On Jan. 9, when Congress passed a resolution validating Israel’s remote-control massacre of Palestinian people trapped inside Gaza, morally sane people were revolted. Unable to storm Capitol Hill, we were left to helplessly witness the shoah (Hebrew for “holocaust”) promised last year by Israeli deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai. The shoah that the Israelis have brought to Gaza is being carried out with our phosphorus bombs, our DIME fusion bombs and our high-tech rocketry purchased with our $3 billion a year in foreign aid.
When I heard that five members of the House had the guts to vote against the resolution, I prayed that our local representative, Lynn Woolsey, was one of them. Sadly, she was not in that group; she abstained on one of the most important moral issues of our time.
Last week, I repeatedly asked Woolsey (through her staff) for an interview about Gaza. She declined. If she had talked, I would have asked her why she had abstained on Gaza when she has previously opposed illegal invasions of Third World countries. I would have asked why she is failing to raise her voice when United Nations medical workers and hundreds of children and their mothers are being murdered in the name of “security.”
Woolsey’s political boss, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, authored the resolution to “ensure the welfare, security and survival of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” So I would have asked our representative if she thinks the theocratic, apartheid state of Israel is truly “democratic,” since its non-Jewish citizens are denied civil rights. And I would have asked her why the resolution said nothing about the human rights of 1.5 million Gazians—and their right to defend themselves from illegal blockades and pogroms (defined by the Oxford dictionary as “an organized, officially tolerated attack on any community or group”).
Don’t get me wrong: Hamas is just as theocratic, backward and ruthless as the rulers of Israel; its religious fundamentalism holds no hope of liberation for a free and democratic Palestine. But the homemade missiles it sporadically lobs into territory swiped by Israel from already displaced Palestinian farmers in 1967 are spitballs compared to the Israeli arsenal. The slaughter in Gaza is indisputably in violation of international laws on warfare and land seizure and the basic tenets of human decency.
So I was going to ask Woolsey if she would have spoken up 60 years ago when the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto suffered as the people of Gaza are now suffering. In 1940, the Nazi government of Adolph Hitler locked nearly half a million Jews inside the Warsaw Ghetto and proceeded to starve them to death. Food and medicine were not allowed to cross the sealed borders. Utilities were cut off. Foreign reporters were not allowed to witness. Nonetheless, the incarcerated people of the ghetto smuggled in food and medicine. They carried on educating their doomed children; they lightened their load with cultural and religious festivals. In the face of incredible brutality by the technocratic Nazis, they united for self-defense.
On Passover, April 19, 1943, Nazi tanks and artillery began blowing up houses and temples in the Jewish ghetto, killing men, women and children with advanced weaponry. The starving people fought back with homemade weapons, but they lost; the survivors were transported to the death camp at Treblinka. The ghetto was exploded into a heap of bloody bricks as a lesson for those who resist oppression.
Many European Jews who survived the Nazi years emigrated to the new state of Israel, and then irony rode into town on a pale horse: the settlers forcibly relocated 750,000 native Palestinians, their fellow Semites. Israel transformed villages into concentration camps called Saba, Shantilla, Jenin. So outrageous was the Israeli land-grab that, in 1947, Albert Einstein, once a firm Zionist, denounced the Jewish state and its terrorist practices. War after war has so obscured the historical roots of the “catastrophe,” as the Palestinians term their own diaspora, that most Americans have no knowledge of this history, which mirrors our own story, also filled with institutional racism and genocidal acts.
Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer bemoans the “outbreak” of violence in Gaza, as if it were the flu and not a calculated gamble by Israelis and Americans determined to destroy a whole people. Forget the political machine: we must organize ourselves to stop shoah.
Peter Byrne is currently at work on a book (‘The Devil’s Pitchfork’) for Oxford University Press about quantum mechanics, multiple universes and hydrogen bombs.