It was not so very long ago that the entire world would have dismissed as an absurd mockery the suggestion that the basis for the Arab-Israel conflict was the need for Palestinian "self-determination". Indeed the Arabs themselves never suggested any such thing until well after 1967.
The Arabs before 1967 declared with refreshing candor that their aim was to destroy the Zionist entity and throw all the Jews into the sea. Palestinians mattered very little in all of this. Obviously the conflict did not have the slightest connection to Palestinian "self-determination". The Palestinians were not regarded by Arabs or by anyone else as having any particular need for or right to "self-determination". Had such a need been recognized, nothing was stopping the Arab world from unilaterally granting and establishing such "self-determination" for the Palestinians in those large swaths of Palestine already controlled by the Arab countries: the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, all of Transjordan, and those parts of Syria and Lebanon that might legitimately be considered "Palestinian".
If the Palestinians were indeed a "nation" in need of their own state, there was nothing to prevent the Arab world or the United Nations from creating such a state. Israel would have had no say in it. There were no voices at all in other parts of the world calling for such "self-determination" for Palestinians, this two generations after Woodrow Wilson had made "self-determination" an axiom of international relations.
It was clear to all that the Arab-Israeli conflict had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Palestinian "self-determination" and everything to do with Jewish self-determination. It was about the Arab intention of wiping out all vestiges of Jewish self-determination in the Land of Israel through the use of military aggression. The Arabs refused to accept any such Jewish self-determination, in any set of borders whatsoever.
Until 1967 the Arab world saw little need to invest energies into propaganda and public relations campaigns aimed at the non-Arab world. Much as Ben-Gurion dismissed the UN and world opinion ("It matters not what the goyim say, but what the Jews do"), so Arabs had little interest in how they were perceived by the infidels outside the House of Islam, and spent little time in trying to "make their case" in the media. It was sufficient that the Arab position was self-evidently just to the Arabs themselves. Arab spokesmen routinely called for genocide and destruction of the Israeli Jews. Ahmed Shukheiry, the founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization, promised that after Palestine would be liberated, no Jew there would be left alive.
After 1967 all this changed. The Arabs discovered that they could carry a large section of Western public opinion with creative public relations disinformation, and in particular with a campaign of mock tears about the supposed suffering of the mistreated Palestinians. Suddenly - after 1967 - the Arabs discovered (to their own surprise as much to that of others) that the Palestinians sitting under their noses constituted a "nation" entitled to Wilsonian "self-determination". Never mind that they themselves had never exhibited the slightest interest in granting them such "self-determination" in any of the territories of Palestine which they had controlled or continued to control after 1967.
True, there existed some secondary cultural and linguistic differences that separated Palestinians from other Arabs in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. But these were less substantial than similar differences separating Arabs living in different regions within Iraq, within Egypt, within Libya, or within Morocco, and no one at all was suggesting that such differences constituted a legitimate basis for THOSE groups of Arabs to seek "self-determination".
Instead, Palestinian "national rights" and the need for Palestinian "self-determination" became the propaganda spin touted by Arab PR spokesmen (and occasionally spokeswomen) throughout the world. A Western public that had never quite eliminated its inherent dislike for and mistrust of Jews found this new propaganda spin an acceptable basis for supporting Arab ambitions. They could rationalize Arab aggression and terrorism, not out of any unfashionable and discredited gutter hatred of Jews, but rather out of politically-correct compassion for the Palestinian "victims of injustice", the dispossessed Palestinian "nation" in need of a "homeland". A Western world that could never quite reach agreement over such simple questions as whether the Flemish, Walloons, Ulster Protestants, Corsicans, Scots, Welsh, Quebecois, Basques, Catalonians, or Bretons have any need for or right to self-determination could all agree over one thing: the Palestinians are entitled to "self-determination" and independence, even if it involves jeopardizing Israel's very existence.
Advocates of Palestinian self-determination never examine the logic of their position too closely or else the contradictions would be glaringly obvious. If Palestinians need "self-determination", why is it that they only need it when it involves Israel? Jordan is also Palestine. Why is it that Jordanian Palestinians have never needed "self-determination"? And why did the West Bank and Gazan Arabs not need self-determination on June 4, 1967, but suddenly needed it a few days later? Why was it that Palestinians have never needed self-determination EXCEPT when it would involve Israeli territorial concessions and strategic existential dangers to Israel?
