Monday, December 3, 2018

A bond sealed in blood - Smadar Bat Adam

by Smadar Bat Adam

Like Israel, the Czech Republic is a small country that understands the dangers of negotiating with terrorist entities and it is standing up against anti-Israeli sentiment in Europe.

Amid the media attention about the president of Chad's visit last week, another leader – Czech President Miloš Zeman – also visited Israel. "I'm Israel's best friend," Zeman told the Knesset plenum, whose members were busy locking down deals ahead of the expected dissolution of the Knesset. Which is a shame – it would be worthwhile if small-scale politics stopped in honor of him.

For the most part, declarations of love and friendship by national leaders are suspect. Remember Charles de Gaulle's response to David Ben-Gurion, who praised France as "Israel's greatest friend" – "France has no friends and no enemies. France has interests," the head of the republic decreed. But the Czech Republic is a different story; it is a sister nation.

There is no way of knowing how the 1948 War of Independence would have ended without the aid that only then-Czechoslovakia provided to Israel by sending weapons and training paratroopers and other combat soldiers and pilots, and sending combat aircraft. Czech aid played a key role in Operation Nachshon (the Mauser Karabiner 98k became known locally as the "Czech rifle.")

Such comradeship and love is sealed in blood. Czechoslovakia, the first victim of Nazism, was betrayed by Britain and France, who believed that they could make peace with the axis of evil, and was torn away from the Sudetenland by the disgraceful Munich Agreement. The Czechs internalized the lessons of the war. In an interview to Haaretz in 2002, Zeman said that Hitler was the biggest terrorist in the world in the 1930s, and no one should have negotiated with him then, just like no one should negotiate with terrorists today.

It is clear to the Czech Republic – unlike other countries – that the Palestinians, who waged war against the Jewish population, have no right to return to the State of Israel. The Czechs have learned from experience: The German minority there that joined Hitler were deported after the war is now demanding to come back.

A small country is taking a determined stance against anti-Israeli sentiment in Europe. During Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), when the Czech Republic was head of the European Union, it defined Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip as defensive rather than offensive. After the ill-fated protest flotilla to Gaza in 2010, the head of the Czech parliament expressed solidarity with Israeli democracy and a commitment to fight Hamas terrorism out of the understanding that "we in the Czech Republic could find ourselves in the same situation."

The Czech Republic voted against the Palestinian Authority being accepted into the U.N. as an observer nation. And now, 50 years after Jerusalem was reunified, the Czech Parliament has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and has promised to relocate its embassy. They are on our side. They have learned firsthand what happens when countries align themselves with an axis of evil out of weakness. Who understands better than the Czechs the pointlessness of the idea that giving up territory will lead to peace?

The day the Czech president was here was also the fifth anniversary of the passing of beloved Israeli singer-composer Arik Einstein, who sang about Israel's identification with Prague in 1968. The partnership between two small states who have experienced betrayal runs deep

Smadar Bat Adam


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