Thursday, July 23, 2009

Israel's role in the invasion and occupation of Cyprus part 1

There are some Greeks; particularly Greek Americans, continuously bombarded with Israeli apologetics, who find it difficult to understand why other Greeks are ambivalent about the state of Israel. Certainly, there are some traditional northern European inspired Right-wing Greek anti-Semites but they are few and far between. There are also traditional Left-wing anti-Israeli Greeks, which are larger in number, who automatically sympathise with the just Palestinian cause because of their underdog status. However, a significant number of sensible largely non-aligned Greeks are ambivalent about Israel due to its role before, and during, the invasion and occupation of Cyprus.

Over the last few weeks Greeks and the Greeks of Cyprus have been commemorating the terrible nightmare of July 1974, the brutal invasion of Cyprus by Turkey and its continuing occupation 35 years later. Hellenic Antidote has provided a blistering series of posts describing the causes and the outcomes of these tragic events which can be found here. The culprits are clear enough: the United Kingdom, the United States, the craven Greek political class and small number of Cypriots with poor judgement. However, Israel was also involved in this catastrophe. Antipodes will provide a two part of series of their involvement - first being a historical recap.

The website of Greek television program, Anixneusis recently uploaded an old article from Greek Cypriot newspaper Politis which can be accessed here in turn summarizing an article written by Israeli academic Zach Levef titled, "The entrance of Israel in Cyprus, 1959-1963" originally published in the academic journal, Middle East Review of International Affairs. The study relies on declassified documents and sources of the period. The article from Politis begins:

From 1948 to 1960, Israel was able to conclude strategic relations with Iran and Turkey and consolidated diplomatic relations with all the major countries (embassies in America, Canada, England, Argentina, France, Italy, Soviet Union). Greece and Cyprus remained inaccessible to them. However, since 1954 when Greece brought Cyprus into the UN, Israel; although it avoided openly supporting either Turkey or Greece, behind the scenes it pressured the British and the UN to support the Turkish position on the division of the island, precisely because they did not want to see Greece dictate policy to Cyprus and act as a regional power with claims in the Eastern Mediterranean. Simultaneously, Israel believed the only way for cooperation with Greece went through Nicosia, which is why immediately after the independence of Cyprus in 1960, they sought to gain diplomatic relations with the Makarios government.

Until then, the regional strategy of Israel was to cultivate strong, but not obvious ties, with Turkey and Iran, two Muslim but not Arab countries. It should also be noted that this strategy perfectly suited the United States and NATO, which considered Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan as a single zone of defense/containment against the Soviet threat. For example, on 29 August 1958 the prime ministers of Turkey and Israel, Menderes and Ben Gurion respectively, secretly met in Ankara with the purpose being to find a means to limit the influence of Egyptian President, Nasser.

Cyprus and Greece were left of the regional strategic alliances of Israel; however, Cyprus was an exceptional case because it lay only 220 miles west of the Israeli coast. So, Israel decided to play a double game. On the one hand, it worked underground for excellent relations with the Turkish Cypriots in order to maintain its strategic relationship with Ankara, and the other it tried to establish diplomatic relations with the official Cypriot state of Makarios. But Makarios presented a major obstacle to Israel. In essence, the strong pro-Arab policy of Makarios threw Israel more into the arms of Turkey and its separatist policies in Cyprus.

In order for Israel to address the problem of Makarios, it was forced to approach the Greek lobby in America to put pressure on Athens and Nicosia. Although this practice had borne some fruit, the Israelis were not slow to discover that the benefits and support they received from Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots in no way offset the gains they were slowly getting from the Greeks [as one poster stated this seems to contradict other parts of the article]

The Israeli leaders decided to more firmly support the Turks, from the time Makarios could not make any decisions on external policy (e.g. to allow Israel to open an embassy in Nicosia) without the consent the Turkish Cypriot Vice President, Koutsouk. At some point, in 1960, the leadership of Israel even discussed providing military assistance to the Turkish Cypriots, something that did not happen, because the consequences would have been negative for the development of official relations between Nicosia and Tel Aviv. Makarios, who was well informed about what was happening, intelligently tried to convince the Mufti of Cyprus to show sympathy to the just cause of his Arab Muslim brothers, to unite with the Christians and cease relations with Israel. But Israel worked quietly to stop this manoeuvre - and it succeeded. The visit of Nasser in Athens in June 1960 did not help things. The Greek government supported the Egyptian leader and secured the prosperity of the Greek minority in Cairo and Alexandria - leading Israel to turn more towards Turkey. Therefore, on 13 January 1961 Koutsouk, Denktash and the Turkish Cypriot defense minister, Osman Orek decided to visit Makarios demanding an ultimatum - to accept the Israeli diplomatic service and the official opening of the Israeli embassy without delay. On 2 February of that year, Israel opened its embassy in Nicosia and warmly thanked Ankara.

But Israel was soon convinced that its interests with Cyprus under the leadership of Makarios was not at all compatible. Makarios voted in favor of the Arabs at the UN on the issue of refugees and a number of other issues, and even started to build excellent relations with Nasser. Also, Makarios persistently refused to send diplomatic corps to Israel; and in reality, the Israel only opened fully operational embassy in Nicosia in 1994, shortly after the recognition of Israel as an independent state, by Greece.

To be continued......

Source: Infognomon, Politis, Antipodes


  1. In my book, the axis of evil is the United States, Turkey, and Israel.

    All this talk about "tensions" that I read in the news between Turkey and Israel is just that... talk---funny talk, to be exact. These two shitty countries have a burgeoning arms trade in the annual billions. A month doesn't go by without these two murderous regimes signing some new military-trade pact.


    Trivia: Did you know that the Israeli Knesset sits on top of land that is owned by the Greek Orthodox Church under the contract of Emphyteusis?

  2. Peter, surely you have forgotten the United Kingdom? Not sure, about the supposed split between Turkey-Israel. Some people have stated there has been split of sorts but others say the relationship is better than ever. Time will tell.

    Yes, I knew that. The Greek Orthodox Church is a large landowner in Jerusalem. However, the Israelis could rip those contracts up anytime and what would we do about it?

  3. Ahh, the Brits. I lumped them in with the Yanks, A; both are cut from the same perfidious cloth. I regard the American War of Independence and the War of 1812 as cival wars.