to follow suit, whether they wanted to or not. In Hungary, Romania, and Poland, a high proportion of the most sensitive positions in the Party apparatus, state administration, and especially the Agitprop, foreign service, and secret police were held by ethnic Jews, who had moved up the ranks because of their loyalty and now had to be squeezed out because of their nationality. All three regimes resembled the Soviet Union of the 1920s insofar as they combined the ruling core of the old Communist underground, which was heavily Jewish, with a large pool of upwardly mobile Jewish professionals, who were, on average, the most trustworthy among the educated and the most educated among the trustworthy.

{end} More at slezkine.html.

There is overwhelming evidence that Stalin was murdered; he died within 2 months of the Doctors' Plot being announced, and three weeks after the USSR severed diplomatic relations with Israel . He had already overthrown the Jewish Bolsheviks; now he felt that another Jewish cabal was out to get him. Before he could get them, they, in league with a Russian faction headed by Khruschev, got him: death-of-stalin.html.

ISRAELI-SOVIET RELATIONS 1953-1967: From Confrontation to Disruption


(FRANK CASS, LONDON, 1998; translated from the Hebrew edition of 1990)

{p. x} Abbreviations

CPSU Communist Party of the Soviet Union
ECOSOC Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
GA General Assembly of the United Nations
Maki Miflagah Komunistit Israelit, Israeli Communist Party
Mapai Mifleget Po'alei Erez Israsel, Israeli Labor Party
Mapam Mifleget ha-Po'alim ha-Me'uhedet, United Workers Party
MFA Arch. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archive MK Member of Knesset (Israel Parliament)
PLO Palestine Liberation Organization

{p. xi} Letter to the Reader

Dear Reader,

I was First Secretary of the Israeli Embassy in Moscow when the Soviet government informed the government of Israel, on Saturday 10 June 1967, of its decision to sever diplomatic and consular relations with Israel following the results of the Six Day War. This announcement was the culmination of Soviet political support - in addition to massive military support - for the Arab countries in their fight against Israel.

That day at noontime I was walking from our residence at the Sadovo-Samotechnaya to the Embassy of Israel on Bolshaya Ordinka Street. It was a lovely sunny day. My heart was torn in two. On the one hand, I felt extremely happy to know that my country - Israel - had been able to defeat the Arab countries who had threatened, in so many declarations, to destroy us. On the other, I could only assume - at that stage - that the victory of Israel's Defense Forces had been achieved at the very heavy price of many dear lives of young soldiers and officers, who were dreaming of living in their Homeland in peace and security, like any other normal people on this earth, their futures awaiting them, and now they had left behind deep pain and profound grief in the hearts of family and friends.

Walking through the central streets of Moscow I encountered many cars with loudspeakers informing the public of the Soviet breach of relations with Israel. For a moment it seemed as if the Soviet Union was declaring war against Israel. Indeed, from that moment on the Soviet Union stood completely at the side of Israel's enemies, on bilateral and international levels. In fact until then,

{p. xii} between Israel and the USSR, there had never been a conflict, either territorial or military. On the contrary, historic social and cultural ties connected both nations. True, there were ideological differences - the Soviet Union fought against Zionism, with no reason, and rejected, categorically, Israel's pleas to let Jews living in the USSR emigrate to Israel. Yet, from that to the breach of diplomatic relations was a long distance. Moreover, the breach constituted an act which weakened the international system of relations rather than strengthening it.

Upon reaching the street where the Embassy stood, I could hardly make my way through. Hundreds, if not thousands, of workers, brought in from all the different enterprises in Moscow, blocked the entrance to the Embassv. They were carrying anti-Israeli slogans, shouting every few minutes 'Doloy [Down] with Israel'; the most humiliating slogan was the one comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.

I went up to the second floor of the building and, together with the rest of our staff, looked through the wide windows at the outrageous mob outside the gate. It was a frightful scene, as if they were going at any moment to penetrate into the courtyard and then into the building itself. It was hours before they left, but not before we were instructed several times by the Protocol of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs to pull down our flag. And we did so, at sun set, singing our national anthem, 'Hatikvah' ('The Hope').

On 18 June 1967 we locked the building (handing over the keys to the Dutch Embassy which represented our interests in the Soviet Union during the entire period of the breach in relations, 1967- 1989) and left Moscow for home.

From then until now, nearly 30 years have passed. I served at various posts in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and in our Foreign Service abroad. The last positions I held abroad were as Israel's Ambassador to Bucharest, during the Ceausescu era (Romania was the single country in the Communist bloc not to have severed its relations with Israel following the Six Day War), and lately as Israel's Ambassador to Austria and to the UN organizations in Vienna as well as non-resident Ambassador to Slovakia and Slovenia.

After my return from Bucharest, I was appointed Deputy Director General of the Ministry for East Europe. We were then ellgaged in the process of renewing our diplomatic relations with

{p. xiii} the east European countries. It was in this capacity that I returned for the first time to Moscow, in September 1990, as head of the Ministry's delegation, for talks held with officials of the Soviet Foreign Ministry in preparation for the renewal of Israeli-Soviet relations .

It was only natural that I returned to the premises of our Embassy building, where an Israeli consular delegation had been operating from 1989. Excitedly, I went up to the second floor to the same window looking out over Bolshaya Ordinka, where I had stood watching the mob outside who shouted humiliating slogans against Israel when the Six Day War ended. Now I saw through the window hundreds of men and women all along the street - just as then - but lining up quietly, waiting to get an entry visa to Israel, mostly for permanent residence.

A year later, I revisited Moscow along with my colleague and friend (we had served together as First Secretaries in Moscow until 1967) Judge David Bartov to participate at a reception given by A. Levin, Consul General (later Ambassador) of Israel in the USSR on the occasion of the renewal of Israeli-Soviet relations. The invited Soviet guests, hundreds of them, were joyful over the resumption of contacts, as if 23 years had not separated us.

On 13 December 1991, the Soviet Ambassador to Israel, A. Bovin, presented his credentials to the President of Israel, H. Herzog, at a very solemn and exciting ceremony, since it was the first time after more than 24 years that a Soviet Ambassador had done so in Jerusalem. A fortnight later, the Soviet Union dismembered itself into 15 independent republics, the red flag was taken off the Kremlin and the Ambassador automatically became the Representative of Russia. It so happened that he was the last Soviet Ambassador to have presented his credentials and that this was the last time the Soviet anthem was played at such an occasion anywhere in the world. And so, it seems that the last ceremonial requiem to the USSR was held in Jerusalem, between the hoisted flags of Israel and the USSR.

Fortunately, Israel's relations with Russia and the other republics of the former Soviet Union are speedily developing both in volume and content. We are building together relations of friendship and co-operation between our nations toward a common future of peace and security free of interbloc confrontations.

This process began during the Gorbachev era and continues to

{p. xiv} this day.

Israeli-Soviet relations constitute a most dramatic chapter in the history of Israel's foreign policy. I also dare to think that they constitute no less a turbulent chapter in Soviet policy in the Middle East, directly and indirectly related to British policy as well, particularly from 1948, starting with Israel's independence up to the 'Suez Campaign' and later.

This study fills a gap, which had not thus far been extensively or academically treated in the historiography of Israeli-Soviet relations. It was first published in Hebrew by the Magnes Press of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1990, and in 1994 it appeared in Russian translation in Moscow through 'Progress' Press. Thanks to the publishers Frank Cass & Co. English readers the world over will be able to become acquainted with the subject until additional studies will appear.

I do hope that readers and researchers will find this book interesting, not only because it constitutes a source of abundant information and references related to Israeli-Soviet relations but also as a basis for political conclusions to be drawn from this chapter of history which left a very strong imprint on the mutual relations between the two countries for over 40 years.

One day, when the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will open the Soviet Archives of Foreign Policy to the period dealt with in this book, the reader no doubt will have access to additional material retlecting this dramatic chapter (though I believe that the basic picture will remain basically unchanged) . Until then, and well after- wards, this book will fulfill its mission in eliminating the 'blank spots' in the history of Israeli-Soviet relations.


Yosef Govrin, Ph.D.

{p. xv} Preface

THIS BOOK deals with the period ranging from the first severance of Israeli-Soviet relations in the last stage of Stalin's rule through their renewal, shortly after his death in 1953, to their being severed again under Brezhnev's rule, in 1967. This period - the longest in the annals of Israel-Soviet relations - is extensively examined with regard to two parallel processes:

1. Development of trade and cultural relations accompanied by a harsh political dialogue and limitation of the number of Jewish emigrants permitted to leave the USSR for Israel.

2. Confrontation areas that led gradually to the severance of diplomatic relations following the Six Day War in 1967: on the one hand, Soviet policy in the Middle East aimed at forming a united Arab anti-Western front against Israel's wish to entrench its security and independence with Western assistance, in face of Arab threats to Israel's existence and, on the other hand, Israel's struggle for Soviet Jews to have the right to emigrate to Israel and the right to preserve their cultural and national heritage - thus clashing with Soviet ideological interests.

The subject of Israeli-Soviet relations has always been in the forefront of public interest in Israel: first, owing to the significant USSR support extended to Israel during the early stages of its independent existence and the drastic shift in this stance, from the beginning of the 1950s, to siding with Israel's enemies - a change then fateful for Israel's survival; secondly, because of Israel's growing concern for the fate ot Soviet Jews; thirdly, because of the hope that Israeli-Soviet relations would be restored to their former splendor.

{p. xvi} Introduction

WHEN THE Palestine Question was brought up before the UN General Assembly in May 1947, the USSR made a surprising move by departing from its hostile attitude towards Zionism, a stance well known from the 1920s in the USSR itself as well as in the communist world. Andrei Gromyko, head of the USSR mission to the UN, in his address delivered in the plenary meeting of the Assembly, on 14 May 1947, proposed to establish an independent, democratic Jewish-Arab state in Palestine. Should that prove impossible to implement, owing to deteriorating relations and irreconcilable differences between the Jews and the Arabs, he then suggested that the territory of Palestine be partitioned into two independent states: one Jewish, the other Arab.1

The position of the USSR regarding the right of the Jews to their own state in Palestine - as expressed by its representatives in the UN debates during 1947 - was based on the following arguments:

1. The aspirations of a considerable part of the Jewish people are linked with Palestine and its future, as well as to the administration which will govern it. The Jewish people, like the Arab people, have historical roots in Palestine - the Homeland of these two peoples.

2. The suffering and sorrow which were the lot of the Jewish people in the Nazi-occupied areas, having been subjected to almost complete physical annihilation, cannot possibly be described. The fate of the Jewish people continues to be tragic since hundreds of thousands of Jews are wandering about in various countries of Europe, searching for a means of existence and for shelter.

3. The fact that the countries of Western Europe were unable to ensure the defense of the basic rights of the Jewish people and to

{p. xvii} safeguard it against the violence of the fascist executioners explains the aspirations of the Jews to establish their own state. It would be unjust to deny them this right.

4. The partition of Palestine into two separate states will be of deep historical significance, since this decision will satisfy the legal claims of the Jewish people, hundreds of thousands of whom remain without a land and without a home.

5. The decision to partition Palestine is not aimed against either of the two peoples living in Palestine. On the contrary, the decision is congruent with the national interest of both peoples - the Jews and the Arabs.

This forcefully expressed position of the USSR had a decisive influence on the crystallization of the UN General Assembly resolutionon 29 November 1947 regarding the Partition of Palestine - a decision which brought about the end of the British Mandate in Palestine and the declaration of the establisment of the State of Israel on 15 May 1948.

The Soviet position revealed no identification with the Zionist vision. Two new principles, however, could be discerned in the USSR's position at that time:

(a) the recognition of the Jewish people's historic connection with Palestine - the Land of Israel, as called by Jews the world over throughout the centuries;

(b) the right of the Jewish people to establish their own independent state, which would absorb tens of thousands of Jewish refugees, survivors of the Holocaust.

Thus, two national interests coincided here: the Soviet interest in pushing the British out of the region - one of its main ceasons for supporting the partition of Palestine - and the Jewish interest in establishing an independent Jewish state in the Land of Israel.


The USSR recognized the State of Israel, dejure, on 18 May 1948, and was the first to accord full recognition to the newly born state. Recognition was accorded following a note addressed by Israel's

{p. xviii} Minister of Foreign Affairs, Moshe Shertok (later Sharett) to V. Molotov, USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs, on 16 May, in which he requested the Soviet government's official recognition of the State of Israel and its provisional government. Shertok expressed his hope that this recognition would 'strengthen the friendly relations between the Soviet Union and its peoples' and 'the State of Israel and the Jewish people of Palestine'. On this occasion, Shertok also expressed the 'deep gratitude of the Jewish people of Palestine shared by the Jews throughout the world, for the firm position adopted by the Soviet delegation to the UN which advocated the establishment of a sovereign and independent Jewish State in Palestine, and for its unfailing support of this position, in the face of all the difficulties, for the expression of sincere sympathy to the Jewish people who suffered in Europe at the hands of the fascist butchers and for the support of the principle which stipulates that the Jews of Palestine are a nation which has the right to sovereignty and independence'.2

In according official recognition by the USSR government of the State of Israel and its provisional government on 18 May 1948, Molotov expressed the hope that the 'creation of their own sovereign State by the Jewish people will promote the strengthening of peace and security in Palestine and in the Middle East' and the Soviet government's 'confidence in the successful development of friendly relations between the USSR and the State of Israel.'

{A list of dates and events follows. The dates PRECEDE the events}

18 May 1948

Kol Haam ('Voice of the People'), the Israeli Communist Party organ, notes in its editorial that in view of the USSR's recognition of Israel, relations between the USSR and Israel should rest 'on the basis of friendly relations, cooperation and mutual assistance'. The paper also called upon Israel to create an alliance with the USSR which should secure Israel's independence against the imperialists' attempts at subjugation of Israel and the opening of possibilities to receive practical support in our war (meaning the war imposed then on Israel following its Independence Declaration, when seven Arab armies invaded its territory aiming to conquer it and negate the existence of Israel). Kol Haam concluded the article by saying that in order to consolidate peace in the world 'Israel should not

{p. xix} demonstrate the same attitude toward warmongers as to peace lovers'.3

In those fateful days the USSR stood by Israel's side both in the UN - where it sharply condemned the Arab armies' invasion into Israel's territory and called for their immediate withdrawal (27-28 May, during the Security Council's debates) - and in the granting of military assistance, through Czechoslovakia, that was of utmost importance in rebuffing the invading armies. In exchange for its political and military assistance, the USSR expected that Israel would side with the USSR in its confrontation with the west.

30 May 1948

The greetings sent by the Moscow Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee to the President of Israel, Dr Chaim Weizmann, stated:

The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the USSR is sending you, and through you to the Jews of the State of Israel, ardent congratulations on the occasion of the Jewish State's establishment. Reactionary forces that serve imperialism continue their dark activities, trying to suppress the people's aspiration for freedom and independence. But we believe in the victory of progress and democracy. We hope that only this way the young Jewish State will succeed to overcome all the disturbances and will thus occupy its worthy place among nations who fight for real democracy and peace throughout the world ... The Jewish people acquired for the first time in its entire history of suffering, a truthful defender for its rights, its interests, the USSR, a friend and defender of all nations.4

27 June 1948

Tel Aviv and Moscow officially announced the exchange of official Envoys between their respective states. Mr P. Yershov was appointed the USSR's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Israel (the USSR Legation opened in Tel Aviv on 10 August 1948) and Mrs Golda Meyerson (later Meir) was nominated Israel's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the USSR (the Israeli Legation in Moscow was opened on 6 September 1948).

{p. xx} July 1948

The Ukrainian Representative at the UN Security Council sharply condemned Count Folke Bernadotte's program (which recommended transferring territories in the Negev and Galilee to the Kingdom of Jordan), defining it as a program aimed at the liquidation of Israel.

26 August 1948

At a farewell reception held in Tel Aviv by the Friendship League with the USSR, in honor of Mrs Golda Meyerson on the eve of her departure to Moscow as Israel's plenipotentiary Minister, Mrs Meyerson declared:

We have to develop understanding and mutual friendship with the USSR. I wish to set up a direct and close relationship with Soviet Jewry. I would like to work with them in a friendly manner and receive in turn friendship from them. I would have liked that out of this direct connection, we should get also to a good relationship with the USSR Jews.5

15 September 1948

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zorin told Mrs Meir:

A Jewish question exists and will exist only in those States which do not advance towards Socialism. From there Jews will emigrate to Israel and it is Israel's role to absorb them ... Even after a large immigration, many Jews will still remain in the capitalist countries and for their well being it is essential to fight not only for the State but also for democratization all over. In each state there are active progressive forces and the very creation of Israel is none other than an expression of these forces' influence. It is not by chance that the democratic states were the first to recognize Israel. It is our hope that Israel will follow the road of progress.6

21 Setember 1948

An article in Pravda, the organ of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), signed by the Jewish-Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg - member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee directorate in

{p. xxi} Moscow and one of the most important spokesmen of the Soviet press during World War II against the Nazi invaders - sums it up as: Israel, yes! To Jews' emigration from the USSR to Israel, no!

