Learning from the 1930s / Op-ed: European appeasement before World War II reminiscent of current EU attitudes (YNetNews.Com -Yedioth Internet) Manfred Gerstenfeld Published: 05.28.12, 17:11)
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A variety of major elements in today’s delegitimization of Israel by
European agitators recall what Jews experienced in the late 1930s. To
study this thoroughly would require a huge effort. Formulating a few
key ideas about this however, could easily come from reading a single
book which covers that period.
One example is Duff Cooper’s autobiography, Old Men Forget. The
author is a former British Conservative minister. He was First Lord
of the Admiralty – a British title for the Minister of Marine – at
the time of the Munich agreements. On 29 September 1938, England and
France abandoned Czechoslovakia to Hitler by agreeing that it had to
give up part of its territory to Germany. This Sudetenland was mainly
inhabited by ethnic Germans and all the Czechoslovak fortifications
were there. This led to the German occupation of the entire country
six months later.
Shortly before Munich, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
spoke on the radio. Cooper writes that he had no words of sympathy
for Czechoslovakia, which he was prepared to betray. “The only
sympathy expressed was for Hitler, whose feelings about the Sudetens
the PM said that he could well understand.”
Cooper resigned from the cabinet immediately after Munich. This act
required great courage. Chamberlain was at the height of his
popularity as the agreement promised “peace for all times.” In
reality, this meant a respite of less than a year until war broke out
after the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939.
Cooper often quoted from his diaries. On 22 May 1938, at the time of
continuous vicious German verbal attacks on Czechoslovakia, he wrote
about a cabinet meeting, “The general feeling seemed to be that
great, brutal Czechoslovakia was bullying poor, peaceful little
Germany…It was decided to send off a telegram to tell the French to
go carefully and not to rely too much on us, and another to urge the
Czechs to make large concessions.”
In diluted form this resembles the European Union’s ongoing criticism
of Israel and Europe’s tip-toeing around the “peaceful Arab world”
where many thousands have been slaughtered by their own countrymen.
In September 1938, another cabinet member Viscount Hailsham, said to
Cooper: “It all depends on whether we can trust Hitler.” Cooper
asked, “Trust him for what?” He has got everything he wants for the
present and he has given no promises for the future.”
Do Arabs want peace?
Can one trust Arab states or the Palestinians today? The great
majority of Egyptians want to abolish the Camp David peace treaty in
which their country got back Sinai without fighting. The Palestinian
Authority glorifies murderers of Israeli civilians and names youth
camps, streets and schools after them. Hamas has the genocide of the
Jews written in their charter. Should one trust that they want peace?
Cooper describes Great Britain’s mood after Munich: “There was to be
no war, neither now, nor at any future date….the aged prime minister
of England had saved the world.” The positive attitude displayed by
Israel’s majority for the 1993 Oslo agreements did not go quite that
far. Today we know that this agreement enabled the Palestinians to
gradually mobilize large parts of the Muslim world against Israel.
After the outbreak of the Second World War, many British displayed an
attitude that Poland was lost anyhow, so why should Britain continue
to fight against Germany? Former Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd
George suggested in Parliament that the British government should
consider any proposals for peace. Cooper reacted by saying that Lloyd
George was suggesting surrender.
While the Germans were spending huge amounts of money on propaganda,
the British were allocating none. Shortly after the outbreak of war,
Cooper left for the United States on a lecture tour. Before he left,
Chamberlain sent a high-ranking official over to request that Cooper
abstain from saying anything that might sound like British propaganda.
In his autobiography, Cooper wrote that in retrospect this demand
seemed almost incredible. “A former cabinet minister arrives from
England and his country has just entered on a great war and he is
advertised to lecture all over the United States on topics of current
interest. What will his audiences expect of him except information
about this war, the causes and the prospects of it? How can an
Englishman give such information without presenting and defending the
cause of his country? And what better form of propaganda could there
Since Oslo, we have had some Israeli governments emulate
Chamberlain’s foolish position. They claimed that “if you do good,
you do not need public diplomacy.” The current government does not
adhere to that absurd maxim, but there is certainly vast room for
improvement in the presentation of Israel’s case to the world.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 20 books. Several of these
address anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism (Copyright 2012 © Yedioth
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