Friday, 13 August 2010

Greece and Israel: relationship set to deepen

This evolving relationship between Greece and Israel (and by extension Cyprus and Israel) continues to take interesting twists. On Monday, Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu is due in Athens to meet with Greece’s political leadership – the first such visit to Greece by an Israeli PM – while there is evidence on an almost daily basis that the rupture in relations between Israel and Turkey – which precipitated this Greco-Israeli rapprochement – will not be mended any time soon. Recently, I’ve seen reports in the Israeli press accusing Turkey of using chemical weapons against its Kurdish population; and that Turkey has made a secret agreement with Iran to filter weapons to Israel’s deadly Lebanese enemy, Hezbollah; while it’s also been widely reported that Turkey has snubbed the Israeli ambassador to Ankara by not inviting him to the dinner celebrating the breaking of the Ramadan fast.

The other interesting factor that may have long-term repercussions for Greco-Isreali relations is the discovery of vast hydrocarbon deposits between Israel and Cyprus and the seemingly smooth negotiations between the two countries as to how these can be exploited to mutual advantage – and to the exclusion of Turkey, which believes that the Republic of Cyprus is an illegitimate government and has no right to delineate Exclusive Economic Zones around its territorial waters.

Finally, although the resurgence of interest in Greek Jewry has been around for about a decade now, with Greece and Israel forging a new relationship, we can expect this interest to gather momentum. Indeed, yesterday, I read this fascinating account of the fate of the Greek Jews in the Nazi extermination camps – No other Jews like them.

The article notes that Greek Jews – Sephardim from Thessaloniki and Romaniots from elsewhere in Greece – were admired by other Jews and by the Germans for their indomitable spirit and national solidarity and pride, and  goes on to give  an extraordinarily moving account of the remarkable Sonderkommando uprising in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944  ‘planned and executed completely by Greeks, waving improvised Greek flags, and accompanied by the strains of the Greek national anthem’; an episode that is to be turned into a film.


Hermes said...

This is all very conveniant.

I would have no problem of this rising "Greek" Jewish awareness if we Greeks were strong: our education system was Hellenocentric; our customs and traditions were vibrantly adhered too; and we were not infecting in all facets of life by the ideology of internationalist anti-Hellenism. But this is not the case. Therefore, letting Jews into mainstream Greek history, often over-exaggerated, poses serious risks. Personally, I think we should restrict the relationship to foreign policy co-operation.

John Akritas said...

For sure, H. I don't think the renewal of interest comes from our side, but from Jews themselves, which is fair enough from their point of view – not that I reckon Greeks have anything to fear from the history of Greek Jewry; though we do have differences over the history of Thessaloniki. For us, it represents the emergence of ancient Macedonia and then the second city of the Byzantine empire, while for Jews it's the Mother of Israel. For us, the liberation of the city after 600 years of Ottoman occupation was one of the great achievements of modern Hellenism, while for Jews the event meant the loss of their privileged position under the Turks.

Still, despite conflict between the Asia Minor refugees and the Jews in Thessaloniki in the 1920s and 1930s, relations would have settled down and the Jews would have become good and valued Greek citizens. The pride of Jews in their Greekness in the extermination camps suggests that, unlike the Slavs and Chams in Greece, the Jews were patriots. I'd have no problem teaching Greek kids that Greek Jews in Auschwitz led a revolt against the Nazis and did so flying makeshift Greek flags and singing the Greek national anthem. That's pretty inspiring and in line with our culture and history.

Hermes said...

I think you will find that "Greek" Jews were not always proud Greeks. It is conveniant to dredge supposed acts of Hellenism by Jews but history supports are more nuanced understanding. Let's not get carried away as it is just another form of submission.

Hermes said...

Interesting article by Savva Kalendiridi providing a measured perspective on Greek-Jewish history:

John Akritas said...

I saw this article, H, and when Greeks stop writing stuff like this, then I'll know we're developing a mature political culture. Firstly, no one is suggesting that Greece become subservient to Israeli interests or even identifies with them. Greece has its own national interests, which, potentially, could be advanced by stronger relations with Israel. I don't understand what the big deal is here. We've been banging on for years about how the Israel and Turkey alliance is an anti-Greek alliance; but when we're presented with an opportunity to disrupt it, we say no, we're not going to do this because we resent the fact that Israel had this alliance with Turkey in the first place. That's a pretty dumb way to conduct foreign relations.

