A Portrait of Success
On the occasion of Israel’s 50th anniversary, the British historian Paul Johnson wrote in COMMENTARY that among the 100 newly independent nations born in the years after World War II, Israel was “the only one whose creation can fairly be called a miracle.” Two improbable events occurring in the first half of the 20th century combined to create an opening for the eventual establishment of the Jewish state, according to Johnson. The first was the Turkish Sultan’s decision at the onset of World War I to throw in his lot with the German Kaiser and the Habsburgs. Without the Ottoman Empire’s losing gamble, there would have been no Balfour Declaration, no British conquest of Palestine in 1918, and, therefore, no buildup of Palestine as the Jewish homeland. The second unlikely event was Joseph Stalin’s decision in 1947 to undermine British imperial influence in the Middle East by supporting the creation of Israel, thus reversing (albeit temporarily) a quarter-century of ideological anti-Zionism by the Soviet Union and the international Communist movement. Without the Soviets’ vigorous political support for the UN partition resolution and the massive flow of Czech arms to the fledgling Jewish State, Israel might have died in infancy.
Johnson’s splendid essay did not, however, fully capture the many ways that Israel continued to beat the odds and surprise the world with its practical accomplishments. A new book by Middle East historian Barry Rubin, Israel: An Introduction, begins to cover that much neglected ground. It manages in just 300 pages to provide a corrective to the endless series of recent books and articles depicting the Jewish state as a kind of hell on earth in need of infinite critical exposure.
About the Author
Sol Stern is the author of A Century of Palestinian Rejetionism and Jew Hatred (Encounter Broadsides).