Here are its main points:

The Soviet Union stood by Israel's side in its war against the Arab invaders. Now, however, Israel is facing another invasion, less alarming, less dangerous - that is the invasion of American capital. US programs of military bases and installations are the danger threatening Israel. Israel is a capitalist state. Its leaders are not representatives of the working class. 'The Jewish Question' will be resolved in each place as a result of social and spiritual progress. The solution of the Jewish question doesn't depend upon Israel's military successes but upon the victory of socialism over capitalism. The interconnection among Jews is anti-Semitism. 'This is solidarity of the offenders and embittered.' It isn't to the credit of Zionism that more Jews are flowing to Israel, but as a result of anti-Semitic persecution ... These Jews didn't come to Israel to find wealth but a right to human dignity. The Soviet Jews are proud of their country and regard it as their homeland. Neither do they want the Jews of eastern European countries to emigrate to Israel. They sympathize with the struggle of Israeli workers, but every Soviet citizen realizes that the problem isn't related only to the national character of the State but also to its social regime.7

This article marked the beginning of the USSR's turn in its attitude towards Israel. (In days to come Ehrenburg will argue in his memoirs that this article was dictated to him.) Its publication was intended to warn Israel that it should not allow itself to be influenced by American capital, which could lead to the loss of its independence, and that it should not encourage Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel, which would result in political confrontation between Israel and the Soviet authorities and among Soviet Jews themselves.

5 October 1948

The military attache of the Israeli Legation in Moscow discussed with Soviet military authorities the subject of military co-operation

{p. xxii} with Israel with regard to: (a) short- and long-training of commanders; (b) supply of arms from German loot; and (c) air and sea delivery bases.

After a month, Mrs G. Meir (Meyerson) and Mr M. Namir, Counselor of the Legation, submitted a detailed list of military equipment - required by Israel - to the Head of the Middle East Department of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His reaction was somehow reserved. He was said to be afraid that the matter would become publicly known, 'whilst the UN prohibits the supply of arms to the conflicting sides.' He added, 'This matter will not only be inconvenient for us, but will also make your situation more difficult. My Arab friends have an advantage, geographically speaking: they have depots in their vicinity and they would be able to act publicly and extensively, whilst they are compelled now to act clandestinely and in a limited manner.'8

24 November 1948

The Soviet Union presented a draft resolution, in the third (political) committee of the UN General Assembly, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the Arab armies which had invaded Palestine .9 The USSR representative, Kisselev, declared that Israel was born as a result of an armed fight for freedom and independence.10

29 November 1948

Comment made by I. Ehrenburg to M. Namir in Moscow:

Soviet Jews fought against Hitler, not only because of his anti-Semitism, they shed their blood in defense of this country and this regime to which they are wholeheartedly devoted and will never give up their Soviet citizenship.

The State of Israel should understand that in the USSR there is no Jewish problem and that the Soviet Jews should not be bothered and that all attempts at attract them to Zionism and emigration should cease. Otherwise, it will encounter sharp resentment, both on the part of the Soviet authorities and amidst Jews themselves. The State of Israel will then be the loser - this he said 'is my friendly advice'. You

{p. xxiii} are stuck in a region of pure Anglo-Saxon influence. Your situation will never permit you to be in complete solidarity with the Soviet Union! Who knows? The notion should not be discounted that in a time of crisis we shall find ourselves on both sides of the front as enemy camps.

16 December 1948

The Soviet weekly Novoye Vremya complained that Israel was ungrateful to the Soviet Union, that it had adopted an anti-Soviet attitude in her policies, 'in spite of the constant support extended by the USSR to the Jewish State'.

19 December 1948

The Soviet Union voted in favor of Israel's admission to UN membership. The proposal was rejected in the absence of a sufficient majority.

7 February 1949

The first Soviet protest note to Israel's Legation in Moscow on account of two allegations.'2

1. The Legation is engaging itself in sending letters to Soviet citizens of Jewish nationality, encouraging them to leave the Soviet Union, abandon their Soviet citizenship, and emigrate to Israel. Since this act is illegal and does not correspond to the status of a diplomatic Legation, the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs is proposing that the Israeli Legation cease this activity.

2. The Legation is distributing an informative bulletin contrary to the existing regulations in the Soviet Union. The Legation is being requested to stop doing so.

13 February 1949

The Soviet Ambassador to the USA, Panyushkin, commented to Israel's Ambassador in Washington, Elath, that Israel might join the Marshall Plan:

{p. xxiv} The Soviet Union has no intention of asking Israel to join the bloc of countries that it is heading, but it does ask Israel to remain independent in its foreign policy and free from foreign influence and rule.

20 March 1949

TASS, the Soviet news agency, quoted the General Secretary of the Israeli Communist Party, Mr Shmuel Mikunis, as having said that the American loan given to Israel would fortify imperialist positions and would permit the Anglo-Saxon superpowers to control Israel's economic sovereignty.14

20 March 1949

The Knesset's Declaration of Basic Principles stated that Israel would be loyal to the UN Charter and to friendship with all peace-loving nations, in particular the USA and the USSR.

14 April 1949

Mrs G. Meir commented to Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vishinsky in Moscow upon her visit to bid farewell at the conclusion of her mission as Israeli Minister to the USSR:

We are determined to lead a neutral foreign policy, to not be driven by any bloc nor to join any group of countries aimed against this or any other world factor, nor against the Soviet Union, especially ... We decided to maintain neutrality, this is the will and aim of all responsible factors who are leading our State ... We have taken a firm decision to safeguard our independence and not to allow any military bases on our territory to England or any other party ... We shall not deviate from our Foreign Policy principles, which are: the non-adherence to any organisation oriented against the Soviet Union whose friendship with us is in our basic interest ... We have a coalitionary government, and although there are workers' parties outside this coalition, the majority of workers are represented in the government whose aim is to build Israel as a Socialist State.

{p. xxv} In this conversation, Mrs G. Meir requested (a) trade credit from the USSR; (b) expeditious treatment of Israel's application for arms from the Soviet Union; and (c) the exertion of Soviet influence upon Romania and Hungary to permit Jews from those countries to emigrate to Israel.

Vishinsky reacted very positively to these assurances of Israel's neutrality; responded encouragingly to the idea of increased trade with Israel; refrained from supplying Soviet arms to Israel; and argued that permission for emigration from neither the Soviet Union nor the eastern European countries would be granted because Jews were an element faithful to the communist regime and were therefore important to the process of its consolidation.15

5 May 1949

The Soviet representative to the UN demanded Israel's admission as a member of the UNO without any further delay and condemned the foot-dragging demonstrated by certain countries in this regard.

11 May 1949

Israel was admitted as a member of the UNO thanks to vigorous Soviet support. After the vote the Ambassador of Poland noted,

The period of sentimental interest in the fate of Israel has come to an end. An era of cooperation based on mutual interest is beginning. The Jewish people advancing along peaceful and progressive lines can rely on the assistance of Poland, the Soviet Republics and the People's Democracies of Europe. Israel will doubtless remember that those countries have been its true friends at the troubled time of its emergence ... neither should [it] be forgotten that Israel is deeply indebted to the working classes. Poland will watch the future of Israel with sympathetic interest.

7 July 1949

M. Namir presented his credentials as Minister Plenipotentiary of the State of Israel to the President of Supreme Soviet.

{p. xxvi} 9 August 1949

The USSR representative to the UN, Tsarapkin, demanded the liquidation of the UN staff control over Palestine, the dissolution of the Conciliation Commission, and facilitation of direct negotiations between the conflicting parties - Jews and Arabs - without UN interference, or outside pressure.17

5 December 1949

Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Shertok (later Sharett), declared, 'Israel's foreign policy is "a non-aligned" policy in distinction to "neutral". Permanent ties with Soviet Jewry are impossible at present, because of the Russian authorities' rejection for reasons which I don't want to judge.' He stressed the fact 'that Israel will refrain from identifying itself with any of the sides involved in the cold war between the blocs'. He also added that Israel would not participate in any imperialistic program.18

19 April 1950

The Permanent Representative of the USSR to the UN, J. Malik, presented to the General Secretary of the UN, a Note, stating:

It has become clear now that the General Assembly's resolution of December 1948, determining an international regime in Jerusalem satisfies neither the Jewish nor the Arab population in Jerusalem itself and in Palestine as a whole. In such circumstances the USSR government sees no possibility for continuing to support the said resolution. The USSR government is confident that the UNO will succeed in finding a solution to the problem of Jerusalem that will be acceptable to the Arab and Jewish residents.19

23 May 1950

Prime Minister David Ben Gurion made the following statement at a Mapai (Labor party) convention in kibbutz Aflkim:

The Soviet Union has promised national equality to all nations inhabiting its territory and has kept her promise. But

{p. xxvii} the Jewish people in the Soviet Union do not have a school of their own, nor a newspaper, neither in Hebrew nor in Yiddish. There is no anti-Jewish discrimination in the Soviet Union, and anti-Semitism is prohibited, but the Soviet regime has not succeeded in understanding the uniqueness of the Jewish problem. The Jewish people who have succeeded to build their independence will not give up the right of any Jew to immigrate to Israel and join the builders of the Homeland. We demand from the Soviet Union that the right be given to Jews who inhabit the USSR to join with us and participate in the building of our independence. Let us send from here our greetings to the Jews of Russia and let us tell them: Our/Your hope has not been lost, and to the Soviet Union we shall appeal with the call that the opportunity be given to every Jew in the USSR - who so desires - to take part with us in our creativity. Let us not despair and let us live with the knowledge that there are still many Jews in the world who are with us in spite of all the misfortunes. Let us hope that the day will come when they will, with total freedom, be able to join us in our enterprise.20

25 May 1950

Israel welcomed the 'Tripartite Declaration' (American-British- French) concerning the supply of arms and security guarantees to Israel and the Arab states (in the face of very sharp Soviet criticism) .

3 July 1950

Israel condemned the North Korean aggression towards South Korea (for which it was sharply criticized by the USSR).

20 August 1950

Prime Minister D. Ben Gurion made the following statement at the Labor Party (Mapai) convention:

The [Israeli] government always objected to having its foreign policy defined as neutral. We are not neutral regarding the

{p. xxviii} supreme question of mankind in our days. Peace and war. No people is so eager to safeguard peace as the Jewish people, and we therefore cannot be neutral towards those deeds that determine peace or war.21

4 October 1950

Korean War. Foreign Minister M. Shertok opposed the Soviet draft resolution at the UN calling for the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. Israel announced that it was dispatching medicines to South Korea.22

30 October 1950

Israel's representative at the UN joined those opposing a Soviet draft resolution concerning a peace treaty and the prohibition against the use of atomic weapons.

9 January 1951

At the UN the Soviet Union rejected the proposal of Israel's mission on the question of Korea (a seven point program presented by Israel's head of Mission at the UN, Mr A. Eban) demanding the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Korea.

20 May 1951

The USSR abstained on a draft resolution presented by the Western bloc at the UN calling for condemnation of Israel for having bombed El-Hama and for an order demanding the cessation of the draining of the Hula Sea.

21 November 1951

In a note addressed by the Soviet Union to all the Middle East countries, including Israel, the USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs, A. Gromyko, denounced the US plan to set up an Allied Middle East Command. He warned that any country which would join the Command would bring about a deterioration in its relations with the USSR.23

{p. xxix} 8 December 1951

In its reply to the government of the USSR, concerning the Middle East Command, the government of Israel noted that Israel was not invited to join the Command. It was informed, however, about the plan to set it up, but was at the time assured that there was no aggressive intention behind its establishment. It also mentioned that there were no foreign military bases on its territory (as the Soviet press claimed at that time) and that Israel aspired for peace to prevail with its neighbors.

On this occasion Israel called upon the USSR to permit Soviet Jewish emigration to Israel.24

9 December 1951

Israeli-Soviet trade negotiations were concluded concerning the exportation of 5,000 tons of citrus fruit from Israel to the USSR.

1 March 1952

An agreement was signed regarding the exportation of 50 tons of bananas and 30,000 boxes of oranges from Israel to the USSR.

6-12 April 1952

Israel participated at the International Economic Conference held in Moscow and negotiated on the exportation of citrus fruit from Israel to the USSR in exchange for importing agricultural machinery from the USSR.

19 May 1952

An Israeli-Soviet agreement was signed on the exportation of 50,000 boxes of citrus fruit from Israel to the USSR, in exchange for which Israel would import oil products from the USSR. Negotiations were also held regarding the purchase of crude oil and grain from the USSR.

8 December 1952

Pravda denounced the 'incitement campaign of the Zionist leaders' against the Slansky Trials in Prague, whereupon the Secretary of

{p. xxx} the Czechoslovak Communist Party was accused of weaving a plot with Israel as well as Zionist and Jewish organizations to overthrow the communist regimes in Czechoslovakia and its neighboring countries. (Slansky, of Jewish origin, was executed. With the passage of time, the Czechoslovak post-communist government rehabilitated him and exonerated him from the charge of treason.)

13 January 1953

The 'Doctors' Plot' was announced in the Soviet media. A large group of Jewish doctors were accused of attempting to poison Stalin, according to instructions they had, allegedly, received from Jewish and Zionist organizations. (The group was expected to be sentenced to death; after Stalin's death, the charges were dropped.)

19 January 1953

In his Knesset speech, Israeli Foreign Minister M. Sharett made the following statement concerning the 'Doctors' Plot' and the Soviet media's claim that they were Jews:

The State of Israel will not remain silent in the face of an attempt made by any power to defame the name of the Jewish people and of a danger threatening masses of the Jews wherever they may be.

The government of Israel has alwas regarded friendship with the USSR as one of the pillars of its international position and as a precious asset for the entire Jewish people. It views with deep sorrow and grave anxiety the malignant course of hatred against Jews officially adopted in the USSR, which must arouse most vehement indignation and condemnation on the part of Israel and the Jewish masses throughout the world ...

The government of Israel will denounce in the UN and on every other platform the campaign of incitement conducted in the communist countries against the Jewish people, and the abomination directed at its authoritative oranizations and will warn of the dangers threatening the well being of millions of Jews in these countries. The government of Israel

{p. xxxi} will continue to demand even more vigorously, the right of all Jews who aspire to Zion to be permitted to emigrate to Israel. 25

9 February 1953

A small bomb was hurled at the Soviet Legation in Tel Aviv. Three Legation employees were slightly injured by the explosion.

The President and the Prime Minister of Israel, in fact the whole government and Knesset, expressed their deep regret at the incident, condemned it and promised to catch the criminals and bring them to court.

13 February 1953

The government of the USSR informed the government of Israel of its decision to break off diplomatic relations with Israel.

17 February 1953

Prime Minister D. Ben Gurion expressed in the Knesset his amazement and deep concern in view of the Soviet decision to sunder diplomatic relations with Israel.


Speech by Andrei Gromyko, 14 May 1947, in the United Nations General Assembly, First Special Session 77 Plenary Meeting, Vol. 1, pp. 127-35.

2 Kol Haam, 18 May 1948 .

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., 30 May 1948.

5 Ibid., 27 Aug. 1948.

6 M. Namil; Mission lo Moscow (in Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1971) p. 52. 7 Pravda, 28 Sept. 1948

8 M. Namir, op. cit., pp. 63-73.

9 General Assembly, Official Rec. 3rd Year, I Community. Doc. A/c 1/401, 25 Nov. 1948.

10 General Assembly, Official Rec. 3rcl Session, Gen. Comlll. 211 Meeting, 24 Nov. 1948, p. 741.

11 M. Namir, op. cit., pp. 90Ñ91.

12 Ibid., p. 109. 13 A. Dagan, Moscow andJerusalem (Londoll: Abelard and Schuman, 1970) p. 40.

{p. xxxii} 14 Ibid., p. 41. 15 M. Namir, op. cit., p. 116-18. 16 A. Dagan, op. cit., p. 44 17 Sec. Council, Official Rec. 4th Year, No. 37, p. 5, 9 Aug. 1949. 18 Davar (Heb. daily), 5 Dec. 1949. 19 Gen. Assembly Official Rec. 5th Session Suppl. No. 1, 8, 6, 19 April 1950. 20 Davar, 23 May 1950. 21 Ibid., 20 Aug. 1950. 22 Ibid., 4 Oct. 1950. 23 A. Dagan, op. cit., p. 59-60. 24 Ibid., p. 59-60. 25 Divrei HaKnesset (Knesset Verbatim), Vol. 13, p. 493.

{p. 1} Part 1

From severance of diplomatic relations in February 1953 to their renewal in July 1953

{p. 3} {Chapter 1}1

Ideological and psychological aspects of the USSR's decision to sever its relations wth Israel


ON 9 February 1953 a small bomb was thrown on the Soviet Legation in Tel Aviv. The ensuing explosion damaged the building and wounded three Legation employees. This event was used by the Soviet government as a pretext for informing the Israeli government of its decision to sever Soviet-Israeli diplomatic relations.1 The USSR regarded the blow to its Legation in Israel as a by-product of the angry manifestations against it at that time in Israel, both among the public and in the government, in consequence of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist accusations which were manifested at the Prague Trials and in the case of the 'Doctors' Plot' in Moscow.

In the notification transmitted to Israel's Legation in Moscow on 11 February 1953, the Soviet government placed the responsibility for the criminal act on the government of Israel basing its argument 'on the well known and indisputable facts concerning the engagement of Israel's government representatives in hostile acts of systematic incitement against the USSR'.

The USSR also stated in its notification2 that

the apologies expressed by the President of Israel and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the condemnation of the act and the promise they made to find the criminals and punish them, 'are in contradiction to the acts of incitement' against the

{p. 4} USSR. All is simply 'a fraudulent show' aimed at evading the assumption of responsibility for the attack.

The 'provocative'3 policy of the government in Israel towards the USSR, was characteristic not only in the press siding with the ruling parties in Israel, but also of the statements made by their representatives in the Knesset as well as those of government ministers, in particular those of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Sharett, on 19 January 1953, 'who openly incited hostile acts against the USSR'.

