By ALEXANDER DOLITSKY
Since Israel’s creation in 1948, the United States has been an ardent supporter of the Jewish state, providing large quantities of economic and military assistance and extensive diplomatic and political support to Israel.
Even today, Israel remains the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid for military and security purposes (about $3.3 billion annually). There are several reasons why the United States has been so closely identified with Israel.
First, because of the atrocities visited upon the Jewish people by the Nazis during World War II, there has been widespread sympathy in the United States to the need for a Jewish state — a homeland where Jewish people can live without fear of domestic persecution by the repressive and anti-Semitic government.
Second, U.S. sympathy for Israel has been strengthened over the years by six major Arab/Palestinian–Israeli wars, namely: 1948-1949 (Israel’s War of Independence and the Palestinian “Nakba”/displacement), 1956 (Suez Crisis), 1967 (Six-Day War), 1973 (Yom Kippur War), 1982 (Lebanon War), 2006 (Second Lebanon War) and most recently the October 7, 2023, Gaza/Hamas terrorist attack. All these heinous wars were initiated by Arab nations.
During 1956, 1967 and 1973 wars, Arab forces were supplied and supported by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War; and during the last three wars of 1982, 2006 and 2023, Arab/Lebanon/Palestinian forces were supplied by Iran and, perhaps, other Arab nations. Therefore, Israel was often seen in the United States as an American ally in the Cold War; and today Israel is an American ally in the war against global terrorism.
Third, despite disagreements and Israel’s frequent willingness to pursue its own policies independent of the U.S. preferences, Israel has been a U.S. ally in the Middle East. Israel also frequently points out that it is the only democracy in the Middle East. The U.S.–Israeli relationship is strengthened because of this and because of the common Judeo-Christian values.
Fourth, the American Jewish community (about 6 million American citizens in the United States, or 2.2–2.4 percent of the U.S. population) has often been an extremely vocal supporter of Israel. This adds to the already-strong support within the United States for Israel by the majority of population.
This, of course, does not mean that the United States and Israel see eye-to-eye on all foreign affair issues. They do not. For example, when Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank during the 1967 Arab–Israeli war, the United States refused to recognize Israel’s occupation as legitimate and proper.
As a result of this disagreement with the United States, all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and the joint Israeli–Palestinian Erez Industrial Zone were dismantled; and 9,000 Israelis, most living in Gush Katif, were forcibly evicted by the Israel’s authority. On Sept. 12, 2005, the Israeli cabinet formally declared an end to Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip.
Similarly, the United States and Israel have had major disagreements over Israel’s policy of encouraging Israel citizens and new Jewish immigrants to Israel to move to and settle in the occupied West Bank. The United States has also on occasion objected to Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian and Arab peoples, who were not at that time considered citizens by Israel. Today, however, nearly two million ethnic Arabs enjoy equal rights, political participation and representation in Israel.
Despite these disagreements, the maintenance of a free and independent Israel remains a primary U.S. interest in the Middle East. Virtually everyone agrees that the United States and Israel are close friends, if not formal allies. Indeed, friends support each other’s interests and well-being.
Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union. He received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1976; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and was enroled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at the Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center (see www.aksrc.homestead.com) from 1990 to present. He has conducted about 30 field studies in various areas of the former Soviet Union (including Siberia), Central Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and the United States (including Alaska). Dolitsky has been a lecturer on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, andClipper Odyssey vessels in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. He was the Project Manager for the WWII Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease Memorial, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, and ethnography. His more recent publications include Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi, Ancient Tales of Kamchatka; Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia; Old Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During WWII; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in WWII; and Old Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of the Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales of Chukotka, and Ancient Tales of Kamchatka.
A few more of Dolitsky’s past MRAK columns: