Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority,speaks to the UN General Assembly before the statehood vote
* Andrew Roberts: The rows of TV satellite vans outside the gates on November 29 alerted passers-by to the importance of the Palestinian debate, although in the context of the GA, the term “debate” is ludicrous. There is no sense of an interaction of ideas.
* “North Korea lectures other countries on food production, Iran will solemnly intone on the benefits of disarmament, Zimbabwe will preach about democracy, and they all without exception talk ceaselessly about human rights, as they blithely torture and murder their own citizens back home.”
* They had interchangeable phrases about how “the eyes of all the children of Palestine are directed towards us”, and references to “Israeli aggression”, “the courage of Yasser Arafat”, and so on. Not a word about Hamas or Hezbollah rocket attacks, and in all the talk about “ethnic cleansing” there was no mention of the Jewish communities that existed throughout the Middle East before 1948. They also all spoke of the historic nature of the debate, but the first time it was mentioned, the English interpreter translated it as “hysteric”, by far the better adjective.
* Andrew Roberts: Although the US ambassador Susan Rice criticized the tone of Israel’s detractors, it’s hard to escape the growing realization that the true leadership of the Free World today, at least in moral terms, lies with America’s great neighbor to the north. Stephen Harper’s Liberal government in Canada is the nation-state equivalent of the honey-badger, a creature that marches happily to its own tune and hangs the consequences. If every Western nation – and specifically Britain and Germany, which pathetically abstained – had the moral purpose and certainty of present-day Canada, the planet would be a much happier and better place.
* David Pryce-Jones: In forums and debates all over the place John Esposito is to be found commenting on one or another aspect of the Islamic world. He is an outstanding example of an academic who exploits his supposedly informed position to turn himself into a spokesman and a public figure. Yet everything he says boils down to the proposition that Muslims are always in the right. After 9/11, Esposito declared himself “pleasantly surprised” by the number of converts to Islam.
* Hitherto almost entirely uninformed about everything Islamic, official America has been taking Esposito at his valuation of himself as an authority. He has briefed the State Department, the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
* In the recent past, many who were not necessarily Communists idealized an imaginary, peace-loving Soviet Union; they were known as fellow-travelers or “useful idiots”. Esposito, born a Catholic in Brooklyn in 1940, idealizes a similarly imaginary, peace-loving Islamic world. The cause has changed, but obsessive belief remains constant.
* Mark Steyn: Of course not all Muslims brutalize their families – although the ten-year-old daughter of Asia Parveen of Stoke Newington (east London) was treated for 56 injuries after being beaten for not reading enough verses of the Koran, and Hesha Yones of west London had her throat cut by her father for being too “Westernized,” and a five-month-old baby in Halmstad, Sweden, was beaten to death with a Koran, and this very month a campaign against Muslim domestic violence is being launched in Scotland, and a BBC poll last year revealed that two-thirds of young British Muslims favor violence against those who “dishonor” their families, and in the Netherlands Muslims make up 60 percent of the population of battered-women’s shelters. And of course not all Muslims are self-segregating, although 57 percent of Pakistani Britons are married to first cousins, and in Bradford, Yorkshire, it’s 75 percent.
