Originally published in Lancaster Eagle-Gazette
n 1943, Nazi forces in Poland rounded up roughly 300,000 Jews and packed them into an area of 3.3-square kilometers in central Warsaw. Prisoners endured horrendous conditions and, load-by-load, were taken to Treblinka extermination camp to meet their end.
One group among them, however, refused to be defeated. And so ensued the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. They gathered the few handguns and Molotov cocktails they could muster. They executed Jewish police officers who had helped subjugate them. They fired on any Nazi soldier who entered the ghetto. They even set up a prison to detain and execute traitors. However, Nazi troops ultimately overpowered them and sent the remaining Jews to Treblinka.
Some 70 years later, we find a scenario similar in many respects.
We find 1.8 million Palestinians confined to the 25-mile-long Gaza strip, described by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron — among others — as the world’s largest open-air prison. With Egypt unwilling to open its border to the south, an Israeli naval blockade to the west and the sovereign Israeli state to the north and east, Palestinians are prisoners in their own land. A land that, according to a 2012 United Nations report, is so impoverished it will be just short of uninhabitable by 2020.
The Palestinians are not, however, being led to gas chambers. And although most applaud the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and some would, using its example, justify the actions of Hamas, I condemn all terrorism committed against the Israeli people. The Jews of Warsaw attacked their prison guards and Nazi soldiers, but Hamas shoots rockets into Israeli communities — targeting civilian populations — to coerce change. In other words, it’s terrorism.
However, at the alleged kidnapping and killing of three Jewish boys by Hamas, Israel launched an air, land and sea offensive in Gaza, which has been described by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights as potentially amounting to “war crimes” because of the shelling of homes and hospitals. Even U.N. schools were not a safe haven for people trying to escape the bloodshed. Hamas’ relatively meager resistance to Israel does not justify an offensive that has taken the lives of more than 1,600 people — 75 percent of whom, according to the U.N., are civilians. Hamas is a known terrorist organization; I will leave the labeling of a state that killed three civilians for one combatant up to the reader. The Jewish state abandoned all regard for the Mosaic law of an eye for an eye and has adopted the principle of three boys for a whole people.
One might argue that, because Hamas was elected, it represents the ambitions and attitudes of its people and the victims have themselves to blame. This notion is unjust, even barbaric. Osama bin Laden used this logic to justify 9/11. Because Americans had elected its leadership, which had committed excesses in the Middle East, the citizens had forfeited their right to be protected. Al-Qaida and Hamas are terrorist organizations; let’s refrain from adopting their ideologies.
One might argue Israel only seeks to destroy the tunnels that are used for smuggling weapons. But the Jews of Warsaw also made their way through sewers in a desperate attempt to obtain firearms, according to WWII Magazine. When they were forced to, they turned to violent means to protect themselves. Yes, unlike the Palestinians, the Jews were motivated by imminent extermination. But being imprisoned in a deplorable stretch of land and now being attacked by a full-fledged army fosters such an environment.
After seeing nothing but more aggressive retaliation whenever Palestinians have resisted, why do they continue to resist? Simply insert “Palestinian” for the word “Jewish” in this statement describing the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and you will have your answer: “Most of the Jewish fighters did not view their actions as an effective measure by which to save themselves, but rather as a battle for the honor of the Jewish people, and a protest against the world’s silence,” according to “Voices From the Inferno.”
I am not pro-Hamas and not anti-Israel. In the same breath that I condemn Israel’s disproportionate response against Gaza, I condemn all terrorism carried out in the name of Islam against the Israeli people. There is, however, a striking similarity between the open-air prison of Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto. And condemnable or praiseworthy, similar excesses motivated each of their resistances. I am, at the end of the day, pro-justice. Israel’s offensive in Gaza was wholly unjust.