East Germany’s Undeclared Wars with Israel

by Jeffrey Herf  •  May 1, 2016
Cross-posted from The Times of Israel

Originally published under the title “Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989.”

This week Cambridge University Press is publishing my new book, Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989. I examine a spectrum of antagonism by the East German government and West German radical leftist organizations – ranging from hostile propaganda and diplomacy to military support for Israel’s Arab armed adversaries — from 1967 to the end of the Cold War in 1989.

The book is about ideas and politics as well as about details of arms deliveries and military training. The depth of the Soviet bloc and East German alliance with Hafez al-Assad’s Syria is well documented in the files. The history of intelligence cooperation between the Stasi and the PLO and of what I call East Germany’s Eurocentric definition of counterterrorism is particularly interesting. This period encompasses the Six-Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and an ongoing campaign of terrorism waged by the Palestine Liberation Organization against Israeli civilians.

Undeclared Wars with Israel provides new insights into the West German radicals who collaborated in “actions'” with Palestinian terrorist groups in Entebbe and in West Germany. The evidence confirms that East Germany, along with other member states in the Soviet Bloc, had a much greater impact on the conflict in the Middle East than has been generally known, and certainly played a more important role than the media savvy West German terrorist organizations.

East Germany provided weapons and training to states and armed groups fighting Israel.

Of particular interest are the interventions of Israel’s Ambassadors to the United Nations: Gideon Rafael, Yosef Tekoah, Chaim Herzog and Yehuda Blum. In the years of extensive terrorist operations by the Palestine Liberation Organization and its affiliates such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Israeli diplomats at the UN produced a remarkably detailed record of those terrible events. They also left behind a record of courage and eloquence that deserves to be remembered and recognized.

I have worked extensively in the files of the former East German regime, including those of the Politburo, the Council of Ministers, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and the Ministry of State Security, the Stasi. The files of the West German Interior Ministry, the West German Foreign Office, and other sources in Berlin, Hamburg, and Amsterdam that contain material on the leftist organizations of the 1960s to 1980s are all most revealing. So too were those of the Central Council of Jews in Germany in Heidelberg, the US State Department and the records of the United Nations. Undeclared Wars with Israel contains a great deal of new material dealing with famous and familiar events but also draws attention to far less well known but at times more important matters that only the archives illuminate. The Germans, East and West, the leading figures of the Arabs states, and the various PLO leaders all voice their views, but so do the Israelis ( especially at the United Nations) and Jewish leaders in West Germany. The debates and controversies of those years, which after all were not so long ago, echo in the debates and controversies of our own time.

I hope the book will interest readers of The Times of Israel.

Jeffrey Herf is a history professor at the University of Maryland-College Park and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Bron: ww.meforum.org