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“Defensive” a Czech “error” steeped in history…

(BRUSSELS2) The statement by the spokesperson for the Czech Presidency of the European Union describing “defensive“Israel's action on Gaza is not entirely due to chance or ignorance. On the contrary, if there is an area in the world that Czech political leaders know well, due to their recent history, it is the Middle East. Military cooperation has always been at the forefront in the region, at least during two Arab-Israeli conflicts in the last century.

It was over 50 years ago. Czechs lend a hand to Haganah

Flashback… Just after the Second World War, the State of Israel was in the making. And its promoters are looking for weapons throughout Europe. The most loyal support for the Haganah – literally “defense” in Hebrew – then came from Prague. Czechoslovakia – which was not yet under communist leadership – then agreed to deliver, for cold hard cash, “certain” military equipment to Ben-Gurion's “mission managers” who rang every doorbell. When we talk about “certain equipment”, it’s not nothing! : 24 rifles, 500 light machine guns, 5 heavy machine guns, and 000 Messerschmitt planes. Czechoslovak military technicians lend a hand, dismantle the planes and send them to Palestine. Clandestine training bases are even organized for pilots and paratroopers (200).

Circumvention of the embargo in 1948

Even after the communists took power in February 1948 and the arms embargo decreed by the UN, deliveries continued for the brand new independent state (the existence of which Czechoslovakia would be one of the first to recognize). . It is an order from Stalin – who thus intends to counter British influence in the Middle East: MG34 machine guns and Messerchmitt 109 German or rather their Czech derivative, theAvia S199, thus arrive in Israel. The planes – renamed “Do not” (knife) – even form the embryo of a new Israeli air force, battling with the united Arab armies who want to prevent the birth of the Hebrew state. L'Avia S199 was difficult to handle and had a certain propensity to crash (2). Israel also purchased other British and American-made planes. But here again, Czechoslovakia played a role selling Supermarine Spitfire or serving as a transit for American bombers B17 Fortress, smuggled in from American surpluses.

Reversal of alliance, in 1956

During the Suez Canal crisis, its nationalization and the intervention launched by France, the United Kingdom and Israel against Egypt, it was Egypt which benefited from “Czech” weapons (especially Russian weapons). , transiting through Prague) heavy armament: 200 tanks including T34s (superior at the time to Sherman tanks) and nearly 200 Migs and Ilyushins. Israel benefited at the same time from “French” weapons (with American authorization), France delivering 24 Mystères 4 and 24 F84s, then another delivery of fighter planes 110 Mystères A and Mystères 4B, 24 Ouragan, 12 Vautour bombers, 100 AMX tanks, etc… (3).


NB: The competition between the Czechs and the French in the region – which we saw during the last diplomatic visits to the field – is therefore not new -:)

(1) Listen to the special show Czech radio
(2) read Jon Guttman's story in Aviation History or visit the website museum by Sergius Batusov
(3) One can profitably read the small work “1956 memory of Suez” by Marc Ferro (editions Complexe) as well as “Descent to Suez” byEvelyn Shuckburgh, the journal of
private secretary to Eden (the British Foreign Secretary at the time)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

2 thoughts on ““Defensive” a Czech “error” steeped in history…"

  • Why do you write “Israel benefited at the time from “French” (in fact American) weapons?

    Nothing, whether in the design, the manufacture or even the political decision to supply arms to Israel, justifies such an assertion. As a reminder, until General de Gaulle returned to power, France forged a very close alliance with the Jewish state (French pilots even took part in combat operations in Israeli uniform in 1956). Conversely, the United States, anxious to spare the Arab world, provided only belated support (cf. moreover the American attitude during the Suez affair).


  • This article is accurate. Your sentence "Czechoslovakia - which was not yet under Communist rule - then agrees to deliver, against hard cash, certain military equipment to Ben Gurion's mission officers” is very pretty, excellent. However, France has always sold arms for nothing, for an innocent smile, for the love of others. By the way, do you have anything against the State of Israel? Europe survived the bloated presidency of France, Europe will surely survive the simple presidency of the Czech Republic.

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