The Jewish claim to statehood in their homeland dates to ancient times when the Israelite and Hasmonean kingdoms ruled for more than 400 years in the region that later came to be known as Palestine.
The Jewish people never left the area but were forced to live under the rule of a succession of conquerors.
In the late 19th century, the Zionist political movement was founded with the aim of re-establishing Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.
In 1917, the Balfour Declaration endorsed the creation of a Jewish home in Palestine and garnered the support of the United States and other nations before being incorporated in the League of Nations mandate. During the British Mandate, before Germany invaded Poland, more than 350,000 Jews came to Palestine. Meanwhile, in the interwar period, the Jewish community created the infrastructure for a future state. Professor Dov Waxman noted:
The Holocaust demonstrated the need for a haven where Jews would control their own fate and not be dependent on the goodwill of others. It also gave the quest for statehood greater urgency and generated sympathy for the survivors in the American Jewish community and the general public.
This created a certain amount of pressure on the Truman administration to support partition. Truman explained his position in his memoirs, “My purpose was then and later to help bring about the redemption of the pledge of the Balfour Declaration and the rescue of at least some of the victims of Nazism.” He said his policy was neither pro-Arab nor pro-Zionist, it was American because “it aimed at the peaceful solution of a world trouble spot” and “was based on the desire to see promises kept and human misery relieved” (Harry S. Truman, Years of Trial and Hope, vol. 2, NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1956, p. 157).
In May 1947, Soviet delegate Andrei Gromyko said:
The fact that no Western European State has been able to ensure the defense of the elementary rights of the Jewish people and to safeguard it against the violence of the fascist executioners explains the aspirations of the Jews to establish their own State. It would be unjust not to take this into consideration and to deny the right of the Jewish people to realize this aspiration (“Discussion of the report of the First Committee on the establishment of a special committee on Palestine,” United Nations documents A/307 and A/307/Corr. 1).
This statement was disingenuous; the Soviet Union’s support for the creation of a Jewish state had nothing to do with the Holocaust or compassion for the Jews. The Soviets were primarily interested in seeing the British leave Palestine.
The British were clearly unmoved by the Holocaust; they prevented Jews from going to Palestine to escape the Nazis and opposed Jewish statehood.
“It is not the case that if there had been no Holocaust there would not have been a State of Israel,” Irwin Cotler observed. “It is the other way around, and we should never forget it: that if there had been a State of Israel – the indigenous homeland for an indigenous Jewish people, there would not have been a Holocaust or the many horrors of Jewish and human history” (Irwin Cotler, “Auschwitz 75 years later: Universal lessons,” Jerusalem Post, January 22, 2020).