I attach four articles below. (Because of severe RSI that makes typing very difficult, I am unable to add any additional notes of my own.) The authors of the first three articles (British historians Andrew Roberts and David Pryce-Jones, and Canadian-American author Mark Steyn) are subscribers to this list -- Tom Gross
(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)
1. “Nations United in Hypocrisy” (By Andrew Roberts, Standpoint, Jan. 2013)
2. “Overrated: John Esposito” (By David Pryce-Jones, Standpoint, Jan. 2013)
3. “The Veil Descends” (By Mark Steyn, National Review, Jan. 11, 2013)
4. “Czech-Israeli Relations: An Enduring Friendship” (By Joseph Pude, Frontpage magazine, Dec. 26, 2012)
AN HISTORIC/HYSTERIC DAY
Nations United in Hypocrisy
By Andrew Roberts
January/February 2013 issue
“If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it,” the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once said of the United Nations General Assembly, “it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” Eban died a decade ago, yet he predicted with uncanny accuracy what actually took place in the General Assembly (GA) on November 29, except that it was Sudan that introduced the resolution rather than Algeria. The actual wording of Resolution A67/L.28 extended non-member observer status to Palestine. Yet since Hamas in Gaza and Fatah on the West Bank are in bitter, sometimes lethal dispute over who represents the would-be state-and the US will veto Palestinian statehood in the Security Council anyhow-it was the precise equivalent of declaring the earth as flat. Yet despite its inherent absurdity, the resolution passed by 138 to 9 with 41 abstentions, so if anything Eban had overestimated the degree of support for Israel in his satirical quip.
If you ever have a free afternoon in New York, do go down to 46th Street and 1st Avenue on the East River and walk around the Tower of Babel there. Find time to look in at a General Assembly debate. It will instantly cure you of any lingering doubts you might have about the wisdom of multilateralism, as delegates from hell-holes like Burkina Faso and Chad take enormous pleasure (and time) lecturing the “colonialist, racist” West on every crime imaginable. Try to get there before the present $2 billion refurbishment has ruined the authentic ramshackle Seventies look of the place, complete with its tiny ancient lifts, dodgy simultaneous-translation plastic earpieces, and 15ft-high damp stains on the walls which look uncannily like the modern art inside the General Assembly’s huge chamber.
The rows of TV satellite vans outside the gates on November 29 alerted passers-by to the importance of the Palestinian debate, although in the context of the GA, the term “debate” is ludicrous. There is no sense of an interaction of ideas, of a thesis and antithesis coming together in some kind of Hegelian way to create a synthesis. Instead, a queue of delegates go to the podium with its famous green marble background, and make speeches largely for domestic consumption with no thought of attempting to persuade the unconverted. Furthermore, there is no consideration given to allowing both sides of the argument equal time to state their case. To make it even more ridiculous, much of the debate takes place after the vote has been taken. Although debates in the chronically unpunctual GA tend to start half an hour later than advertised, somehow they always end ten minutes before the delegation cocktail parties start at 6pm.
There was a palpable sense of occasion for the “Status of Palestine at the United Nations” debate, with every seat taken in the normally half-empty public gallery, and junior diplomats being turned away. Men in keffiyeh and women in headscarves took photos of each other with their iPhones and iPads. There was one young man in a yarmulke (skull cap), looking suitably gloomy. When I asked a young diplomat from the Israeli mission to predict the result, his sole response was “dire”. To make the situation even worse for the Israelis, the result of a lottery at the start of the GA’s 67th session to organise the seating meant that the Israeli delegation had to sit next to the Palestinians. There were 188 possible permutations for placement, yet somehow the lottery produced a result whereby the three Jewish diplomats were forced to sit next to their tormentors.
Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, the Sudanese ambassador, began the debate by saying “We welcome the children of Palestine, who have shown patience and good faith,” before entering into a predictable diatribe against Israel and denouncing “the unacceptability of taking territory by force”. Considering that that was precisely what his country had done to its southern non-Muslim neighbour from 1983 to 2011, the hypocrisy was breathtaking, but then hypocrisy is the small change of GA debates. North Korea lectures other countries on food production, Iran will solemnly intone on the benefits of disarmament, Zimbabwe will preach about democracy, and they all without exception talk ceaselessly about human rights, as they blithely torture and murder their own citizens back home.
