Many on the contemporary left split the world into
camps. In one camp is Imperialism that is bad. In the
other camp there are the oppressed, who we should
support, irrespective of the politics under which they
organise and irrespective of what kind of society they
propose to replace "imperialism" with. I touched on
this topic here.
The preponderance of this world-view goes some way
to explaining why there is so much visceral hatred of
Israel on the left, while there is little anger caused
by much greater human rights abuses perpetrated by
regimes that are not Israeli.
The story goes that Israel is a creature of
imperialism or a client state of the USA. (Lets not
even consider, for the moment, the stories that say
Israel controls global imperialism and the USA.) What
makes Israel so demonic is an explosive mixture of
racism, human rights abuses, and imperialism. Some on
the left are not interested in much greater racism and
human rights abuses committed by states that are not
There are many problems with this worldview. One
problem is that Israel would have been killed at birth
in the war of 1948 if it had not been armed by Stalin's
Soviet Union against a British and American arms
Now clearly the Soviet Union was also imperialist, I
hear you say, so it is after all true, that Israel was
helped into existence by "imperialism". And a Stalinist
Jew-hating imperialism at that.
Except that the Czechoslovakian weapons that were
smuggled to the Jews in Palestine in 1948 were sent in
the name of anti-imperialism by the "Communists", who
always denied that they were imperialists. In fact they
claimed to be part of the "oppressed" that opposed
In Prague, a major exhibit has just opened at the
Military Museum, run by the Czech Ministry of Defence,
to display pictures and documents that tell the story
of Czechoslovakia's military aid to Israel in 1948.
Interestingly, the current Czech government is trying
to show with this exhibition that the Czech Republic,
now a member of the European Union, is a good
pro-western state. For this reason, it is very much
downplaying the fact that this Czech military aid was
sent by Stalin through its Czechoslovakian colony, in
order to consolidate an "anti-imperialist" Jewish state
in the Middle East.
The leadership of the Jews fighting for a state in
Palestine were nationalists - and nationalists tend to
take help from wherever they can get it. And accepting
help from the imperialist Soviet Union against the
British Empire and in the face of an American arms
embargo was nothing remarkable in the context of the
history of nationalist struggles for independence.
In the 1950s the USSR realised that it could push
its own imperialist ambitions in the Middle East more
effectively by backing Arab nationalist regimes against
Israel and the USA backed Israel against the Soviet
backed Arab states. This was routine bloc politics of
the Cold War.
What is remarkable is the myth that is currently
believed by many on the left, that Israel is not at all
a nation state like any other but is in fact an
American military base. Israel was put there by Europe
and America in order to facilitate the imperialist
domination of the Middle East.
Never mind the fact that when the US wants to
organise military adventures in the Middle East Israel
is absolutely no use to it, and it has to rely on
Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other
oppressive regimes for air-bases.
Never mind the fact that Europe in the 1940s had
attempted to kill all the Jews, and the idea that its
plan was really to send the Jews to live in the Middle
East as ambassadors of European racism and colonialism
is just offensive rubbish.
Never mind the fact that if it had not been for
Stalinist guns, Israel would have been defeated at
This article in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, gives
fascinating details of the military help that flowed
from Czechoslovakia to the Jews in Palestine.
"The first arms deal with Czechoslovakia was signed
in January 1948 - less than two months after the UN
resolution creating Israel and four months before the
state was actually established. Immediately after the
Partition Plan was passed, Ben-Gurion began searching
for sources to supply arms to the Israeli defense
forces, but found that the legal sources in the United
States and most European countries were closed off to
the institutions of the Jewish state in formation. The
only alternative seemed to be illegal arms acquisitions
and an appeal to the Soviet bloc.
As part of the deal signed in January,
Czechoslovakia supplied some 50,000 rifles (that
remained in use in the IDF for around 30 years), some
6,000 machine guns and around 90 million bullets. But
the most important contracts were signed in late April
and early May. They promised to supply 25 Messerschmitt
fighter planes and arranged for the training - on Czech
soil and in Czech military facilities - of Israeli
pilots and technicians who would fly and maintain them.
The planes, which were disassembled and flown to Israel
on large transport planes, after their reassembly
played a very important role in halting the Egypt
Army's advance south of Ashdod, at a place now called
the Ad Halom Junction.
The assistance to the air force continued to flow in
during the second half of 1948 - when it consisted of
56 Spitfire fighter planes. These were flown to Israel,
some of them by Israeli pilots.