The Gaza Ghetto Uprising
Joseph Massad, The Electronic Intifada, 4 January 2009
|Nazi troops round up Polish Jews during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in May 1943. (Photographer Unknown)|
One is often baffled by the ironies of international relations and the alliances they foster. Take for example the Israeli colonial settlement that had declared war on the Palestinian people and several Arab countries since its inception while at the same time it built alliances with many Arab regimes and with Palestinian leaders.
While Hashemite-Zionist relations and Maronite Church-Zionist relations have always been known and documented, there has been less documentation of the services that Israel has provided and continues to provide to Arab regimes over the decades. It is now recognized that Israel’s 1967 invasion of Egypt aimed successfully to destroy Gamal Abdul-Nasser, the enemy of all US dictatorial allies among the Arab regimes, whom the US and before it Britain and France had tried to topple since the 1950s but failed. Israel thus rendered a great service to Arab monarchies (and a few republics) from “the ocean to the Gulf,” whose survival was threatened by Nasser and Nasserism. Israel’s subsequent intervention in Jordan in 1970 to help the Jordanian army destroy Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) guerrillas and its final crushing of that organization in its massive invasions of Lebanon in 1978 and 1982 were also important services it rendered to these same regimes threatened by the PLO’s “revolutionary” potential and its sometimes recalcitrant positions. Israeli intelligence has also provided over the decades crucial information to several Arab regimes enabling them to crush their political opposition and strengthen their dictatorial rule. Prominent examples among recipients of Israeli intelligence largesse include the Moroccan and the Omani dictatorships.
Israel’s services to Arab regimes continue apace. Its 2006 invasion of Lebanon, engineered to destroy Hizballah, was cheered by Arab regimes and neoliberal Arab intellectuals hostile to Hizballah and employed exclusively by Saudi media outlets. Though the massive Israeli destruction of southern Lebanon and south Beirut and the massacres of more than a thousand Lebanese strengthened Hizballah and weakened Israel’s military standing, the invasion was much appreciated by Israel’s Arab allies. Indeed since 2006, Israel’s Arab regime allies as well as neoliberal Arab intellectuals have been openly calling on it to neutralize the so-called Iranian “threat” for its own sake and at their behest as well. The US has seen this as an opportune moment to fully integrate Israel in the region, so much so that it signaled to its Gulf allies to make proposals for a new regional alliance that includes Israel in its midst. The Bahraini foreign minister suggested a few weeks ago that Israel join the Arab League. Many such proposals have already been made in the past few months welcoming the colonial settlement to the regional alliance against Iran.
Since 2006, Arab regimes, neoliberal Arab intellectuals, as well as the Palestinian Collaborationist Authority (PCA) in Ramallah have reached an understanding that only Israel will be able to save them from Hizballah and Hamas, both organizations constituting a threat to the open alliance Arab regimes have with the US and Israel against Iran and all progressive forces in the region. These were not closely guarded secret hopes, but strategies that were openly discussed in private meetings, which often spilled into the public realm. The discussions in the Arab media and the declarations made by Israeli officials in the context of the ongoing Israeli massacres of the one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza in the last 10 days have left little to the imagination. A veritable open alliance now exists between the Palestinian Collaborationist Authority, Arab regimes, and Israel with the support of neoliberal Arab intellectuals, wherein Israel is subcontracted to decimate the Hamas government — the only democratically elected government in the entire Arab world.
Here let us remember that Hamas was democratically elected in free elections and that its elected officials and members of parliament were kidnapped by the Israeli occupation and have been languishing in Israeli jails for years, and that the Palestinian Collaborationist Authority set their offices on fire, staged strikes against them, and signaled the PCA bureaucracy not to follow their orders. It was after all this failed to dislodge Hamas from power that the US, Israel, and the PCA staged a coup to massacre Hamas leaders in Gaza that backfired on them. The carnage unleashed by Israel in the last 10 days is the latest attempt by Israel to ensure that all Arabs and all Palestinians are ruled by dictators and never by democratically elected officials.
Many are wondering how the Arab regimes and the PCA can be so brazen in their “treachery” of the Palestinians. “Don’t they fear being overthrown by the people?” is an oft-repeated question. The answer of course is a resounding “no.” It is true that collaboration with Israel by Arab regimes is not new, and that what is new is merely their openness about it, but there is a perfectly good reason for this. In the 1940s and the 1950s, these regimes could not declare openly their alliance with Israel, as there were popular and international forces that would have removed them from power had they done so. Indeed, some at the time flirted with alliances that unofficially included Israel, like the Baghdad Pact, but they paid a heavy price for such collaboration. The Cold War, Third World revolutionism, Arab nationalism, the Soviet Union, China, Nasser, were all factors to be considered. While a few of these factors had remained when Egypt’s Sadat declared his open alliance with the US and Israel in the late 1970s, none of these factors remains today. The US, Israel, and their major Arab allies have neutralized these forces one by one since 1967, opening the way for this brazen alliance between Israel and the Arab dictatorships, all of which are in the service of US interests in the region. These Arab regimes rule by terror and fear and have at their disposal the best secret police and repressive security apparatus that the US can train and equip and which oil money and US aid can buy.
When Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was asked point blank by al-Jazeera’s anchorman if Israel had an arrangement with Arab regimes to commit the Gaza massacres, she refused to answer and finally denied such an arrangement existed but could not help but affirm that there are those in the Arab world who “think” as Israel does and that Hamas is their enemy as it is the enemy of Israel. This is, incidentally, the same Tzipi Livni, who only a few weeks ago informed Palestinian citizens of Israel that she has slated them for denationalization and deportation to the Palestinian Bantustans once Israel and the international community grants these West Bank prisons the status of an independent Palestinian state enclosed within the apartheid wall. After her war on Palestinians in Gaza started last week, Livni declared that her war against the Palestinian people is not only about security but also about Israel’s “values” which non-collaborator Palestinians (unlike the PCA) do not share. Livni is of course right. Unlike Livni and the Israeli leadership, whose ethnic-cleansing ideals and plans are to make Israel a purely Jewish state that is Palästinenser-rein, most Palestinians believe that they should remain present on their lands even and especially if this sullies the purity of a Jewish Israel.
Livni has also asserted that Israel’s values are shared by the “free world” and by unfree Arab regimes that are allies of the “free world.” We can add, that her values are also shared by Saudi-funded neoliberal Arab intellectuals and by the leadership of the Palestinian Collaborationist Authority ensconced in the Green Zone of Ramallah. The civilized values of Israel are not unlike those espoused by the US in its ongoing wars against Arabs and Muslims, and are very much like European colonial values during the high age of colonialism and beyond. Livni and the Israeli leadership speak of human rights, democracy, peace, and justice as universal while applying them only to Jews and denying them especially to Palestinians. This is hardly an Israeli ruse. Let us remember the undying words of Frantz Fanon in this regard: “leave this Europe where they never tire of talking of man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe.”
On the Palestinian front, the term of chief Palestinian collaborator and coup leader Mahmoud Abbas ends on 9 January. Israel hopes to extend his collaborationist rule as head of the PCA it set up through the Oslo agreement in 1993. As Palestinians are murdered and injured in the thousands, world powers are cheering on. This is hardly a new development. It happens often in the context of other populations being murdered by allies of the US and Europe, and it even happened during World War II as the Nazi genocide was proceeding. On 19 April 1943, Britain and the US met in Bermuda, presumably to discuss the situation of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. That was also the day when the Nazis had launched their war against the remaining Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto but were met with unexpected courageous resistance. Little came out of the Bermuda Conference and the ongoing war against the Warsaw Ghetto proceeded uninterrupted. The Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto executed Jewish collaborators with the Nazis and bravely faced up to the Nazi army with what little weapons it had before being massacred. Their uprising was always inspirational to the Palestinians. In the heyday of the PLO as a symbol of Palestinian liberation, the organization would lay flower wreathes at the Warsaw Ghetto monument to honor these fallen Jewish heroes.
Szmul Zygielbojm was the leader of the Jewish socialist party, the Bund, in Poland and was part of the resistance against the Nazi invasion in 1939. He would later become a hostage held by the Nazis but would later be released and made a member of the Jewish council or judenrat, the Nazi equivalent of the Israeli-created Palestinian Collaborationist Authority, and which was charged with building a Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. Zygielbojm opposed the Nazi order and fled to Belgium, France, the US, and in 1942 ended up in London where he joined the Polish government in exile. On 12 May 1943, after he received word that the resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto was finally crushed and many of its fighters killed, Zygielbojm turned on the gas in his London flat and committed suicide in protest against the indifference and inaction of the Allies to the plight of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. He also felt that he had no right to live after his comrades were killed resisting the Nazis. In his suicide letter, Zygielbojm insisted that while the Nazis were responsible for the murder of the Polish Jews, the Allies, through their inaction, were also guilty:
The latest news that has reached us from Poland makes it clear beyond any doubt that the Germans are now murdering the last remnants of the Jews in Poland with unbridled cruelty. Behind the walls of the ghetto the last act of this tragedy is now being played out.
The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out, but indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenseless millions, tortured children, women and men they have become partners to the responsibility …
I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave.
By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people …
The Palestinian Collaborationist Authority that runs the judenrat set up by Oslo has never even attempted to resist Israeli orders. Not one member of the top leadership decided to resign and not serve. Mahmoud Abbas, having provided so many dishonorable services to Israel, lacks Zygielbojm’s integrity and noble principles and would never follow in Zygielbojm’s footsteps.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian people will resist the invading Israelis with all their might and against astronomical odds. The Palestinian people, like Zygielbojm before them, understand very well that Abbas, his clique, the Arab regimes, the US and Europe are all culpable in their slaughter as much as Israel is. In the case of Zygielbojm, he blamed world powers for their indifference and inaction, in the Palestinian case, world and regional powers are co-conspirators and active partners in crime.
The crushing of the Gaza Ghetto Uprising and the slaughter of its defenseless population will be relatively an easy task for the giant Israeli military machine and Israel’s sadistic political leadership. It is dealing with the aftermath of a strengthened Palestinian determination to continue to resist Israel that will prove much more difficult for Israel and its Arab allies to deal with. While the thousands of dead and injured Palestinians are the main victims of this latest Israeli terrorist war, the major political loser in all this will be Abbas and his clique of collaborators. The test for Palestinian resistance now is to continue to refuse to grant Israel the right to conquer populations, to steal their land, to destroy their livelihoods, to imprison them in ghettos, and to starve them without being resisted.
The only constant in Palestinian lives for the last century of Zionist atrocities has been resistance to the Zionist project of erasing them from the face of the earth. While Zionism sought and recruited Arab and Palestinian collaborators since its inception in the hope of crushing Palestinian resistance, neither Israel nor any of its collaborators has been able to stop it. The lesson that Zionism has refused to learn, and still refuses to learn, is that the Palestinian yearning for freedom from the Zionist yoke cannot be extinguished no matter how barbaric Israel’s crimes become. The Gaza Ghetto Uprising will mark both the latest chapter in Palestinian resistance to colonialism and the latest Israeli colonial brutality in a region whose peoples will never accept the legitimacy of a racist European colonial settlement in their midst.
Joseph Massad is associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University in New York.