Counterpunch / October 9, 2023
The uprising began on the anniversary of another one, which had become a revolution. The occupying power had had informants throughout the ghetto, but despite their extensive networks of surveillance and control, they were completely blindsided when the uprising began. Those who did rise up did so primarily with ingenuity and homemade weapons, but they compensated as best they could for what they lacked in resources with bravery and brilliant planning.
They had no resources because they were refugees, living in a walled ghetto. They had come from all around, forced at gunpoint to leave their homes in other places, before ending up in the walled ghetto, where the occupying power kept them in a half-starved state, not allowing imports of food, medicine, or basic construction materials.
When the people rose up, the extent of their organization, impeccable planning, and intention to die fighting became clear, as they succeeded in surprising and killing dozens of soldiers among the occupiers. They even at one point broke through the walls of their ghetto, and brought the ghetto uprising beyond the ghetto, shocking the occupier with their accomplishments.
The occupier, who operated under a general principle that one life of an occupation soldier was worth the lives of at least 100 of the occupied, set about to raze the ghetto by fire. Over the course of four weeks, they completely destroyed every building in the ghetto. With nowhere else to go beyond the walls, the vast majority of the residents of the ghetto died there.
I am, of course, talking about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in the spring of 1943, when the Jewish Fighting Organization forced the German Army to take troops away from the front line in the war with the USSR that they were losing, in order to deal with this group of half-starved civilians and their homemade weapons.
Living in the “West,” consuming what passes for mainstream media in the West, it would be almost as hard to understand the motives and methods of the Jewish Fighting Organization in 1943 by reading Nazi propaganda as it would be to understand Hamas today through the western media’s distorted lens.
We can start with where they start the narrative. Very predictably, because their narratives always start the same way. It always begins with “Hamas launched an attack.”
If half-starving people with no clean water or the ability to travel outside of their ghetto launch any kind of uprising, the obvious context is the fact that they were under siege, living in a walled ghetto, prevented from importing the things they need to survive and prevented from traveling. This is the obvious reason for any people living in such conditions to rise up against their occupying power. But instead, we are fed a narrative that begins with the ghetto uprising, without any explanation for the basic nature of the situation, that is, that an occupying army is forcing people to live and starve in a walled ghetto.
Given the completely dishonest state of the Western media when it comes to making any sense of anything happening anywhere in the Middle East (as the British Empire named Western Asia a long time ago), I thought establishing a few salient facts to help us make sense of what’s going on right now in and around Gaza could be helpful.
1) Israel is not a democracy. The majority of the people who live under Israeli rule are Palestinian. Of the Palestinians living under Israeli rule, the vast majority of them are in the West Bank or Gaza, and are subject to military “justice,” not civilian courts. They do not have the right to vote in Israeli elections, although every aspect of their lives is controlled by Israel — whether they live or die, whether their homes are bulldozed or not, whether their fields are razed by settlers or they’re allowed to keep farming, it’s all up to Israel. When they say Israel is a democracy, they’re lying — blatantly, and daily.
2) Hamas is the closest thing to an elected government the Palestinians have. In fact, the last time they had a real election in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas won by a landslide. That’s why they haven’t had another election since then, and that’s why Hamas is in control of Gaza today. They would have been in power in the West Bank as well, to the extent Palestinians can have any power at all under the circumstances, but Fatah annulled the election results, because they lost. With Israel’s active assistance, Fatah tried to overthrow Hamas in Gaza by sending in their armed loyalists, and this coup attempt failed miserably.
3) Physically fighting back against an occupying army, according to international law that all the countries in the world have signed on to long ago, is justified, and is not “terrorism.” You’d have to be very lucky to tune in during one of the very brief moments when international law might ever be mentioned in one of these western news stories about this uprising. International law is only apparently relevant when it comes to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or other incidents where it seems convenient to mention.
4) Gaza is under a brutal occupation. It would seem completely ridiculous to mention this, as it’s abundantly obvious. But somehow or other this is not so much the case in the western media, which tends to give inordinate amounts of time to Israeli politicians and American and British diplomats who love to talk about how the Israeli settlements in Gaza were evacuated a long time ago. The implication here being that now the people in Gaza have nothing to complain about. Just don’t mention the siege, the lack of ability to travel or import anything, and pretend Gaza is some kind of Palestinian “neighborhood,” which is what the Israeli politicians call their illegal, exclusively Jewish settlements throughout the ever-shrinking lands of the Palestinians — “neighborhoods.”
5) When Ukrainians fight back against their occupying power and launch attacks in parts of Russia, outside of Ukraine, their bravery and ingenuity are openly celebrated in the west, and they are given massive amounts of military aid. When Palestinians do exactly the same thing under exactly the same kinds of circumstances, it is their occupier who gets the military aid, not them — they get called “terrorists” for fighting back.
6) When Netanyahu tells the people within the walled ghetto to “leave now” because he’s going to turn every corner of Gaza into “rubble,” which is what he just said, this is genocide talk. There is nowhere for the people of Gaza to go, other than the closed border with Israel, the closed border with US client dictatorship Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea. The way he is talking about Gaza now is remarkably similar to the way Jürgen Stroop talked about turning the Warsaw Ghetto into rubble.
7) When Armenians are forced at gunpoint to leave their enclave within Azerbaijan, we hear nothing of the history of Azeri displacement, but only of the suffering of the Armenians, which is regularly characterized in the western press as genocide. If forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their land and making them move into refugee camps is genocide, then the Palestinians are victims of genocide, and have been since 1947. You’ll never hear this word seriously used in the western press in relation to the suffering of Palestinians, however, unless it’s to accuse Iranian leaders of antisemitism for daring to use the term themselves.
8) As the United Nations budget for Palestinian refugees to do things like eat and have health care and schools for their children is continually gutted in order to send more money to Ukraine, Netanyahu and Biden and others love to complain about Iranian assistance to Palestinians. Unlike the US or Israel, Iran has not invaded another country in 2,500 years, but apparently they’re going to start attacking other countries sometime soon, according to Netanyahu and Biden. In the meantime, they’re aiding (democratically-elected and popular) “terrorists” (who are fighting for the freedom of their people to survive) and this is a bad thing!
9) When the Russian military intentionally or accidentally bombs an apartment building, or when Ukrainian air defenses accidentally bomb one of their own apartment complexes, it is immediately called a war crime and a crime against humanity, and denounced by every western diplomat, wherever they may happen to be at the time. When Israel very intentionally bombs and totally demolishes a high-rise apartment building full of civilians, as they did yesterday and have done on many occasions in the past, we are simply treated to information about the body count on both sides, and whether the dead are civilians, children, combatants, etc., is apparently irrelevant.
10) When the Russian military kills Ukrainian civilians, intentionally or accidentally, we hear about each incident and the dead are often given names, especially if there were any children killed. When Israel kills Palestinian children we are informed that they may have been throwing rocks, or that they were unfortunately living in a high-rise that contained a Hamas office of some kind. And international law on the subject of the rules of war, and whether it’s OK to destroy an apartment building full of civilians in order to get at one of the so-called terrorists is not discussed. That’s only discussed when it comes to Russian attacks on Ukrainians.
David Rovics is a frequently-touring singer/songwriter and political pundit based out of Portland, Oregon