And what exactly is the moral basis for such "self-determination" supposed to be? Either Palestinians are Arabs or they are not.(Obviously they are.) If they are Arabs, then why is it that 22 sovereign Arab states holding territory larger than the United States are not more than sufficient "Arab self-determination", enough to make all residual demands for further Arab "self-determination" a mockery of justice? And if Palestinians are not Arabs, and so the 22 Arabs states are not sufficient in and of themselves to satisfy Palestinian needs for self-determination, why have Palestinians never demanded their national rights and national territories from these other Arab peoples among whom they have lived and to whom they do not "belong"? Why have Palestinians never demanded self-determination for those Palestinians NOT under Israeli control - such as in Jordan and Lebanon?
The Arab evocation of the rights of the Palestinians to "self-determination" succeeded in the West beyond the Arabs' wildest imagination. By the late 1970s it had become a truism believed by most and repeated obsessively in the Western media (which has a memory span of less than a month) that the need for Palestinian "self-determination" had always been the fundamental basis for the Middle East conflict. If Israel were only to grant this "self-determination" to the Palestinians and return to its 1949 borders (more or less), the conflict would end because its causal basis would vanish into thin air.
Within Israel, at first virtually no one took such arguments with the least bit of seriousness. Obviously, the Arabs had invented a red herring by which they hoped the West would be induced into bullying Israel into withdrawing to what Abba Eban had called her "Auschwitz borders". The Arabs simply wanted another shot at carrying out what they had intended to carry out in their assaults on Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973.
It was not until the 1980s that the Israeli Left and the Diaspora Jewish liberals joined the "self-determination" bandwagon. It appealed to their notion of liberal guilt and moral symmetry. If Israel were to recognize the rights of the Palestinians to "self-determination", then surely the Arabs would do the same and reciprocate the honor. Fair is fair. Good sportsmanship and gentlemanly manners require that each side reciprocate. Liberals refuse to entertain the possibility that the Arab world is not an English cricket team.
It was on the basis of this moral symmetry non sequitur that the Israeli and Jewish Left increasingly saw the granting of Palestinian "self-determination" to be the key to resolving the Middle East conflict. Group after group of Jews joined in, including virtually the entire range of Diaspora Jewish political institutions, and spreading from the Israel far-Left to the Labor Party and then even to the Likud. And all those who challenged the same non sequitur instantly became the enemies of peace in the minds of such Jewish advocates of Palestinian "self-determination", people who valued land higher than human life or peace.
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In searching for historic analogies to the Middle East conflict, there is but one that contains ALL of the elements of the Arab-Israeli conflict, one that illustrates better than any other what really lies at the heart of the conflict, one that illuminates better than. any other the true political issues at stake. It is also the best source for lessons that must be learned about the use of "self-determination" as an instrument of military aggression, violence and genocide. That lesson involves the Sudetenland.
Even a casual perusal of the history of the Czech-German conflict must cause an uncanny feeling of deja vu. The campaign for Palestinian "self-determination", now endorsed by nearly everyone in the world, including the bulk of the Diaspora Jewish community and much of the Israeli political spectrum, resembles nothing so much as the nearly-identical campaign, enjoying similar universal approval, for Sudeten self-determination in the late 1930s. The negotiations over Palestinian self-determination bear extremely strong resemblance to the negotiations over the Sudetenland.
Challenges to the moral, legal, or strategic basis for Palestinian "self-determination" are dismissed with the same automatic dismissal and indignant self-righteousness as were similar objections in the 1930s to demands for Sudeten self-determination. In both cases, the Western democracies insisted that self-determination for the "oppressed" represented an instant and a sublimely just solution that would end conflict and produce tranquility.
It was in 1938, in the midst of negotiations over the settlement of the Sudeten conflict that the President of Czechoslovakia, Dr. Eduard Bene, warned the West: "Do not believe it (is) a question of self-determination. From the beginning, it has been a battle for the existence of the state." Several years later, after Sudeten self-determination had been granted and Czechoslovakia had ceased to exist as a country, Bene, - then in exile - was to observe that "such a concept of self-determination is a priori a denial of the right of self-determination of ten million Czechoslovakians and precludes the very existence of a Czechoslovakian state."
The world's campaign on behalf of Palestinian "self-determination" began around 25 years after Jewish self-determination had been realized in the independence of the State of Israel. The campaign to recognize and grant Sudeten self-determination came about twenty years after the creation of modern Czechoslovakia. In both cases, the advocates of "self-determination" ignored the obvious fact that self-determination already existed for the vast majority of the members of the peoples in question in the form of German or Arab nation-states contiguous to the areas of dispute. In both cases the populations of the targeted countries were accused by the aggressors of being "outsiders", of not belonging in the region. The Czechs were Slavs, invaders of the Germanic Lebensraum, outsiders. Just as the Israelis were infidels and outsiders invading the Arab Lebensraum. And in both cases, the world chose to ignore the indications that demands for "self-determination" were nothing more than a figleaf being used by the demanders in order to disguise military aggression aimed at destroying the self-determination of another nation.
The Czechoslovakian state, like Israel, was a country recreated after centuries, after it had been destroyed and absorbed by others ages earlier. In the Middle Ages, Bohemia and Moravia had been separate Czech kingdoms, enjoying varying degrees of independence, generally within the framework of the Holy Roman Empire. During the Hussite rebellion of the 15th century, the Czechs regained their full independence in a Maccabi-like armed struggle of the few against the many. Their independence was then to be crushed with finality in 1620, and the Czech lands were absorbed by the Habsburg Empire, while much of the Czech population was dispersed.
After World War I, after centuries of persecution, the Czechs re-established their sovereignty, restored their self-determination, with their Slovakian cousins, in the state of Czechoslovakia, which recently in the post-Communism era split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
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Czechoslovakia, like Israel, lies in a strategically central location. Bismarck once observed that whoever was master of Bohemia was master of Europe (a lesson not lost upon Eastern Europe's Communist masters after World War II). Modern Czech nationalism emerged in the second half of the 19th century, about the same time as modern Zionism. When the Habsburg Empire collapsed in World War I, Czech nationalism achieved self-determination, just as Israel's creation was a direct result of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
During World War I, Czech leaders lobbied in European capitals for independence at the very same time that Chaim Weizmann and the other leaders of the Zionist movement were struggling for support and recognition. Czechs participated in resistance and espionage against the Axis powers during World War I at the same time that Zionists in Palestine were operating the NILI espionage group in support of the British.
The Czechoslovakia that emerged from World War I contained a diverse and heterogeneous population, like the Habsburg Empire. In particular, about 23% of the citizens of the state were ethnic Germans (not far from the portion of Arabs among Israel's population), concentrated in the Western section known as the Sudetenland. Most of these Sudeten Germans were violently opposed to being incorporated within the Czechoslovakian state. On October 21, 1918, German deputies from all parts of the former Austrian Empire convened and issued a call for national "self-determination" for the Germans of Czechoslovakia, using the Wilsonian term that had recently entered the international lexicon.
In the following year the Sudeten Germans launched a wave of violent demonstrations and terrorism in opposition to the inclusion of their lands in the Czech state. Thousands of Sudeten Germans fled from the new state to the neighboring countries of Germany and Austria. The new Czechoslovakian government, like the Israeli government of 1948, was faced with a mixed population that included a large minority with questionable loyalty to the state - one that identified itself openly with the large populations in neighboring countries, one that was fundamentally opposed to the very existence of the new state. Both countries attempted to resolve their problems with the same strategy: winning over the hostile minority through economic integration, tolerance, freedom, and liberal social reform. The first President of Czechoslovakia was Tom Garrigue Masaryk, who resembled David Ben-Gurion as a powerful, strong-willed, charismatic and progressive politician. Masaryk, like Ben-Gurion, proposed a comprehensive program of social, economic, and linguistic equality for all national groups in the new state. Indeed, both men saw the integration of their respective minorities as an ultimate test of their progressive principles. Both the Czechoslovakia of the 1920s and the Israel of the 1950s developed quickly into stable parliamentary democracies with protection for all the freedoms found in modern Western states. In both countries a large number of political parties contested elections and gained representation in the parliaments. In both, government coalitions of parties were formed after a great deal of partisan horse-trading. Like Israeli Arabs, the Sudeten Germans voted and were elected to parliament. In both countries, a pattern of decentralization evolved, where the minority groups were permitted to operate their own schools in their own languages and control their own local affairs. Both countries guaranteed religious pluralism and tolerance. German was an official national language in the German areas of Czechoslovakia, much as Arabic has always been an official national language in Israel. On the whole, the Sudeten Germans probably enjoyed better treatment than any other national minority in Europe, just as Arabs in Israel (even including those in the "occupied territories") have enjoyed freedom and tolerance without precedent for a Middle East minority.
Czechoslovakia, like Israel, was ruled by social democrats committed to social reform and egalitarianism. Both countries passed legislative programs that were among the most progressive in the world. In both countries trade union activism and power bloomed. In both countries widespread experimentation with cooperative agriculture took place. Both countries quickly surpassed their neighbors in economic development, education, and standards of living.
Both the Sudeten Germans and the Palestinian Arabs found themselves at the center of international conflicts and escalating tensions. In both cases, the conflicts developed following the increased radicalization of the nationalist movements in neighboring countries, where power was seized by revolutionary and xenophobic leaders. The Sudeten conflict was enflamed as a result of the Pan-German ideology and imperialist ambitions of the Third Reich, just as the Palestinian conflict was invented by the Pan-Arab and Pan-Islamic movements of the Middle East.
For Sudeten Germans and Palestinian Arabs, peaceful coexistence gave way to increasing polarization and extremism. German complaints of discrimination and mistreatment at the hands of Czechs multiplied as international tensions grew, much as Palestinian protests spread decades later. In both cases there occurred a shift in voting patterns as frustration peaked. During the first decade of Czechoslovakian independence, Sudeten Germans had voted primarily for the more moderate parties, much as Israeli Arabs at first voted for the Zionist parties. But in the 1930s Sudeten voters shifted to nationalist parties with totalitarian ideologies, just like Israeli Arabs. In particular the Sudeten German support for the Nazi surrogate party called the Sudeten German Party - or SdP - soared. The SdP received more than 60 percent of the Czechoslovakian German vote in 1935 (a higher vote than what the Nazis received in Germany), and more than 85% in 1938. In a similar pattern, Arab voters in Israel have transferred their loyalties in large majorities to the anti-Zionist Hadash Communist Party, which has never renounced Stalinism, and to the PLO. Totalitarianism is virtually the only existing political sentiment among Palestinians in the Palestinian Autonomy areas.
Neither the complaints of the Sudeten Germans nor those of the Palestinian Arabs were entirely without foundation. In both cases, the minority group was underrepresented in the civil service and armed forces, partly because of security fears. Both groups experienced some security-related restrictions, particularly during periods of exterior threats and tensions.
In both cases, the issue of land ownership was one of extremist political passion for the minority group. Land owned by Sudeten Germans was expropriated for defense fortifications, as the Sudeten lands were alongside Germany whence any future military threats would come. Some Arab land in Israel and the "occupied territories" was similarly expropriated. When Czechoslovakia was created, the Germans owned a disproportionately large portion of the land, just as did Israel's Arabs. This also meant that when private land was expropriated, it was more likely to belong to the minority group. Both the Third Reich and the Arab countries used the land expropriations as a justification for their military aggression. Both Nazi Germany and the Arab world were to justify aggression on grounds of rushing to defend the human rights of their brethren, while at the same time suppressing all human rights within their own countries.
The growing Sudeten nationalist movement was anti-liberal, anti-democratic, and authoritarian, just like the Palestinian movement. The SdP, like the PLO, never outlined a political or social program of nation-building beyond demanding "self-determination". Both organizations used violence to suppress other competing nationalist parties, and each asserted its own position as sole spokesmen for the peoples in question. The SdP organized Sudeten refugees who had fled to Germany when Czechoslovakia became independent. These were recruited into the Sudeten German Heimatbund, a paramilitary organization. Later this group formed the basis of the Sudeten German Freikorps, a terrorist organization to which 34,000 Sudetens living in Germany were recruited. These terrorists raided Czech border areas and carried out atrocities until after Munich.
The Nazi Party was formally banned in Czechoslovakia. Yet freedom of the press was scrupulously maintained there, even in the face of escalating violence and provocations by the Sudeten Germans. The Sudeten political organizations and press quite openly identified with the Nazi Party in Germany, much as the Israeli Arab press quite openly identifies with the PLO and with people such as Saddam Hussein. After coming to power, Hitler turned the issue of Sudeten national rights into the main instrument for military aggression. His interest in "self-determination" was based entirely on his determination to destroy and annex Czechoslovakia. The Nazi propaganda machine shifted into high gear, alleging widespread violations of the human rights of Sudeten Germans by the Czechoslovakian authorities. Nazi funds flowed into the coffers of the SdP. Germany ominously warned of the existence of imaginary Soviet airfields in Czechoslovakia, much as the Arabs were to "discover" imaginary American airfields in Israel in 1967. Germany labeled Czechoslovakia "a puppet of Soviet imperialism", just as the Arabs were to label Israel a puppet and instrument of American imperialism. But the most important part of the Nazi propaganda assault on Czechoslovakia was the denunciation of the supposed torture and physical abuse of Sudeten Germans at the hands of Czechoslovakia. This from the nation that was already building concentration camps.
By the summer of 1937, Hitler was simultaneously pressuring Prague to make concessions on the Sudeten issue and completing his military plan for the invasion of Czechoslovakia. The head of the SdP, Konrad Heinlein, went on a diplomatic offensive, touring the Western capitals and demanding that Sudeten rights be acknowledged. A Sudeten Arafat, Heinlein at first attempted to convince the European governments that his ambitions were limited to autonomy for Sudeten Germans. Yet his statements became increasingly belligerent. There is no German equivalent for "jihad", or Heinlein would have used it, like Arafat.
On January 1, 1938, Heinlein said: "The Czechoslovakian people must recognize that no settlement will ever be reached with our great neighbor, Germany, until the Sudeten Germans are satisfied." In 1938 the SdP adopted the Carlsbad Eight Points. This manifesto, considerably more moderate than the still-unrenounced Palestinian National Covenant of the PLO, essentially called for the partitioning of Czechoslovakia and the secession of the Sudetenland to Germany. Unlike the PLO National Covenant, the SdP position seemed to leave open the possibility of coexistence with a truncated Czechoslovakian state after such a "redeployment" would take place.
An internal problem involving minority "rights" quickly assumed international dimensions. Responding to Nazi protests, the Western powers began pressuring Prague to accede to Sudeten demands. As early as July 1936, Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Minister, urged Czechoslovakia to grant the Sudeten Germans full autonomy. Heinlein visited London a number of times and received official welcomes of a kind usually reserved for heads of state, much like the near-universal crowning of Arafat by the world's political leaders decades later.
The Czech historian Radomir Luza contrasted these honors thrust upon Heinlein with the London reception for Czechoslovakian President Benes, whom he says was treated "more cavalierly than if he had been the chief of a tribe in Africa." Had he lived, Luza might have said, "Almost like a Netanyahu."
Following the Austrian Anschluss, mass support for the SdP among the Sudeten Germans grew, along with violence and mass demonstrations against Czechoslovakia. Heinlein escalated the war of rhetoric and violence in the streets, denouncing the Prague regime as "Hussite-Bolshevik criminals", which might be compared with Arab utterances about the "Zionist imperialist criminals". Threats from the Third Reich assumed a more ominous tone. Reports arrived of German troop concentrations near the Czechoslovak frontier. Germany daily denounced the Czechs as "the real disturbers of peace in Europe", at the same time that the Reich prepared for war.
