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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

September, 2008


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Walls We Must Tear Down
By Karen Nakamura

Recently, the CP has come under attack by pro-Israel writers, as is their right. But others have the same right to be heard. The heart of the matter to End Occupation forces is: for all the suffering Jews have endured, how can they inflict the same pain on others?
Speaking in Berlin on July 24, Senator Barack Obama said: "The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."

The world is well aware of the "The Wall" Israel is building around Occupied Palestine to keep Palestinians out of Israel and imprisoned in Palestine. Is Obama suggesting that wall be torn down? It's doubtful but hope springs eternal.

Gleaning the Electronic Intafada, Wikipedia, about.com, IPS, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and the Holocaust Memorial Museum archives, we'll examine the present Israeli Wall and the Nazi's Warsaw Ghetto Wall of World War II, which imprisoned Jews. In this way, we may come to a better understanding.

Few tragedies in history compare to the suffering inflicted on Jews locked behind the Warsaw Wall. "The Pianist" movie described the horror. Residents were forbidden to go beyond the wall on penalty of death. Contact with the outside world was prohibited. Over 300,000 people starved, died of diseases like typhus, were massacred or sent to the gas chambers. Those remaining had homes leveled and were forced into ever more cramped living quarters until they too were gassed. Often forgotten are the Roma, homosexuals, disabled, Slavs and Jehovah's Witness also massacred.

This is similar to what is happening in Palestine, especially in the Gaza Gulag where contact with the outside world has been reduced to a dribble. In the West Bank, descendents of the first Christians are equally under attack. There are other uncanny similarities between the Warsaw and Israeli Walls. And there are differences.

While the Berlin Wall was 96 miles long, Israel's Wall extends 436 miles. The Warsaw Wall was 3.5 square miles and averaged 10 feet in height. The Berlin Wall averaged 11.8 feet while the Israeli Wall is 25 feet high, making Israel's barrier four times longer and often twice as high as the Berlin Wall.

Ninety-five percent of the Israeli barrier is a "multi-layered fence system." Wikipedia notes it has three fences, with "barbed wire for the two outer fences, ...roads in between and a ...wall with intrusion detection equipment in the middle." The concrete segments, only 5%, are common in urban settings, "because it is narrower, requires less land, and provides more protection against snipers." According to EI, the various structures include: "numerous watch towers, electronic sensors, thermal imaging and video cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles, sniper towers, and roads for patrol vehicles." The Israelis have even blocked official Palestinian websites.

Whereas the Warsaw Wall was built along existing streets, only 20% of the Israeli Wall actually travels the pre-1967, a flagrant confiscation of Palestinian land. The rest intrudes into the territorial boundaries of Palestine from 200 meters to 20 kilometers. In the West Bank, the wall now incorporates more than 50 Israeli settlements in what is internationally acknowledged as Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Nazis made it a policy to gobble up bits and pieces of ghetto territory after shelling buildings in vulnerable sections, ever decreasing the boundaries. Just before it was leveled completely, the Warsaw ghetto had been reduced to 1,000 by 300 yards.

Thirty-eight gates between Israel and Palestine are supposed to be open to traffic but rarely are, especially in the Gaza Gulag. Of Gaza's 6 gates, it's common for only two to be open. The Nazis had 14 gates and allowed a few Jewish work crews to depart under tight guard. In both cases, residents aren't or weren't allowed passage without their subjugator's approval.

Israel insists the fence/wall is temporary, "a defensive measure, designed to block the passage of terrorists, weapons and explosives into the State of Israel...." And it's true. Bombings have been reduced in Israel. However, a 2006 Shin Beit (Israeli security agency) report stated: "The security fence is no longer mentioned as the major factor in preventing suicide bombings, ...the terrorists have found ways to bypass it."

The Nazis took three years to complete their ethnic cleansing. In two months, 310,322 Jews met their deaths. Then Himmler ordered the entire ghetto leveled in three days. What wasn't burned was bulldozed. Due to the heroic resistance by ZOB fighters, it took the SS 28 days. Hamas and Fatah have resisted for 60 years. Warsaw ZOB fighters, like their Palestinian counterparts, were overwhelmingly outnumbered and armed mostly with small arms and little ammunition. Like Palestinian resistance, ZOB relied on homemade explosives.

Also like the Warsaw Wall and the strategy that built it, the Israeli Wall, together with the ongoing settlement building, demonstrates long-term planning to confiscate Palestine. Those doing the confiscating call it Judea and Sumaria and have vowed to cleanse it of anyone who objects to a Jewish state. By logical progression, that's the Palestinians defending the land their forefathers have lived on continuously for 5,000 years.

The Israeli Wall has a nastier task of encircling Palestinian towns and villages. Independent Press Service (IPS) reports Israel is trying to "redraw geopolitical borders ...while encouraging an exodus of Palestinians by denying them the ability to earn a living from their land, reach their schools or work places, access to adequate water resources or essential health care."

Between Sept. 30, 2000 (start of second Intafada) and April 30, 2008, 5,077 Palestinians were killed and 33,000 injured. There is near daily death of civilians, destruction of housing, agricultural lands and infrastructure. Since 1948, more than 4.2 million Palestinians have been dispersed across the world. The Jews lost 6 million in the Holocaust.

Nazis blockaded the import of enough food to keep the Warsaw inhabitants healthy, forcing them to exist on 253 calories a day, compared to 2,325 for gentile Poles and 5,613 for Germans. About 80,000 Jews had died of starvation and medical neglect by July of 1942.

In May, with childhood hunger rampant in Gaza, the World Food Program (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UNRWA agency released a report titled: "Joint Rapid Food Security Survey in the occupied Palestinian territory."

It reported that because of higher fuel and food costs, people are eating less and of a lower quality resulting in long-term health problems. In the West Bank, people spend 56% of their income on food. In Gaza, that comes to 66% while the poorest spend about 75%. "Food insecurity" affects 38% of the West Bank. In Gaza, it extends to over half. One third of all Palestinians had a drop in income last year; 37% of wage earners in Gaza are unemployed, 27% in the West Bank.

The report blamed Israel for imposing restrictions on movement plus a lack of access to farms and water. The export of produce has been effectively stopped along with the import of seeds and fertilizers. It condemns the Wall as one of the main causes of growing starvation in both Gaza and the West Bank.

"There's no doubt that the crisis in Gaza is closely tied to Israel's siege of the territory," Sarah Leah Whitson from Human Rights Watch told IPS. "The very minimum of food ...allowed in, the severe restrictions on electricity and fuel, the inability of Gazans to leave ...for work or school, and their inability to import needed goods or to export products all mean that Gazans are forced to live at or below subsistence levels."

On the 50th anniversary of the fall of the Warsaw Ghetto, Yasser Arafat sent a crack team of Palestinians police to the memorial service in Poland. In full dress salute, they laid a wreath for the dead. The Palestinian people showed their sincere respect for the suffering of the Jews of Warsaw ...and understood it on a deeply personal level.


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