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During the negotiations over the mounting crisis, Prague had to accede under Western pressure to one German demand after another. It agreed on making the Carlsbad Eight Points the basis for negotiations. As tensions mounted along the borders in the summer of 1938, Czechoslovakia went on military alert. The Czechoslovak military being based mainly on a system of emergency reserve mobilization, the Western states exerted pressure on Prague not to mobilize, so as not to provoke Berlin. Prague persisted anyway and was denounced by some in the West for war-mongering.
In late summer 1938, Prague agreed essentially to the whole of the Carlsbad program. On September 13, before the SdP could formally respond to this capitulation, an intifada-like revolt broke out in the Sudetenland. Organized by the SdP, the rioters attacked Jews, Czechs, and democrats, and fired on many Czechoslovak policemen. London and Paris then increased pressure on Prague. On September 19, they 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, the same two powers had pledged to defend Czechoslovakia sovereignty over its entire territory.
On September 29-30, 1938, the leaders of Europe met in Munich and sealed the fate of Czechoslovakia by agreeing to transfer the Sudetenland to Germany. No Czechoslovak representatives were present. They apportioned parts of Czechoslovakia to Germany and other parts of the country were awarded to Poland and Hungary. On October 1, the German Wehrmacht entered the Sudetenland, where most Czechoslovak fortifications happened to be located with almost no opposition. They then rapidly expanded the areas under their control.
German propaganda immediately clamored about the alleged denial of national and human rights of those Germans still living within the rump Czechoslovakian state, demanding recognition of their rights to self-determination. On March 15, the German army completed the destruction of Czechoslovakia by seizing military control of all the remaining parts of the country. On March 16, 1939, the German army occupied Prague, and the rump Czech state ceased to exist. Thus were the Sudeten people at last liberated and granted their national rights of self-determination. In all these events, not a single country had lifted a finger to save Czechoslovakia.
In 1938, in the midst of negotiations over the settlement of the Sudeten conflict, Czechoslovakia’s president, Eduard Benes, had 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, Benes—then in exile—observed 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.”
There are, of course, many differences between the Sudeten story and the Middle East conflict, the most important being the absence of a Hitler in the latter. This said, a large number of parallels between Sudeten and Palestinian self-determination are worth noting.
In both cases, the campaign against the “oppression” of a minority group in fact served as an instrument for aggression against the state in which they lived. Since 1948, those who would destroy Israel have steadily insisted that they were acting out of moral high-mindedness and compassion for their “Palestinian” brethren, simply trying to help the latter achieve self-determination, though their goal is far more aggressive than that.
The campaign for “Palestinian self-determination,” like its Sudeten forerunner, has not the slightest connection with concern over the human rights and civic treatment of “Palestinians.” Those who exaggerated discrimination and oppression against the minority showed little interest in their plight in neighboring German and Arab countries. The Arabs’ assault on Israel has been based on a determination to drive Israel out of their Lebensraum. As such, theirs is another example of the twentieth-century tendency to disguise naked aggression in the self-righteous cloak of promoting self-determination.
“Palestinian self-determination” serves as the banner for Arab aggression against Israel. In both cases, the minority group whose “oppression” formed the rationalization for aggression in fact enjoyed toleration and democratic rights that were completely absent in the neighboring countries where its ethnic brethren formed majorities. Refusal of the neighboring states to accept the presence of an “alien population and state” within their Lebensraum led to war. Both the victims of aggression were social democracies and states with extensive “progressive socialist” structures and high standards of living.
If the Oslo process results in “Palestinian” statehood, will this end the Middle East conflict or mark an intermediate stage of transition to a new form? Will the “Palestinian” state discover the plight of oppressed and mistreated Arabs remaining in the rump Israel, much as Germany demanded further concessions for Czech Germans in the rump partitioned Czechoslovakia? That seems inevitable, as such demands have long been heard by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Arab states. Arabs of the Galilee, the Negev, the Triangle, and then those in Ramla, Haifa, and Jaffa will also demand their self-determination. A Galilee Liberation Organization is yet to be heard from.
