Austrian engineers aided Egypt’s Nasser in battling Israel

Historian details shock and frustration of Golda Meir to find European country working against Jewish state.

Golda Meir, the fourth Israeli prime minister. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Golda Meir, the fourth Israeli prime minister.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
BERLIN – An Austrian historian has documented the controversial role of the European country in arming the military regime of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, during the period between 1958 and 1969.
In a journal associated with Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies, historian Thomas Riegler wrote about the frustration and shock of then-foreign minister Golda Meir to Austrian businessmen, engineers and former Nazis in arming Nasser.
Commenting on the 350 Austrians building Nasser’s armaments, Meir said this is alarming and can be compared to the high number of German technicians working in Egypt.
She added the presence of the Austrians “deals only with work on building up Egypt’s military that could only be used against Israel.”
Riegler wrote in the introduction to his article that the involvement of Austrian personnel in developing Egypt’s air force “led to diplomatic tensions” between Austria and Israel.
He said, “Austrian foreign policy pursued the same passive-reserved course like the FRG [Federal Republic of Germany] and showed little understanding for the Israeli position. The controversy surrounding the scientists and technicians was overall part of a difficult period of bilateral relations... shaped by unsolved questions of accountability and compensation for the Holocaust.”
Israel’s worries about Austria’s nefarious role in Egypt were compounded by reports from Otto Joklik, an Austrian whistle-blower, who told Israeli diplomats in Vienna in 1962, that Egyptian radioactive rockets would soon be able to strike Tel Aviv.
Joklik, who worked with Egypt on the armament program, said, the entire Egyptian military development is a “continuation of the annihilation of Jews.”
After meeting with her then-counterpart Austrian foreign minister Bruno Kreisky, Meir expressed deep concern that Austrian was advancing priorities of the Arab countries at the expense of the security of the Jewish state.
Appeals from Austrian’s tiny post-Holocaust Jewish community fell on deaf ears. Riegler said that Ernst Feldberg, president of the Jewish community, informed the government that it passed a resolution urging the Austrians to abandon their activity in Egypt.
Kreisky, who was of Jewish origin but widely considered to be anti-Israel, said that “Austrians have a right to freely choose their jobs.”
Samuel Laster, an Israeli living in Vienna who is the editor-in-chief of the news website Die Jüdische, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the Austria’s business dealings with Israel’s enemies has not “essentially changed.” He cited Austria’s relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In November, Austrian academics from University of Leoben visited an EU-sanctioned Iranian university with connections to illicit nuclear-proliferation activities.
“Prior to the visit, University of Leoben checked the legal situation and concluded that a meeting with researchers does not break the embargo,” Erhard Skupa, a spokesman for the university, told the Post in November.