Throughout the current Israeli Aktion against the Gaza Strip, observers who wish to incite Zionist Israel defenders have compared the Israeli operations to the Nazi liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942-43.
The comparison is not exact, of course. For one thing, the Germans and their allies didn't use air power against the Ghetto inmates, at least not to any great extent. They didn't have helicopters, and their fighter planes and bombers stayed on the ground. There were only about a 1000 Jewish fighters in the Ghetto, and their numbers were reduced smartly and consistently by the Germans and their allies.
The Germans had been emptying the Ghetto for months before the Uprising in 1943, and there were only about 55-60,000 people left in the Ghetto by that time. Deportations continued during the Uprising, the point being, of course, to remove all the inmates and obliterate the Ghetto.
By contrast, Gaza is sealed off completely, and there has been no effort whatsoever to get people out of there. The cordon is complete. At best, no more than a few hundred wounded and civilians with foreign passports have been allowed to leave. 1.5 million Palestinians are trapped in Gaza with no means of escape. There is no safe place, no refuge at all anywhere in the Gaza Ghetto. The Israelis bomb and shell at will, and they are using horrific weapons like White Phosphorous shells, "bunker busters", and possibly DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) weapons as well.
For its part, Hamas has been a pathetic defender of Gaza and its people. While there are supposed to be some 15-20,000 Hamas fighters in the enclave -- a small number in proportion to the population -- they have been utterly unable to defend against he Israeli onslaught. Their rocket squads have never been an effective assault mechanism, and the number of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza has been reduced to no more than a few per day. From the sketchy reports out of Gaza, mostly on Al Jazeera, it appears that there is sporadic guerilla action from Hamas, but very limited, and hardly even noticed by the Israeli Death Machine.
Israel claims that every military aged male in Gaza is a "terrorist," and so all the dead male adolescents and adults are by definition "Hamas Terrorists" in their eyes. But the casualty figures, right now being reported on Al Jazeera as 905 dead and over 4,000 injured, indicate that at least 40% of the casualties are women and children, and of the dead and injured men, only a few are actually "Hamas." There is no sign that the Israelis actually intend to wipe out or even seriously reduce the numbers of Hamas in Gaza. Many Israelis have appeared on Al Jazeera who have said that "Hamas can stay," as long as the rocket fire stops and they do not rearm. Of course the Israelis lie, but still.
Almost all the Hamas spokespeople who have appeared on Al Jazeera have been in Syria; I cannot recall seeing even one interviewed in Gaza itself, though I could be wrong. Al Jazeera does have reporters on the ground in Gaza, and they are reporting live from their Gaza studios and on location (mostly at the hospitals) in the warzone throughout the day, but their reports seem oddly sterile. It seems they are being very careful in what they show and how they report on what is happening, as if they are under some sort of censorship rule, but by whom is the question. Their reports from Israel are obviously under some Israeli control -- although it seems to be relatively light -- but their reports from inside Gaza seem to be almost sanitized, only showing the bombing and shelling from a "safe" distance (although often live), rarely going out on the streets for face to face interviews with Gaza residents, never (so far as I can recall) interviewing Hamas officials in Gaza, but very prominently featuring the panicked delivery of the dead and wounded to the hospitals -- with a special emphasis on the children. There have also been a number of reports showing the appearance of "normal life" during the alleged daily "3 hour humanitarian cease fires" -- that are nothing of the sort. Gazans are shown shopping for food and sundries in the outdoor markets, some are interviewed, the usual denunciations of Israel and complicit Arab governments are expressed, and life goes on.
How much of this somewhat tip-toe reporting is due to the nature of the conflict and the real dangers the reporters face -- and they certainly face plenty of dangers, even in London, where one reporter was stoned live on camera when he was reporting on a pro-Israeli demonstration -- and how much is due to management instructions from Doha I can't say, but it is... odd.
They are reporting on Arab government complicity and failure to act to end the carnage, and there are many reports of the massive demonstrations around the world -- and in Israel and Arab capitals as well -- against the Israeli slaughter in Gaza. Al Jazeera had extensive reporting on and from the United Nations about their actions (and inactions) toward some sort of eventual "durable" ceasefire. The extent of the reporting was surprising given the general level of cynicism in the Middle East regarding anything the United Nations Security Council does or doesn't do or say.
They have featured Barack Obama's non-statement statements about the Gaza situation, and they have had panels speculating on how the Incoming will approach the Middle East conundrum. Most panelists seem to be of the opinion that there will be little substantive change in the American government position favoring Israel, but that there may be more "engagement" in the region toward some sort of settlement of the hostilities and conflicts.
[To Be Continued...]
UPDATE: January 15, 2009
I had a wan hope that this bloody Gaza reduction campaign would be over by the time I got back to this post, but no. The efforts at a ceasefire have come to naught thanks to the intransigence of the Israelis backed by the USA, both Outgoing and Incoming Administrations, the appalling corruption of the Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments, along with the languid indifference of other Arab and world governments to the plight of the Palestinians.
It's tough to compare what is going on in Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and liquidation. As I've said before, it's a comparison we really don't want to make. And yet what's been going on in Gaza, the methodical and deliberate campaign of death and destruction undertaken by the Israelis, the terror the Gazans are experiencing every minute the Israeli Aktion continues, and the near futility of resistance -- no matter how heroic it may be in individual circumstances -- all evoke echoes of what happened in Warsaw in 1943.
What is significantly different is that there is no effort at all, by anyone, to get the Gazans out of there. They are being slaughtered in place and their cities are being destroyed around them. Except for a handful of injured and those with third country passports, no one is being let out -- or taken out -- of the Gaza enclave. The people are sealed in. In Warsaw, the deportations continued while the Uprising was going on. And in every other conflict I can recall, civilians have been able to (or have been required to) flee in advance of the Death Machine. In Gaza, they must stay. There is nowhere to run or to hide, no way out, and the Gazans can only await their doom.
Even the indifference of so many world governments -- not so much the indifference of the Peoples of the world -- is an echo of the disinterest of the world in the plight of the Jews of Europe during the Nazi hey-day.
The reports right now on Al Jazeera describe increasing horror in Gaza, as the Israelis are shelling and bombing UN headquarters and relief supplies warehouses, fuel depots, hospitals with hundreds of patients, apartment houses with hundreds of families still in them (reports are that some have collapsed and that perhaps hundreds of people have been killed in the latest bombings), the Red Crescent hospital is on fire, and a building housing journalists from Reuters and a number of Arab news services has been hit.
Yet the word being passed around the Al Jazeera crew is that this is a last spasm of violence before a ceasefire which, for some reason, they expect to see implemented within the next 24-48 hours. From what they have been saying, the AJ crew seems to believe that Egypt has brokered ceasefire terms with Hamas that are acceptable to Israel, and that there will be an interim agreement today when the Israeli representative arrives in Cairo, and that the fighting will stop sometime in the next couple of days.
If that's true, it will be an echo of how the Israeli campaign against Lebanon and Hezbullah sputtered to an end in 2006. In that conflict, the violence against infrastructure, civilians, and relief efforts increased the closer to the ceasefire things got. Then there was a last spasm of cluster bombing of southern Lebanon villages and then it was over, Israelis pulled out, and Hezbullah declared victory.