Elementary conditions are lacking in Israel for carrying out normal diplomatic activity by Soviet representatives. Therefore, and in view of what was stated above, the USSR government has decided to call back its Minister and the diplomatic staff of the Legation and to sever its relations with Israel.

No warning was given to Israel prior to the notification of the breach of relations, either on the diplomatic plane or in the Soviet media. The actual notice did not include any reference to the defamation of Israel in the Soviet press following the Prague Trials and the 'Doctors' Plot' in Moscow. In Israel itself the announcement of the break in relations was received as a grave and unexpected political development, with serious implications of concern for the situation of the Jews in the USSR and for Israel's position in the international arena.


In the Knesset debate on the Soviet announcement on the severance of relations with Israel, Prime Minister D. Ben Gurion said that the government of Israel had received it 'with astonishment and concern'.4

Zalman Aran, Member of the Knesset (MK) for the Labor Party, when speaking of this said, 'Since the day Israel was established the sky has never been so clouded as at this time,' and that for him the breach was a 'Soviet political bomb' thrown at Israel 'which was struck by a mighty political blow'.5

MK Y. Ben Aharon of Mapam (the United Workers Party), then in the opposition, described the event as 'one of the gravest incidents

{p. 5} to occur to our young country during its short existence' and as 'a bitter day for our country and a terrible notice to the masses of our people all over the world'.

The 'astonishment' with which the government received the announcement probably derived from the fact that Israel, as a Jewish state with Zionist objectives, was hurt by the defamation aimed - directly and indirectly - at Israel itself and at the Jewish and Zionist organizations, at the Prague Trials and through the 'Doctors' Plot' in Moscow. Bearing in mind the anti-Soviet spirit that then prevailed in Israel in face of these defamations, people were asking whether Israel would have intended to sever its diplomatic relations with the USSR. To this Foreign Minister M. Sharett replied that the government of Israel had had no such intention, since 'breach of diplomatic relations is not a way that leads to peace'.6 The leadership of the country had probably not realized that a break in relations could ever have been initiated by the USSR. Perhaps the government of Israel was impressed by the fact that the USSR never broke its relations with Yugoslavia in spite of the bitter and persistent ideological confrontation between them. Moreover, the USSR was engaged, at the time, in a sharp political clash with the USA and a number of European countries, without any break in diplomatic relations between them; there was not even any Soviet threat of potential severance. Breaking off diplomatic relations was considered a very unusual phenomenon in the system of international relations. Thus it was apparently felt after the breach that the USSR regarded Israel differently from the way it regarded the rest of the world.

The 'grave concern' stemmed, apparently firstly from fear for the fate of Soviet Jews - who in many cases faced oppression and persecution - whose situation would possibly worsen in view of the breaking up of diplomatic relations with Israel. Secondly, there was concern for the wide gap then created between the Soviet Union's former position of extending unlimited support to the establishment of Israel, strengthening it politically and militarily, and its new position, aimed at humiliating Israel and weakening it in the international arena. And last, but not least, it was the first breach of diplomatic relations Israel had ever experienced - and with a superpower.

In the Knesset debate, following announcement of the severance of relations, Foreign Minister Sharett somehow avoided making any

{p. 6} comment on the political significance to Israel of this act.7 A fortnight after the debate, he belittled the value of its importance by saying that 'from the practical point of view, we have lost nothing from the break in relations, while we have never enjoyed anything from them'.8 He adopted the same attitude in his instructions to Israeli diplomatic representations abroad. In this he differed from his fellow party members, including Prime Minister D. Ben Gurion.

A statement issued by the Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on 12 February 1953 synthesized, on the governmental plane, the various reactions expressed by government spokesmen, representatives of the coalition parties in the Knesset, in shifting the weight of all explanations to the traditional hatred of the USSR for Zionism, Judaism and Israel. Here is the full text:

The official reason given for this act is nothing but a pretext. The decision taken (regarding the breach of relations) is the climax of open hostility and a poisonous defamation campaign against the State of Israel, the Zionist movement, Jewish organizations, and Jews as such - a campaign conducted for a long time in the USSR, one which in recent months has increased to a threatening state. The true aim of this campaign is to completely isolate and intimidate Soviet Jewry, whose fate arouses profound fear.9

In the guidelines M. Sharett addressed to Israel's Diplomatic Mission abroad on 9 March 1953 he stressed that in explaining the break in Israeli-Soviet diplomatic relations, 'we ought to contradict their assumptions: firstly, that the breach constitutes a catastrophe for Israel; secondly, that it brings us to an impotent dependence on the good graces of the USA, without any countersupport; thirdly, that it raises the status of Arabs over us'.10 Clarification of these three assumptions constitutes a kind of summary of Israeli-Soviet relations, as follows:

The USSR always regarded Zionism as an adversary. Its turnabout in 1947 was more for the purpose of expelling the British from Palestine than for the love of Zionism. The retreat from a position of advocacy for the establishment of the Jewish State began shortly afterwards when the USSR became aware of:

{p. 7} (a) the necessary link of Israel with the West, and (b) the connection between the Soviet Jews and Israel.

Things came full circle and the USSR returned to its position prior to Israel's independence. The historic balance sheet shows that we have not lost anything by the rupture of relations, but we have gained our independence. The USSR never served us as a countersupport against the US and the West, it never extended us any aid and never opened any door for us to allow us to become closer to it.

Our dependence on the West, prior to the breach, was not weaker than it is at present, nor did it become stronger because of the rupture . If the breach caused any change in the situation, it is rather in the direction of increased sympathy in the world towards Israel. The breach and the hostility preceding it plugged a hole in the wall of isolation in the world separating the Soviet Jews and Israel. Gaining sympathy towards the Soviet bloc among the Arab countries was not the aim, but at most an attempt to gain secondary benefit. But the Arab leaders hostile to Israel knew full well that they would not gain from Communist aid, but that they must be wary of it, and the Western leaders know that the Arabs know this and the Arabs know that the West knows that they know that it is an imaginary benefit.

In neither the official reaction nor the information guidelines is there mention of Israel's policy of estrangement from the USSR or of its drawing closer to it - except for the Jewish aspect - as a factor in the Soviet-Israeli relationship.

According to this concept, the nature of Soviet policy towards Israel was deterministic. Namely, it was not Israeli policy towards the USSR - in the internal, bilateral, regional, or international arenas - that set the tone. No matter what Israel's policy would be, it would not have any influence on Soviet policy towards Israel, owing to the traditional Soviet hostility to Zionism, Judaism and Israel. Israeli government spokesmen unhesitatingly rejected the assumption that their angry reaction - no matter how justified from the Jewish national point of view - contributed to the deterioration of relations with the USSR, to the point of severance. Moreover, there was an increasing tendency to obscure this opinion as much as possible and to adopt in its stead the idea that the breach in relations was merely a continuation of the series of events that had

{p. 8} begun with I. Ehrenburg's article in Pravda on 21 September 1948 and culminated in the 'Doctors' Plot'.11

The left-wing opposition parties held an opinion completely opposed to the official line. It ignored the significance of the anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic elements in Soviet policy towards Israel while linking the reasons for the breach with Israel's policy towards the USSR in the internal and international arena. MK M. Sneh was the spokesman for this approach. When he referred to the Soviet reasons for taking such a step against Israel, he said,12 'The true chain of events as it has become clear to us is: the break in diplomatic relations was preceded by an attack on the Soviet Legation; the anti-Soviet attack was preceded by anti-Soviet incitement; the anti-Soviet incitement was preceded by an anti-Soviet policy ...'

After enumerating the various aspects of Soviet support for Israel in 1947-49, he continued with:

This was advance payment for Soviet friendship towards Israel. And in this same UN arena, how did the Israeli delegation stand vis 2 vis the USSR? How did the delegation act when the USSR presented basic proposals at the UN for securing world peace? What stand did you take in the Korean conflict? What was the matter with you when you identified yourself with McArthur and Syngman Rhee? Why did the Israeli Foreign Minister give his blessing to the American invader to cross the 38th parallel north? ... And when the idea of a Middle East Alliance came up - an idea which has not yet been realized - you were the first in the region to express in a thousand ways your readiness to join it. And when the Prime Minister was in America, didn't he promise that Israel - side by side with Turkey - would fight alongside the West? Didn't Abba Eban [head of Israel's Delegation to the UN] state at the UN forum that granting military bases to foreign powers did not contradict the concept of state sovereignty? And when A. Eban visited Israel didn't he state that the Israeli Defense Forces had an international duty 'to defend the whole region'? Defend against whom? Against the USSR? ... In view of these facts, which occurred a long time before the Prague Trials, can one accept the theory of 'an anti-Jewish attack' as the reason for your anti-Soviet stance?

{p. 9} In putting these questions, MK Sneh took Israeli policy makers to serious task for switching from supporting neutrality between the two blocs to siding gradually with the USA in its confrontation with the USSR.

The Mapam party spokesman, as distinguished from the leftist party headed by Sneh, declared that his group would never accept the putative connection between Zionism and the world Jewish organizations with Soviet civil crimes. As to the remaining accusations, the Mapam approach differed only slightly from the statements by MKSneh.

A draft resolution presented by Mapam at the end of Knesset debate on this subject stated:13

The Knesset regards the rupture of diplomatic relations on the part of the USSR with Israel as a grave political blow to the Jewish people, to Zionism, and to the State of Israel. Without ignoring the background of the USSR's anti-Zionist attitude towards us, as was expressed in the Prague Trials and in the Moscow publications, the Knesset cannot acquit the government from its responsibility for the development of events that led to the breach of diplomatic relations. After having abandoned the policy of non-alignment and neutrality, the government undertook a policy of increasing subjection to the West, encouraged incitement against the USSR by official bodies, turned the justified defense against the constantly increasing attacks on Zionism and Israel into an anti-Soviet defamation campaign in contradiction to Zionist and Jewish responsibility and did not know how to prevent the malicious assault on the Soviet Legation, perpetrated by fascist elements ...'

The draft resolution was rejected by a majority of votes. The proposals submitted by Maki (the Israel Communist Party) and MK M. Sneh were not even brought to a vote. The Knesset accepted the draft resolution presented by the coalition parties, saying that the Knesset aligned itself with the Prime Minister's statement in which he appealed to the Soviet authorities: (a) to permit Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel, and (b) to behave towards Israel according to the principle which the USSR professes of 'fraternity and peace between nations'.

To sum up, opinions differed in Israel as to the Soviet motivation for breaking off its relations with Israel. The coalition and rightist

{p. 10} parties regarded the ideological aspect (namely, Soviet hostility to Zionism) as the decisive factor leading to the breach. The leftist parties ascribed the reason for the break to political motives (such as, Israel's siding with the USA in its confrontation with the USSR, while at the same time carrying on public and official incitement against the very basis of the Soviet regime). Factions of the leftist oppositions, however, differed among themselves over the question of whether they should react at all, and if so, how they should respond to the USSR for having connected Zionism and Jewish organizations with Soviet internal affairs. The majority of the opposition parties believed that the Israeli government's response to the 'Doctors' Plot' should have been more controlled and restrained, in such a way as to not endanger the fate of mutual relations between the two countries. The minority, including Maki and the leftist faction of MK M. Sneh, ignored this issue altogether.'4


We do not know whether the USSR's decision to break off relations with Israel was the result of a planned anti-Israel and anti-Zionist campaign, as MKs of the coalition parties assumed in the Knesset debate held following the announcement on the severance of relations,13 or was, perhaps, a reaction to the turn taken in Israel's foreign policy moving from declared neutrality to increasing alignment with the USA in its confrontation with the USSR.

The Soviet government in its note informing Israel of the decision to break off relations explained its decision as deriving from the assault on the Soviet Legation in Tel Aviv as well as from the statements made by spokesmen of the Israeli government, headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs himself- following the 'Doctors' Plot' - which openly incited, as stated above, hostility to the USSR.

On what was the Soviet reasoning based? Were the reasons given what actually prompted its decision?

The political aspect

It might be assumed that the response by the coalition parties' Knesset representatives, and particularly the reaction of the Foreign

{p. 13} Minister, considering its scope, 'sharpness, and main objective'16 - the mobilization of world public opinion and that of Western countries and the UN in the struggle for the annulment of the charges in the 'Doctors' Plot' and for the improvement of the lot of the Soviet Jews - was probably regarded by the Soviets as the decisive factor behind the rupture. All other factors referred to by the Soviet commentators after the break in relations - although the Soviet note did not mention them - displayed no new argument. The accusation that Zionism was serving American imperialism and was acting on behalf of its intelligence, or that Israel was leading an anti-Soviet policy according to the directives of the USA, aimed at inflaming a new war17 - all these accusations had been repeatedly made in the past without causing the rupture of relations between the USSR and Israel. They never disappeared from the Soviet media frame and were never brought up on official Soviet Notes. On the contrary, the majority of the MK reactions created a new dimension in the history of Israeli-Soviet relations. Representatives of the ruling party (Mapai) and its official spokesmen criticized the USSR in a systematic and broad manner which they had previously avoided during any Knesset debate or similar platform. This fresh criticism comprised:

1. Condemning the Soviet regime as 'a regime of spiritual annihilation and national oppression', condemning its anti-Semitic policy and accusing it of making mass preparations to strike the Jews (pogroms).

2. Exposing the tragic situation of the Soviet Jews, facing spiritual and physical annihilation; challenging the Soviet authorities to account for it; energetically demanding the restoration of the rights of Soviet Jews and permission for them to leave for Israel.

3. Condemning the legal and judiciary system in the USSR, 'based on threats and forgery'.

4. Appealing to public opinion in the free world with the aim of shattering its indifference, urging the free world to take immediate steps to avoid a holocaust.

5. Determination to urgently bring their problem onto the UN agenda.

6. Warning that appropriate steps would be taken in Israel against the supporters of the USSR incitements and libel policy against the Jews.

{p. 12} The condemnations, criticism, appeals, demands, and all these warnings were expressed for the first time publicly, not only within the framework of a Knesset debate but as a demonstration of Jewish solidarity and as a government operational program for the fight against the USSR's anti-Jewish policy. For the first time, Israel's leaders referred in very critical terms to the USSR's policy in internal affairs and regarding the Jews who live within its borders. The State of Israel, in fact, appeared to the USSR as the spokesman of Soviet Jews and of world Jewry and as one who would openly station itself in the camp of the 'instigators'. This dimension might have been decisive in the USSR's determination to break its relations with the Israeli government, against the background of ideological and psychological enmity that the USSR projected towards Israel.18

The ideological aspect

The Prague Trial - and immediately afterwards the 'Doctors' Plot'19 - provoked Israel's leaders, for the first time, to take a route leading to an open ideological conflict with the USSR.

Anti-Semitic expressions and the proof, as it were, of a conspiracy between Zionist Organizations, Israel with the Prague defendants and the accused doctors (the majority of whom were Jewish) in Moscow (against whom it was alleged that it had been their mission to poison the Soviet leadership on behalf of Zionist and world Jewish organizations) increased the level of 'negation' to that of dangerous hostility. The Prague Trials and the 'Doctors' Plot' constituted to a great extent the background to Israel's change of attitude, influenced by the enmity these two events fomented against Soviet Jews, world Jewry, and Israel.

Israel's leaders not only rejected the putative accusations against Zionism and Israel, but also revealed the evils of the Communist regime in the USSR and the 'satellite' countries in eastern Europe, exposing them as a danger to mankind as well as to Jewish existence. Prime Minister Ben Gurion addressed this in particular in his public speeches and in the polemical articles he signed with the pseudonym 'Saa shel Yariv' ('Yariv's grandfather'), an allusion undoubtedly understood by the Soviet Legation in Tel Aviv.20

During the Knesset debate on the Prague Trials, on 22 November

{p. 13} 1952, Foreign Minister Sharett defined the trials as a 'deceiving show' and as a 'vision of moral suicide and self-degradation shattering the heart of anyone who believes in the holiness and spiritual strength of a human being's personality'.21 As for the nature of the trials, the Foreign Minister's evaluation was that it was permeated with a malignant anti-Semitic spirit and replete with 'bombastic propaganda and anti-Semitic incitement in line with pure Nazi tradition'.22

In that debate Prime Minster Ben Gurion enumerated four aspects characterizing the trials:

(a) the human essence of the Prague tragedy;

(b) its terrible international significance (without commenting on it);

(c) the expected fate of the Jews under the Communist regime (spiritual and physical annihilation); -

(d) the implications for Israel itself: the need to draw proper conclusions while coming to terms with Mapam through moral self-examination.23

'Communism', he noted, 'is based on two dicta: (1) loyalty to the policy-line, whatever it may be, "even if today is the opposite of tomorrow, and tomorrow the opposite of today"; (2) the end justifies the means - all means, without exception, including alleging of libels, falsifications of history and truth, deceiving slogans, and the murder of innocent people when necessary to increase the rulers' power or to cover up their failures.'24

The debate in the Knesset, in which cabinet ministers participated actively, spilled over into criticizing the judicial system and the terror methods of the Communist regime, but the contents of the draft resolution submitted for Knesset approval by the Committee for Foreign and Security Affairs - and which was accepted by a majority vote - attested to the delicate care being taken to not deviate from the defensive nature of the debate, while intentionally overlooking its offensive character.25 The aim was probably to not overtly aggravate the ideological conflict with the USSR. The debate was not subject to clarification at the diplomatic level, so one may perhaps conclude that the Soviets were ready to accept it as it was, at that stage.

{p. 14} The 'Doctors' Plot', which aroused great fury in Israel and in the Knesset, broke the bonds of restraint that had characterized Israel's leaders since the establishment of Israeli-Soviet diplomatic relations and gave them a free hand in revealing the nature of the the Communist regime and its leader, Stalin. The criticism leveled was sharp, penetrating, and daring. We may assume that its forcefulness must have shocked the Soviet personalities who read it.

