December 14, 2012

Israeli Foreign Minister's audacity of dope

[Just after posting this, I heard that Minister Lieberman is resigning in the face of a criminal indictment... but the Czechoslovakia argument remains a common refrain among right-wing Israelis. And Lieberman will probably get re-elected in the January 22 elections and remain a force in the Knesset.]

Regarding concessions to the Palestinians, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said this week that European governments must know that Israel "will not be a second Czechoslovakia." Really??

The Foreign Minister's umbrage aside, his choice of analogy was truly baffling. Czechoslovakia, after all, was a weak, artificial proto-state, formed out of the negative space after World War I obliterated the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1939, Adolf Hitler forcibly ANNEXED the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, claiming it as a German heartland. At the now-infamous Munich conference, the European powers effective handed the Sudetenland over to Adolf Hitler, the regional juggernaut, in a failed bid to placate Germany's lust for conquest. Over the months that followed, it became evident that the appeasement of Munich was the international community's gateway to the Holocaust.

Since 1967, Israel has used similar terminology and actions by "annexing" East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Right-wing Israeli politicians have perennially called for "annexing" all or part of the West Bank, pointing to the large Jewish settler population as a justification. And if there is a regional hegemon today, based on military and economic might, it is Israel and not the Palestinians.

So... If we're applying the Munich-Czechoslovakia model to Israel and the West Bank, who would be Czechoslovakia and who would be Hitler? The perverse answer to such a question is why it's so shocking that any Israeli politician would apply the Czechoslovakia model. Israel is NOT the Third Reich, so why use an example where the aggressor was a powerful country annexing lands where its people are settled, at the expense of the weaker rump state?

There are many valid arguments for why Europeans should be more supportive of Israel and harder on the Palestinians, especially the terrorist elements. But "Czechoslovakia" is nothing but a shrill play of the Holocaust card, hoping that no one will notice it is utter nonsense. So far, especially with Israeli elections a few weeks down the road, that bet is paying off.

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