Thursday, January 24, 2008

We Remember Warsaw

On 22/1/08 the following letter appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald:-

"Nearly 70 years ago, in a small European city, an oppressed and occupied people were under siege, living under atrocious and brutal conditions, lacking food, medicine, electricity, water, and slowly being strangled in the hope they would just disappear. Warsaw Ghetto 1941 - Gaza 2008. Israel, you are a disgrace." Zaid Khan, Blakehurst

This was followed, on 23/1/08, as befits the Israel lobby's insistence (except when their own spokespeople are crowding out dissenting voices) on a policy of faux balance whenever Palestine-Israel comes up on the opinion pages, by:-

"I am not as familiar as Zaid Khan with Europe 70 years ago but, to the best of my knowledge the oppressed minority in Warsaw were not firing Katyusha rockets indiscriminately into the surrounding area and neither were their kids being wrapped in explosives and sent out to blow up the neighbours." David Calvey, Vaucluse

So far, so predictable. The prospect of pursuit by a snarling, snapping pack of pro-Israel media hounds is usually enough to deter the Bambi responsible for the letters page from publishing letters in support of Palestine. Had Bambi realised he/she'd let his/her guard down with Zaid Khan's timely letter and sought to ward off the hounds by publishing Calvey's too-clever-by-half riposte from, of all places, Vaucluse?

I will say nothing of Calvey's cheap shot, other than to point out that the resistance in Gaza does not fire Katyushas and wonder, along with Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, just why, given the anger and desperation in the ghetto, there aren't in fact more suicide bombers: "The truth is that nearly every Palestinian has many reasons to be fed up with life to the point of suicide and thoughts of revenge, and those thoughts are not only linked to military attacks. Even without killing, the Israeli occupation regime kills hope, plans, relationships, ways of life. Living among Palestinians brings daily examples of the thousands of shades that despair has, just as the regime of occupation and colonization brings with it thousands of variants of material and mental abuse. Every moment, people mourn for the lives they could have had and which they are not experiencing. How explosive is the daily insult which people experience under a foreign rule that decides who will live in their own house and who will not, who will have access to their lands and who will not, when the bulldozer will tear up your grandparents' land in order to attach it to a highway and a green settlement, who will waste several hours every day at a checkpoint, who will send their children to the university and who will send them to beg, who will lose their source of livelihood, who will see their family and when, and who will not." [Where are the suicide bombers? 12/07].

Next day something interesting happened. Readers, it seems, had had enough. They could see right through Calvay, the invisible man, directly into the heart of darkness that is the Warsaw/Gaza Ghetto:-

"What we can never know, David Calvey, is whether the oppressed in Warsaw would have retaliated had they been given the means with which to do so." Rachel Merhabi, Turramurra

"You're right, David Calvey, the oppressed minority in Warsaw did not protest with rockets and suicide bombs. But I believe most of them ended up in the Nazi gas chambers." Paul Sadler, Newtown

"The reason, David Calvey, that the oppressed minority were not fighting back with weapons and explosives is that they didn't have them. I am sure Polish Jews would have used anything available and done anything possible to disrupt the German war machine. I am sure what Zaid Khan was getting at is the massive hypocrisy of Israel: it was oppression back then when done to them, but it is somehow OK to do it to someone else now." David Gardiner Camperdown

"Maybe I'm not as familiar as David Calvey with Europe 70 years ago but, if the oppressed minority suffering in Warsaw was subjected to the same oppression for 50 continuos years or more, they too would take more extreme measures, Also, to the best of my knowledge, like the people in the occupied territories, the oppressed in Warsaw did eventually revolt against the oppression, and justifiably so." Brad Spencer Ljubljana, Slovenia

"I don't need to visit Gaza to tell David Calvey that 99% of its population don't have rockets in the back shed and bomb vests in the bedroom. Like the Jews in Warsaw, most Palestinians in Gaza are being held captive with the barest of essentials, purely on the basis that they were 'accidentally' born of the wrong blood in the wrong place. How can the average Palestinian Joe hope to stop the actions of a few mad militants? And why should the Israelis expect them to do so? The current Israeli policy holds every man, woman and child responsible for any act of terrorism. Last thing I heard, there were quite a few unsolved murders in Sydney. I say we lock the whole place down until people there realise that the rest of the country won't tolerate it. After all, if they are prepared to murder their fellow Sydneysiders, they might come after the rest of us." Anura Samara Geneva, Switzerland

What on Earthwas Bambi thinking when he/she let this lot in? Had Bambi also had enough? Will he/she now be torn to pieces by the pro-Israel pack? Will there be a mea culpa in the next issue? Think I'm joking? Let's go back a few years and look at the brouhaha which followed Herald cartoonist, Moir's cartoon of 12/8/03, in which he dared to associate Israel's West Bank wall of 2003 with the Warsaw Ghetto of 1943. The Herald was inundated with outraged letters, 9 of which were published over the next 2 days.

To top it off, in the issue of 16/8/03, the following grovel from Herald editor, Robert Whitehead appeared: "It is as important for the Herald to be accurate and fair as it is to admit when we do not live up to its own high standards. That is why we began inviting people earlier this year to help us correct the record whenever they saw a material error. An honesty about mistakes and a willingness to fix them is important to us and our readers. The same is true of errors of judgement. Finding ways to redress these, however, can be less straightforward. An example this week was the Moir cartoon published on Tuesday. It likened the Nazis' building of the Warsaw ghetto with the Israeli Government's building of a security fence on the West Bank. To publish it was a lapse of judgement and I apologise to the many readers who, understandably, took great offence. As Moir said in a note in the aftermath, he was intending to be provocative 'but I should have used a less sensitive metaphor to make the point about historic irony'."

Pathetic! But funny how the comparison comes naturally to Palestinians - as an inmate of the virtually encircled West Bank town of Qalqilya commented at the time to a journalist from the UK Observer: "It feels like a concentration camp...with the difference that there the people were waiting for death. Here they are just waiting for us to leave."

The Herald's grovel back then reminds us of the need to stand up to the lobby. In the words of Mearsheimer & Walt : "As the primary source of independent thinking in democratic societies, scholars and journalists should be encouraged to resist the lobby's efforts to shape public discourse and to encourage more open discussion of these important issues." [The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy p 351]

What will tomorrow bring?

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