Due either to the height of the dome above the speaker’s podium, or possibly the positioning of the loudspeakers farther back in the very long chamber, there is an echo in the General Assembly that afflicts all the speeches there. In the Palestinian debate this echo-chamber effect was doubly amplified because the Sudanese, Indonesian and Turkish all made precisely the same speech. They had interchangeable phrases about how “the eyes of all the children of Palestine are directed towards us”, and references to “Israeli aggression”, “the courage of Yasser Arafat”, and so on. Not a word about Hamas or Hezbollah rocket attacks, and in all the talk about “ethnic cleansing” there was no mention of the Jewish communities that existed throughout the Middle East before 1948. They also all spoke of the historic nature of the debate, but the first time it was mentioned, the English interpreter translated it as “hysteric”, by far the better adjective.
When Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, walked to the podium, the normally somnambulant chamber erupted into applause, including wolf-whistles. Presented with an opportunity to show statesmanship, he instead launched into a violent tirade against the “incessant flood of Israeli threats” and Israel’s “racist colonialist occupation”, describing the two-state solution as “a very difficult choice if not impossible”. He stated that: “Israeli occupation is . . . an apartheid system . . . which institutionalises the plague of racism.” By harking back constantly to the “catastrophe” of 1948-which he described in terms of genocide-and never accepting the right of Israel to exist, Abbas was clearly trying to shore up support back home, yet he was also given a standing ovation by about two-fifths of the chamber and very many in the public gallery. Here was the old Palestinian snarl in all its old fury and resentment, turning down the olive branch yet again. Abbas did not actually wear a uniform and gun-holster in the GA chamber, as Yasser Arafat once did, but he might as well have done.
In reply, Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, gave the speech of his life. “Today I stand before you tall and proud because I represent the world’s one and only Jewish state,” he began in his deep bass voice, “a state built in the Jewish people’s ancient homeland, with its eternal capital Jerusalem as its beating heart. We are a nation with deep roots in the past and bright hopes for the future. We are a nation that values idealism, but acts with pragmatism. Israel is a nation that never hesitates to defend itself, but will always extend its hand for peace.” He spoke of the importance of peace in Jewish history and culture, of the peace treaties that Israel had made with Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, and then pointed out how neither the resolution nor Abbas said anything at all about Israel’s right to exist.
“None of these vital interests, these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put forward before the General Assembly today and that is why Israel cannot accept it,” he said. The real way for Abbas to advance peace would be to go to Jerusalem and negotiate bilaterally, but instead he preferred to go to New York to grandstand and push through what Prosor rightly called “UN resolutions that completely ignore Israel’s vital security and national interests. And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards.” Prosor continued: “No decision by the UN can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”
The rest of the speech was a passionate but logical explanation of why Palestinian statehood would prove utterly counter-productive at this point. It was a tour de force, and its focused rationality reminded me of Margaret Thatcher’s speeches against the Maastricht treaty in the House of Lords in the mid-Nineties. “The truth is that Israel wants peace, and the Palestinians are avoiding peace,” he concluded. “Those who are supporting the resolution today are not advancing peace. They are undermining peace. The UN was founded to advance the cause of peace. Today the Palestinians are turning their back on peace. Don’t let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly.”
The next speaker, the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, also made reference to history, speaking about “the inhuman treatment of the Palestinians from the First World War to today”, and the “inalienable rights” of peoples to states of their own. That would be the same Turkey whose brutal suppression of the Armenian and Kurdish peoples has continued from, well, the First World War to today.
Although the US ambassador Susan Rice criticised the tone of Israel’s detractors, it’s hard to escape the growing realisation that the true leadership of the Free World today, at least in moral terms, lies with America’s great neighbour to the north. Stephen Harper’s Liberal government in Canada is the nation-state equivalent of the honey-badger, a creature that marches happily to its own tune and hangs the consequences. If every Western nation–and specifically Britain and Germany, which pathetically abstained–had the moral purpose and certainty of present-day Canada, the planet would be a much happier and better place. Just like John Howard’s Australian government a decade ago, the Harper ministry is teaching the rest of the English-speaking peoples what a country with backbone can do. The speech from Canada’s foreign minister John Baird was a masterpiece of frankness, logic and decency. He looks like an ice-hockey goalie and doesn’t mince his words, saying the day after the debate: “The bottom line is we will not let the Jewish people and the State of Israel stand alone when the going gets tough.” Yet there were all too few people of his calibre present, and the General Assembly voted by an overwhelming 15-to-1 majority in favour of the resolution. The earth is therefore officially flat, and it was Israel that flattened it.