The world chose to ignore the evidence that demands for Sudeten self-determination were a Nazi device to disguise military aggression aimed at destroying the self-determination of another nation; might something similar happen in the Middle East? It remains to be seen whether “Palestinians” will be permitted to fulfill their role, assigned to them by the Arab states, of the Sudetens of the Middle East.
Western powers have chosen to blind themselves to the misuse of the campaign for self-determination, and to the ambition by aggressor states to use “self-determination” to liquidate the target state. The powers bewail the sufferings of the minority group while ignoring the fact that the campaign on behalf of their “rights” are serving to delegitimize and weaken the democratic states being targeted for destruction.
So will Great Britain (with its Ulster, Scotch, and Welsh problems), France (with the Corsicans and Bretons), Belgium (with the Flemish and Walloons), Spain (with the Basques and Catalonians), and Canada (with the Quebecois) have any doubts? No, they are all likely to agree on one thing: the “Palestinians” are morally and politically entitled to “self-determination,” no matter how this jeopardizes Israel’s security or even, as in the Czechoslovak case, its very existence. Self-determination for the “oppressed” minority is assumed to provide an instant, just, and sublime solution to a conflict. Westerners (and the rest of the world, too) dismiss challenges to the legitimacy “Palestinian” self-determination with the same unthinking and indignant self-righteousness as their grandfathers did in the 1930s with regard to Sudeten self-determination.
But what moral basis is there for such self-determination? “Palestinians” always identify themselves as Arabs. That being the case, why are over twenty sovereign Arab states, in a territory larger than that of the United States, not sufficient? And if Palestinians are not Arabs, why do Arab leaders never demand, at least not audibly, self-determination for those Palestinians not under Israeli control—such as in Jordan and Lebanon, or in the pre-1967 West Bank?
It has become a matter of near-universal consensus in recent years that “Palestinian self-determination” stands at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It does not.
Such people ignore the fact that for a century nearly every form of aggression, irredentism, and xenophobia has wrapped itself in the banner of self-determination. Twentieth-century aggressors feel a need to present themselves as defenders of the downtrodden and friends of those souls seeking self-determination. Other examples of aggressors claiming to be fighting for self-determination for minorities or for oppressed peoples include Spain’s invasion of Mexico (to protect tribes from the Aztecs); Japan’s invasion of Manchuria, China, Indochina, and Burma; and Russia’s occupation of Eastern Europe. More recent examples include Vietnam’s occupation of Cambodia; Russia in Afghanistan; Iraq’s aggression against Iran and against Kuwait; and the Serb invasions of its several neighbors, including Bosnia and Kosovo. This historic pattern should give pause to anyone hearing appeals about the rights to self-determination.
For decades, “Palestinian self-determination” has being utilized to threaten Israeli self-determination. The PLO has often repeated that Oslo is part of the “plan of stages” by which all of Palestine, including all of Israel, will be liberated in stages. The Arab states have been even less reticent about promoting the ultimate goal of dismantling Israel. If the Arabs ever get their way and get to carry out a second Holocaust against Jews, it too will be in the name of protesting “abuses” of “human rights” and the need for self-determination for “Palestinians. But the ruse of Arab fascists and their fellow travelers is not new.
Westerners seem unable to imagine that any form of self-determination is morally or politically objectionable or ethically deniable; therefore, they tend to receive the self-determination argument with understanding and approval. Ever since Woodrow Wilson devised the term, Westerners have tended to give “self-determination” the benefit of every doubt, even though many of the most horrific conflicts on the planet have been fought in the name of just this “self-determination.” The Arabs already have 22 states. More than any other ethnic group on earth. They deserve no more.
The West must recognize that any form of “Palestinian self-determination” will result in a major escalation of Arab aggression and terror, seeking a new genocide of Jews.
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