In January and the beginning of February 1953 articles appeared in the daiiy Davar written by Prime Minister Ben Gurion signing himself as S. Sh. Yariv. Presumably, they significantly influenced the USSR's decision to break off relations with Israel. Though the series of articles 'on the Communism and Zionism of Ha-Shomer ha-Za'ir' was intended for local consumption, it was clear to all that its barbs were simultaneously aimed at the USSR.26

There was nothing new in the ideological and critical attitude of Ben Gurion, Sharett, and their associates, within the party as well as outside of it, regarding the methods of terror customarily applied by Communist regimes of eastern Europe and their hostile attitude to Jews, Zionism and the State of Israel. The innovation, however, lay in their determination to open an ideological struggle, alongside the political one, against the Communist enmity embodied in Stalin's character. It cannot be discounted that factors prompting Israel's leaders to enter the fray were, on the one hand, the lessons of the Holocaust, and on the other, reports by Israel's representatives in Moscow about the tragic distress of Soviet Jews and their expectations of redemption by Israel - as the official representative of the Jewish people - and this over and above their feeling that the Jews in the USSR stood on the threshold of spiritual and physical annihilation.27 They saw it as their national and moral duty to rush in to rescue the Soviet Jews with the help of the only weapon they could employ against a superpower: enlightened public opinion in the West.

The conclusions which could be drawn, from the USSR's point of view, were as follows:

1. Israel's government supported the Jews of the USSR as strongly as if they were its nationals. This conradicted not only the Leninist theory that there is no Jewish nation, but also justified the communist accusation that Zionism considers all Jews of the world

{P. 15} to be one nation and that from the national aspect political borders separating them are irrelevant.

2. Israel as a Jewish-Zionist state was setting itself up as the spokesman and defender of Jewish communities the world over, and in particular of those subjected to Communist rule in eastern Europe.

3. The government of Israel was not deterred from criticizing, in the sharpest terms, the Communist regime in eastern Europe, despite its political and military support of the establishment of Israel. This criticism put Israel in the Western enemy camp against the USSR - by uncovering its reign of terror and its trampling of human rights, and by denigrating Stalin publicly.

The USSR's battle against Zionism began long before the Prague Trials and the 'Doctors' Plot'. Both Lenin and Stalin rejected every aspect of Zionism, claiming that it was a reactionary movement aimed at diverting the Jewish masses from the entire proletarian struggle and leading it towards national and petit-bourgeois isolationism. But unlike Lenin, who knew how to appreciate Jewish intellect and recognized its important contribution to the development of civilization, science, and medicine, Stalin viewed the Jews with great hostility and tried as early as the 1930s to remove Jews from high positions in the Soviet administration and the Communist Party in the USSR. After the establishment of the State of Israel, when he realized that there was strong attachment to the newborn state among the Soviet Jews, his enmity towards them deepened. This antagonism was mixed with the fear that their influence would, perhaps, be detrimental to the crystallization process of Soviet society, since he regarded them as a foreign element, the bearers of Western and Zionist ideas, particularly those Jews in highly influential posts in administration and training. The result was the policy of oppression and deportation initiated by him on the eve of 'the black years' in the USSR.

The Prague Trials and the 'Doctors' Plot', which were accompanied by a large-scale anti-Semitic campaign in the USSR and eastern European media, moved Israel's leaders to deviate from their previous line of restraint and to rise up to defend the Soviet Jews and Jewish national honor.

Opening a fight against Soviet policy on the Jewish plane while

{p. 16} exposing the evils of the Communist regime was likely to have shocked the Kremlin. The decision to sever relations with Israel was probably a response reciprocating the new dimension of the Israeli reaction. From Israel's point of view it was, probably, the price it was compelled to pay for its fight on behalf of the Soviet Jews, a struggle that started with the 'Doctors' Plot' and which continued, uninterruptedly, until the dissolution of the USSR. The 'Doctors' Plot' shocked Israel more than any previous event on the Israeli-Soviet plane - and from then on the subject of the Jews in the USSR became a dominant factor in the relationship between the two countries.

The pychologicalfactor

Three types of psychological residue can be discerned in the USSR's political consciousness of the Soviet Jews and of Israel.

1. The anti-Semitic residue, whose roots are to be found in the historic, cultural and social heritage of Russia and in the assumption that in case of an East-West confrontation the Jews all over the world would stand by the West. Hence, the perception of the Jew as a 'cosmopolitan' who should be isolated.

2. The residue of enmity towards the State of Israel, whose very existence stirred national feelings among Soviet Jews to an extent that the USSR had not anticipated. This phenomenon contradicted the 'Soviet theory' about 'eternal fraternity among nations' in the USSR. No doubt that explains the Soviet aspiration to break the links between the Jews living in its territory and the other Jewish communities in the world, and particularly to prevent the Jews from having any contact with Israel, for fear that they would become a sort of fifth column within the USSR in case of an East-West bloc confrontation. (During World War II, the USSR could rely upon the patriotism of Jews, because of their resentment of Nazi Germany. This was not the case regarding the West.)

3. The residue of disappointment at Israel's pro-Western orientation. From the Korean crisis onwards, Israel was intensively identified as a servant of Western interests. To this one must add Israeli efforts, as the Soviets saw it, to join a Middle East defense

{p. 17} alliance, whose main aim was anti-Soviet, as well as the declarations by Israel's leaders that in the event of a third world war, Israel would side with the West. All this was set against the background of consistent Soviet support for the establishment of the State of Israel, its military strengthening of Israel during the War for Independence, and its reinforcement of Israel's international status. MK M. Sneh referred to this element of disappointment when he noted in the Knesset debate on 16 February 1953 that it was impossible to compare the Soviet attitude towards other countries with its attitude to Israel. Thus, the State of Israel was fortunate to receive from the USSR political and military assistance from its very beginning, something no other country was graced with.28

The element of disappointment in the USSR's political consciousness in its approach to Israel, thus, did not derive solely from the change in Israel's policy - from neutrality to a pro-Western orientation - but also from a feeling of Israel's having betrayed the bloc of countries that had assisted it in the hours so fateful for its existence. Little evidence of this can be found in writing29 - not because such a feeling did not exist, but because it was probably more convenient for the USSR to conceal its support for Israel while it was oppressing manifestations of Jewish national aspiration in its own country.

At a later time - after the renewal of Soviet-Israeli diplomatic relations - the USSR probably did not consider it necessary to emphasize this assistance, since it was intent on gaining the sympathy of the Arab world, which negated Israel's existence.

It may therefore be presumed that the psychological aspect, with all the above-mentioned implications, had been taken into account in all the USSR's considerations, along with the political and ideological aspects, which were decisive in the severance of relations with Israel.

Israel found itself, unexpectedly, in a confrontation with the USSR the result of which was the Soviet decision to break off relations. Without Israel' fiercely angry repone - whieh reaehed its high point over the 'Doctors' Plot' - it is doubtful that the USSR would have taken its decision to sever those relations.


The rupture of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Soviet Union did not deter Israel from planning a battle to annul the anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic accusations of the Soviet Union and to improve the situation of the Jews in the Communist bloc. Following the break, Israel did not refrain from standing up against Soviet representatives in the international arena and stating its claim. Public opinion in the Western world sided with Israel's position. Initial steps were taken to raise the issue at a World Jewish Conference, in the US Congress, and at the UN.

When explaining the intention of the World Jewish Conference to discuss the 'lack of security in the life and existence of the Jews in the USSR', MKM. Argov (Mapai), head of the Knesset Committee for Foreign and Security Affairs, noted on 25 February 1953:

World Jewish solidarity exists, and this should be drummed, day and night, into the ears of the Soviet rulers, who make use of the radio, press and propaganda channels in every country under their control - to defame the Jewish people and Zionism. And Zionism is the Jewish people.

At this conference, there should not be any incitement against the USSR, but rather an attempt at fending off the libels spread regarding Israel and the Jewish people. The State of Israel will not formally participate in it. The question as to whether the Knesset should or should not send a delegation [to the conference] was raised in the Committee for Foreign and Security Affairs. The majority felt that Israel should participate in this conference as part of the Zionist Organization ... This conference has a pressing need to defend the honor of the Jewish people, the Zionist Organization, and the state of Israel.30

Thus the foundation was laid for the institutionalization of the future struggle for Soviet Jews.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously on 25 February 1953 for a resolution 'condcmning the persecution of Jews in the USSR'. The resolution appealed to US president

{p. 19} Dwight Eisenhower to undertake the appropriate steps in order to protest in the UN and on other platforms against the libels. At the same time the US Ambassador to the UN condemned the persecution of 'Christians, Moslems and Jews in the USSR', adding that peace depended not only on collective security, but also on the 'equal treatment of human beings'.31

The government of Israel decided to send Mrs Golda Meyerson (later Meir), Minister of Labor and formerly Israel's Envoy to the USSR, to lead the struggle in the UN. Her status as cabinet minister and her former mission to the USSR, added a great deal of authenticity and importance to raising the subject in two stages: stage one, when the First (Political) Committee discussed the Soviet-Chinese-Czechoslovak draft resolution on 'US interference in internal affairs of other countries';32 stage two, when the same committee discussed the Polish proposal on 'Means to prevent threats of a new war'.33

During the first stage, on 25 March 1953,34 Mrs Meyerson stated that as a result of the debate in the committee, Israel's government was expecting two developments:

1. That the Communist governments, particularly the Soviet government, would take into account the international condemnation regarding their anti-Jewish policy and would abandon it.

2. That the governments of the USSR and other Communist countries would respond favorably to the request to permit Jews from their countries to emigrate to Israel.

During the second stage, Mrs Meyerson spoke at length in the debate on the Polish proposal.35 The main points of her address, given after the cancellation of the 'Doctors' Plot' trial had become public knowledge, follow.

The groundless accusations and libels alleged in the Prague and Moscow trials of a world Jewish conspiracy were irreconcilable with the course of peace and friendship amongst the nations. Israel regarded with deep anxiety the antiJewish agitation that accom- panied the trials. The revival of anti-Semitism by east European governments as an instrument of political aims should be of concern to the UN. Israel welcomed the USSR's announcement that the accusations against the doctors were found to be groundless and

{p. 20} derived satisfaction from the Soviet criticism that condemned the libel in stronger terms than those of Israel's Foreign Minister on 19 January 1953, whose statements now had the endorsement of the Soviet government. It was to be hoped that after the repudiation of the 'Doctors' Plot', all other anti-Jewish manifestations would be condemned, discrimination against Jews prohibited, and propaganda against them ended. Israel would continue to watch the situation of the Jewish communities in eastern Europe. The best guarantee for the prevention of difficulties would be the granting of self-determination rights for cultural and communal life to the Jewish communities in eastern Europe and free choice on emigration to Israel. The problem should be debated as part of the broad spectrum of international relations, peace amongst nations, and respect for human rights.

The address delivered at the UN by the Israeli Minister of Labor was accompanied by similar statements given by representatives of delegations from Panama, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, China, Cuba, the USA, and Uruguay.36

Israel's first battle in the international arena was successful. For the first time the issue gained an international dimension. The lessons drawn by Israel from this battle was that it was possible to find assistance among Western public opinion in the struggle against Soviet anti-Semitism and for the improvement of the status of Soviet Jews. As for the USSR, it learned that this dimension must have a place in its future considerations.


1 Izvestia, 12 Feb. 1996.

2 This notification was cited by the Prime Minister, when giving a statement on the attack to the Knesset, Divrei HaKnesset, Vol. 13, p. 682.

3 Provocation has two meanings in the USSR's lexicon: (a) treachery-slander; (b) inciting masses to damaging acts. In this case (a) applies.

4 Divrei HaKnesset, Vol. 13, p. 720, 16 Feb. 1953.

5 Ibid., p. 722-3, 16 Feb. 1953.

6 Davar, 19Jan. 1953.

7 Divrei HaKnesset,Vol. 13,pp.745-7, 17Feb. 1953.

8 Kol Haam, 27 Feb. 1953.

9 Davar, 13 Feb. 1953.

10 YediotLenetziguyotBechul, No. 37.

11 G. Meir's statement in the Knesset, Divrei Haknesset, Vol. 13, p. 747, 17 Feb. 1953 .

{p. 21} 12 Ibid., pp. 737-8, 16 Feb. 1953.

13 Ibid., p. 474.

14 Representatives of the left - Mapam and Maki - stated in face of the forceful reaction that 'the best we could do now for the sake of the Jewish people is to wipe out this debate in the Knesset from the pages of our life. In my opinion never has the highest institution and the one most responsible for the fate of our people, ever wreaked such havoc, worsening the situation of a people scattered all over the globe, as in this debate' (MK Y. Hazan, Divrei HaKnesset, Vol. 13, p. 489) . 'I regard this choir as one black incitement ofthe whole reaction of this parliament' (MK Y. Yaari, ibid., p. 490). These two spokesmen noted that their partywould not reconcile itself to the connection made between the Zionist movement and the Jewishworld institutionswith criminal acts of Soviet citizens. While MK Sh. Mikunis of Maki held fast to accusing Israel of leading anti-Soviet incitement and anti-communist hysteria, the sources of which were not in the exposure of 'the doctors' terrorist group in Moscow', but rather in the decision by 'our country's rulers' to hasten preparations for war and the attachmentofIsraeltothe'anti-SovietaggressiveblocfollowingWashington's order' (Divrei HaKnesset, Vol. 13, pp. 492-3). Maki's representatives were the only ones in the Knesset who aligned themselves unreservedly with the Soviet authorities' charges against the doctors. To be sure, there was a certain link between their stand and Foreign Minister Sharett's warning that should parties in Israel justify the Soviet incitement, the government of Israel would draw its conclusions about them (meaning to outlaw them).

15 Ibid., pp. 7209.

16 Ibid., p. 481-94.

17 Pravda, 14Feb. 1953; Literaturnaya Gazetta, 17Feb. 1953; Izvestia, 14Feb. 1953; Novoe Vremya, No. 6, 1953.

18 Though already during the Prague trials there were Knesset Members who drew attention to the existence of A Jewish problem in the USSR, this did not include cabinet ministers, who avoided making any public statement on this subject. For instance, in the Knesset debate on 4 Nov. 1952 on the status of the Zionist organization (Divrei HaKnesset, Vol. 13, p. 24), D. Ben Gurion declared: 'Even if Israel were to determine that the Zionist organisation represents the two million Jews of the USSR, it would be entirely senseless, baseless, and unreal. It would encounter justirled opposition on the part of those who speak on behalf of Russian Jews who would claim, "Who authorized you?".'

19 Y. Ro'i, 'Israeli-Soviet Relations 1947-1954'. The dissertation deals broadly with these two events, the background, accusations and assessment of Soviet and east European commentary on them.

20 MKY. Ben Aharon (Mapam) commented in the Knesset debate on the severed relations,

In the coming days people will ask: 'What did the Prime Minister and his Foreign Minisler do in those dangerously fateful days for Israel, why did that change take place?' Then they will reveal that in their articles - whether published under their own name or a pseudonym - there was an effort at expanding the conflict, deepening the abyss, bringing upon us by their own hands not a reduction in tension, not the prevention of a disaster, but its advancement and acccleration. Thus this government carries full responsibility for this development. (Divrei HaKnesset, Vol. 13, p. 721 )

{p. 22} MK. M. Sneh stated in that debate:

Where is the reciprocity to the Soviet Union that, according to all opinions and even to the Prime Minister's cable - but not according to the S. Sh. Yariv articles - saved Jewish refugees from the Nazi claws and extended a hand to us in the establishment of the State? Is this how you reciprocated? And all that was prior to the Prague Trials ... (Divrei HaKnesset, Vol. 13, p. 738)

Hence, it could be assumed that the true identity of S. Sh. Yariv was also known to the Soviet Legation in Tel Aviv which maintained close contacts with the leftist opposition. The articles were written against the background of the polemical exchanges between D. Ben Gurion and Mapam. According to Ben Gurion, Mapam's position on the Prague Trials was ambivalent. On the one hand, Mapam claimed that Mordekhai Oren, who acted on behalf of the party in Eastern Europe - and was then arrested by the Czechoslovak authorities - was entirely innocent and was compelled to confess to crimes charged against him. On the other hand, Mapam demonstrated complete identification with the course of the trials and with the accusations made by the Czechoslovak prosecution against leaders of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and its activists on the bench of the accused, whilst Oren was forced to serve as a witness to the prosecution's charges. Ben Gurion also commented critically on the contradiction in the resolution adopted at Mapam's congress on 24-25 Dec. 1952 which declared, 'Mapam regards itself as a Zionist-pioneering- revolutionary-socialist party and as an inseparable part of the camp and world headed by the USSR.'

21 Divrei HaKnesset,Vol. 13,pp. 130-31, 156-78. 22 Ibid., pp. 130-31. 23 Ibid., pp. 130-31. 24 Ibid., pp. 165-6. 25 Ibid., p. 178.

26 The three-article series appeared in a booklet, S. Sh. Yariv, On Communism and Zionism oHa-Shomerha-Za'ir (Tel Aviv: Mapai Publishing, 1953). 27 Davar, S. Sh. Yariv, 30.1.1953. 28 Divrei HaKnesset, Vol. 13, p. 738.

29 When Israel was admitted to UN membership on 11 May 1949, thanks to the vigorous support of the Soviet bloc, Poland's representative stated:

Israel will doubtless remember that those countries [the USSR and the People's Republics] were its true friends in the troubled times of its emergence ... It was not long since the British Foreign Of rlce had tried and failed to prevent the creation of Israel. United Kingdom and United States diplomacy had been ready to betray the new state before its birth. The US government's change of policy with regard to Israel had occurred for reasons of political expediency divorced from any sense of justice or faith in Israel's future. That should not be forgotten ... (A. Dagan, Moscow and Jerusalem, p. 44)

In an article on his visit to Israel, Hazov wrote in the Soviet weekly Novue Vremya, 5 July 1951, inter alia: 'Threc ycars of Isracl's existence cannot but disappoint those who had cxpectcd that the appearance of a new independent state in the Middle East would assist in strengthe g the peace forces an(l democracy ...

{p. 23} Likewise in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1952), p. 512, the entry on Israel notes, 'In May 1948, according to the UN General Assembly resolution of 29 Nov. 1947, the State of Israel was established on a portion of Palestinian territory, but this was not a democratic and independent state, such as had been proposed by the delegation of the USSR in the UN.' 30 Divrei HaKnesset, Vol. 13, pp. 820-21. In response to a question put by MK M. Sneh as to the nature of the conference about which he had learned from the Jerusalem Post, 24 Feb. 1953, which seemed to him to be 'a tool for anti-Soviet incitement'. 31 New York Times, 26 Feb. 1953. 32 GA, 7th Session, First Committee, 587 Meeting, 25 March 1953. 33 GA, 7th Session, First Committee, 596 Meeting, 10 April 1953. 34 Davar, 26 March 1953. 35 GA, 7th Session, First Committee, 597 Meeting, 13 April 1953. 36 GA, 7th Session, First Committee, 597, 598, 600, 601, 602, Meetings, 13-15 April 1953.

{p. 24} {Chapter} 2 Changes in Soviet internal and foreign policy after Stalin's death and the resumption of Israel-Soviet diplomatic relations

THE DEFAMATION campaign against Zionism, Jewry and Israel - which reached its climax in the 'Doctors' Plot' - was an integral part of the policy of incitement and terror that characterized the Communist regime in the USSR and the Soviet bloc towards the end of Stalin's era. The 'Doctors' Plot' itself was an obvious ploy and would have been only the first of a string of such libels had Stalin not died on 5 March 1953.'

The USSR's decision to sever relations with Israel was not an exceptional phenomenon in its foreign policy. West European countries frequently received serious warning notes because of their connections with NATO, hinting broadly at invasion of their territories should the American military bases not be removed from them. Moscow Radio used to broadcast appeals daily to the citizens of Yugoslavia to revolt against Tito and remove him from power. Anti-Tito incitement was not limited to propaganda. Yugoslavia was threatened with a stranglehold economic boycott and by border clashes staged by the neighboring Soviet bloc countries. Turkey and Greece were under constant political pressure. In the Far East, the Soviet Union blocked progress towards a settlement of the Korean conflict. In the UN arena the voice of the Soviet Foreign Minister, Vyshinsky, was heard aggressively threatening the USA. The East-West confrontation stood at the threshold of 'a hot war' for which Stalin himself was responsible. Three years elapsed before his successors revealed some of his crimes. Allusions hinted that the

{p. 25} number of crimes yet unrevealed exceeded those that had been made public.

Shortly after Stalin's death, tension abated in relations between the USSR and the outside world as a 'thaw' set in; a way opened for initiatives on East-West co-operation on crisis resolution and for peaceful co-existence.


On the first morning after Stalin's death, significant changes were introduced into the structure of the high party institutions, so designated at the 19th Congress of the CPSU (5-14 October 1952). The presidency of the party was reduced to 10 members (instead of 25) and to 4 candidates (instead of 11). On 14 March 1953 the functions of the Prime Minister were separated from those of the First Secretary General of the party, and the Secret Police was included among the competences of the Ministry of the Interior.3 On the one hand, there was a tendency to divide power within the ruling circle while on the other hand entrusting the function of the party's First Secretary General to a person outside the party leader- ship, to avoid the repetition of a one-man dictatorship and to return to the party the authority lost during Stalin's era, and thereby reinforcing its status with the assistance of a 'collective leadership'. Even if it was learned afterwards that there had been a struggle over succession, the party's authority in the administration, security services and army was not undermined at all.

The masses were promised lower prices on consumer goods and their speedier supply. An amnesty for prisoners was declared. There were signs of 'thaw' in cultural fields. But above all stood the annul- ment of the 'Doctors' Plot' and the release of the accused 'as the result of an investigation that proved that the doctors were unjustly arrested and without any legal basis', on 4 April 1953 . The official announcement on the annulment as well as in a lead article in Pravda published one day later contained elements important for understanding the upheaval in post-Stalin Soviet internal policy, namely:

1. The doctors were accused on the basis of false accusations. The proofs cited against them were absolutely baseless.

{p. 26} 2. The confessions of guilt were obtained by methods of investi- gation interdicted by Soviet law.

3. Those responsible for the Plot had lost their links with the people and the party, forgetting that they are their servants and that it is their duty to implement strictly the law they grossly violated. They forced the facts 'and dared to mock' the inviolable right of the Soviet citizen.

4. In the course of the investigation those responsible for the Plot were inciting national hatred, an element extraneous to Socialist ideology.

And with a look towards the future:

1. No one will be arrested except by court decision.

2. The Socialist law 'that defends civil rights in the USSR, according to the constitution' is the most important basis for the continuous development and strengthening of the Soviet Union and nobodywill be allowed to violate Soviet law.

Just as the Plot beamed as a clear signal of the political and moral deterioration in the USSR towards the end of Stalin's era, so did its annulment after his death stand out as a clear sign of the new era in the USSR. The removal in June 1953 of L. Beria from his posts as Deputy in Chief of the Council of Ministers, Minister of the Interior and his notoriously-held position as Head of the Secret Security Services along with the appointment of Marshal Zhukov, known as the Hero of the Nation, to the post of Deputy Defense Minister were intended, no doubt, to strengthen people's confidence in the new 'collective leadership' that aimed (inter alia by revealing the truth about the Plot) at eliminating from the Socialist regime and the CPSU the residue of negative events. The irony of fate is that the condemnation of the 'Doctors' Plot' by Stalin's successors endorsed the assessments of the Communist regime in the USSR made by Israel's Prime Minister D. Ben Gurion as published under the pseudonym S. Sh. Yariv two months earlier. Not only that, the Soviet condemnation gave validity to Ben Gurion's idea that human justice is impossible without giving justice to Jews. The same applied to the statment made by Foreign Minister Sharett in the Knesset on 19 January 1953 that had served as the pretext for the Soviets

{p. 27} severing their relations with Israel. The annulment of the Plot, the acquittal of the defendants from all accusations, the confession to the fabrications and gross falsifications in the judiciary system, and the national campaign of incitement to hatred that had characterized the course of the 'Doctors' Plot', all paved the way for the renewal of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Israel.


The new composition of the Soviet Government immediately after Stalin's death included V. Molotov who returned to the posts of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister from which he had been dismissed in 1949. Foreign Minister Vyshinsky was deposed from the position of Deputy Foreign Minister and appointed Head of the Soviet delegation to the UN. By having entrusted Molotov with the leadership of Foreign Policy and Vyshinsky with the representation in the UN, there was a certain continuation of Stalinist policy without Stalin, but with a difference in emphasis.

Upon presenting the composition of the new Government in the Supreme Soviet on 15 March 1953, the new Prime Minister Malenkov outlined the guidelines of the USSR's foreign policy:

1. The strengthening of peace, ensuring the USSR's security and defense, conducting a policy of co-operation with all countries, developing trade relations with them on the basis of mutual interest. 2. Close co-operation politically and economically with China and the Soviet bloc countries.

3. Respecting the rights of all nations and countries, large and small.

4. Underscoring that there is no controversial or unsolved issue that cannot be settled by peaceful means on the basis of mutual agreement between the countries in question. 'This refers to our relations with all countries including the USA.'

5. 'Countries interested in preservation of peace can be sure in the present and in the future of the uninterrupted peace policy of the Soviet Union.'

These glidelines contained nothing new other than the tone in which they were presented, highlighting the fact that the Soviet

{p. 28} Union aspired to settle controversial problems by peaceful means. This tone attested to a certain openness previously unknown, and raised hope in the Western camp for enhanced possibilities in the search to reduce East-West tension. Hence, both sides undertook initiatives which led to agreements paving the way to broader possibilities for settling 'controversial problems', as for instance, an agreement to exchange prisoners, the sick and wounded, in Korea. The Soviet Union supported China's proposal for the return of the remaining prisoners - steps that led in July 1953 to an armistice agreement in Korea. The stalemate in the election of the UN Secretary General was broken with the selection of Dag Hammerskold on 31 March 1953. Concrete progress was made in settling the problem of Austria; willingness was expressed to negotiate the reduction of strategic weapons and the introduction of international control on atomic energy including the signing of a treaty to forbid the use of atomic weapons. An extensive correspondence was conducted with the USA and west European countries on these subjects and on a Western proposal to convene a summit conference.

Malenkov's emphasis on the USSR's readiness to strengthen peace with 'all countries' and to respect the rights of all countries as well as its aim to disengage itself from the 'Cold War' atmosphere also contributed to the removal of obstacles - as in the field of internal policy- blocking the path to the renewal of Israeli-Soviet relations. Indeed, the first of ficial sign was given by Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, who reacted satisfactorily, on behalf of Israel's Government on the acquittal and release of those accused of the 'Doctors' Plot'. In his reply the spokesman stressed that the Israeli Government 'was hoping that the amendment of the distortion would be completed by the cessation of the antiJewish campaign' and that 'it would welcome the restoration of normal relations between the USSR and the State of Israel'. Kol Haam's correspondent, who reported this response 5 April 1953, added that according to the UP news agency, Israeli sources had revealed that in Israel's statement there was 'a clear attempt at probing the issue of the renewal of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, and that a formal proposal in this instance should come from Moscow since it was the Soviet Union that severed the relations'. Also, the political correspondent of Daar reported on 7 April 1953 that Israel was prepared to renew its relations with the Soviet Union, 'but as long

{p. 29} as there is no hint from the Soviet side in this direction, it could not be presumed that a concrete step would be made towards a Soviet- Israeli contact'.

This seemed to be the opinion held by Foreign Minister Sharett and by Prime Minister Ben Gurion.6 Yet, nothing ever really happened. The Soviet Union did not take any step in the direction hoped for by Israel. The personal initiative of Dr Ben Zion Razin, former Charge d'Affaires of Israel's Legation in Sofia, did lead to negotiations towards working out the conditions for the resumption of relations,7 whilst Israel's Government and the Committee for External and Security Affairs thought that the initiative came from the Soviet Union. Later on, Sharett revealed in his diaries, that he himself was misled and misled others when he presented the subject as a Soviet initiative and not as an Israeli one. Publicly Sharett did not admit this mistake, leaving the erroneous impression to prevail until Dr Razin published his evidence in Maarion 10 March 1972.

The question of which of the two sides initiated the renewal of relations does not seem to be relevant, since an agreement was reached. Yet, it was of significance to the process of negotiation over the conditions of the renewal, since the initiator (Israel) was compelled to accept conditions dictated by the opposite side who consented to accept the initiative (USSR).


On 18 May 1953 - about six weeks after Israel's hint to the Soviet Union - the Charge d'Affaires of Israel in Sofia was instructed to inform the Soviet Ambassador officially (following some unofficial contacts that they maintained between them) of Israel's proposal to renew diplomatic relations with the USSR. On 28 May 1953 the Charge d'Affaires and Israel's Plenipotentiary Minister to Bulgaria were received by the Soviet Ambassador, M. Bodrov (later Soviet Ambassador to Israel). After hearing the proposal, Bodrov replied that he would inform the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On 2 June 1953 the Soviet Ambassador communicated the answer he had received from his Ministry, saying, 'The Government of the USSR is prepared to consider (that is, without any prior commitment), the Israeli Government request regarding the renewal of relations.'

{p. 30} Towards that end the Soviet Ambassador asked for a commitment in the name of Israel's Government to carry out three guarantees: (I) that Israel would apprehend the three perpetrators who had thrown the explosive on the Soviet Legation in Tel Aviv - which was the source of the rupture in relations with Israel; (2) that Israel would aspire to 'always [maintain] good relations with the Soviet Union'; (3) that 'Israel should not conclude a military alliance or pact directed against the Soviet Union'. Bodrov added that 'the Soviet Union, which had taken an active role during the establish- ment of Israel, declares its willingness to maintain friendlyrelations with Israel'. It was concluded, upon the suggestion of the Soviet Ambassador, that Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Sharett, would officially apply to the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs to propose the renewal of relations, including the three guarantees. It was made clear to Israel's Charge d'Affaires that Molotov would give a positive reply to his Israeli colleague, in writing, and would include in his response the reference made by the Soviet Ambas- sador regarding the USSR's role in the establishment of Israel and its intention to maintain friendly relations with Israel.9

The Government of Israel, which might have perhaps feared letting the opportunity for the renewal of relations with the Soviet Union slip away, consented to the Soviet demands in a note addressed by Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Soviet MinisterofForeignAffairson6July 1953.1°Onthe surface,itseemed that there was no objection to offering the proposed guarantees for the following reasons. As to the first condition, in any event judicial procedures were being conducted against the perpetrators and the Government of Israel had promised the Government of the Soviet Union immediately after the bombing that it would search for those responsible and bring them to justice. Regarding the second guarantee, the Government of Israel had already declared in its Note of 8 December 1951 to the Government of the Soviet Union that '[it] is most anxious to maintain friendly relations with the Soviet Union'.ll As to the third condition, it had already been declared in the above-mentioned note that 'Israel had never agreed and would never agree to support any aggressive activities aimed against the USSR or against any other peace-loving country'.l2

The positive response to the three Soviet demands - as formulated in Sharett's note to Molotov - could not, in any case, be

Changes after the death of Stalin

regarded as a deviation or change in Israel's foreign policy towards the Soviet Union and all that was needed now was to reinvest a prior declaration with vigor. Indeed, this was exemplified when Sharett gave Molotov an additional promise that 'this policy is still in force' and that 'Israel has no hostile feelings towards the Soviet Union but, to the contrary, being anxious to establish and maintain friendly relations with the USSR, Israel will not be party to any alliance or pact intended to be aggressive towards the USSR'.

Molotov's positive response in his 15 July 1953 note to Sharett stated that the Government of the Soviet Union 'had taken into account the assurances given by Israel's Government and that for its part the Soviet Union would aspire to maintain friendly relations with Israel', and therefore 'considered it possible to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Government of Israel'.13 (The expected reference to the USSR's role in the establishment of Israel was not included in Molotov's reply.) '

The announcement of the resumption of diplomatic relations was published simultaneously in Moscow and Jerusalem on 1 June 1953. (The letters of accreditation of the designate Ambassadors were presented to the respective Presidents - in Moscow and Jerusalem - only in December 1953.) The Soviet press reported the resumption of relations extensively, publishing in full the exchange of notes between Sharett and Molotov, but without any commentary.14


Israel apparently was compelled to pay a political price in exchange for the Soviet Union's consent to renew its diplomatic relations with it. It is to be presumed that the price of Israel's having given the required assurances to the Soviet Union, meant from the Soviet point of view:

On the bilateral level, Israel's abstention from hostile acts toward the Soviet Union, whether from attacking it in the press or from criticizing it publicly, mainly regarding the subject of Soviet Jews and the nature of the Soviet regime.

On the regional level, stopping Israel from being integrated in British-American programs to establish military pacts in the Middle

{p. 32} East, about which the Soviet Union had warned the countries in the region, including Israel, since it considered these pacts to be, above all, anti-Soviet pacts.

Indeed, in the course of time, Maki MKs referred more than once to Israel's assurances to the Soviet Union when they were attacking its policy towards the Soviet Union against the background of Israel's struggle on behalf of Soviet Jews, and its probing towards integration in whatever form into a regional defense alliance.

Along with Molotov's note to Sharett of 15 July 1953 in which Israel's assurances to the Soviet Union were quoted, Malenkov, the new Soviet Prime Minister, referred to them when he presented on 8 August 1953 the new guidelines of the USSR's foreign policy, stating: 15

In its efforts to bring about a general relaxation, the Soviet Government agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. It took into consideration the Israeli Government's undertaking that 'Israel will not be a party to any alliance or pact aiming at aggression against the Soviet Union'. We assume that the re-establishment of diplomatic relations will contribute to co-operation between the two States.

and with a look towards the Arab states:

views expressed by part of the foreign press, according to which the re-establishing of diplomatic relations with Israel will result in a weakening of the relations between the Soviet Union and the Arab states are groundless. The activities of the Soviet Government will be directed also in the future to the strengthening of friendly co-operation with the Arab states.

That co-operation with Israel was not mentioned in the company of the adjective 'friendly' was not an inadvertent oversight, nor was it happenstance that when it was Arab States that were referred to, the co-operation was crowned with the modifier 'friendly'.

Molotov's and Malenkov's references to Israel's commitments may demonstrate that Israel's acceptance of the Soviet conditions

{p. 33} paved the way to the resumption of diplomatic relations in a time characterized by Soviet slogans calling for 'peaceful co-existence', 'relaxation of international tension', 'co-operation among nations', etc. The era of 'thaw' by itself without Israel's commitment would not have been of decisive weight in the USSR's decision to renew its relations with Israel. This special treatment received from the Soviet Union would accompany Israel until the relations between both states will be again severed ( 1967) and even well afterwards.

