The Anglo-Jewish Pilots Who Helped Save Their Country, and Their People, from the Nazis

During World War II, some 20,000 Jews, 6 percent of the country’s overall Jewish population, served in Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF), of whom 900 gave their lives. The proportion of Jews among those who fought in the Battle of Britain—the epic aerial confrontation in which the RAF successfully repelled Germany’s efforts to bomb the United Kingdom into submission—was twice Jews’ proportion in the total population. But, notes Robert Philpot, the story of Anglo-Jewry’s contribution to the war efforts is little known:

When the British novelist Alan Fenton told a business acquaintance that his two much older brothers had died in World War II, he encountered a surprised response. After what Fenton recalled as an “embarrassed pause,” his lunchtime companion said: “I didn’t think Jews fought in the war.”

In addition to the story of Fenton’s twin brothers, both of whom were pilots, Philpot—drawing on testimonies collected by the Royal Air Force Museum—recounts the experiences of some other Jewish airmen:

Michael Oser Weizmann—the son of Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, [and a] scientist like his father—was also an RAF pilot and worked for the Coastal Command Development Unit. Its job was to develop new technologies and tactics for coastal command aircraft in the Battle of the Atlantic. Weizmann, who flew Whitley bombers, was killed at the age of twenty-five in February 1942, when a plane he was traveling in developed engine failure and ditched in the Bay of Biscay.

Some of these pilots were quite frank about their motivations:

“Sir, I am a Jew, and my war with the enemy began long before September 1939,” Bernard Kregor told an officer who asked him why he was volunteering for the especially perilous task of navigating bombers.

The risk taken by Jews who joined the RAF was particularly high. If they were shot down over enemy territory and survived, an uncertain fate awaited them if it was discovered they were Jewish. Some Jewish airmen chose to remove their identity disc, which displayed their religion, before they took off from the UK. Others, however, refused to. Alfred Huberman, who took part in 38 operations, is still alive at the age ninety-seven. “I was born a Jew and I’ll die a Jew,” he said of his decision not to remove his disc.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: British Jewry, Jews in the military, United Kingdom, World War II

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship