The Warsaw Ghetto and the assault on Gaza - is there anything in the comparison?

The text below is translated from the poster at the centre of this image of the destruction of Gaza by the Israeli state. But it refers not to this horror but another in 1943 when the Nazis crushed the Warsaw ghetto, wiping out the poorly armed organised resistance that operated out of a warren of bunkers & sewers hidden beneath the ghetto. This poster was by one of the armed factions that defended the Ghetto, the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB)

 

 All people are brothers;
Yellow, brown, black, and white.
Talk of peoples, colors, races -
Is all a made-up story

"When the Germans marched into the ghetto, they met fierce armed resistance from fighters attacking from open windows in vacated apartments. The defenders of the ghetto utilized guerrilla warfare tactics and had the strategic advantage not only of surprise but also of being able to look down on their opponents. This advantage was lost when the Germans began systematically burning all of the buildings of the ghetto forcing the fighters to leave their positions and seek cover in the underground bunkers. The fires above consumed much of the available oxygen below ground, turning the bunkers into suffocating death traps." (Wiki)

The German army in its official reports of the fighting referred to the Jewish resistance fighters as bandits. It's sobering to read those collected reports which are archived at the Jewish Virtual Library, itself a product of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) whose function in part is to "to enhance Israel's image." Those reports can be found at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/nowarsaw.html

The JVL also provides pages that summarise the history of the Ghetto. The one covering smuggling of food into the Ghetto is interesting. We should be clear here - the purpose of the comparison is not to suggest the Israeli state is the same as the Nazis'. The Ghetto was liquidated and its population shipped off to be murdered because Nazi policy had moved on from imprisoning the subject population & working them to death on starvation rations to systematic, industrialised murder of a sort not yet even advocated by the most extreme right elements in Israel. Yes, those elements are celebrating the deaths of Gaza's children on the streets of Tel Aviv, but they are not yet dreaming of industrialising a process to eliminate all of them.

We do know however that part of the purpose of Israel's maintenance of the blockade of Gaza is to keep the population in a state of food insecurity if not starvation. One of the US Embassy cables released by Wikileaks said
"As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge," the aim was to keep the economy "functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis" (text as reported in the Israeli paper Haaretz).

These revelations were accompanied by a court case fought by Israeli advocacy group Gisha that forced the IDF to release documents showing they had "made precise calculations of Gaza's daily calorie needs to avoid malnutrition during a blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory between 2007 and mid-2010." Gisha argued that Israel calculated the calorie needs for Gaza's population so as to restrict the quantity of food it allowed in. In any case it was this blockade that led to the widespread construction of tunnels to smuggle food and other goods in from Egypt.

The Nazis set an official ration of food allowed into the Warsaw ghetto but that ration was a fraction of the minimum daily requirement. Its purpose wasn't to keep the population of the ghetto on the edge of starvation but to actually starve them, quite quickly, to death. The smuggling operations into the ghetto described below served to slow down the rate of starvation but enough food was never smuggled in to provide a minimum requirement rather than slow this process.

----- JVL description starts ----

The German authorities did everything to seal off the ghetto hermetically and not allow in a single gram of food. A wall was put up around the ghetto on all sides that did not leave a single millimeter of open space....

They fixed barbed wire and broken glass to the top of the wall. When that failed to help, the Judenrat was ordered to make the wall higher, at the expense of the Jews, of course....

Several kinds of guards were appointed for the walls and the passages through them; the categories [of guards] were constantly being changed and their numbers increased. .. ..Among the Jewish victims of the smuggling there were tens of Jewish children between 5 and 6 years old, whom the German killers shot in great numbers near the passages and at the walls....

And despite that, without paying attention to the victims, the smuggling never stopped for a moment. ...

The smuggling took place – a) through the walls, b) through the gates, c) through underground tunnels, d) through sewers, and e) through houses on the borders....

---- JVL description ends ---

 

If we are not equating the Nazis' assault on the Warsaw Ghetto with the Israeli state's assault on Gaza what is the purpose here?

This comparison is needed at this time as it becomes increasingly acceptable in Israel to advocate clearing Gaza of Palestinians. Towards the end of last month, as the anniversary of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto approached, the Jerusalem Post found it acceptable to publish an opinion piece whose words have an unintended historical echo. In it Martin Sherman the executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies argued; "The only durable solution requires dismantling Gaza, humanitarian relocation of the non-belligerent Arab population, and extension of Israeli sovereignty over the region."
( in full at http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Into-the-fray-Why-Gaza-must-go-3... )

Take out the word 'humanitarian' and it sounds like the official German report from 1943 and its explanation that "It soon became clear, however, that not all dangers had been removed by this confining the Jews to one place. Security considerations required removing the Jews from the city of Warsaw altogether. The first large resettlement action took place in the period from ..."

Two things can be said in conclusion
1. The purpose of the violence was quite different but the reason the comparison speaks to us is because both are examples of the rational systematic planning designed to control an almost helpless subject population using overwhelmingly superior military technology.
2. The ghetto resistance as illustrated by this poster not only rejected the supremacist basis of nazi ideology but, especially considering the reality ZOB operated in, advanced a fantastically positive counter ideology. "All people are brothers; Yellow, brown, black, and white" is an ideology that is rejected in practise by today's racist Israeli state.

WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )

  


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