Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Is this going to be used to kill the English?"

I admit to finding this story hard to believe. But a lot of hard to believe things happen in Israeli politics, as anyone taking even a cursory glance at the subject will notice.

Telegraph :

Israel secretly supplied arms and equipment to Argentina during the Falklands War due to Prime Minister Menachem Begin's personal hatred of the British, a new book discloses. Interviews conducted by the author of the book, the Argentine journalist Hernan Dobry, reveal that Begin saw the deals as a form of revenge for the hanging of a personal friend, Dov Gruner, by the British Mandatory Authorities in Palestine in 1947.

After the Argentine Air Force contacted Isrex, the Israeli defence company, a meeting was arranged between representatives of the company and Begin. Israel Lotersztain, a salesman for Isrex Argentina, said Begin interrupted the Isrex officials as they tried to explain the situation, saying: "You've come to talk badly about the British. Is this going to be used to kill the English? Kadima (go ahead). Dov [Gruner] up there is going to be happy with the decision. Obviously, it must be all done perfectly."

Gruner was sentenced to death for his part in an attack on a police station by Irgun, the Zionist underground paramilitary movement which Begin commanded before the state of Israel was established. As he awaited hanging, he wrote a letter to Begin, thanking him for his support and emphasising his belief in Irgun.

"He [Begin] hated the English above all; everyone had forgotten the British occupation, but not him" according to Lotersztain. His colleague Jaime Weinstein agreed, saying: "He did all that was possible to help Argentina, selling her weapons during the Malvinas [the Argentine name for the Falklands] conflict."

Well, if this is true, the dirty dog. Since when was any country's foreign policy the vehicle of its leader's personal prejudice, outside of a dictatorship ? No wonder Ben Gurion looked upon Begin as an extremist, and denounced his terror group Irgun as the “enemy of the Jewish People”. No wonder Einstein and Hannah Arendt described his immediate post-war party as "a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties".

There were five flights in total from Tel Aviv to Buenos Aires via Lima, loaded with equipment such as gas masks, radar warning systems to prevent fire from enemy missiles, air to air missiles, duvet jackets and spare parts. Additional fuel tanks for fighter bombers supplied by Israel were particularly important for Argentina's war effort as they enabled pilots to fly to the Falklands and return to the Argentine mainland without stopping. Dobry discovered that Israel sent 1,500-litre tanks rather than the standard 1,300-litre models and writes that this meant the British Task Force had to move its fleet further east to prevent further bombings.

They did indeed move the Task Force east, after the loss of HMS Coventry and Atlantic Conveyor. But a/c/t Max Hastings' book on the conflict, the Super Etendards which sank the Conveyor were refuelled in mid-air by other Etendards, and the Argentinians were 'chronically short' of drop-tanks. The Israeli intervention probably killed far fewer people than were killed in the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic bombings of the next decade in Argentina. But it's the thought that counts.

What's even stranger is that apparently the Brits were aware of Begin's dastardly deeds, and kept schtum AFAIK.

However, British intelligence services kept track of aircraft landing in Peru and even photographed some of the arrivals. "A newspaper once published a picture showing the loading on to an Aerolineas Argentinas plane and the British ambassador in Israel took the photo to Begin and hell broke out," said Lotersztain. "They were aware of the whole operation to the extent that sometimes when we discussed whether some supplies had arrived we would say, 'let's ask the English'".

Imagine that a British Prime Minister once had a young friend killed in the Falklands. Thirty-five years on he remembers that fact, and starts supplying weapons to Hezbollah via Syria, asking the Syrian purchasers "Is this going to be used to kill the Israelis?". Wouldn't happen. Who was it who said that a nation has no friends, only interests ? But what we see here, if true, is .. well, for once I'm lost for words.