On the Anniversary of the
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
by Nancy Spannaus
Candidate for U.S. Senate in Virginia
This statement was released April 19, 2002 by the Spannaus for Senate campaign. It was reprinted in the April 26, 2002 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
Today, April 19, those who cherish the noble fight for human dignity throughout history, commemorate the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Just as the Nazi Waffen-SS moved to liquidate the 56,000 Jewish survivors of their two-and-a-half-year campaign of starvation, deportations, and assassinations, a dedicated core of Jewish youth launched a fierce resistance. Knowing that the Nazis planned to liquidate them all, they determined to give their lives in all-out battle, a battle that could serve as an inspiration to those who would live on to fight for justice for all peoples.
Four weeks later, when Waffen-SS Commander Jürgen Stroop could finally report to Adolf Hitler: "the Warsaw Ghetto is no more," those Jewish fighters had changed history. Their lives, and deaths, had sanctified the reputation of Judaism and all mankind, because, by standing up as heroes against hopeless odds, they had given purpose to both their lives and deaths.
Fifty-nine years later, we face the horror of the repetition of the Warsaw Ghetto policy, this time in the Israeli-occupied areas of Palestine. The Israeli Defense Forces are moving on the West Bank, and especially, the refugee camps, such as the now virtually liquidated Jenin. For this purpose, they have used tactics copied directly from their studies of the Nazi reports on the methods used against the Warsaw Ghetto: Starvation, isolation, denial of medical care, targetted and indiscriminate shootings, and finally, the mowing down of building after building by use of heavy artillery and fire, against civilians and resisters alike. These are the Israeli government's faithful imitations of Nazi methods, methods which the world now sees splayed across its TV screens and newspapers.
This fact has been documented without doubt by humanitarian agencies, journalists, many Israelis, and the victims themselves.
The Palestinian youth, like the Jewish youth in Warsaw decades ago, also decided to put up a heroic resistance. Like the Jewish fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto, they responded to their families being butchered. They, too, facing overwhelming force, launched what would appear to be a hopeless struggle, in order to save their dignity, and inspire future generations to defeat forces like those Nazis in Warsaw. The two-week battle of Jenin was, thus, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of the Palestinians.
The Israeli-Palestinian crisis did not have to come to this. It was the need to prevent a continued escalation of such seemingly endless attack and retaliation, murder and revenge, the constant bloodletting, which led Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to conclude the Oslo Accords with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, in 1993. Rabin, an Israeli general, hardened in wars with the Palestinians, finally understood, in that degree, the principle of the Treaty of Westphalia, by which warring parties must choose, at some point, to put aside their grudges, and collaborate for a future beneficial to both. The only real war-winning strategy is a strategy, not for exterminating the enemy, but improving both his, and our own, situation in life.
Former Israeli Statesman Abba Eban expressed the crucial point in an article on the Oslo Accords in September 1993. He wrote: "The fact that these 1.8 million people [the Palestinian population] have neither the human rights of Israeli citizens, nor the ability to establish a separate political identity, violates our nation's democratic structure. It is a society in which Palestinians have nothing to lose, and Israelis have nothing to gain. That is why we have both agreed to disengage from it.... To prefer the previous situation to the current one would be to prefer war and death to peace and life."
Eban was expressing the need for an axiomatic change in the Israeli leadership. Yet, clearly, there was not a consensus in Israel for the perspective of Rabin, or Eban. The Nov. 4, 1995 assassination of the peace-making Prime Minister, by a protected asset of the Israeli intelligence services, was the turning-point leading to the present horrors. From that moment forward, the political will of Israel to carry out the Oslo Accords has been thrown into doubt, and that nation thrown onto the track we now see: Nazi-like extermination, or expulsion, of a subject population. Chronicling that downward spiral is beyond the scope of this statement.
But we do know, that the spirit of resistance to these Nazi-like policies is still alive within Israel. More than 420 Army Reservists have put their futures on the line by refusing to deploy in the Occupied Territories, insisting that they will not act to "dominate, expel, starve, and humiliate an entire people." (See www.seruv.org.) Thousands more have come out to demonstrate against the occupation, and to openly condemn the actions of the "butcher" Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Many more Israelis have come to realize that the punishment and retaliation strategy of Sharon and the IDF, like that of the Nazis, will ultimately lead to their own destruction.
What is our response to this from the United States? We used to say, "Never again!" We used to say, that we would never let Nazi war crimes happen here. Now, it's happening there! Worse, the United States, the biggest backer of Sharon and former Prime Minister Bemjamin Netanyahu, is encouraging it to happen.
It's time that we, too, like Prime Minister Rabin, examined our axioms. Why are we willing to tolerate such Nazi-like horrors? Why do we permit our politicians to put the blame on the victims of such horrors? What kind of world have we created over the past 50 years, where a holocaust against any people can be tolerated by those who once prided themselves upon defeating Nazism? Is it that we now consider some classes of human beings less than human, just as the Nazis did?
On this anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, it's past time for us to examine the purpose of our own lives. As they found purpose in their sacrifice, we may find it in the battle to stop these Nazi-like atrocities, and finally establish the basis, in economic development and dialogue, for a true and lasting Middle East peace.