A tale of two ghettos

Israel/Palestine
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The images above are raising some hackles, especially the comparison between the Warsaw ghetto and Gaza today. They are from the current issue of Adbusters magazine, which had 3,500 copies taken off the racks of Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada’s largest drugstore chain, after the CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie M. Farber, called them anti-Semitic in the National Post. From Farber’s article Anti-Semitism on your magazine rack–courtesy of Adbusters:

In the current edition, Adbusters offers its readers a one page “photo essay” — Truthbombs on Israeli TV — that makes comparisons between the situation that Palestinians are experiencing in Gaza and what the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto experienced under the Nazis. There are pictures of people fighting fires in Gaza … and people fighting fires in the Warsaw Ghetto. There are pictures of people injured in the Warsaw Ghetto … and of people injured in Gaza. There are pictures of people smuggling food into the Warsaw Ghetto … and of people smuggling goods into Gaza. It’s truly a tour de force of investigative journalism.

The argument is obscene, and continues the disgusting tradition of some supporters of the Palestinian cause to turn Jews into Nazis and Palestinians into Jews. In so doing, these propagandists not only demonize Israelis (i. e., Jews), but minimize the murderous extent and intent of Naziism’s genocidal project. In other words, such vile analogies become a form of Holocaust minimilization.

Thankfully, Kalle Lasn, the editor of Adbusters, has had a chance to respond. It’s worth reading his piece, A tale of two ghettoes, at length:

Here is the story from the Adbusters viewpoint.

In October 1939, the German Wehrmacht reached the city of Warsaw, and over the following months, the Jewish population was forced into a small section of the city called “the Jewish quarter.” The situation inside the ghetto was unbearable: Nazis controlled the movement of goods, basic utilities and even food. Each person was allotted a starvation diet of 250 calories per day.

Acts of rebellion were brutally suppressed. When two German soldiers were killed in a local restaurant, 106 men in the ghetto were shot in reprisal. Arrests and random executions were common. In April 1940, the ghetto was walled off on all sides.

Services such as hospitals and schools were derelict, relying on an ever-decreasing stream of supplies allotted by the Nazis. For a while, the supplies were supplemented by goods smuggled in through tunnels, but such services were eventually forced to close.

A resistance movement was organized during the Soviet advance, but it was brutally defeated and the Warsaw ghetto was razed to the ground.

In September 2005, Israel dismantled its settlements in Gaza and withdrew its troops after 38 years of military occupation. For Israel, this marked an end to their occupation. For Palestinians confined in Gaza, however, the occupation had simply progressed into a new phase: the ghetto. The year 2005 marked the establishment of Gaza as an open air prison.

Israel controls the movement of all goods, including food and basic necessities, in and out of the Gaza strip. A study done by Johns Hopkins University in 2002 found that 17% of children aged 6-59 months suffer from chronic malnutrition, and almost half of women and children are anemic. Thirteen percent of children under five are stunted.

Israel controls all of Gaza’s borders and airspace. The long ocean border, once a viable source of income for Gazans through trade and fishing, is now strictly controlled. Humanitarian missions are turned away with lethal force.

Israel responds to every Palestinian provocation with disproportionate force. The Israeli response to the murder of three civilians by Palestinian rockets in 2008 was the wide-scale destruction of Gaza, the use of white-phosphorus munitions in the area of a UN school and the killing of over 1,000 civilians.

Comparing events today with events in Nazi-occupied Europe must never be done lightly. When events are so serious as to lend themselves to such comparisons, however, there is a moral imperative to speak up.

Though the stated goal of Israel has never been the complete destruction of the Palestinian people, many of the tactics and policies supported by the state of Israel are deeply troubling and worthy of an open public discussion.

Last week, in a move to silence criticism of Israeli policies, the Canadian Jewish Congress labelled Adbusters — and anyone who makes the above historical analogy — anti-Semitic. The CJC has lobbied Shoppers Drug Mart not to carry Adbusters. Three-thousand-five-hundred copies of Adbusters will no longer be sold at Shoppers Drug Mart’s 515 Canadian stores.

The Canadian Jewish Congress is not a representative voice of the full spectrum of Jewish perspectives. Last year, prominent Jewish Canadians including Naomi Klein, Ursula Franklin and Anton Kuerti signed an open letter criticizing the CJC’s use of “fear tactics” and condemning the “false charges of anti-Semitism against … groups and people exercising their democratic right to freedom of speech and association regarding legitimate criticism of the State of Israel.”

If you think that publishing side-by-side images of the Gaza and Warsaw ghettos is a valid expression of free speech, email the Canadian Jewish Congress and tell them to back off. And next time you walk by a Shoppers Drug Mart, go in and ask the manager to put Adbusters back on its shelves. In Canada, we should be free to choose from a diversity of viewpoints and decide for ourselves what is anti-Semitic and what is a legitimate critique of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Here is another piece that ran in Adbusters that raises a similar critique:

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About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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