Wednesday, November 21, 2012

War in Gaza

Hamas in Gaza has lately sent many long-range missiles into Israel. Three Israelis were killed so far; Israeli reprisals have killed more than 70 Palestinians. The Israelis claim the right to self defense. US officials from the president on down repeat that self justification.
Consider this interesting historical analogy.
In 1939, Germany invaded Poland. In 1940 the Germans moved the large Jewish population of Poland into a number of urban ghettos. The largest of those was the ghetto in Warsaw. By 1942 the Germans began emptying the ghettos and transporting Jews to extermination camps. In 1943, a Jewish resistance groups in the ghettos began attacking Germans who had come to transport more Jews to the death camps.
The Germans wiped out the Jewish resistance who were poorly armed by force of superior weapons. Their justification was obvious: when troops are attacked they fight back and try to kill the attacker.
The point of the analogy should be obvious. There are two ways of telling this story of the Warsaw ghetto. The German version of the story goes as follows: German troops are being attacked without any justification by Jewish resistance. The Germans using their God-given right of self-defense wipe out the Jews.
The Israeli and US government tell a similar story about the current fighting in Gaza. Israeli civilian populations are subjected to shelling by Hamas. This attack is totally unjustified and gratuitous. The Israelis use their God-given right of self-defense and kill many Palestinians.
Consider the Jewish version of the Warsaw ghetto story: the Germans were methodically exterminating millions of Jews in the Polish extermination camps. The Jews resisted. Much better armed, the Germans crushed the Jewish resistance.
Here is the Palestinian version of the current war in Gaza: ever since they began taking over Palestinian lands in Palestine in the era around World War I, Jews, and later Israelis, have been oppressing Palestinians. The occasional efforts at resistance on the part of Palestinians have been crushed mercilessly by superior Israeli arms, amply supported by the United States and other Western countries.
The Israelis, seconded by the US government, assert their right to self-defense. So did the Germans who crushed the resistance of the Jewish rebellion in the Warsaw ghetto.
Neither of those appeals to the right of self-defense will stand up to scrutiny if one places the present conflict in the larger context of the histories of Jews in Poland or of Palestinians in Palestine.