It seems like there are people who don’t know that Stalin not only supported the creation of Israel but also was key in helping the Jews win the War of Independence in 1948.
There is a long-standing myth that Stalin was an anti-Semite. He wasn’t, though. Stalin was a pragmatist. When it served his purposes to like Jews, he liked them. When it became more useful to hate them, he hated them.
After the end of World War II, Stalin was preparing to make yet another effort at “world revolution.” He needed a foothold in the Middle East, and the Palestinian Jews, who were fighting against the British Empire and who had many people interested in the ideas of socialism and communism among them, seemed to offer a perfect possibility to establish a presence in the region.
Soon, however, it became clear that the Jews of Israel were not planning to create a Communist state and were not likely to repudiate the advances of the US. Still, Israel could play a useful role for Stalin. He could now champion the Palestinians and condemn Jews for their colonialist, Zionist agenda. He needed a conflict with the US, the only existing world power that could compete with the USSR for world domination, and he was going to find a way to provoke the Americans in one manner or another.
In 1948, when Stalin still had hopes for the Soviet-friendly Israel, Golda Meir came to visit the Soviet Union. What happened was completely unexpected for Stalin. He wanted the Soviet Jews to explain to Golda that they were so happy in the internationalist Communist state that they had no need to be Jews any more.
Instead, tens of thousands of Soviet Jews came to a Moscow synagogue to meet “our Goldele.” Stalin was livid. As I explained before, the price that the Soviet Jews had paid for the complete absence of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1948 and the great advances they were allowed to achieve was renouncing their Jewishness. And now, in 1948, Stalin was seeing crowds of Jews coming out into the streets of Moscow, inspired by the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine and very conscious of their Jewish heritage.
Since his first days in the Communist Party, Stalin, an ethnic Georgian, was convinced that nationalism was the greatest danger to the Communist dream. And he was right. In the late 1980ies and early 1990ies, nationalism will destroy the USSR. This is why Stalin could not allow nationalist sentiments and ethnic allegiances to flourish among the Soviet Jews. He unleashed a campaign of vicious anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. The campaign’s goals were two-fold: on the one hand, Stalin was teaching a lesson to all those people who, in the aftermath of WWII, were recovering their nationalist feelings, and on the other hand, he was preparing to provoke the United States into starting a third world war.