Eye on the Middle East Mar/Apr 2013
In November 2012 the Czech Republic voted against a UN resolution to make “Palestine” a non-Member Observer State. It was the sole European country—and one of only nine (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Panama, Palau, United States)—to do so.
Nevertheless, the resolution passed easily with 138 yes votes and 41 abstentions. The Czech Foreign Ministry said it voted no because “it might further delay peace talks” between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pushed hard for this resolution and has shunned direct talks for some time.
In thanking Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas for his country’s support, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I know that your country has learned the lessons of history.”
The lessons occurred in 1938, shortly before World War II. In May 2012, the then 47-year-old Czech prime minister told The Jerusalem Post, “We’ve 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 or take part of our territory.”
Nečas knew his country had watched helplessly as France and Great Britain negotiated away Czechoslovakia’s security in the name of peace. Czechoslovakia was created in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. Carved from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechoslovakia was comprised of several nationalities, including approximately 3 million Germans who lived in the area known as the Sudetenland. Though Czech citizens, they were Germans first.
As a result, most of them joined the Sudeten German Party that was formed in 1933. As Adolf Hitler gained power, he encouraged and em -powered the German People’s Party to demand the Sudetenland become part of the Third Reich. The Czech government staunchly refused. The Sudetenland was a vital geographic area, rich in natural resources and strategic for Czechoslovakia’s security. Yet, immediately after Germany annexed Austria with little world reac-tion in March 1938, Hitler announced his intention to do the same with the Sudetenland.
The Czechs were willing to defend their turf but counted on their agreement with Great Britain and France to help them avoid military conflict. However, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain wanted peace and believed he could achieve it by talking face-to-face with Hitler.
Disregarding the Czech government, Chamberlain met with Hitler three times to discuss a peaceful solution. The final meeting (the Munich Conference) included Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany. These countries agreed to transfer the Sudetenland to Germany, reneging on their treaty with Czechoslovakia. Believing his piece of paper would bring peace, Chamberlain arrived back in London where he stood before a large, cheering crowd at Buckingham Palace and told the British, “Go home and sleep quietly in your beds.”
Unfortunately, that “quiet sleep” did not last long. Hitler regarded that piece of paper so cherished by Chamberlain as nothing more than scrap. After Germany received the Sudetenland in October 1938, the Nazis marched into Prague, Czechoslovakia, five months later. Within another six months, World War II began.
Clearly, Petr Nečas understands what 18th-century British statesman Edmund Burke once said: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
Seventy-five years ago, France and Great Britain consorted with Germany and gave away Czechoslovakia’s national security. In November 2012, 179 nations were willing to give away Israel’s.
Seventy-five years ago, France and Great Britain ignored their treaty and threw the Czechs under the proverbial bus. In November, the UN ignored all previous international agreements that call for direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians and threw Israel under the bus.
Seventy-five years ago, alone in the world, Czechoslovakia was forced to comply with the will of its neighbors, resulting in Nazi occupation. Today the world wants Israel to comply with the will of its neighbors, which would result in the Jewish state’s demise.
However, God has a promise for Israel: “He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them” (Dt. 4:31). It is good to know God has raised up the Czechs to remind Israel He is faithful.