Revolution #153, January 18, 2009
Undeniable Parallels: Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto
Before I stood outside the Holocaust Museum in New York City with a banner reading “After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel,” I toured the museum. After viewing the exhibit on the Warsaw ghetto, the comparison between what is going on in Gaza now and Warsaw ghetto under the Nazis became more striking to me.
The German ruling class promoted vicious anti-Semitism, and carried out the mass murder of Jews as part of a whole agenda for reviving and carving out a greater sphere of domination for German imperialism through World War 2. In Warsaw, Poland, by 1940, over 400,000 Jews—nearly 40% of the population—were literally walled into a space that took up less than 5% of Warsaw. The Jews in the Warsaw ghetto were systematically starved—they received only about a quarter of the amount of food of the Polish population in Warsaw, and less than a tenth of food rations provided for Germans. They had to smuggle in food and fuel, and smuggle out products from their illegal workshops to survive. Under siege, they organized cultural activities, schools, and social services, most of which were linked to organizations banned by the Nazis. By late 1942, hundreds of thousands of Jews had died of starvation in the Warsaw ghetto, or been sent off to Nazi death camps. When Jews rebelled in the famous Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, they were brutally slaughtered, and accused of starting the violence. And, as a matter of fact, they did “start it” in terms of the uprising itself, but who would deny that their uprising was just?
The parallels to Palestine, and Gaza in particular, are simply undeniable. The establishment and massive economic, political, and military backing of Israel is in service of the strategic interests of U.S. empire in the Middle East, and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is a product of that. One result: two thirds of the 1.5 million people packed into the tiny, impoverished territory of Gaza were driven from their homes in other parts of Israeli-occupied Palestine through Zionist terror (for documentation of Zionist ethnic cleansing and terror, see “The Nakba: Ethnic Cleansing and the Birth of Israel,” Revolution #130, May 25, 2008, and other resources at revcom.us).
Within Gaza, conditions were horrific even before Israel’s current invasion. When Israel ended occupation and direct military rule over Gaza in 2005, it kept complete control of the land, sea and air borders. Israel sent armored bulldozers to destroy Gaza’s fruit orchards, blockaded the fishing port, cut off supplies to factories and other businesses, and forbade most Gaza residents the right to work elsewhere or even leave. As a result, approximately a million of Gaza’s people are dependent on UN food distribution, and food and supplies smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt. And the situation has gotten much worse since Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007. Even before the current massacre, Israel was strangling the people of Gaza. Israeli blockades have cut off food, medicine, and fuel. A partially leaked but still-secret report by the International Red Cross reported that a “dramatic fall in living standards has triggered a shift in diet that will damage the long-term health of those living in Gaza and has led to alarming deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and vitamin D.” (“Chronic malnutrition in Gaza blamed on Israel,” Independent, November 15, 2008)
And, like the Nazis, Israel (and its U.S. sponsor) claim that any resistance to what they are doing to the people of Gaza then justifies even more brutality and death.
Never again can it be the case that the Holocaust (or ludicrous claims of “self-defense” on the part of Israel) is invoked to justify the truly Nazi-like policies and actions which the rulers of Israel, and its founders, have carried out over the past sixty years and more, and which they are now carrying to new depths of brutality and depravity with the slaughter in Gaza.
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