Only the Liberian delegation failed to turn up to the debate at all. I’m not sure what Her Excellency Madam Marjon V. Kamara, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Liberia to the United Nations, was doing on that historic/hysteric day, but she could hardly have been wasting her time in a more unproductive, predictable and depressing way than the rest of her colleagues in the General Assembly.
IDEALIZING AN IMAGINARY, PEACE-LOVING ISLAMIC WORLD
Overrated: John Esposito
By David Pryce-Jones
In forums and debates all over the place John Esposito is to be found commenting on one or another aspect of the Islamic world. He is an outstanding example of an academic who exploits his supposedly informed position to turn himself into a spokesman and a public figure. Yet everything he says boils down to the proposition that Muslims are always in the right, and to suggest they might be in the wrong is Islamophobia. Conquered by Muslims, non-Muslims must choose between conversion, death and paying a tax that gives them an inferior status (dhimma). After 9/11, Esposito declared himself “pleasantly surprised” by the number of converts to Islam.
In the recent past, many who were not necessarily Communists idealised an imaginary, peace-loving Soviet Union; they were known as fellow-travellers or “useful idiots”. Esposito, born a Catholic in Brooklyn in 1940, idealises a similarly imaginary, peace-loving Islamic world. The cause has changed, but obsessive belief remains constant.
For years Esposito taught at a Jesuit college in Massachusetts. There he might have stayed except that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi ruling family and the nearest equivalent to an Arab George Soros, gave an endowment of $20 million to found the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Catholic Georgetown University in Washington. Interfaith promotion is a deception in the context. Churches are forbidden in Saudi Arabia and Christians face persecution-even beheading-for holding a service or handing out prayerbooks. The Georgetown Center fits into the worldwide campaign which the Saudi rulers finance in order to place a mask of normality over their brutally retrograde country and harsh proselytising version of Islam. As director of this centre, Esposito has had a platform on which to appear as an expert on Islam rather than a Saudi propagandist.
Hitherto almost entirely uninformed about everything Islamic, official America has been taking Esposito at his valuation of himself as an authority. He has briefed the State Department, the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. A tireless operator, he is, or has been, on a dozen bodies operating in the margins, such as the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, the European Network of Experts on De-radicalisation, and the Centre for the Study of Islam and Democracy. He has also been president of the Middle East Studies Association, the body that used to represent professional Arabist scholars before it was taken over by anti-Western and anti-Israeli activists of the Edward Said type.
Most of Esposito’s 30-plus books have been written in collaboration with like-minded useful idiots, such as Georgetown colleague John O. Voll, Azzam Tamimi, a supporter of Palestinian terror groups, and Egyptian-born Dalia Mogahed, who backs the Muslim Brotherhood and has written pro-Islam speeches for President Obama. The books are repetitive exercises in Muslim apologetics.
Millions of Muslims have been killed since 1945 by other Muslims in wars and revolutions, and millions more Muslims, Christians and Jews driven into exile, but Esposito’s expertise lies in skipping over realities of the kind. His pitch is that the Arab and Muslim countries are doing well, modernising, liberalising and democratising. “Diversity and variety, dynamism and flexibility,” he writes in denial of the political and social degradation of the region, “account for a force that continues to be present from Africa to Asia.” Or again, “Elections in Bahrain, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia [oh yes!] . . . have reinforced both the continual saliency of democracy and, in particular, the role of religion in electoral politics”–the last clause negating the entire proposition.