Responding to Western pressures, the Czechoslovakian leaders agreed to negotiate with the SdP, and proposed their own program for limited autonomy. The SdP, under orders from Hitler, rejected the plan peremptorily. London repeatedly pressured Prague to sweeten the plan and to agree to a Sudeten plebiscite, even though it was obvious that such a plebiscite would lead to the partition of Czechoslovakia.
Against the mood of appeasement, a few Western protests were voiced, but generally ignored. William Srang, head of the Central European Department of the British Foreign Office, warned: "Even if there were not a single German in Czechoslovakia, the root problem of German-Czechoslovakian relations would remain, viz., a Slav state thrust into the heart of Germany ... The German government ... (is) using the Sudeten German question as an instrument of policy to strengthen (its) political and military position." Would that such honesty were to be heard from the American State Department Arabists in the 1990s.
From the beginning, Czechoslovakia had argued that the issue of Sudeten "self-determination" was a red herring. The real cause of the Central European crisis was the aggressive intentions of the Third Reich. Yet the democracies continued to view the conflict as a question of minority rights and self-determination. Britain and Germany held talks and issued a joint statement affirming the rights of the Sudeten Germans, with no mention at all of the security needs of Czechoslovakia. Forewarnings of the behavior of the General Assembly of the United Nations decades later.
In 1938, London demanded and Prague was forced to accept a British mediator, even though Czechoslovakia had always maintained that the Sudeten problem was an internal affair and no business of the world community. London appointed Lord Runciman, who was himself renown for his strong sympathies for the Germans. In his report to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, Runciman recommended that all agitation against the Nazis be forbidden inside Chamberlain, somewhat reminiscent of the McCarthyist campaign of the Israeli Left decades later against anti-Oslo dissidents for "criminal incitement and sedition". Runciman added: "Czechoslovakian rule in the Sudeten areas for the last twenty years, though not actively oppressive, ... has been marked by tactlessness, lack of understanding, petty intolerance, and discrimination, to a point where the resentment of the German population was inevitably moving in the direction of revolt." Change the names, and you have the near-universal "explanation" for the intifada. During the negotiations, Czechoslovakia was forced to accede to demand after demand by the Germans. Under Western pressure, Prague agreed that the Carlsbad Eight Points would form the basis for negotiations. After each unilateral concession by Prague, new demands were raised by the SdP, which was under orders from Berlin not to reach any real agreement. German strategy called for the negotiations to fail, so that the Reich would be forced to intervene militarily. Heinlein was instructed that in the unlikely event of complete capitulation by Prague to the Carlsbad program, new demands were to be added that in effect infringed upon the ability of Czechoslovakia to formulate its own foreign policy, and so accede to compromising its own sovereignty. Years later, the Arab world would condition any settlement with Israel on its agreeing to cancel its Law of Return and relinquish its sovereignty over immigration policy, in addition to other concessions.
As tensions mounted along the borders, Czechoslovakia went on military alert. Like the Israel Defense Forces, the Czechoslovakian military was largely based on a system of emergency reserve mobilization. As the reserves were called up, Western pressure was exerted on Prague to demobilize, so as not to provoke Berlin. Prague persisted, and was denounced for war-mongering by some in the West. Most of the ethnic-German reservists failed to report. During the mobilization, two German citizens were killed by Czechoslovakian guards, and Hitler roared against the Czech aggressors.
Eventually, Czechoslovakia agreed to a settlement that was essentially a complete capitulation to the Carlsbad program. On September 13, 1938, before the SdP could formally respond, an intifada revolt broke out in the Sudetenland. Organized by the SdP, the rioters attacked Jews, Czechs, and democrats, and fired on many Czechoslovakian policemen. The Czechoslovakian army restored order and established martial law, as the SdP leadership fled to Germany. Pressure increased on Czechoslovakia and the Sudeten Germans sensed victory. On September 19, Britain and France proposed to transfer to Germany all parts of Czechoslovakia in which the population was more than half German. In exchange, they offered Czechoslovakia an international guarantee for its new boundaries after partition. In fact no such formal guarantee was ever received. Earlier of course the same Western powers had pledged to defend Czechoslovakia sovereignty over its entire territory.
