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May, 2004

The Wall Revisited
By Karen Nakamura

The International Court of Justice in The Hague is deliberating a lawsuit brought by Palestine against Israel over its building of a security fence/barrier/wall in the West Bank. Israel claims the barrier is necessary to ward off suicide bombers. The Palestinians responded that if Israel thinks it needs a fence, it can build it on the Israeli side of the Green Line, the 1967 border between Palestine and Israel. Palestine claims its territory is being confiscated in incremental pieces. Israel says it conquered Palestine in the '67 war and can do as it pleases.

Civil rights activists worldwide are appalled by Israel's occupation of Palestine and its current building of The Wall. To these people, the security barrier harks back to atrocities committed against Jews during World War II and symbolizes the imprisonment and subjugation of an entire people. It goes to the terrible incongruity of seeing Jews carrying out the same abominations against others that they suffered so devastatingly in W.W.II.

It's extremely important to remember that the brutal repression by the Sharon administration and the Israelis' silent acquiescence are what are fueling the so-called "rising tide of anti-Semitism," not hatred towards our dear Jewish friends and beloved neighbors. Many of them have joined us in our abhorrence.

What it is, is an absolute abhorrence of a government that would approve a military bulldozer crushing Rachel Corrie as she tried to stop home demolitions. Why didn't they arrest her instead? Consider Brian Avery shot in the face for defending the lives of Palestinians. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were given marching orders by an Israeli cabinet headed by Sharon.

What's even worse is the American army appears to be following the same pattern in Iraq; checkpoints, bombing neighborhoods, aggressive raids of families in the middle of the night, American snipers seen picking off civilians as they tried to escape Fallujah. This is okay, apparently, because we're after "the bad guys." Incursions by the Nazis, IDF and Americans have killed and injured thousands more people than the "terrorists" they were seeking.

It's the assassinations, bombings, lack of medical help, food and water, the targeting of ambulances, the daily humiliations, despair and death that connect Palestine, Iraq and the Warsaw Ghetto. And don't think Arabs haven't made the connection that they're next.

The current Wall is only the latest in a series of repressive containment barriers built down through the ages. In recent history, the most horrifying was the Warsaw ghetto wall made famous in the movie "The Pianist." Concentration camps compose the foundation of the Holocaust. Few understand, however, the actions Nazis took that led to this tragedy. They also don't understand how Sharon's government is mirroring those actions and how the Bush administration is adopting the same tactics in its push to colonize the Middle East.

When Hitler's henchmen decided eradication of the Jews was the Final Solution, they were faced with millions of Jews living in the occupied territories. Israelis found a similar problem when they conquered Palestine. What to do with millions of Palestinians living on lands Israelis claimed as biblically theirs alone? Many Israelis, and Ariel Sharon is one of them, believe they are charged with returning the borders of Israel to those defined around 200 AD and include the West Bank. However, Palestinians have owned the majority of the physical land since before Moses.

In 1939, Nazis rounded up Jews in Warsaw and forced them into a Jewish Ghetto. In 1948, a similar "cleansing" forced Arabs from the newly designated Israel into refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza. Between 375,000 and 450,000 Jewish residents, approximately 30% of the over-all population of Warsaw, were forced to live in an area consisting of 2.4% of the city's land. Palestinians and Jews suffered grave economic losses in these shifts. So have the Iraqis.

In 1940, The Wall was erected, imprisoning Jews within its perimeters and leaving them to die. This area was reduced in half as Nazis pulverized the ghetto with rockets, tanks and machine guns, leveling buildings and assassinating leaders. This is also true of the Israelis with their open policy of assassination, tank incursions and bulldozing of homes.

Already surrounding Gaza, The Wall will imprison West Bank residents to their villages. Israel has confiscated 80% of Palestine's original 1948 lands. What's left of the original Palestine has been torn apart by bits and pieces by Israeli settlements. These settlements are off-limits to Palestinians, just as Warsaw was off-limits to Jews, just as the Green Zone is off-limits to most Iraqis.

Nazi and Israeli military incursions into the ghettos were/are common to flush out resistors to the occupation. This is also a tactic used by Americans to eliminate resistance to their occupation. All three governments were/are military-expansionists with little regard for the common man.

The Judenrat government was forced upon the Warsaw ghetto. Ostensibly meant to provide Jewish self-rule, it was intended to be an instrument of German authority. Members were required to enforce German demands. For instance, it was left to the Judenrat to arrest resistors, making its members traitors to their people. Similar conditions were imposed when the Palestinian Authority was formed. Like the Judenrat, the PA resisted. The United States tried to impose a US appointed governing council on Iraqis with little success.

In 1943, the Jewish Fighter Organization (ZOB) led a futile insurgency. Weapons were smuggled in as conditions worsened. The Palestinians have also smuggled in armaments as conditions deteriorated. And, like the desperate acts of Warsaw ghetto residents, they have made use of suicide missions. In Iraq, as conditions deteriorate, suicide missions have been incorporated into the resistance.

Warsaw residents remaining near the war's end, approximately 60,000, were shipped to the camps or killed outright. Very few escaped. By the end of the war, only the Gensia Street Jail and The Wall were left standing. A similar fate is taking place in Palestine as building after building is demolished. Israel sees nothing wrong with decimating the Palestinian population. Likud members have tried to enact legislation to deport Palestinians en masse. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was found guilty by an Israeli Court of compliance in two massacres against Palestinians. He also ordered the Jenin refugee camp invasion, a massacre in all but statistical nuance.

The suffering that went on within The Wall can not be imagined. Then again, neither can the ongoing conditions of Palestinians. The similarities are frightening. It's as though zealots in the Israeli and now the American government are working from the Nazi playbook. How could a people who suffered so profoundly turn around and do the same thing to another people? And how could the Bush administration adopt the same sub-human techniques?

 

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