In some places, he unwittingly depicts Muslims as children full of irrational hate for the grownups. Ludicrously, Americans have brought terror on themselves by failing to address the issues of tolerance and pluralism which allegedly define al-Qaeda and their like. The focus on Osama bin Laden, Esposito thinks, served to distort “the diverse international sources and the relevance of one man”. In other places, he writes terror down as “much like other violent crime”, the sort of thing all big cities undergo. Yasser Arafat’s call for jihad was comparable to a literacy campaign or the fight against Aids. The description of Hamas as “a community-focused group that engages in honey, cheese-making and home-based clothing manufacture” would surprise Israelis under missile attacks from Gaza.
The Arab Spring, the spread of the Muslim Brothers, civil war in Syria, Iranian imperialism, the killing and persecution of Christians in Islamic countries, are so many day-by-day refutations of Esposito’s fanciful interpretation of events. As the corpses pile up, people draw their own conclusions. Useful idiots who excused such tragic outcomes are then remembered, if at all, as psychological curiosities.
“THE VEIL DESCENDS, ON ALL OF US”
The Veil Descends
By Mark Steyn
National Review Online
January 11, 2013
In the summer of 2010, mourners lined the streets of Wales’s capital city to pay tribute to a seven-year-old boy killed in a house fire. In fact, Yaseen Ali Ege was brutally beaten to death, and then set alight with barbecue fuel. By his mother. For failing to learn the Koran. Over the preceding months, Mom had used a stick, a rolling pin, and a hammer on her son, but, despite these incentives, he had memorized only a couple of pages. And so she killed him, and subsequently declared she felt “100 percent better.”
This month, at Cardiff Crown Court, Mrs. Ege was sentenced and jailed by Mr. Justice Wyn Williams for what he declared “a dreadful crime” that had inflicted “a good deal of pain” on an innocent boy. The judge, however, was discreet enough not to pass comment on more basic cultural questions. He had no view on whether or not being forced to learn the Koran is an appropriate educational priority for a “Welsh” schoolboy, so long as the parental hammer and kerosene remain locked up in the toolshed. Nor on whether a child so raised can be a fully functioning member of Western society. Yaseen’s headmistress at Radnor Primary School, Ann James, called him “a delightful little boy and beautifully behaved who always had a smile on his face,” and forbore to mention that on the day of his murder he had been kept home from class and the “teddy bears’ picnic” because his mother felt he needed to focus on his Koranic studies.
To dust off the formulation that got me hauled before the Canadian “human rights” commissars: Time for the obligatory “of course”s. Of course not all Muslims brutalize their families – although the ten-year-old daughter of Asia Parveen of Stoke Newington was treated for 56 injuries after being beaten for not reading enough verses of the Koran, and Hesha Yones of west London had her throat cut by her father for being too “Westernized,” and a five-month-old baby in Halmstad, Sweden, was beaten to death with a Koran, and this very month a campaign against Muslim domestic violence is being launched in Scotland, and a BBC poll last year revealed that two-thirds of young British Muslims favor violence against those who “dishonor” their families, and in the Netherlands Muslims make up 60 percent of the population of battered-women’s shelters . . . And of course not all Muslims are self-segregating, although 57 percent of Pakistani Britons are married to first cousins, and in Bradford, Yorkshire, it’s 75 percent . . . Nevertheless, many Muslims share the broader cultural preferences of Yaseen’s mother.
In that sense, Headmistress James and Mr. Justice Williams are lagging indicators. Britain is undergoing demographic transformation. According to the 2011 census, the United Kingdom’s Muslim population doubled in the decade after 9/11. In Cardiff, Yaseen’s funeral service was held in the Masjid-e-Bilal mosque, which was formerly a Christian church and was built during the Welsh Protestant revival in the 19th century. In Wales, Christian revival has come and gone. If the Muslim population doubles again this decade, Mr. Williams and Mrs. James will be joined on the bench and in the faculty lounge by Muslim judges and teachers. Would a Muslim jurist look more kindly on Mrs. Ege, at least with respect to motive? Or would a Muslim headmaster reorient teaching priorities to make Yaseen’s extracurricular studies no longer necessary?
