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Gaza is no Warsaw Ghetto


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Lovelee
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« on: February 02, 2009, 09:53:18 pm »

By Mark LeVine, Middle East historian

Within days of the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, critics of the war, on blogs and in the mainstream media, began to compare the situation of Palestinians in Gaza to that of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War.

In the last few years comparisons between the Israeli occupation and apartheid in South Africa had become increasingly acceptable around the world, including in Israel.

However, the carnage caused by Israel's latest war has apparently rendered the apartheid comparison too weak to evoke the full horror of what Palestinians have suffered.

Israelis have suffered as well, but the levels of death and destruction on each side is so mind-numbingly lopsided - at least 1,300 versus 13 dead - that simply juxtaposing them seems almost nonsensical.

The Gaza-Warsaw comparisons have not just been made, predictably, by Hamas leaders such as Mahmoud al-Zahar.

They have also been made by Arabs and Muslims around the world, by anti-war movements in Europe and the US, on the opinion pages of major US newspapers, by  Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Rapporteur, by Jewish members of the British parliament, and even by some American Jewish and Israeli critics of the war.

Images from Gaza have been juxtaposed next to images from the Warsaw Ghetto, with the aim of demonstrating the similarities between the two.

Evoking memories

It was inevitable that the Gaza-Warsaw comparison would be made, especially once the war started. It is so difficult to get the mainstream media in the West, and particularly in the US, to pay attention to the suffering of Palestinians, that many seem to have concluded that only the most powerful comparisons will get peoples' attention.

There are, indeed, disturbing similarities between the two situations.

The Warsaw Ghetto was composed of Jews forced out of their homes and herded into one small section of the city.

Gaza is composed largely of refugees and their descendents, most of whom were forced to flee their homes during the 1948 war.

Like the Ghetto, in the last decade the Gaza Strip has been surrounded by a barrier that has literally imprisoned 1.5 million in a territory that has become one of the most densely populated in the world.

Once the war started, Gazan civilians were trapped within a war zone, while Israel - crucially, with Egyptian help - had full command of the territory in and around Gaza. This situation prompted comparisons with the absolute Nazi control of the Ghetto and its surrounding area during the uprising.

Increasing restrictions on food, water and medical supplies by the Israeli military, and severe levels of malnutrition and unemployment  "evoked" memories of the Nazi's slow strangulation of the Ghetto, as Richard Falk described it.

http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/crisisingaza/2009/02/20092191518941246.html
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