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On September 29, 1938, the leaders of Europe met in Munich and sealed the fate of Czechoslovakia. There were no Czechoslovakian representatives present. On October 1, the German Wehrmacht entered the Sudetenland. Parts of Czechoslovakia were also awarded to Poland and Hungary. Most of the Czechoslovakian fortifications were located in the Czech "West Bank" that was ceded to Hitler.
The Germans immediately instituted their program of Gleichschaltung, suppressing the Czech and Slovak languages, confiscating Czechoslovakian property, and forcing Czechoslovakians - three quarters of a million of whom had remained in the territories ceded - to emigrate at bayonet point. At the same time, German propaganda continued to clamor about the denial of national and human rights to the Germans who still remained within the territory of the rump Czechoslovakian state. Germany demanded recognition of their rights to self-determination as well, much as the Arabs have always made it clear that Palestinian statehood would not preclude the necessity of granting self-determination to the Arabs living within Israel proper, within the Green Line.
On March 12, 1939, there were German demonstrations in all the remaining Czechoslovakian cities with a German population. On March 15, the German army completed the destruction of Czechoslovakia, and the Sudeten people were at last liberated and granted their national rights and self-determination. Not a single country lifted a finger.
The Czech historian Luza has observed: "The Sudeten German problem was not a cause of the context but its pretext. The true reason, according to the Germans themselves, was a refusal of the Czechoslovakian state to become a German vassal (emphasis in original)." Hitler confirmed this on January 23, 1942, when he said, "To put it briefly, the Czechoslovakians are a foreign body in the midst of the German community. There is no room both for them and for us. One of us must give way."
When the Arab world discovered the sudden need for the Palestinians to achieve "self-determination" after 1967, it also made it clear that achieving such "self-determination" in the West Bank and in Gaza would be a precondition for reaching a settlement with Israel, rather than a complete achievement thereof. The PLO has made it clear that it sticks to this position, as does most of the Arab world, with Egypt and Jordan maintaining some ambiguity. Just as Germany continued to demand further concessions from Prague for the Czech Germans remaining behind in the rump partitioned Czechoslovakia after Munich, so once a Palestinian state arises in the West Bank and Gaza, the PLO and the Arab world will inevitably discover the plight of the oppressed and mistreated Arabs remaining in the rump Israel behind the Green Line. Demands will arise for self-determination for the Arabs of the Galilee, the Negev, the Triangle, and then those in Ramla, Haifa, and Jaffa. No doubt a Galilee Liberation Organization would be the lead item on the agenda.
Arab aggression towards Israel has never had the slightest connection with any Arab concern over the rights and treatment of Palestinians, as their own treatment of their own Arabs makes clear. The Arab world's behavior towards the non-Arab minorities living amongst them is among the worst in the world. The Arab assault on Israel is based on nothing other than their determination to drive Israel out of their Lebensraum.
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There are of course important differences between the campaign for Palestinian self-determination and that for Sudeten self-determination in the 1930s. Unlike Nazi Germany, most Arab countries and the PLO have never pretended that the relinquishing of territories by Israel would satisfy their demands. The Western democracies have never signed mutual defense treaties with Israel, as they had with Czechoslovakia. Unlike Israel, the liberated Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II immediately expelled virtually all of the Sudeten Germans from its territory, and has refused ever since to even think about negotiations for their return or their compensation, a "transfer" of population the rest of the world has long forgotten. But the most important difference is that Czechoslovakia was unable to defend itself militarily in 1938, to counter-attack and drive back the Nazi military.
It would be a fascinating thought experiment to imagine what would have happened if the valiant Czechoslovakians had beaten back the Wehrmacht and seized Bavaria as a bargaining piece. Would history have recreated the Middle East conflict, with the leaders of the world denouncing Czech militarism and aggression, rushing to arm the Nazi victims of Czech imperialism? With protests around the world about the mistreatment of Sudetens and Bavarians by fanatic Czechs? With Heinlein granted a Nobel Prize? With Czech leftists and assimilated Diaspora Czechs in America denouncing the evil government in Prague consisting of people who put land ahead of peace?
And all would agree that self-determination for the Sudetens is the key to peace in the world.
Dr. Steven Plaut teaches business and economics at the University of Haifa, in Israel.