Krushchev in his speech before the participants in the 20th Congress of the CPSU, on 24 Feb. 1956, noted that Molotov, Voroshilov and Mikoyan were purge candidates.

2 Ibid.

3 Pravda, 16 March 1953.

4 Ibid.

5 Concluding his statement in the Knesset on 17 Feb. 1953 on Israeli-Soviet relations (Divrei Haknesset, Vol. 13, p. 747), Foreign Minister Sharett said: 'Renewal of relations depends only on the other side and, if they are to be renewed, what their content and nature will be.' It seems that Sharett adhered to the approach that the one who severed relations should initiate their renewal, should he wisll to do so.

6 M. BarZohar,David BenGurion, Vol.2, p.961,cites BenGurion's diary saying 'on 30 April 1953 Ben Gurion concluded a consultation in the MFA regarding the Soviet bloc: "I concluded: no harassment now, no appeal for the renewal of relations ... friendly talks with Soviet representatives in the satellite countries. If they wouldn't be advantageous - they would not harm".'

7 B. Z. Razin, 'I negotiated the renewal of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union', Maariv, 10 March 1972. Compare this with what is written on this by A. Dagan in Moscow and Jerlsalem, pp. 72-3.

8 M. Sharett, Yoman Ishi (Heb., 'Private Diary') Vol. 1, pp. 64, 79.

9 B. Z. Razill, A,laariv, 10 March 1953. 10 Davar, KolHaam, 21July 1953.

11 The contents of this note were quoted by the Prime Minister in the Knesset when he replied to Maki MK M. Wilner's interpellation (Divrei Haknesset, Vol. 11, p. 1465, 27 Feb. 1952). 12 Ibid.

13 Davar, Kol Haam, 21July 1953. 14 Izvestia, 21 July 1953 . 15 Izvestia, 9Aug. 1953.

{p. 118} The policy in practice (in the post-Stalin years)

The Jews enjoyed equal civil rights in a number of domains. There were no restrictions regarding housing, nor were there restrictions on membership in the Communist Party, trade unions, army service, social services, and so on. Equal opportunities were offered for working in the fields of science, medicine, law, literature, education, art, music, and journalism. In these spheres Jews enjoyed a distinguished position disproportional to their percentage among the population at large.2 Discrimination against them was noted, however, in the following domains:

There was a large decline in the number of Jews in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Soviet Councils of the Republics, Soviet government, and in the Central Committee of the CPSU, much lower than their proportional ranking in the general population.

There was a considerable decline in the number of Jews in the USSR's foreign service and army leadership.

Quotas were instituted on Jews being accepted as students at institutions of higher learning/universities, particularly in those republics with a large Jewish population.

In trials for economic crimes held in 1961-64 Jewish origin was mentioned together with the name of the accused. Jews were sentenced to more punishment than the non-Jews.

There was no information about any trials over anti-Semitic accusations.

Periodicals with anti-Semitic tendencies received wide distribution under the guise of anti-religious, anti-Zionist, and anti-Israeli information.

Jews were not allowed to perpetuate the memory of Jews who perished in the Holocaust within the territory of the Soviet Union and such enterprises (in art and literature) were condemned.

The Soviet arguments

The Soviet regime, in the past, had been assisted by a large number of Jews in advancing the development of the country, whereas other

{p. 119} nationalities were considered to be culturally backward. In the 1950s new national cadres were ready to be integrated into such domains as management, administration, economy, science, and medicine.25

The fact that the percentage of Jews in key positions in managerial, admlnistrative and higher institutions was much higher than their percentage in the population at large, and the local population, could have evoked envy and hatred towards them.76

There had never been an anti-Semitic policy in the USSR, since the very character of the USSR as a socialist and multinational country precluded such a policy.77

Assessing the arguments

The Soviet arguments constitute acknowledgment of a policy of discrimination dictated by the cultural authorities. While there was a strong, strained tendency to assimilate the Jews into Soviet society, there was no wlllingness to absorb them. Although the data in the period under review shows that the representation of Jews in the various management fields was still disproportionately high compared with their representation in the population at large, one must consider that this data reflected an ongoing process which had prevalled prior to the then current policy. A quota policy and llmitation of rlghts showed themselves in the years after the period under review.

Denying the existence of anti-Semitism in the USSR, in the past and the present, was mainly aimed at Western public opinion to present a prettier picture of the Soviet regime. The denial of its exlstence, however, was in total contradiction, not only with the events that took place during Stalin's period, but also with the official appeals of Soviet leaders, including a warning article in Pravda,78 prohibltlng anti-Semitism. The need to have those appeals repeated only strengthened the argument about its existence. The criticism of its existence, voiced in Israel and by world public opinion, did indeed restrain its momentum, to a certain degree. But when the anti-Israel policy in the USSR became stronger, the wave of anti-Semitic publications increased. It seems, therefore that the anti-Semitic policy was a planlled endeavor geared for internal consumption, and far from the declarations calling for its prohibition.


The formal policy

The USSR's constitution assured freedom for religious cults and equal status for all religions.29 The State Order of June 1944 that established the 'Council for Religious Cults' mentions the Jewish religion among a dozen faiths (except the Provoslav) that were granted official status .

Religious communities were given the right to establish religious centers.30

The policy in practice

The Jewish religion had neither a central nor a federative organization which would enable it - like the other religions in the USSR- to call conferences, oversee religious services throughout the country, publish a bulletin or periodical, and maintain contacts and meetings with co-religionists outside the country.

No religious objects were produced. The Bible was not published. The prayer book was printed only once, under pressure of world public opinion, in 3,000 copies. There were no current contacts with Jewish religious institutions abroad. Permission was not given to Jewish pilgrims to leave for the Holy Land - Israel - as was granted to the Provoslav and Muslim religions.

No centers existed for the training of cantors, ritual slaughterers, Jewish judges for rabbinical courts, or rabbis for religious services.

Limitations were introduced on the baking of matzot (unleavened bread for Passover) - in the course of time they were abolished because of outside pressure.

The Soviet arguments

There was no direct reference to discrimination in the religious domain, except for a general remark, saying that there was a general decline in the numbers of believers in religion - including the Jewish religion - as a result the move towards a materialist world view.3

Assessing the arguments

Discrimination in the religious domain, aimed at the asphyxiation of Jewry, was only one side of the coin. The propaganda conducted

{p. 121} against Judaism as a philosophy for a way of life, often filled with hatred and national incitement, was the flip side of the coin. Unlike the anti-Catholic propaganda, which was not directed against any particular nationality, the anti-Judaism propaganda was aimed at the Jewish nation alone. The hatred revealed, at times, the anti-Semitic roots that were deeply embedded in the minds of the Russian theoreticians in the pre-revolutionary period.32


The formal policy

The Soviet Constitution asserted the right 'to teach in the schools in the mother tongue'.

A law enacted on 16 April 1959 in the Russian Republic asserted that 'education in schools shall be conducted in th mother tongue of the pupils' and that 'parents will be given the Fight to decide in which language to register their children at school' (assuming that there were schools where the language of instruction was that of the national minority).

The program of the CPSU, approved by its 22nd Congress in 1961, asserted the 'complete freedom of a Soviet citizen to speak, to educate and to teach his/her children in any language and prohibits any excessive right, limitation or compulsion in the use of this or another language'.

In August 1962 the USSR confirmed its adherence to the 'UNESCO Treaty' against discrimination in education which made it obligatory 'to recognize the rights of national minorities to continue with their educational activities, including the existence of schools, and the use of or teaching in their language'.

The policy in practice

Throughout the Soviet Union - including Birobidjan - there was not a single Jewish school nor even one class where Yiddish was taught.

The Soviet arguments

The establishment of separate schools in Yiddish for Jews dispersed all over the Soiet Union would be a great financial burden.33

{p. 122} If such schools were to have been established, only a few people would have attended them of their own free will.34

Assessing the arguments

There is no doubt that the re-establishment of a network of Yiddish schools would have required the training of teachers and educators, in large numbers, for assignment all over the USSR under appropriate pedagogical supervision and a central administrative staff in addition to the composing of new textbooks. All this would have probably required considerable expenditure and time in preparing the infrastructure. This does not mean, however, that the USSR could not have shouldered the burden. The USSR had proved itself to be up to implementing such a policy not only in the past but also at that time, regarding the German minority.35 True, perhaps not many Jewish children would have streamed to Yiddish schools, but that does not mean that the few who would have done so would not have enjoyed them, if only the USSR had respected their rights as it had those of other minorities.36

It seems that the main reason for not reopening the Yiddish state schools was the USSR's policy of accelerating the Jews' assimilation process. The revival of Yiddish teaching and the administrative staff involved in the renewal of Yiddish teaching in the state schols would have reinforced national consciousness among the Jews and would have thereby delayed the assimilation process.

Although the number of those using Yiddish was declining in the world owing to the loss of millions of Yiddish-speaking Jews during the Holocaust, and to the process of language assimilation in different countries and to the revival of Hebrew, many Jews in the USSR continued to cultivate Yiddish as their mother tongue or to speak it as their second language, after Russian.

In the course of time, after the establishment of the State of Israel, the urge among the Soviet Jews to learn Hebrew over- shadowed their devotion to Yiddish. But, to learn Hebrew, of ficially, was impossible, since Hebrew had no off1cial status among the recognized languages of the USSR's nationalities. Thus, a vicious circle was formed. The Soviet authorities ceased cultivatingYiddish, although it was recognized officially as the language of the Jewish nationality in the USSR, whereas they did not make it possible to

{p. 123} learn Hebrew, since it had no recognized status as the language of the Jewish nationality in the USSR.

There remained, then, the unofficial - almost underground - way to study Hebrew: through Jewish religious tradition and the history of the Jewish people. This way led those who were engaged in such activity to a confrontation with the Soviet authorities, who accused Israel that it was striving to influence the Jews to cultivate their national-Zionist consciousness and thus divert them from assimilating within Russian society. The confrontation began gradually to develop into an open struggle between those who forged the policy of forced assimilation and those among Soviet Jews who objected to it, both within the USSR and outside, under the organisation and leadership of Israel.


Official policy

From the resolutions of the Party Congress in 1921: the CPSU would assist the nationalities 'to establish schools, newspapers, theaters, educational and cultural institutions, where the mother tongue will be introduced'.

Stalin, in his speech at the University of Tashkent on 18 May 1925: people's culture should be afforded the opportunity to develop, broaden and discover the hidden forces inherent in it, in order 'to create the conditions to be amalgamated into a unified, common culture, with one common language'.

The policy in practice

In reality the re-establishment of Jewish cultural institutions that had operated in the USSR until 1948 was avoided; information on the Jewish past was deliberately omitted, as it was on the contri- bution of the Jews to world civilization and to the development of the USSR itself; there was no information on the scale of the Holocaust against the Jews in the USSR and eastern Europe; there was no mention of the history of the Jewish people in the history textbooks and Jewish literature was not taught; the Jewish State

{p. 172} Moscow Jews at the outskirts of the Great Synagogue, to the crowding of dozens of Jewish children around the children of the Israeli Embassy on the Black Sea or Baltic beach, year after year, there is an unbroken chain of experiences that demonstrate the deep and powerful influence of the mere existence of the Israeli Embassy in Moscow. It is almost impossible to describe to those who haven't witnessed these experiences the enormous national value of a meeting between Jews in the USSR and official representatives of Israel.5

The presence of the Israeli Embassy in Moscow happened to be for the Jews in the USSR living proof of realization of the Zionist idea, the re-emergence of the Jewish State, in the Land of Zion, and a living testament to the existence of an independent Jewish people with whom Soviet Jewry shared deep historical links and a common sense of destiny.

For the USSR the Israeli diplomat was one of the most coura- geous among all foreign representatives in establishing contacts and connections with local Jews. This stoked the anger of Soviet authorities, who were in any case disturbed by the very existence of an official Israeli representation in their midst, since this symbolized Jewish independence and the victory of Zionism over its ideological enemies.

The activities of the Israeli Embassy, in the Jewish domain, included:

1. Contacts with synagogues. This contact became institutionalized, over the course of time, and served as a natural link between Israel and the 'religious Jewish communities' in the USSR. Through this association the synagogues received ritual objects, prayer books, prayershawls. A formal and permanent contact was established with the directors of the synagogues, who were compelled to report to the authorities on their encounters with Israeli representatives and to serve at the same time as liaison off1cers between the Israeli representatives and the directorate of the synagogues. The representatives used to go, on a regular basis, to the synagogues on Saturdays and (Jewish) holidays and forge around themselves an atmosphere of a mutual national link. When the service in the synagogue was over, they used to speak with the worshipers' as far as circumstances permitted, about Israel and the situation of the Jews in the USSR.

{p. 173} The holiday of Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law) became a Jewish national mass holiday. Hundreds, even thousands, used to crowd together in front of the Moscow Great Synagogue, and Israeli representatives would mingle with them teaching them Hebrew songs and dances and conducting 'seminars' on Israel. The proportion of youngsters was very high. And the size of the crowd in front of the synagogue grew from year to year. These contacts were of great importance as a source of national inspiration and encouragement.

2. Links with the Jewish intelligentsia. Over the course of the years Embassy contacts with the Jewish intelligentsia and scientists, economists, writers and artists increasingly expanded. These encounters stirred Jewish consciousness in these circles and inspired them to search for the roots of their national belonging. In the course of time, these circles were the seedbeds for the Jewish activists who devoted themselves to national activity among Jews drawing many other Jewish youngsters into involvement in their activities.These circles used to receive written information from the Embassy about Israel and the history of the Jewish people, passing it on from one to another, and at times even making dozens of copies.

3. Visits to Jewish centers. Representatives of the Embassy paid scores ofvisits to Jewish centers throughout the Soviet Union. The purpose of these visits was: to become acquainted with the situation of the Jews in the USSR; to inform them about Israel, Jewish communities in the Diaspora, and the struggle for their rights, thus demonstrating the mutual link between Israel and the Jews of the USSR.

The following is a description of one of those many visits taken from a report by Y. Avidar, Israel's Ambassador in Moscow, after his visits to Minsk, Kharkov, Kiev, Gomel, Oriole, Poltava, Czernigov, and Bobroisk at the end of September 1955.

The news of our arrival in each of the cities that we visited spread around among the Jews at unbelievable speed, stimulating curiosity and great interest. No doubt the car flying the Israeli flag was the first drawing card and signifi- cantly helped in passing around the news of our arrival and setting off the search for establishing contact with us. Every- where we stopped, we were immediately surrounded by many people, some of them non-Jews, the majority Jews, who had

{p. 174} the courage to enter into a conversation, to ask for a Hebrew newspaper. Some of them were afraid of approaching us; they would stare at us and only listen to our conversations.

The most wonderful thing that distinguished itself in our contacts withJews of Ukraine and Belorussia was the power of national and Zionist awareness and the yearning for Israel that were expressed openly, among the Jews - including youngsters - who had never learned a Hebrew letter and had not been influenced by Zionist propaganda. These were people born during the Soviet regime, students and graduates of its colleges, ex-military officers, laborers, craftsmen, drivers, workers in governmental commerce and in other, professions.6

Many of Israel's official representatives who had made similar tours throughout the USSR, gathered the same experience. The results of these encounters flowed in two directions. The Israelis would instill within the local Jews good hope, while they themselves were encouraged by the 'strength of national consciousness' pulsating in the hearts of the Jews.7


We have already noted that Israel's presence at international events held in the USSR was of great national and informational importance for the local public, particularly the Jews, who used to flock to them en masse. At these events, Israeli representatives - from the diplomatic staff and special representatives who came especially to attend these events - used to lecture about Israel's problems and - achievements, correcting the negative image depicted in the Soviet press and distributing informative material on Israel relating in particular to that specific event.


Significant importance is to be attributed to the Israeli tourism that started to reach the USSR, wave after wave, stretching from the beginning of the 1960s to the rupture of relations between the two

{p. 175} countries in June 1967. The main purpose of this tourism was meeting with relatives who had been separated from each other for many years. At these meetings Israeli tourists were able to tell both adults and youngsters in their families about themselves and their experience of living in Israel. This tourism symbolized more than anything else the links between the Jews in the USSR and those in Israel and in the Diaspora.


An informative and educational incentive unparalleled in its influence was Kol Zion Lagola, with its Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew transmissions to the USSR. In addition to editions of the news, broadcast several times a day, these transmsCsions included regular programs such as: The Week in Review, economic surveys, assessments and political interpretations of a non-polemical nature regarding the USSR, current information on scientific institutions, scientific and technological achievements, the history of the Jewish people, episodes in the history of Zionism and the Jewish settlement in Palestine, education, culture and art, music, theater and events occurring in the Jewish world. The Hebrew programs included the study of Hebrew, the Bible and Hebrew songs.8

We do not possess precise statistics on the scale of listeners in the USSR to Israel's broadcasts. However, the assumption is that many listened to the Israeli transmissions'9 which in the course of time became a reliable source of inspiration and reinforcement for national consciousness among Jews in the USSR.


The success of Israel's activities not only undermined Soviet theory on the solution of the National Problem in a communist regime, but might have constituted a threat in the form of the spread of nationalist currents among the Ukrainians, Belorussians, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, whose nationalism was high in their consciousness. The Soviet fear of the upsurge of these currents

{p. 178} {Chapter} 10 The struggle on behalf of Jews in the USSR

THE FIRST public struggle on behalf of Jews in the USSR took place against the background of the 'Doctors' Plot'. This effort was characterized by the severe reaction of Israel's government and the Knesset, aimed at expressing the angry reaction of Israel's people to the news of the plot, and by the mobilization of world public opinion to bring about a retraction of the plot allegations and the cessation of the harsh anti-Semitic campaign conducted at the end of Stalin's era against the Jews in the USSR and Jews in the world at large. The struggle on behalf of Soviet Jews was unique in the sense that it was the first time a debate on this subject took place in the Knesset, and the issue was put on the agenda of the UN General Assembly as an unyet resolved international problem.'

