Sunday 2 March 2008

Slaughter in Gaza- the Warsaw Ghetto of the 21st Century

Slaughter and starvation in Gaza-
six month old baby murdered
another 56 killed by Israeli attacks yesterday

12 noon MARCH 15th

(a) End the occupation of Iraq
(b) Freedom for Palestine
(c) No NZ Troops in Afghanistan

Do your part, organise many more to come-
Join AntiWar Aotearoa and organise HERE

Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza: Disturbing Parallels

Commentary: Steve Hutcheson, Arab News

I saw a photo last week of a father holding his 6-month-old baby son. The father’s face was devoid of expression; the child in his arms was dead. The boy’s name was Mohammed Al-Borai; he along with several others had been killed in a blast fired indiscriminately by an Israeli cannon into the densely populated areas of Gaza.

There were more photos, one of a group of young boys holding flowers standing around the battered and bloodstained body of the baby boy. That struck me as the most poignant. I had been having a discussion about the cause of suicide bombers among Palestinians and it will be this image more than any other that will concern me more than most. In their minds the young dead boy will have more impact on their future than anything any one might tell them.

It was then that I started to contemplate perhaps more fully the plight of the Palestinians today and the parallels in the history of the Jews that led to their mass exodus from their own countries to immigrate to the land that was at the time known as Palestine.

The Warsaw Ghetto during the Jewish Holocaust holds special significance to the European Jews. It was a place of oppression and the pathway to the ultimate death of thousands of their population that has become symbolic with their struggle for recognition. Yet what they are failing to acknowledge as their descendants press forward with their own brand of Jewish and Zionist idealism is the parallel set of conditions that they are now imposing on the Arab people of Palestine.

The Nazis rounded up the Jews of Poland and quartered them in a small area of Warsaw, building a barricade around the perimeter to prevent them leaving. So too have the Israelis through conflict and force pushed many of the Arab inhabitants out of Israel into an enclave that now has a population density of 4,200 people per sq. km which is 14 times that of the surrounding area of Israel which has 360 people per sq. km.

The Nazis deprived the ghetto inhabitants of food and essential supplies. So too has the Israeli government stopped the flow of goods to the 1.4 million inhabitants of Gaza by limiting the convoys of supplies to a mere trickle.

The Nazis reduced the average calorie intake of the Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto to 241 calories per day. So too have the Israelis reduced the calorie intake of the Palestinians in Gaza. According to a UN report, it is presently at 61 percent of the average daily requirements.

The Nazis restricted public utilities such as water and electricity. So too has the Israeli government.

The Nazis restricted the inhabitants from adequate health care. Israelis restrict the health care in Gaza by limiting the medical supplies in or the treatment of cases that need to be done outside.

The Jewish inhabitants through the ZZB and the ZOB resisted the oppression by the Nazis albeit too late and their rebellion was brutally crushed without concern for who was in the way. So too have the Palestinians of Gaza through their own resistance organizations, in particular Hamas, rebelled against their oppressors and so too do the Israelis use all means available to crush the rebellion without concern for who is in the way or who they maim or kill in doing so.

The Nazis destroyed the structure of the ghetto leveling it to the ground in a broad quest to rout the resistance to their oppression. Israelis indiscriminately level buildings and the infrastructure in Gaza in a quest to rout out the resistance to their oppression. The Nazis assigned the Jewish people to a lesser status of all their inhabitants depriving them of their rights as citizens and even as humans. Israel assigns the refugees held in Gaza less status than is given to the Jews worldwide and deprives the Palestinians of their rights to return to their former lands.

The Nazis applied whatever was at their means to break the will of the Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto. Israelis do the same thing; they use whatever is at their means to break the will of the Palestinians.

The Nazis killed the Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto indiscriminately. Don’t the Israelis kill indiscriminately the inhabitants in forcing their control over Gaza?

The Jews of Israel and elsewhere are quite right to protest at the inhumanity of the Nazis in their treatment of them and oblige the world not to allow the same situation to happen again. The Palestinians protest at the inhumanity of the Israeli treatment, yet in a bizarre twist of events, the world still allows the oppression to happen and continue.

It was after the Jews in the ghetto had been largely killed or transported that the world stood up and felt guilty in not acting sooner.

With the picture of Mohammed Al-Borai in my mind I question when the world will stand up and say: Enough is enough, there is not going to be a repeat of the Warsaw Ghetto and particularly when its perpetrators are those who suffered the most by its conduct.

There is a basic conflict of inhumanity occurring to the Palestinian people of Gaza that the world is deliberately ignoring. An inhumanity that was inflicted by the Nazis on the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto is now more than ever closely paralleling that which they are inflicting on the people of Gaza. They learned a hard lesson but it was not a lesson learned well. They have been given the power to practice humanity but have decided instead that they will treat the concerns of the Palestinians in the same inhumane way the Nazis treated them.

A future monument will no doubt contain photos of Mohammed Al-Borai in the arms of his father and the world will decry the injustice.

Steve Hutcheson has worked in crisis recovery in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Indonesia for the past several years and is now based in Thailand. He can be contacted at:

Israeli minister threatens "holocaust" as public demand ceasefire talks
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 29 February 2008

Israeli officials began damage limitation efforts after the country's deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai threatened Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip with a "holocaust."

