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How a Jewish Legion Came to Fight for the United Kingdom in World War I

Aug. 21 2017

From the moment the Ottoman empire joined forces with the Central Powers in November 1914, the Zionist leaders Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Chaim Weizmann worked to create a Jewish legion to fight alongside the British army to liberate Palestine from the sultan. The idea met with strong opposition from both the government of Herbert Asquith and the Zionist leadership, and resulted only in the short-lived Zion Mule Corps, which fought against the Turks in the failed Gallipoli campaign. But in 1917 London reconsidered, allowing for the formation of Jewish units to be made up primarily of Russian subjects living in Britain. Colin Schindler writes:

Leading Zionists—including Nahum Sokolow, Max Nordau, and Ahad Ha’am—had hitherto opposed the formation of a Jewish military force. In addition to compromising the movement’s neutrality, they feared Turkish reprisals in the fashion that had been visited upon the Armenians—massacre and persecution.

British Zionists such as Harry Sacher and Leon Simon believed that Weizmann had been seduced by Jabotinsky’s “jingoism.” The [British] Zionist Federation indignantly opposed the very idea of a Jewish regiment as did Lord Rothschild, later the recipient of the Balfour Declaration.

The fear that a specifically Jewish regiment would impinge on their loyalty to the British crown affected many communal leaders. . . . The anti-Zionist Edwin Montagu, secretary of state for India, considered himself a patriotic Jewish Briton and vehemently opposed the Balfour Declaration. While the cabinet rebuffed his attempt to prevent any declaration, it did accede to his opposition to a battalion of British Jews. “Friendly alien Jews” was another matter—and such battalions would be added to the Royal Fusiliers. British-born Jews themselves could apply to join or be transferred. The poet Isaac Rosenberg wished to join but was killed in action [on the Western front] before he could do so. . . .

Jews from the UK eventually constituted almost one-third of the five battalions of the Royal Fusiliers—now known to history as the Jewish Legion. It was, however, more the symbolism of a Jewish army than the few minor military clashes in the Middle East in 1918 that impacted on Jews worldwide.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Chaim Weizmann, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Jewish Legion, World War I, Ze'ev Jabotinsky

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen