Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Caroline Affair

Let us begin with a joke.

A CNN reporter, a BBC reporter and an Israeli commando are captured by ISIS in Syria. The terrorist leader told them he would grant them any last request before they were beheaded. The CNN reporter said, "Well, I'm American, so I would like one last burger with fries." The leader instructed an aide to bring a burger and fries. The reporter ate it and said "Now, I can die."
The BBC correspondent said, "I want to take out my tape and describe the scene here and what's going to happen. Maybe one day someone will hear it and know I was on duty until the end."
The ISIS leader ordered the aide to hand over a tape and dictated some remarks. The reporter then said, "Now I can die knowing I stayed true to the end."
The ISIS leader then turned to the Israeli commando and said: "And now, Mr. tough Israeli guy, what is your last wish?"
"Kick me in the ass," the soldier said.
"What?" The leader asked, "Are you joking with us in your final hour?"
"No, I'm not kidding. I want you to kick me in the ass," the Israeli insisted.
So the terrorist leader pushed him into an open area and kicked him in his ass. The soldier fell over, but rolled to his knees, pulled out a 9mm pistol from under his shirt and shot the leader dead. He jumped into his bag, pulled out an Uzi machine gun and shot the rest of the terrorists.
"Why didn't you just shoot them at the beginning? Why did you ask them to kick your ass first? "
"What?" The Israeli replied, "And that you will report that I started and I am the aggressor?"

And why am I telling you this? Good thing you asked because it is a result of things I hear on social media. So let’s embark on our story of the day. 

Is it true that the United States and Britain are allies? Yes, it is, but that was not always the case. England once controlled a part of America but after gaining independence England, the conflict did not end. Is that a hint to us, here in the Middle East?

War broke out again in 1812 and this is actually the beginning of the story. Wait with me until the end because it connects to the joke I told you. So after the war there were negotiations and the parties resolved the disputes between them. However, there were those in the United States who still claimed that part of Canada belonged to the United States and in Canada there were those who dreamed of independence from Britain.

In 1837 a failed revolt took place against British rule. Part of the revolt was in Quebec, which is French-speaking. In Ontario, on the other hand, many of the leaders of the uprising were American immigrants to Canada. Their leader was a Scottish Baron named William Mackenzie. The revolt was quickly defeated. Mackenzie fled to Buffalo, where he persuaded a number of Americans to join his cause. Mackenzie and other Canadian rebels, backed by American citizens, fled to an island in the Niagara River, in an American steamboat called the Caroline.

Canadian militia, on orders from the British, crossed the Niagara River and captured the steamboat while it was docked in American waters. The militia set fire to the Caroline and threw the ship over Niagara Falls.

These actions strained US-England relations almost to the brink of war. The American side saw the raid as a blatant and unshakable attack on a neutral state. The British and Canadian sides justified the need to deal with security threats that the United States was unwilling or unable to neutralize. The U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster and a new British envoy to the United States, Alexander Baring, Lord Ashburton, met and together agreed on a law, and shortly afterwards the border issues were largely resolved by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.

Today, the Caroline event is considered a legal argument in international law for anticipatory self-defense. Webster's statement on behalf of the United States, and Ashburton's agreement that a nation must show "the need for self-defense, immediate, overwhelming, with no options and no moment to hesitate," entered into international law and is known as a condition of pre-emptive strike.

Now we have studied a long distant past and it has been many years since we were at school, studying history, so you are probably asking "Who cares today?"

And now we come to the Six Day War. Did you think otherwise? So as you may remember, or not, in May 1967, Nasser, the Egyptian ruler, for those who do not remember, demanded that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, remove the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) from Sinai. This force had separated the Egyptians and Israel from the 1956 Sinai War.

This was, of course, according to the agreement placing the UNEF in Sinai, and It was his full right. But on that day Cairo Radio broadcast "All Egypt is now ready to plunge into a total war that will put an end to Israel."

A few days later, Syrian President Dr. Norddin al-Atasi declared "We want a full-scale popular liberation war...to destroy the Zionist enemy" and there were similar voices throughout the region even from distant places like Algeria. I will not quote everything that was broadcast by Arab media in May /June 1967 but we all know what happened. Israel carried out a pre-emptive strike against Egypt and others.

In military schools, or at least so I am told, the Caroline event is cited as a justification for Israel's preemptive strike since all the conditions existed. Thank you Daniel! It was also the justification for destroying the nuclear reactor in Iraq. Today's prosecution or Hague investigators would have probably not have accepted the argument due to their lack of impartiality, but I'm not a jurist, I'm a simple philatelist.

So if one day you find yourself in a dark alley and a few people approach you menacingly and say, "We’re going to beat the crap out of you" and you're Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Dam, or even the same commando from the beginning, then shout “Caroline Event" and do what needs to be done before they carry out their threat and if not, run away, because even if you have a weapon for self-defense, the prosecution will cut you to threads.

Here is a free frank item sent 1843 and signed by Secretary of State Daniel Webster. This is valid in the exhibiting world because his signature and position had a direct influence on the postal rate, meaning free. Free franking privileges were granted to Secretaries of State from 1792.

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Ships stranded in the Suez Canal

Now let's dive into today's story. We all remember that there was a another war of survival in our area in 1967 and if you didn’t know, well now you do. The biggest losers were the Egyptians who once again lost control of the entire Sinai Peninsula but it doesn’t really matter as they got everything back again, but that's not the point.

On May 22nd, 1967, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran and once again blocked the entry of ships on their way to Israel. Déjà vu? After all, in 1956 they did the same thing and the Sinai War broke out. But in June 1967, 14 innocent cargo ships from 8 different countries, entered the Suez Canal on their way north but no one bothered to pick up the phone and warn them that war was about to break out. Now as you now know a war broke out and the Egyptians lost all of a Sinai and finally decided to close the canal, there was no entry and no exit.

So the ships had to dock at a lake called the Great Bitter Lake. They waited there for the war to end. Well this was a short war but they suddenly realized that Egypt was not reopening the canal. "Let us go home" they cried out, but Nasser, the President of Egypt had other plans, the ships were hostages of 8 countries: England, West Germany, Poland, Sweden, Bulgaria, France, USA and Czechoslovakia and why not try to blackmail some of these countries.

The truth is that I do not know if that happened and maybe just telling stories but the fact is that Nasser did not release the ships and Sadat who replaced Nasser also didn’t release them, so they must have had a reason. In essence Egypt only controlled the western side and Israel occupied the eastern side. In practice it was possible to operate the canal together but this was not realistic as it would also allow ships going to Israel to use the canal and it would add salt to their wounds of their great loss and in addition, heaven forbid that an Arab state would cooperate with Israel?

The trapped ships were quite active during the war, using their boats to help Egyptian soldiers who fled Sinai and the doctor on the Polish ship treated about 400 wounded soldiers, very nice of them. There were also about 200 passengers on the ships and at the end of June they were allowed to return home and in August the crews on all the ships were replaced.

Now we have a problem and anyone who has gone through a real lockdown, like Israel’s first Corona lockdown, knows what it is like to be imprisoned in the same place for a long time. So you have a good book, you’re finished in three days; you'll watch a video on the internet, well no, because in 1967 there was no video or internet.

What do bored, restless adults do? Unite! And so the Great Bitter Lake Association was born. The sailors played a wide variety of different activities together such as: cards, chess, table tennis and more. Remember this is a time before Facebook so they had to actually meet, and unlike today, without masks! Who knows when we will return to that? So what else? They played football and handball on the deck of the English ship "Port Invercargill" and of course they had medical service by the doctor from the Polish ship "Djakarta" which we mentioned earlier. The staffs exchanged groceries as well as prepared food, as I teach my daughter "Sharing is Caring". One Swedish ship, the "M/S Killara" had a pool and the other Swedish ship the "M/S Nippon" had a gym. Of course one of their favorite things was movies, not video, there used to be such a thing. In 1968 they all united for an Olympic game of their own.

But how do you communicate with your family? There were no mobile phones, so you need to send letters! And what will they use for stamps? "Let's make them ourselves!" But hold your horse, wait a moment, not everyone can print stamps and mail them, it is not exactly legitimate. If it was legitimate, I would print my own stamps. So in the beginning, towards the end of 1967, the post offices in Egypt, Cairo and Alexandria were very tolerant of the sailors' distress and allowed the letters to be sent without any real stamps and of course the eight countries to which the ships belonged, accepted the stamps of the GBLA and even encouraged the practise. The post office of the organization was on the German ship "Northwind" and everyone gathered there to send and receive letters and the postman took the mail to Egyptian post offices for delivery. Not every postal clerk received the stamps as there was no official procedure in place and quite a few of the postmen demanded that they use regular Egyptian stamps..

Since there was no official status, the GBLA applied to the International Postal Association UPU for recognition since the letters were sent by sea and as of 1891, there was a law that allows letters to be sent by sea, PAQUEBOT and this also applies to the GBLA. The UPU accepted the claim that Clause 21 was valid for these ships and at the end of 1969 introduced a change to the bylaws to allow these stamps and make the practice official and it was accepted as Clause 23.

Only in 1975 did the Suez Canal reopen and the ships were finally allowed to leave the quarantine. But between 1967 and 1975, there was also 1973 and of course the Egyptians attacked Israel. This time the ships were inactive except for one, the American ship "Africa Glenn" which was abandoned and the Egyptian army used it as an observation and direction. As a result, the IDF sank the ship.

Real letters from the first period, that is, until 1970, sell for hundreds of dollars. Personally if I did not know the story behind the stamps, I would laugh at the stamps and think it is not true. They were simple stamps with bad graphics and looked as if they were cut with scissors, but that's the advantage of knowledge and that's why I pass the knowledge on.

The story is based on the stamp catalog of the Slovakian Peter Valdner, the Great Bitter Lake Association. Contact: valdpete@yahoo.com. Here is the site: https://valdpete.blogspot.com/p/great-bitter-lake-association-catalogue.html
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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Kalamata Incident

We all know there was a war for Israel’s basic existence in 1948 and if you didn’t, sorry about that. At that time, there was a worldwide boycott of arms sales to Israel except for one country, Czechoslovakia. Whoever thinks that the Americans stood by us at this time, is wrong, this is a pretty common mistake nowadays that is heard mostly on social media.

Why did countries not want to sell us weapons? Good question, and I don’t have many answers only that Western countries did not want to annoy their Arab customers, after all we are a small country compared to the many large countries surrounding us that also had oil. An old joke says that it is a pity that Moshe, our ancestor from the Bible should have turned left instead of right. If he had turned right we would have the oil and the Arabs oranges, referring to Jaffa oranges. Of course it is an old joke, because Jaffa oranges are not what they once were, if there is such a thing today.

Czechoslovakia was willing, but only with Russia's approval, since in 1948 they were a part of the Russian Alliance. And why were they willing, other than to receive money like Pfizer nowadays? 😊 

Well Jan Masaryk, the then Czech Foreign Minister, was a friend of Israel and allowed the sale of weaponry. For those who don’t know, Kfar Masaryk is named after his father. 

The weaponry we received was the same weapons that they produced for the Nazis. We had soldiers who had previously served in the British Army but who knew how to use German equipment? We also bought planes from them but who knew how to fly a Messerschmitt plane, like the one in the Cuban stamp pictured above? It turns out that no one, and Ezer Weizmann, who was a pilot in the British Air Force during World War Two, knew the British Spitfire plane very well, flew to Czechoslovakia to learn about the Messerschmitt.

Flights from Czechoslovakia to Israel brought small arms and of course mail. There was a war going on, so which flights would bring mail? For some unknown reason they had no emails in 1948, I do not know why. Among the Czech pilots who flew regularly to Israel, was a brave man named Vaclav Fogler.

Fogler wanted to defect to the West and had an exact plan, unlike our government’s, but success depended on him returning to Prague on December 24th (Christmas Eve, when security would be lax) and smuggling his family out. He had to adhere to the strict schedule of leaving Rome on December 21st, flying to Athens, then Lydda (Lod), near Tel Aviv, and back again, a very tight schedule. A round trip in three days, on a Dakota plane? It may sound ridiculous today, because a flight to the Czech Republic is only a few hours, but who wants to go to Prague in the winter?

Nothing happens in a vacuum and in December 1948, something is going on in Greece that could greatly affect Fogler's plan but no one told him about it. Since the liberation of Greece from Nazi occupation, Greek Communist partisans had tried to overthrow the pro-Western government by an open revolt, similar to my previous story, no? England and the United States supported the Greek government and England also served as de facto ruler of Greece during 1948, not exactly an occupation. So on December 21st, 1948, the day Folger left Rome, fierce fighting took place all over Greece, between the government and the rebels. It is important for you to know that the rebels were receiving constant air drops from the Yugoslav Air Force.

British intelligence commanded air traffic control in Greece, including Athens and the airport of Kalamata, a city in southern Greece, and wanted to identify each and every flight before assisting in takeoff and landing, and of course they did not give permits to the Yugoslav Air Force.

When Fogler approached Greece carrying weapons for the IDF, bad weather forced him to deviate from the original flight plan and he radioed this to Athens. There was total darkness and he had no idea where he was and he was unable to identify his whereabouts, He asked for help from the nearest air traffic control to help him identify his whereabouts. He broadcast again and again, and was met with total radio silence. He had no idea that his SOS was actually heard in London, Malta and Tangier he did not know that Greece's air control did not answer intentionally. And why? Because British intelligence believed that the intention of the Czech flight was to drop weapons to the local Communist rebels. Kalamata Airport was less than 60 km away and could easily have handled the Dakota, but the British forced air control not to respond.

The partisans heard the plane in the sky above them and of course assumed that the flight was intended for them. They hurried to turn on lights and other marks on a ridge, suitable for dropping supplies. Poor Fogler thought that the equipment on his plane was not working properly because of the radio silence and was delighted to see the lights. He believed that they were showing a runway that would be suitable for an emergency landing. As he began landing, he suddenly noticed a hill. Unable to climb in time, he collided with the ridge. The Czech airliner crashed near Kalamata, Greece on December 21, 1948.

Of course the partisans pounced on the plane, stole all our weapons and left us with nothing but a few letters that survived the crash. Too bad we did not have insurance. In addition to the pilot, there were other unfortunate passengers on the plane, including fourteen Israelis.

If you had received a letter like the one below, torn, tatty, burned and dirty, wouldn’t you have thrown it in the trash? No? I have not seen many letters that survived this crash and they are of course quite rare but of course they exist. No one knows exactly how many survived. The example below is from my personal collection. The story is based on an article in issue 36 of the journal HLPH.

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