Warsaw Ghetto, Israel Ghetto
A new ghetto is rising, a phoenix emerging from the Holocaust ashes…
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In fact, the name “Warsaw Ghetto” is Jewish. The Nazis had created in October 1940 the “Jüdischer Wohnbezirk” or “Wohngebiet der Juden” (German), both translate as Jewish Quarter. Yet, the term “ghetto” is neither mistaken nor offensive, it was first used in Venice to describe the area where Jews were bound to live; nowadays, it is used in reference to a part of a city predominantly occupied by a particular group. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all Jewish Ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.
The ghetto was established by the German Governor-General Hans Frank on October 16, 1940. Soon after its creation, the ghetto population reached 400,000 people, about 30% of Warsaw’s residents, while it occupied only 2.4% of the city’s territory. The ghetto was divided in two areas the “small ghetto,” inhabited by rich Jews and the “large ghetto,” where the poor lived; both were linked by a footbridge. On November 16, the ghetto was closed with a barbed wire topped wall. Armed guards overlooked it; escapees could be shot on sight. The division of the ghetto into economical classes is not casual; the internal administration of the area was performed by the “Judenrat” (Jewish Council), led by an “Ältester” (the Eldest). This administrative body was a close collaborator with the Nazis to the extent that it can be considered as an extension of the Nazi administration.
On January 18, 1943, after almost four months without forced deportations, the Germans entered the Warsaw Ghetto resolved to perform one. However, they found resistance that deteriorated into a long battle. The final struggle started on April 19, 1943, when several thousand Nazi troops entered the ghetto. Their approach was systematic, destroying all the buildings, block by block. Significant resistance ended on April 23, and the uprising officially ended on May 16, with the demolition of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw. The official Nazi report claimed more than 56,000 victims.
This struggle is the source of the “heroism” in the name of the Israeli remembrance day. Can you imagine growing up in a place where all your teachers keep saying that your grandparents—or those of the kid sitting next to you—were made into soap? Do you understand what such a kid sees whenever he uses a soap bar? Can you understand what happens when he discovers later in life that no human genes were ever found in those soap bars? Can you understand what he feels after finding that everything was an evil emotional manipulation performed by a control-freak regime interested in keeping its citizens frightened forever? In the Israeli Holocaust Day events, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is a counterbalance designed to give some hope—though of a very doubtful nature—in an otherwise unbearable day.
Israel’s raison d’être…
Israel acknowledges that the Holocaust is its raison d’être. It doesn’t matter what happened there, the official version led to the UN’s Partition Decision and to the incomplete independence declaration of the State of Israel. Yet, Neturei Karta’s (an ultra-orthodox Jewish group) website displays documents clarifying the responsibility of Jewish leaders of the time beyond doubt. In this context, the activities of the Judenrat were also obvious. Adam Czerniaków was the Eldest of Ghetto Warsaw; aware of his being part of the Nazi regime and in fact a traitor to his flock, he committed suicide.
On August 22, 1989, the Berlin Wall was a solid reality; as solid as the walls constructed by Israel along its borders. It has been a solid reality since 1961. In January of the same year, Erich Honecker—East Germany’s leader—had predicted that the wall would stand for a “hundred more years.” The next day, something important happened far away from there: Hungary removed its physical border defenses with Austria. Next month more than thirteen thousand East German tourists in Hungary escaped to Austria. By itself, the event had little importance; the East German authorities would have probably found a way of blocking this little hole in the dam separating the two sides of Europe. The crossing from East Germany to Hungary via Czechoslovakia was closed, but then a similar incident happened in neighboring Czechoslovakia, which also was experiencing reforms. Eastern Europe’s reality was complex; it didn’t allow making linear assumptions. The Soviet Union was facing a deep crisis; Gorbachev was planning significant reforms. Poland and Hungary were already making reforms. Protests broke out all over East Germany in September. Initially, people were chanting “Wir wollen raus!” (“We want out!”). Afterwards, they changed to “Wir bleiben hier,” (“We’re staying here!”). On October 18 Erich Honecker, resigned. The “Peaceful Revolution” of 1989 had begun. On November 4, half a million protestors gathered at the Alexanderplatz in East Berlin. On November 9, the East German government announced that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin, and the wall was brought down by a plethora of euphoric people from both sides of the Wall of Evil.
A notorious fact regarding the wall is that the most offensive side in the conflict was the one to build up the wall; the East German military forces were tarnished for their violence towards civilians attempting to escape. This is similar to what is happening in Israel nowadays. Its new walls resemble an odd mixture between the Berlin Wall and the Warsaw Ghetto Wall.
A new ghetto is rising, a phoenix emerging from the Holocaust ashes…
Egypt: In late 2012, Israel will finish building a new fortified fence between the countries. The mighty fence cannot be climbed and features electronic systems allowing the regional military headquarters to find breaches in real time. The construction of the fence was decided in 2010 by Prime Minister Netanyahu. “I took the decision to close Israel’s southern border to infiltrators and terrorists. This is a strategic decision to secure Israel's Jewish and democratic character,” he said to the Hebrew media on January that year. Again, he ignored non-Jewish citizens.
West Bank: The West Bank Barrier is still under construction and facing a myriad of legal problems since Israel is not building it on its side of the border, but on the Palestinian one. The barrier is a fence with vehicle-barrier trenches surrounded by an on average 60 meter wide exclusion area along 90% of its length, and an 8 meter tall concrete wall along the rest. 12% of the West Bank area is on the Israeli side of the barrier.
Jordan: I grew up less than a mile from the Jordan River. Yet, seldom could I enjoy its views. When doing so, it was from above—the Jordan Valley features several steps—and at points that were very difficult to access. The feeble fence blocking the access to the river wasn’t the reason for the deprivation; simply minefields filled the entire lower step of the valley.
Syria: For many years, the fence along the Syrian-Israeli border was the best in Israel. Landmines and electronics secured it. Along the years, the equipment became obsolete. Following the violent events of Naksa Day 2011 (see Casus Belli), when many Syrian citizens were killed in Syria by IDF soldiers shooting from the occupied Golan Heights, Israel began the reinforcement of the old fence.
Well done, New Judenrat! In a few months, you will finish the creation of the Israel Ghetto, the obvious, legal successor of the Warsaw Ghetto. The Israel Ghetto will be surrounded by state-of-the-art fences. Were they designed to block entrance, or to avoid escape? Considering the massive numbers of illegitimate workers in Tel Aviv—see Terror in Tel Aviv—there is little doubt the second option is the most important one. The New Judenrat wants control of its unwilling sheep at all costs.
Please let me end this article using the English language in the manner my Thai friends would. It is not the fashion favored by people like William Shakespeare; yet, I believe it is not less clear than his wise words: Warsaw Ghetto, Israel Ghetto; same, same.
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