True, the struggle was centered on the 'Doctors' Plot', but it exposed publicly, for the first time, the situation of the Jews in the USSR, calling upon the USSR to put an end to its anti-Semitic policy, to grant the Jews living within its borders the same rights as those enjoyed by its other national minorities, and to enable those who wished to do so to emigrate to Israel. The struggle subsided, follow- ing the Soviet government's announcement about the invalidation of the alleged 'Plot' attributed to Jewish doctors, who were accused of attempting to poison Stalin, and after its condemnation of the anti-Semitic manifestations in the USSR. The resumption of Israeli- Soviet diplomatic relations in 1953 also played a role in the cessation of the battle. It was a relatively short halt, since the struggle was renewed towards the end of 1955, when it became clear that there

{p. 179} was no substantial improvement in the Soviet Jews' status, in spite of the thaw after Stalin's death, and that the danger threatening the destruction of their national future had not yet passed.

In 1954 the US Congress in Washington pursued activity- the first of its kind - (not initiated by Israel), aimed at condemning Soviet policy toward the Jewish nationality. This activity was part of a campaign aimed at condemning the Communist regime in the USSR and in the east European countries. The Congressional Committee on Communist Aggression listened to hearings of non-Zionist Jewish organizations aimed at convincing the American public of their opposition to Communism, partly because of the persecution of Jews and their oppression in the USSR and east Europe. The Committee discussed a wide range of subjects related to the Jews in the USSR and east Europe, in the past and the present, particularly the elimination of Jewish culture and Jewish institutions, persecution of Jewish religion, the pursuit of ah anti-Semitic policy and assimilation by force. The hearings, debates and evaluations were compiled in a House of Representatives report2, which must have drawn public attention to the problem.

Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not asserted any official stance on those debates, presumably for fear that the Soviet Union would accuse Israel of assisting the USA in conducting an anti-Soviet propaganda campaign through Jewish organizations in the USA, though they were known for being non-Zionist.3

In the years 1954/55 the voices of various personalities and public organizations were heard in Israel forcefully demanding a worldwide struggle for the sake of Jews in the USSR.4 Frequent news from the USSR was received in Israel regarding the physical and spiritual distress of the Jews and their expectations that Israel and the Jews of the world would act on their behalf.

In this atmosphere, on 10 August 1955, there met with Prime Minister D. Ben Gurion: S. Avigur, one of the heads of Mossad le- Aliyah Bet (the authority in charge of the 'illegal' immigration of Jews from Europe to Palestine, under the British Mandate) and Director of Nativ (the authority operating under the auspices of Israel's Foreign Ministry in charge of matters of aliya, the immig- ration to Israel of Jews from the USSR and east E;uropean countries - under Soviet domination) and Foreign Minister M. Sharett. They were to discuss the destiny of Jews in the USSR and of ways saving

{p. 180} them. Both felt that the Jews of the USSR were destined to spiritual destruction and that only 'an increase in immigration could save them'. The question which Avigur and Sharett posed to Ben Gurion and to themselves was: 'Hasn't the time come to raise the problem full blast and with publicity in the international arena?' Both thought that the present timing was suitable, since 'the thaw between the eastern and Western blocs was increasingly' and under such circumstances it would be inappropriate for a new order of international relations to be established, and for an honest regime ofco-existence be formed, without a solution to the Jewish problem'. Their conclusion was that the time had come to 'create a huge fuss' in the Western press over the distress of Jews in the USSR, assuming that the Soviet leaders, aspiring to peaceful co-existence, would be sensitive to public opinion and to their image in the West, which could be influenced by Western criticism of their policy towards Jews - 'deprivation of basic rights and oppression of feelings of nationality'.5

Ben Gurion agreed, in principle, with their position. The session of the Zionist Executive Council which convened in Jerusalem on 23 August 1955 discussed this issue - with the active participation of Ben Gurion and Sharett - and its resolutions called for the renewal of contacts between Jews in the USSR and Jews in the rest of the world as well as for recognition of the right of the Jews in the USSR to immigrate to Israel.6 These resolutions were the signal to begin the struggle on behalf of the Jews in the USSR. Ben Gurion's and Sharett's personal involvement was proof of the importance which the highest political level in Israel attached to this matter.


Following the resolutions of the Zionist Executive Council, and upon the instructions of Foreign Minister Sharett, a senior team from the Ministry held a series of discussions in the second half of August 1955, which were summed up in a decision 'to start a [world-wide] campaign for the sake of the Jews in the USSR and east European countries'. The decision-makers, headed by Sharett, regarded the campaign as an assignment demanding continuous effort over a long period of time 'being aware of its historical significance'.

{p. 181} On 5 September 1955 Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs instructed its missions abroad to start the campaign, and in doing so laid the foundations for a protracted and continuous struggle on behalf of the Soviet Jews' rights, by setting up the norms of its conduct, its ideological justification, and the political and informational means for reaching its goals.7 The opening of the campaign was based on two major assumptions, namely:

The Soviet Union after Stalin was interested in the relaxation of the confrontation between the Eastern and Western blocs. Since Western politicians were suspiciously inclined towards the Soviet Union (as a result of the cold war), it was presumed that its leader- ship would invest much effort in gaining recognition for its true intentions. Hence, the Soviet Union would be dependent upon public opinion in the West, where the Jewish factor had significant weight.

The sensitivity of the Soviet Union to its positive image in the West opened an opportunity for influencing the Jewish-policy makers in the USSR, through Western public opinion, to improve the situation of the Jews in its territory. The interest of public opinion in the situation of the Jews in the USSR, and their harassment by the Soviet authorities, could in the view of the Foreign Minister, have motivated the Soviet Union to bring about an improvement in the social, national and cultural status of the Jews.

The authors of the instructions did not mention the assumption (though they were probably aware of it) of the unwillingness of the USSR Jews to assimilate within the Soviet population by force, nor did the authors note the aspirations of the Jews to maintain contacts with the Jewish world, including Israel. The avoidance of mentioning this assumption was probably based on three reasons: (a) Israel did not have the authority to represent Soviet Jewry in acting in its name; (b) the appearance of Israel acting on behalf of Soviet Jewry could have encountered fierce opposition from the USSR- under the pretext that Israel was interfering in the internal affairs of other States; (c) the fear that it might cause harm to Soviet Jewry as the Soviet authorities could have accused them of co-operating with those conducting this campaign. Therefore, the authors of the instructions used the pretext of the link with the Jews in the USSR,

{p. 190} The organizational basis

The volume of the constantly increasing aclivities necessitated the establisllnlent of a governmental apparatus for theil implementation. This was set up towards the end of 1955 with the name of BAR under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Conditions of its operations were secret, and its workers were, to a degree, anonymous persons. Its main tasks were:

Implementation of the policy struggle (asserted by a joint commit- tee: Foreign Ministry, Zionist Organisation, World Jewish Congress). In the course of time the apparatus became an autonomous authority, ith a strong link to the Foreign Ministry which meant: centralization, briefing, and controlling of informational activities in the Western countries.

Maintaining direct contact with its representatives who began to act in different world centers.

Mr Shaul Avigur was appointed director of this apparatus. He thus united this division with the one responsible for activity among Jews in Eastern Europe, for which he was also responsible.

In the course of time the apparatus become larger and wider ranging, in Israel and abroad. Its functions and authority were also extended wth the spreading of the struggle in its two tasks: dealing with the Jewish subject at Israel's missions abroad, and leading the struggle for the sake of Jews in the USSR.

Motives of the strugle

The first memorandum from Israel's government about the situation of Jews in the USSR and the need to resolve it reached the Soviet leaders through Burma's Prime Iinister U Nu in October 1955.

The memorandum, written by Foreign Minister Sharett on 10 October 1955, was transmitted to U Nu as background material, for his own perusal, acquainting him with the subject. U Nu was requested to raise the cause of Jews in the USSR in his talks with Soviet leaders in Moscow. Out of naivety U Nu handed over the memorandum to his interlocutors in Moscow. Thus, Soviet leaders received a detailed memorandumon the subject, without it being addressed to them.11

In this memorandum, Sharett surveyed, the plight of Jews in the

{p. 191} USSR, underlining the danger of cultural annihilation, with the threat of being disconnected from Jews in the Diaspora and Israel, and no opportunity to maintain a communal forum of their own aimed at preserving Jewish values and educating the young generation accordingly. All this, not because of an anti-Jewish policy pursued by the Soviet government, but as a result of the Soviet regime's influence on the life of the Jewish community. Other minorities in the USSR - mentioned in the memorandum - were enjoying their national life in the USSR but this was not the case with the Jews. Therefore, the Soviet government was requested to grant the Jews in the USSR threefold permission:12

(a) to live a Jewish life according to their historic heritage; (b) to let those Jews who wished to do so immigrate to Israel; (c) to allow free connections between the Jews of the USSR and the Jews of the rest of the world.

Unwittingly U Nu exposed Israel as trying to persuade high ranking personalities to raise the Jewish cause in their political talks with Soviet leaders. Hence the USSR was conscious, even at the first stage of the struggle on behalf of the Jews in the USSR, that the noise over the deprivation of their rights originated from Israel.

Faithful to the policy which he undertook, Sharett used in this memorandum relatively restrained language without accusing the USSR of pursuing an international antiJewish policy. This attitude was characteristic of the first stage of the struggle, namely: avoiding a direct or indirect confrontation with the USSR. Despite that the Soviet leaders reacted angrily. They totally rejected the description of the situation of the Jews in the USSR followed by Israel's demands, accusing Israel - according to U Nu - of interference in the USSR's internal affairs.13

On 25 April 1956 the leadership of the World Jewish Congress presented an official memoranduln (the first of its kind) to the Soviet leadership, on the occasion of the State visit to England by the Soviet Prime Minister Marshal Nicolai Bulganin and First Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Nikita Krushchev. This was the first visit of Soviet leaders to England aimed at demonstrating the USSR's desire ror peaceful co-existence with the Western countries. In Israel it was assumed that that this would be a fitting opportunity for the official hosts, the Jewish organizations

{p. 192} and public opinion in England to bring up the plight of Jews in the USSR in talks with their official guests, to let them see that a true peace between East and West would not be possible without solving the Jewish question in the USSR.

B. Eliav, special emissary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, left for England to prepare the ground. His activity for the sake of Soviet Jews was of utmost importance.

Following are the main points of argument on which the above memorandum based itself and its principal demands to the Soviet government to improve the status of Jews in the USSR:

Jews throughout the world have a vital concern in peaceful co-operation between states. No other people suffered more than the Jews, proportionally to their numbers, from the two world wars. One third - 6,000,000 - of the entire Jewish people were annihilated by the Nazis.

Equally basic in their faith, tradition and culture is the entity of the Jewish people, who from time immemorial have preserved the deep roots and ties of kinship which unite them. This unity was brought to historic demonstration by the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, with the USSR's support.

Jews of Russia were for many generations the main source and reservoir of the spiritual, traditional and cultural ideas which have inspired the Jews in their long struggle to survive, and to pursue their way of life.

World Jewry acclaimed the Russian Revolution of 1917 as marking the end of Tsarist anti-Semitic persecution. The Jewish people gained new hope and encouragement from the fact that the constitution of the USSR guaranteed the cultural autonomy of all nationalities and races and made racial hatred and incitement thereto a crime punishable by law. However,Jews in the USSR are cut off, physically and spiritually, from the rest of the Jews throughout the world - this is a source of deepest sorrow and disappointment. Whereas individual freedom and equality of Jews in the USSR are fully recognized, their communal, religious and cullural life have suffered grave deterioration. Jewish sorrow reached a climax at the disappearance of a large number of Jewish vvriters who, as is known, were executed despite their innocence of any crime.

{p. 193} The World Jewish Congress is convinced that the restraints upon the maintenance of Jewish religious, traditional and cultural life in the Soviet Union are not in conformity with the principles upon which the USSR was founded and upon those enunciated in its constitution, providing for full freedom for ethnic groups to pursue their way of life.

The Congress is convinced that the removal of these restraints and the granting of facilities to the Jews in the USSR to renew and continue their ancestral Jewish life, their religion and their culture, in equality with other ethnic or religious groups, as well as the facility to meet their fellowJews abroad, would not only be in accordance with justice and democratic freedom, but would also constitute a major contribution to the cause of international peace, good will and understanding, which the USSR had demonstrated its desire to achieve.

'In the spirit of the foregoing considerations' the World Jewish Congress requested the government of the USSR to give its approval to the following facilities and opportunities to be granted to the Jews in the USSR:

1. To pursue their religious and cultural life and to that end, to establish and maintain their religious, scholastic, cultural and artistic institutions and organizations.

2. Printing and distribution of religious literature and the publi- cationof Jewishwritersandscholarson Jewishsubjectsandof Jewish periodicals in Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew.

3. Communication and interchange of views on matters of common Jewish concern between the Jews of the Soviet Union and Jews and Jewish organizations abroad.

4. Reunion of Jews and Jewish families with their relatives in Israel and other countries.

The Jewish Congress also requested to proclaim officially the injustice of the execution of the Jewish writers and to rehabilitate their memory.

This position, as presented in the memorandum, became a pattern or {sic} points for argumentation in talks held with representatives of the USSR and or demands to implove the status of Jews in the USSR, mainly in three directions:

{p. 194} 1. Their right to enjoy the rights of a national minority, equal to that of the other national minorities in the USSR.

2. The right to maintain contacts with Jewish communities around the world in the same manner as applied to the institutions of the other religions in the USSR which did have open contacts with their counterpart institutions outside the USSR.

3. Their right to be reunited with their families in Israel and throughout the world. This demand was based on the principle of family reunification for those separated during World War II and on Soviet recognition of the Armenians' right to immigrate from abroad to the Soviet Republic of Armenia and on the right of Poles and Germans to repatriation from the USSR to their homelands.

These arguments - whether in full or in part, in detail or in summary - were presented to Soviet representatives in the West, by heads of States, parliamentarians, parliamentary delegations, personalities, writers,Jewish and non-Jewish organizations. As time passed the demand for 'family reunification' was broadened to free immigration to Israel, and added to the package of demands was that the Soviet Union put a halt to its anti-Semitic campaign as expressed in antiJewish propaganda literature, in the blood libel of Dagestan in 1969, and in economic trials held in the USSR towards the end of the 1950s and at the beginning of the 1960s.15


Three fundamental principles of policy were asserted at the beginning of the struggle:

(a) avoiding incitement against the Soviet Union;

(b) separating the issue from the confrontation between the eastern and Western blocs;

(c) non-exposure of Israel as the initiator, or the conductor, of the struggle.

These three principles were vigorously pressed during the period under survey (1953-67). Howevel; a certain devaluation affected them as from 1962, when Israel moved from a stage of non-exposure to a stage of gradual revelation as the leader of the struggle. Here are the stages:

{p. 195} First stage: The mobilization of the Jewish world to a wide, systematic action, while concealing its active part in this initiative. The purpose was to evoke a sensation of anxiety among part of the Jews in the world over the fate of Soviet Jews and a need for urgent action to rescue them.

Second stage: Arousing world opinion (through the communications media), partly by reporting the activities carried out in the past - but not those on the diplomatic level.

Third stage: Persuading Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, parliamentarians, activists of socialist parties and politicians to talk with the leaders of the USSR about the rights of the Jewish minority in their country, to express concern for their fate, to explain that the problem distresses public opinion, and disturbs the climate of rapprochement between East and West, and especially perturbs the friends of the USSR in the Western countries. From 1960 there were more frequent official statements on this by representatives of member states in the UN, by high ranking personalities and by international organisations. These statements included a resolution adopted by the Socialist International,16 Bertrand Russell's letter to Krushchev,17 a statement by the President of the USA on 28 October 1964,18 and the Council of Europe's report of 26 January 1965.19

Fourth stage: Embarrassing the Soviet leadership by placing it in a defensive position, by recognizing the existence of the problem and the need to find a solution to it.

The importance of the policy stages was to create continuous pressure, from as many directions as possible, to generate at the appropriate political time a shift from the frozen situation of the Jews in the USSR toward some positive action.


The internal discussion

From the beginning of the struggle for the sake of the Jews in the USSR, Nahum Goldmann, President of the World Jewish Congress and President of the World Zionist organisation, co-operated

{p. 200} On Question Two

E To strictly avoid the possibility of Israel's action being interpreted 'as assistance extended to factors who are confronting the USSR against the background of cold war', Israel's appearance in the UN should be defined and termed as stemming from a concern oriented exclusively to Jews in the USSR.

2. The aim of any statement should not be a voting contest wiTh the USSR, but the strengthening of international consciousness of the problem. Therefore, it was recommended that having the issue put to the vote should be avoided.

3. In presenting the complaints factual precision should be strictlY respected. The wholesale accusation that the USSR was pursuing an anti-Semitic policy would miss the aim. (Echo of Goldmann's stand.)

On Question Three

The team asserted that the fact should not be ignored 'that the criticism voiced by the Israeli representatives about the Soviet Union is making mutual relations difficult and could contribute to their further aggrevation'. However, the team believed that 'the Soviet Union is determining its essential relationship with Israel, and the orientation of its policy in the region, on the basis of con- siderations fundamentally unrelated to this problem'. The inter- national pestering as a result of the struggle for the rights of Jews in the USSR could - according to the team - inspire the USSR, in the course of time 'to negotiate with Israel, not only to express anger and grievance, but to embark on a constructive dialogue' regarding the means to resolve the problem. Hence, it could be concluded, in its view, that the international annoyance did not only affect mutual relations badly, but could even advance them by a mutual necessity to find a solution to the problem of Jews in the USSR.

