Monday, October 11, 2010

A history lesson for Avigdor Lieberman

The last two paragraphs in a 'Haaretz' article entitled, "Lieberman: Israel will not be the Czechoslovakia of 2010", quote Lieberman as saying to the French and Spanish foreign ministers, "In 1938 Europe placated Hitler, sacrificing Czechoslovakia instead of supporting it, and gained nothing from it," Lieberman said. "We will not be the Czechoslovakia of 2010, we will stand up for Israel's vital interests."  For the most part, the article in fact is just a report of Lieberman's nonsense verbatim, while obviously being written for effect rather than any news value.

No, we are not about to take Israel's best, "most liberal", newspaper too seriously and it should come as no surprise when the journalist writing the article comes to the following conclusion: "Twenty years later, Hitler demanded that the region be returned to Germany, and Britain and France agreed. A year later in 1939, Germany conquered the rest of Czechoslovakia proper by force." Gobbledegook and journalists are not only not required to investigate, research and write news, they are also no longer required to write.  Nevertheless, while it is almost as difficult to find real news in this standard 'Haaretz' fare, as it would be in the 'PyongYang Times', the discerning reader might read between the lines, interpret and deduce and in doing so might even come to the conclusion that the Mr Lieberman is not all wrong, even if he is not all wrong for reasons he might not wish to hear. 

The "swissification" of Czechoslovakia never took place and the republic that was to find itself under the auspices of Tomáš Masaryk and then Eduard Benes, both Czech nationalists, was one in which the political elite not only didn't allow political autonomy for minority ethnic groups but, indeed, a country where the Czechs, who, when the first republic was founded in 1918, constituted about 48% of the total population of 6.6 million, were not even a majority. Furthermore, not only were non-Czechs under-represented in the government and army, but government contracts also invariably went to Czech companies. If Lieberman wants to draw parallels between Czechoslovakia and Israel, then it is those facts that should represent the basis of any comparison. Even although, it would still be absurd to suggest that Slovaks, Germans, Hungarians, Ruthanians, Poles and Jews were deprived, excluded or persecuted in the way that Palestinians are today.

Which, of course, brings me to the final point and Lieberman's implication that Israel's existence is threatened in much the same way as Czechoslovakia's was in 1938. The reasons for the failure of a state in which all power was centralised have been touched upon. Therefore, while the agreement signed on the 30th of September 1938, most certainly sealed the downfall of Central Europe's only democracy, albeit one which we can hardly call a "democracy par excellence", the seeds of that downfall were already sown much earlier. Indeed, this was emphasised later on when Gustáv Husák, who was actually a Slovak, broke up the country's federal structure after the crushing of the "Prague Spring", and returned control to Prague. The final dissolution of Czechoslovakia on the 1st of January 1993 almost became inevitable and it at least gives us some indication as to how fragile that union of Czechs and Slovaks in particular always was.  Nevertheless, be that as it may, it is this peaceful divorce, which has culminated with both countries being members of the European Union, that Lieberman should be looking to for guidance. The alternative is, indeed, a scenario that will have more in common with the events of 1938 and the catastrophe that followed. 

Clearer heads would hope that such a disaster will not happen. Unfortunately, the gobbledegook spouted out by Avigdor Lieberman and his ilk along with more than sixty years of theft, murder and ethnic cleansing indicate that he might be a bit closer to the truth than he thinks when he draws comparisons with Czechoslovakia in 1938 and not Czechoslovakia in 1993. That is indeed why we can only hope that Zionism will follow Nazism into the dustbin of history, which is the only place for ideologies which places race or religion above humanity. However, the evidence would seem to suggest that before that happens, the Zionists will be making many more of their historical comparisons and in doing so they will be moving closer and closer to those figures who they supposedly hate but resemble so much ........ "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

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