And as for all the stuff about how Jews are culpable for numerous Greek calamities; well, apart from some of Kalenteridis' history being far fetched, have Jews really done more harm to us than the French, Italians, British, Germans and so on, who we are now partners with in the EU and NATO? Did anyone make the argument that Greece shouldn't join the EEC because of the Fourth Crusade or Franco-Italian treachery in the Asia Minor campaign? And can we really take seriously the suggestion that the rise of Turkish nationalism was a Jewish-Zionist conspiracy with the aim of wiping out Greeks and Armenians from the Ottoman empire? This is quack thinking, of which there's too much in Greece, and it's about time it was ditched.

Hermes said...

Calm down. Savvas only puts things into a historical perspective. There is no reason to be philosemitic nor antisemitic. Just Hellenicentric.

Hermes said...

John, please do not be deluded. We are not disrupting the alliance of Turkey and the Zionist regime. The alliance has been disrupted by the falling out of those two allies which has hardly anything to do with us. Also, it has only been disrupted at this stage. It is definitely not broken. The Americans and members of those former allies are making strenuous efforts to mend this disruption. If and when it is mended, our new found love of the Zionist regime, and supposed Jewish contribution to Hellenism will disapear, as quick as you can blink. Then we will be further isolated with Turkey and Israel against us in Greece and Cyprus. Also, possibly the Arabs as well.

To your question whether Jews have done more harm than those EU countries listed, yes they have. The Zionist regime has been in a strategic alliance relationship on many levels with our greatest enemy for a number of years. Germany, France and even the UK do not have this type of relationship with Turkey.

Like I said before, its okay to open foreign relations with the Zionist regime. However, to begin claiming that the Jews are Hellenic patriots is unnecassary and undignified.

John Akritas said...

The man has a very poor grasp of history, if what he's doing is putting Jewish-Greek relations in 'historical perspective'. Most of what he writes is garbage, quite typical of these ranting dilettante Greek 'historians' with too much time on their hands. And my point was the idiocy of suggesting – as he does – that we should somehow allow supposed historic confrontations and injustices to determine current policy. If we did this, then we wouldn't be in the EU or in Nato; instead, we'd have alliances with Fiji and Vanuatu, who've never harmed Hellenism – although, no doubt, there's some Greek out there who can prove the Fijians were responsible for the Asia Minor catastrophe.

I have no idea why Greece developing a relationship with Israel implies philosemitism, a diminution of Greek interests or exposes Hellenism to Jewish influence – whatever that is. What is this childish hang-up we have with Jews?Jews seem to get some Greeks hot under the collar. I hope it has nothing to do with a Greek inferiority complex. And who's talking about throwing in our lot with Israel or ditching relations with our great Arab friends – the Arabs, of course, have never harmed Hellenism; we're talking about an opportunity – which may or may not amount to something – to weaken Turkey and expand Greek influence in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Nothing more than this. All this stuff about the Jews in Byzantium or the Jews in the Ottoman empire is irrelevant and puerile.

And just to make it clear, Greece's greatest enemy for years has not been Turkey, it's been Greece. For decades, Greece's foreign policy has been an unmitigated disaster, more of a disaster than the disastrous Greek economy. Besides which, I'd strongly dispute that Jews – and not countries who we are now happy to call our partners in the EU and Nato – have harmed Greek national interests most. We can go back centuries, or we can look at Britain's role in the Constantinople pogrom and the partition of Cyprus. Far more damaging than anything Israel has ever done to Greece.

As for Greek Jews during the second world war, some were patriots – did noble things in the name of Greece – some were not, most were no doubt just trying to survive the war – rather like Greeks.

Hermes said...

John, this is what Kalendiridis says:

"Το άρθρο μου δεν λέει να μην γίνει η προσέγγιση με το Ισραήλ. Απλά να γίνει με ιστορική επίγνωση και επι τή βάσει ενός γεωπολιτικού σχεδιασμού και όχι ευκαιριακά και επειδή αυτό τώρα βολέυει το Ισραήλ, που 'έφαγε πόρτα' από την Τουρκία με την οποία μέχρι χθες ερωτοτροπούσε, εξ αντικειμένου εναντίον της Ελλάδος και της Κύπρου".