The findings and recommendations of the discussion were compiled by Gideon Rafael (Israel's future Ambassador to the UN) and submitted for the perusal of A. Eban, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 011 1 7July 1966. 23 It seems that the Minister agreed with the team's evaluations and conclusions, which corresponded with the policy of Israeli statcn1ents in the course of that year at the United Nations allcl its ora ations.

The struggle on bella f of Jews

The importance of the conclusions was that Israel's official activities for the sake of Jews in the USSR constituted a useful (and even vital) incentive, in strengthening the world's public conscious- ness of the matter and in deepening Soviet sensibility to it, and that the Soviet Union's relations towards Israel would not worsen at that stage.

These conclusions had probably influenced Prime Minister Eshkol who, contrary to his prior statements, attacked the USSR in his address in the Knesset, on 1 2January 1966, in a sharp tone which clearly symbolized the turn in Israel's tactics in the direction of aggravating the struggle for the sake of Jews in the USSR.2

It seems that in asserting its assessments the team based itself on two presumptions:

1. The important goals achieved in the struggle not only the winlling of world public opinion and the support odistinguished politicians, but also the gaining of concessions from the USSR in its policy toward Jews, which was mainly expressed in the gradual increase in exit visas issued to Jews who emigrated to Israel (1965 saw the largest number in emigrants, during the existence of diplomatic relations behveen the countries).

2. The broadening of bilateral relations in the spheres of culture and tourism, which too reached its peak in 1965.

Hence, the belief that although the struggle was making mutual relations more difficult, it was not the main determining factor. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 1 960s a clear Soviet policy was being noted in the direction of aggravating the political and ideological clash with Israel against the background of the struggle for the sake of Jews in the USSR.

In the United Nations arena

In addition to the USSR's constant support for the Arabs in their conflict with Israel (in consequence of Soviet policy in the Middle East), its representatives on the UN Conlmittee for Hunlan Rights started to attack Israel for its discriminatory attitude toward its Arab minority in answering the complaints of Israel's representatives regarding the discrimination against Jews in the USSR.25

{p. 202} We have already mentioned that in 1965 the USSR attempted to condemn Zionism in the same bracket as Nazism in the Third UN Committee. This attempt failed, but after ten years, when it was presented again, it succeeded. It was the first time that Zionism was compared in the international arena to anti-Semitism, Nazism and other racial movements.26

In the Soviet internal arena

The USSR opened a constant and systematic campaign to denigrate Israel's social regime, accusing it of exploitation, poverty, hunger, religiouslawoverrulingcivillaw,ethnicgaps,militarism,nationalist fanaticism and a hostile attitude towards immigrants. Though these allegations were directed to deterring Jews from fostering illusions regarding Israel, they did express the USSR's hostility towards Israel, which exceeded that towards any other country in the West.


The reactions of Soviet leaders to the harassment of journalists, politicians, leaders of socialist parties and emissaries of Jewish organizations were mainly:27

There is no Jewish problem in the USSR; anti-Semitism is forbidden; all nationalities in the USSR are equal before the law.

Jews are not interested in educational and cultural institutions of their own as they tend to assimilate into the local population wherever they live.

Jews are not sentenced to harsh punishments because of their national origin but because of their crimes.

Jews occupy, in comparison to other minorities in the USSR, a prominent place in the academic professions. Their striving in this direction is recognized better among them than with others. There were among them collaborators with the Nazis during the German occupation (as there were also among other minorities).

They have no interest in emigrating to Israel, which is a 'capitalist country', servant of American imperialism.

{p. 203} The day will come for those who wish to leave the USSR. Finally, all those who wish to reunite with their families outside the USSR will be able to do so.

The importance of the Soviet reactions, from Israel's point of view, was that they attested to the USSR's sensitivity to its image in the eyes of world public opinion and its attempts to defend itself. The unreliable contents of the Soviet leaders' reactions brought about negative criticism in this respect - especially against Krushchev's anti-Semitic remarks - encouraging the activists to continue with their struggle. The publication in the Soviet press of the Russell-Krushchev exchange of letters served as a source of encouragement for Soviet Jews, as they learned that in large parts of the world extensive activity was being carried out on their behalf.

The harassment diminished the prestige of t'le USSRwhich was probably aware of it. This was particularly so among those circles considered progressive by the USSR, such as leftist parties and personalities in culture and thinking. In no other political matter were Soviet leaders so harassed as over the Jewish cause. For the USSR, Israel was one of the main world factors - if not the only one - that was constantly striving to expose the behavior of the Soviet regime towards the Jews in the USSR. Israel was paramount in undermining, in the eyes of the world, the credibility of Soviet declarations on 'fraternity' prevailing in the USSR, emphasizing the gap between Leninist theory and Soviet reality on the national problem.

On the diplomatic and political plane

The Soviet authorities reacted to the international activities of the Israeli Embassy staff in Moscow among the Jews in the USSR in three stages: voicing protests (called verbal announcements) to Israeli Ambassadors in Moscow; defaming Israeli diplomats and discrediting them in the Soviet press; expelling them from the USSR as personae non grata.

The protests of the Soviet Ministly of Foreign Affairs referred to 'complaints' made by worshipers that reached the Council for Religious Affairs of the Soviet Prime Minister's Office about 'non-

{p. 204} suitable behavior' of the Israeli Embassy staff in Moscow during their visits to synagogues in various towns in the USSR.

Substance of the conplaints: Distribution of Israeli printed material, including propaganda brochures from the Jewish Agency; exploiting visits (of Israeli diplomats to various parts of the USSR) for encounters with suspected persons, in order to receive parcels from them and conduct propaganda talks with them.

The protest: The worshipers protested against this behavior "hhich insulted their religious feelings'.

The authorities' conclusion: The staff of the Israeli Embassy is visiting the synagogues not for w orship but for purposes 'which have nothing to do with praying'.

Warning of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Such behavior does not correspond with the known and accepted norms of diplomatic representatives and 'is about to lead to undesired results'.

The protest which the director of the Near Eastern Department of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted to the Israeli Ambassador in Moscow on 5 September 1958 28 followed a pattern typical of similar protests submitted later on. In due course another complaint was added: an accusation of persuading worshipers to emigrate to Israel.29 Changes were made to the wording of the complaints: 'propaganda of the Jewish Agency', was replaced with 'anti-Soviet propaganda;30 'other purposes of visits' was replaced with 'engaging in underground work;3' and in place of 'undesired results' was a tone threatening expulsion.

In the introductory words prior to the protest, it was noted 'that this means was chosen in order not to create difficulties', with an additional remark that the 'worshipers' were pressing to publish the affair publicly but it was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that prevented them from doing so.

Clearly the 'worshipers' were none other than the people of the security services of the USSR (the KGB) who were 'pressing' to publicize the event, whereas the Ministry of Foreign Affairs served, in this respect, as a factor of restraint, so to say, in order not to damage the mutual relations by giving an opportunity to the Israeli Embassy staff to improve its ways. When the security services came to the conclusion that wal nings did not help, they then initiated the publication of delaming articles in the press.

{p. 205} This tendency became apparent in 1961, increased during 1964-66, and gradually toned down after the break in Israeli-Soviet relations in the aftermath of the Six Day War, inJune 1967.37 The articles were entitled by disgraceful words, such as: 'Rotten Merchandise under the Dress';33 'Israeli Diplomats at Their "Work"';34 'Merchants from Israel';35 'Presents of Poison';36 'Diplomats Taking Off Their Mask';37 'Dirty Propaganda from the Cellar';38 'Scandal in the Synagogue';39 and disgrace without titles - 'An Event with the Diplomats in Odessa';40 'Another Event with Diplomats in Odessa'.41

In the course of time they were accused of conducting poisonous anti-Soviet propaganda and even of espionage. The name of an Israeli diplomat was publicly discredited. He suffered jibes of mockery and insults that no foreign diplomat ever had experienced. The Soviet authorities' arrows of criticism were aimed in two directions: first, at suppressing the national aspirations that evoked among Jews in the USSR whenever they met an official Israeli representative, and second at deterring Israeli diplomats from any contact withJews in the USSR. And the goal was - to suppress the national common link between Israel and the Jews in the USSR.

Declaring representatives of the Israel Embassy as personae non grata was an expression of utmost severity. It was reported in the press, in a short, succinct manner, when the reason for that was 'espionage'. At first Israel's Foreign Ministry reacted in a restrained manner 'so as not to further damage the relations and strain them up to renewing the danger of breach'.47 But in the course of time, when the declarations of personae non grata became frequent, Israel began to counteract by expelling Soviet diplomats. When this displeased the Soviet authorities, they lowered the number of those expelled from the USSR down to zero, and began, in return, to focus mainly on the publication of defaming articles in the press.

It seems that none of the three modes of reaction towards Israel, especially the articles poisonously attacking the Israeli Embassy staff in Moscow, succeeded in deterring Israel from information activity among Jews in the USSR and from the scope of the struggle for their sake. They also did not deter Jews in the USSR from looking for connections and contacts with the Israeli Embassy, in spite of the danger involved in it. The articles, however, gradually caused a deterioration in the relations between the two countries. Israel,

{p. 206} though, revealed readiness to go on with the order of the day, being conscious that this was the price for its activity, whereas the Soviet authorities did not display a similar attitude but tended to worsen their relations with Israel in return for its deeds.

In political talks held by the Israeli representatives with the Soviet representatives in Jerusalem, Moscow and in the West, Soviet diplomats repeatedly rejected the accusation of anti-Semitism prevailing in the USSR and condemned the struggle of Israel and the West for the rights of Soviet Jews. In some of the talks they pointed out the negative impact of the struggle on Israeli-Soviet mutual relations.

Following are some of their main comments and warnings:

Israeli-Soviet relations cannot be improved as long as Israel regards Soviet Jews as if they are its own citizens and as long as an anti-Soviet propaganda is being conducted around Jews in the USSR.43 The main factor separating Israel from the USSR is the Jewish one. The mere idea of Zionism contradicts the fundamental perception of the Soviet Union, which cannot accept the idea that the future of Soviet Jewry is in Israel. The Jews in the USSR are good citizens and they should be allowed to continue their contribution to the Soviet enterprise.

Israel's activities in the USSR (among Jews) and the informational material that it distributes have no other intention but to persuade the Jews that their future is in Israel. The Jews Problem in the USSR arose only after the establishment of the State of Israel. For example, the Jewish Theater in Moscow was closed when it came under considerable Zionist-Israeli influence from Israeli representatives and is not interested in Israel.

The Soviet Union supported the establishment of the State of Israel because it recognized the right of the Jewish population in Palestine to political independence, but it rejects the view that Israel emerged for the sake of the Jews in the rest of the world.4

The noise which has been evoked in the USA in the last two years (1962-196) has convinced the Soviet authorities that the issue is not concern about the situation of Jews in the USSR, but a campaign dil ected at aggravating the cold war. If the campaign does not stop the Soviet authorities will be compelled to undertake the following counteractions:

{p. 207} (a) recognizing Shukeiry and the PLO;

(b) establishing a Soviet organization for the defense of the rights of Arabs in Israel.45

(Referring to this, E. Doron, Director of the East European Division of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commented in his memo- randum to Foreign Minister A. Eban, on 31 March 1965:

The Soviet authorities did not recognize Shukeiry and did not invite him to Moscow; not out of love for Israel, not because of hatred for Shukeiry. The basic political line of the USSR is that the United Nations is an organization of sovereign states only. Also, because the Soviet stance does not recognize exiled groups, it seems that the Soviet authorities have interest in Shukeiry and his requests. Should they decide to recognize Shukeiry, it would not be because of IsraelÕs activity for the sake of Jews in the USSR, but because of their political considerations in support of the Arab cause.45

When the Director wrote this letter he did not know that a Palestinian delegation would visit Moscow in February 1966.)47

Israel should know that its activity on behalf of Jews in the USSR is the main obstacle to the improvement of relations between both countries.48

In conclusion, it seems:

(a) Improvement of Israeli-Soviet relations was conditional on Israel's stopping activity for the sake of Jews in the USSR;

(b) The Soviet warnings (until 1966) did not include threats to severe relations with Israel or to aggravate them. However, some counteractions could be possible, such as rapprochement with the PLO. (c) Until 1962, the Soviet authorities believed that Israel's activity together with that of the Jewish organizations stemmed indeed from keen concern about the fate of the Jews in the USSR, but as from this year (during which Israel's representatives in international organizations raised the problem of Jews in the USSR for the first time after the 'Doctors' Plot') this activity began, in the Soviet view,

{p. 208} to be integrated into the anti-Soviet propaganda of the West, which made it difficult for the USSR to come to terms with the West.

In 19G6 a considerable vorselling was noted in the USSR's attitude to-vards Israel, against the background of the activities on behalf of Jews in the USSR. First expression of this appears in the angl-y reaction to Prime Millister Eshkol's speech in the Knesset (12 January 1966) regarding Jews in the USSR. Later, an even angrier response followed the decision by Israel's Ministry of lducation and Culture, June-July 1966, to introduce 'a week of identification with Jews in the USSR' during the month of October that year in all schools in Israel. Also, notice should be given to the decision talken by the Soviet authorities to expel an Israeli diplomat from Moscow, as a 'persona 1lO11 grata' (as it had stopped doing at the end of the 1950s) as an expression of displeasure and as a warning sign to the Jews). From the point of view of the USSR, the decision to introduce 'the Week' - for the first time in Israel - placed Israel in a public and official manIler at the head of the campaign for human rights in the USSR.

The organization of 'the Week' within a state framework - the Ministl-y of Education and Culture - no doubt added a new dimension to the struggle. It could possibly be that the USSR feared having this pattern copied in other countries, which might mar its image even more among nations.

In the protest submitted by the Soviet Ambassador in Israel to the representative of Israel's Foreign Ministr, he stressed that such an action was interpreted by the USSR as an anti-Soviet act, warIling that it could be harmful to mutual relations. It could have been felt that this act upset the Soviet authorities more than any other act. The political commentary on Radio Moscow on 6July 1966 (published the following day in a summarized form by the BBC) remarked:

The USSR aspires to develop relations with all countries, but it is important to stress the anti-Soviet campaigns do not contlibute to the clevelopment of such connections ... Their initiators should act more carefully. They should ask themselves in particular if such acts are in the interest of Israel and its people, since their inevitable result must be a deterioration in relations with the USSR. And who will gain from it?

{p. 209} In 1966 cultural relations betweell Israel and the USSR ceased, quite a while berore the severance of diplomatic relations between the two countries following the Six Day War. It may well be that the rupture of cultural relations resulted from Israel's activities among Jews in the USSR, which were assisted by those relations.

The 12-year balance sheet of Isracl's activities among Jews in the USSR (1955-67) and the struggle to ensure their national rights, including the right to emigrate to Israel, is summarised belov .

From Israel's pont of view

The positive side

A constantly growing national awakening of Jews in the USSR that nourished the struggle on their behalf in the world and constituting a moral basis for its continuation. The struggle strengthened the Jewish national consciousness.

The goals chosen at the beginning of the struggle were achieved: creating world consciousness of the problem of Jews in the USSR, inclusion of the issue in the permanent agenda of talks held by Western politicians with the USSR, and making it an international problem.

A shift was marked in the status of Jews in the USSR: the publication of Sovetish Heymland (a Jewish periodical of Jewish literature); performances of Jewish song; publication of distinguished books of Jewish classics as well as contemporary works. Anti-Semitism was officially condemned (including Kitchko's book Judaism without Enbellishment); economic trials against Jews were stopped; matzot (unleavened Passover bread) were baked; there was a gradual increase in the number of Soviet Jews allowed to immigrate to Israel and the Soviet Prime Minister expressed the willingness of his government to enable 'family reunification', which meant in practical terms the opening of Soviet gates for increased exit of Jews to Israel.

The negative side

Theree was no improvement in the doomains of education and religion. The isolation from the outside Jewish world continued. The Jewish Theatre was not rehabilitated. No Jewish umbrella ...


The Soviet Union itself issued a book called Caution, Zionism!, in August 1968, just after the 1967 Middle East war.

J. L. Talmon, in his book Israel Among the Nations (1970), called it an updated version of the Protocols of Zion:

"Particularly horrifying is the Soviet-Arab sponsorship of an updated version of the Protocols of Zion: the Zionist-American-Imperialist world plot, operating not only against Arabs, Asians and Africans, but also against all the Socialist regimes ..." (p. 188). talmon.html .

That Soviet expose of the Zionist world-plot is at ivanov.html.

Making sense of Stalin: stalin.html.

Trotsky on a Jewish republic within the Soviet Union: nedava.html.

Nikita Khruschev on "Stalin's Anti-Semitism" and the proposal for a Jewish Crimea: death-of-stalin.html.

Lazar Kaganovich's account of the Death of Stalin: kaganovich.html.

The Death of Stalin, by Georges Bertoli, and The Death of Stalin: An Investigation by "Monitor" (this book shows that Stalin was overthrown by a coup d'etat): death-of-stalin.html.

Beria vs. Stalin: "Western" Marxism vs "Russian" Marxism: beria.html.

New evidence on Beria's downfall:

Sudoplatov on the Atomic Spies: atomic-spies.html.

To order Special Tasks new:

Back to the Zionism/Communism index: zioncom.html.

Write to me at contact.html.