Who knows? In Wales as in much of the Western world, we are in the midst of an unprecedented sociocultural experiment. Its precise end point cannot be known, but on the Continent its contours are beginning to emerge: In Amsterdam, formerly “the most tolerant city in Europe,” gay-bashing is now routine; “youths” busted into a fashion show, pulled a gay model from the catwalk, and beat him to a pulp. Claire Berlinski reported for National Review two years ago that in the French suburb of La Courneuve 77 percent of veiled women say they cover themselves to “avoid the wrath of Islamic morality patrols.” In Potsdam, the Abraham Geiger Theological College advises its rabbis not to venture on the streets wearing identifying marks of their faith. In synagogues from Copenhagen to Berlin to Rome, Jews are warned to hide their yarmulkes under hats or baseball caps at the end of the service. In Paris, a man wearing no identifiably religious clothing was beaten unconscious on the Métro for being caught reading a book by France’s chief rabbi. The message is consistent, from Jews to gays to women: In the new Europe, you don’t want to be seen as the other. Keep your head down, or covered.
For a decade, I’ve been told by those who think I’m “alarmist” that there’s nothing to see here. The seven-year-old whose non-appearance at the teddy bears’ picnic goes unremarked . . . the beleaguered National Health Service reeling under the costs of genetic disorders from cousin marriage but now providing free and discreet “hymen reconstruction” for Muslim daughters who got a little over-Westernized one night . . . the infidel women going veiled to avoid trouble in les banlieues . . . the rabbis wearing baseball caps on the streets of Berlin and Brussels . . .
One reason that there’s “nothing to see” is the ever greater lengths we go to to cover it, and ourselves, up. The veil descends, on all of us.
THE CZECH REPUBLIC WAS THE ONLY EUROPEAN COUNTRY TO VOTE WITH ISRAEL AND THE U.S.
Czech-Israeli Relations: An Enduring Friendship
By Joseph Pude
Front page magazine
December 26, 2012
Sixty-five years ago, on November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) voted to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states and on that same day in 2012 the Palestinians pushed UNGA to resurrect the very state they refused to accept in 1947, simply because it would have meant accepting a Jewish state as well. This time, however, the vote was to accept Palestine at the UN with the status of a Non-Member Observer State. An overwhelming majority – 138 out of 193 countries – voted yes, while only nine countries rejected the Palestine gambit, including the U.S., Canada, and the Czech Republic. The Czechs, in 1947 (as the former Czechoslovakia) and now, voted with the Jewish State.
The Czech Republic was the only member of the European Union (EU) to vote with Israel and the U.S., and has had, through the years, a warm and friendly relationship with both the U.S. and Israel, albeit, not during the Communist interval when it was compelled to join the Soviet Bloc in displaying hostility toward Israel and America. Thomas Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak president of this organic democratic nation that incorporates Bohemia and Moravia, was a lifelong friend of the Jews, and a supporter of the Zionist movement and of the Jewish state. Masaryk was the first head of state to visit British Palestine in 1927. In recognition of this friendship, Israel has honored Masaryk by naming a village after him as well as streets in their major cities.
Czechoslovakia (previously part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) emerged after WWI as a stable, independent democratic state, one of the few truly democratic states in an otherwise authoritarian Europe. Its leaders, Thomas Masaryk and Eduard Benes, were progressive leaders who advanced the socio-economic condition of the diverse country, enabling Jews to live and thrive in post-World War I Czechoslovakia. Jews drew increasingly closer to the state as Hitler rose to power in neighboring Germany, and all Jewish groups in Czechoslovakia supported their country’s stand against Nazism.
For Czechs, the Munich Pact is among the most formative events which helped to shape their understanding of world affairs. In 1938, Czechoslovakia was forced to cede a significant part of its territory to Hitler’s Germany, after Great Britain and France signed a pact with Germany and Italy. The fact that two great powers betrayed a small state in the middle of Europe in order to placate the aggressive Nazi regime left the Czechs with a feeling of having been betrayed and abandoned. The comparison can be made today regarding Israel and its feeling of isolation and betrayal by the EU states, especially by Britain and France, who seek to placate the triumphalist Arab/Muslim world.