Or read this article by Iordanidis:

This reapproachment with the Zionist regime suits them much more than it does us. And do you think Papandreou, Droutsas, ELIAMEP, Christofias and co. have the intelligence to engange in High Politics? Do you think Hellenism, as manifested in Greece and Cyprus, has enough self confidence to be dealing in a high stakes geopolitical game? We cannot even deal with Albania and you seriously think we can exploit the situation with our Uigur neighbours and the Zionist regime?

Not sure about the rest of your comments. Are you sure you are not too influenced by American neoconservatism?

John Akritas said...

I dispute K's ιστορική επίγνωση and, even if he were right about historic competition between Greeks and Jews, I fail to see the relevance of it when we're talking about contemporary strategic relations between Greece and Israel. I also dispute whether Israel has more to gain from this rapprochement than Greece – it seems to me that Israel is doing Greece a favour taking it so seriously – and I would have thought that the fraying alliance between Israel and Turkey – that has unquestionably damaged Greece and Cyprus – is precisely why it's a good idea for Greece to get in there now with the Israelis. What is wrong with opportunism?

Iordanidis is right to the extent that there has been an overreaction to Netanyahu's presence in Greece – I note that Greek media went big on the story, whereas Jewish and Israeli media barely mentioned it; but his argument that Greece shouldn't get ideas above its station by engaging in 'high politics' for fear this might 'irritate Turkey' is embarrassing.

And I wouldn't know American neoconservatism if it hit me over the head.

Hermes said...

John, just as you, and many others, bring up supposed acts of Hellenic heroism by Jews during WWII, Kalendiridis is bringing up Jewish disloyalty and enmity to Hellenism, and asking that we have a balanced view of these people when dealing with them today. There are no friends in international relations, only interests. Therefore, if some Jew decided to wave a Greek flag at a concentration camp (probably because he expediently thought the German authorities would spare him rather than deep loyalty to Greece) it does not mean we should naively enter negotiations believing we have some sort of common interests. However, getting away from individual acts, Jewish groups (unions, ethnic organizations) were quite disloyal to the Greek state throughout the 1920’s and 1030’s. Also, the Israeli state provided diplomatic support to the Turkish regime in Cyprus, entered into a strategic relationship with our enemy during the 1980’s and its lobby thwarted our efforts in the United States. So, when entering into negotiations, these factors should not determine policy but they should be kept in mind when assessing the other counterparty. States (the Zionist regime) or Nations (the Jewish people) have personality much like individuals do. When you enter into a negotiation with an individual you come to the negotiating table with a whole set of information and pre-conceived ideas about your counterpart. Likewise, the same thing happens for States and Nations.

Iordanides is saying is that with the present state of Greek diplomacy, Greek leaders and Greek lobby we are taking a risk in engaging in high politics. If we had Venizelos or Makarios, two politicians who confidently strode the international community, then I, and probably Iordanides, would feel more comfortable. I am not saying we should cease the opening of relations but we should be very wary.

Hermes said...

John, please read this and some of the comments:

John Akritas said...

Well, H. I don't buy this guy's analysis or the evidence and arguments he uses to back it up. It's all pretty flimsy and his conclusions – that Greece is about to be culpable for starting WWIII and it's going to be another Sicily – are hysterical.

I agree with the comments of Achaean at 5.27 and Anonymous at 4.36.

The demonisation of Israel is exaggerated. Its concerns about the nutters in charge of Iran legitimate.

And a closer relationship with the Jewish state reintroduces Greece to the Eastern Mediterranean and elevates the importance of Cyprus to the Western alliance. Even a Stalinist twit like Christofias has recognised the opportunity an Israeli rapprochement has for Cyprus and ditched the rhetoric about the evils of Zionist imperialism. The delineation of the EEZ between Israel and Cyprus is the thing to watch as is the drying up of Israeli capital flowing into occupied Cyprus.

Nor should we forget that Greece is on its knees at the moment and may well be on its belly soon; so, apart from military co-operation, some Israeli know-how on running a successful hi-tech economy with first class universities and an innovative agricultural and new energy sector, wouldn't go amiss either. It's just false to suggest that Israel is simply exploiting Greece, as if Greece were on a par with Georgia and Bulgaria. Have we got so little self-confidence, such a low opinion of our ability in the strategic relationships we engage in to stand up for our national interests?

Anonymous said...

I genuinely only heard about this recently:

Is the source (Dio Cassius) reliable? Is any information on that page reliable? Is this subject well-known?

Thanks for any help.

[[Sorry, I didn't know where to put this post, so I left it here]]