The comments came a day after Israeli occupation forces killed 31 Palestinians, nine of them children, one a six-month-old baby, in a series of air raids across the Gaza Strip. Israel claimed that the attacks were in retaliation for a barrage of rockets fired by resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip which killed one Israeli in the town of Sderot on Wednesday, 27 February. Palestinian resistance groups, including Hamas, said the rockets were in retaliation for the extrajudicial execution of five Hamas members carried out by Israel on Wednesday morning. Israeli occupation forces have killed more than 200 Palestinians since the US-sponsored Annapolis peace summit last November. In the same period, five Israelis have been killed by Palestinians.

Speaking to Israeli army radio today, Vilnai said, "the more Qassam [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."

A report on the BBC News website headlined "Israel warns of Gaza 'holocaust'" noted that the word "holocaust" -- shoah in Hebrew -- is "a term rarely used in Israel outside discussions of the Nazi genocide during World War II."

The BBC later reported that "many of Mr. Vilnai's colleagues have quickly distanced themselves from his comments and also tried to downplay them saying he did not mean genocide." An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Arye Mekel, claimed that Vilnai used the word "in the sense of a disaster or a catastrophe, and not in the sense of a holocaust."

The attempt to limit the damage of Vilnai's comments is not surprising. It was recently revealed how another Israeli official, Major-General Doron Almog, narrowly escaped arrest at London's Heathrow airport in September 2005, in connection with allegations of war crimes committed against Palestinians in the occupied territories. British police feared a gunfight if they attempted to board the El Al civilian aircraft on which Almog had arrived and on which he hid until he fled the United Kingdom back to Israel as a fugitive from justice.

Incitement to genocide is a punishable crime under the international Genocide Convention, adopted in 1948 after the Nazi holocaust.

"The 8 Stages of Genocide," written by Greg Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, sets out a number of warning signs of an impending genocide, which include "dehumanization" of potential victim groups and preparation, whereby potential victims "are often segregated into ghettoes, deported into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved." [1]

Vilnai's holocaust threat, however much Israeli officials attempt to qualify it, fits into a consistent pattern of belligerent statements and actions by Israeli officials. Israel has attempted to isolate the population of Gaza, deliberately restricting essential supplies, such as food, medicines and energy, a policy endorsed by the Israeli high court but condemned by international officials as illegal collective punishment.

As The Electronic Intifada has previously reported, dehumanizing statements by Israeli political and religious leaders directed at Palestinians are common (see "Top Israeli rabbis advocate genocide," The Electronic Intifada, 31 May 2007 and "Dehumanizing the Palestinians," Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 21 September 2007)

On 28 February, Vilnai's colleagues added their own inflammatory statements. Cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit stated that Israel should "hit everything that moves" in Gaza "with weapons and ammunition," adding, "I don't think we have to show pity for anyone who wants to kill us."

And today, Tzachi Hanegbi, a senior member of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party said that Israel should invade Gaza to "topple the Hamas terror regime" and that Israeli forces, which now enforce the occupation of Gaza from the periphery and air, should prepare to remain in the interior of the territory "for years."

While Israeli leaders escalate the violence and threats, some other top officials and a vast majority of the Israeli public support direct talks with Hamas to achieve a mutual ceasefire, something Hamas has repeatedly offered for months.

"Sixty-four percent of Israelis say the government must hold direct talks with
the Hamas government in Gaza toward a cease-fire and the release of captive
soldier Gilad Shalit," the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on 27 February citing a Tel Aviv University poll. The report noted that half of Likud supporters and large majorities of Kadima and Labor party voters support such talks and only 28 percent of Israelis still oppose them.

Knesset Member Yossi Beilin, leader of the left-Zionist Meretz-Yahad party, called for an agreed ceasefire with Hamas, noting that "there have been at least two requests from Hamas, via a third party, to accept a cease-fire," Haaretz reported on 29 February. Israel's public security minister, Avi Dichter, visiting Sderot the previous day, criticized Israel's military escalation, saying, "Whoever talks about entering and occupying the Gaza Strip, these are populist ideas which I don't connect to, and in my opinion, no intelligent person does either." And, in an interview with the American magazine Mother Jones, published on 19 February, the former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, Efraim Halevy, repeated calls for Israel and the US to negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas. Dismissing lurid rhetoric about the group, Halevy stated that "Hamas is not al-Qaida," and "is not subservient to Tehran."

The question remains as to why when the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, some senior Israeli officials, and Hamas leaders are all talking about a ceasefire, the Israeli government refuses to accept one and the US refuses to call for one. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has blamed the escalating bloodshed entirely on Hamas, and has failed to call for a ceasefire. This echoes her support for Israel's merciless 2006 bombardment of Lebanon which she notoriously celebrated as being "the birth pangs of a new Middle East."

The Palestinian and Israeli populations are exhausted by the relentless bloodshed, however unequal its toll. They are paying the price of a failed policy, pushed by Washington and its local clients, which attempts to demonize, isolate and destroy any movement that resists the order that the United States seeks to impose on the region.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

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