During Israel’s War of Independence (1948-49) Czechoslovak military support for the nascent Jewish state in defiance of a UN embargo was crucial to Israel’s survival. The Czechs trained Israeli pilots and sold Israel aircraft they desperately needed. Former Czech Ambassador to Israel, Michael Zantovsky was quoted as saying, “Many Israelis still remember the role that Czechoslovakia played during the War of Independence in 1948, with its supplies of arms and planes.” And, in recent years, Czech pilots have trained in Israel’s Negev desert, which has helped prepare them for conditions in Afghanistan.
Hosting Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Prague last May, Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, compared Israel’s situation to that of Czechoslovakia in the 1930’s. “We have got a special feeling for Israel’s situation – that of a small nation surrounded by enemies. We remember our situation in the 1930s, when the small democratic Czechoslovakia had neighbors that wanted to destroy it or take part of our territory.”
At a joint press conference with the Czech PM, Netanyahu stated that he “deeply appreciated Prague’s friendship,” and added that “nowhere else in Europe are Israeli calls so well understood.” PM Necas pointed out during the press conference that his government “fundamentally rejects delegitimization and any boycott of the State of Israel.” He added, “We clearly support Israel’s right to defense against terrorist attacks.”
The entry of the former Soviet Bloc countries into the EU in 2004 brought a new perspective that came out of their experience with totalitarian communism. These countries, especially the Czech Republic, did not have the post-colonial syndrome. The Czechs and Poles were not as willing to appease and reconcile with authoritarian Arab regimes. Czech independence in the early 1990’s enabled them to change course, and good relations with Israel became symbolic of their independent foreign policy. Czechs have been much more understanding of Israel’s position in dealing with its hostile Arab neighbors and Islamist terror. Unlike Western Europe, Poland and the Czech Republic do not have large Muslim minorities that apply political pressure on their governments.
During the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, the Czech Republic separated itself from the EU position, which demanded an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Hezbollah terrorist group. The Czechs argued that Israel had the right to defend itself. Similarly, during the Cast Lead winter operation of 2008-9, the Czech Republic was one of the few EU states that did not condemn the Israeli entry into Gaza. The Czech Republic held the European Council presidency at the time, and its failure to criticize Israel was admonished by its European partners.
Just prior to the end of the Czech Republic presidency, the Czechs set out to organize an EU-Israel summit with the goal of upgrading the EU’s relations with the Jewish State. The summit was cancelled due to the objections of some EU states who claimed that closer relations with Israel could only come with progress in the Peace Process. The fact that the Palestinians rejected direct negotiations with Israel or a permanent peace settlement has not been lost on the Czechs. Having experienced British and French duplicity and hypocrisy in the late 1930’s, the special relationship between the Czech Republic and the Jewish state remains stronger than ever.
At a recent (November 25, 2012) pro-Israel demonstration in Prague organized by the League Against Anti-Semitism, there were banners that read, “Gaza murderers are killing, and Israel has a right to defend itself.” Other banners read, “Free Gaza from Hamas” and “Israel you are not alone, Israel we love you.” Roman Joch, a former advisor for international affairs and human rights to the Czech prime minister who participated in the rally said, “When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip years ago, it was a time when they could start up a new nation-state. But they don’t want their own state. Their goal is to annihilate and destroy Israel as a Jewish state. Israel gave them land with prosperity and in great condition. And Gaza could be a pearl of the Middle East. But they don’t want it.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a special visit to the Czech Republic earlier this month to personally thank the Czechs for voting against the Palestinian Non-Member Observer State Status at the UN. Netanyahu called the Czech Republic “Israel’s best friend in Europe,” and he expressed his belief that the relationship will go even deeper.