In the Ghetto

 Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza: Disturbing Parallels


By Steve Hutcheson, Arab News.

I saw a photo last week of a father holding his 6-month-old baby son. The father’s face was devoid of expression; the child in his arms was dead. The boy’s name was Mohammed Al-Borai; he along with several others had been killed in a blast fired indiscriminately by an Israeli cannon into the densely populated areas of Gaza.

There were more photos, one of a group of young boys holding flowers standing around the battered and bloodstained body of the baby boy. That struck me as the most poignant. I had been having a discussion about the cause of suicide bombers among Palestinians and it will be this image more than any other that will concern me more than most. In their minds the young dead boy will have more impact on their future than anything any one might tell them.

It was then that I started to contemplate perhaps more fully the plight of the Palestinians today and the parallels in the history of the Jews that led to their mass exodus from their own countries to immigrate to the land that was at the time known as Palestine.

warsaw-gazaThe Warsaw Ghetto during the Jewish Holocaust holds special significance to the European Jews. It was a place of oppression and the pathway to the ultimate death of thousands of their population that has become symbolic with their struggle for recognition. Yet what they are failing to acknowledge as their descendants press forward with their own brand of Jewish and Zionist idealism is the parallel set of conditions that they are now imposing on the Arab people of Palestine.

The Nazis rounded up the Jews of Poland and quartered them in a small area of Warsaw, building a barricade around the perimeter to prevent them leaving. So too have the Israelis through conflict and force pushed many of the Arab inhabitants out of Israel into an enclave that now has a population density of 4,200 people per sq. km which is 14 times that of the surrounding area of Israel which has 360 people per sq. km.

The Nazis deprived the ghetto inhabitants of food and essential supplies. So too has the Israeli government stopped the flow of goods to the 1.4 million inhabitants of Gaza by limiting the convoys of supplies to a mere trickle.

The Nazis reduced the average calorie intake of the Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto to 241 calories per day. So too have the Israelis reduced the calorie intake of the Palestinians in Gaza. According to a UN report, it is presently at 61 percent of the average daily requirements.

The Nazis restricted public utilities such as water and electricity. So too has the Israeli government.

The Nazis restricted the inhabitants from adequate health care. Israelis restrict the health care in Gaza by limiting the medical supplies in or the treatment of cases that need to be done outside.

The Jewish inhabitants through the ZZB and the ZOB resisted the oppression by the Nazis albeit too late and their rebellion was brutally crushed without concern for who was in the way. So too have the Palestinians of Gaza through their own resistance organizations, in particular Hamas, rebelled against their oppressors and so too do the Israelis use all means available to crush the rebellion without concern for who is in the way or who they maim or kill in doing so.

The Nazis destroyed the structure of the ghetto levelling it to the ground in a broad quest to rout the resistance to their oppression. Israelis indiscriminately level buildings and the infrastructure in Gaza in a quest to rout out the resistance to their oppression. The Nazis assigned the Jewish people to a lesser status of all their inhabitants depriving them of their rights as citizens and even as humans. Israel assigns the refugees held in Gaza less status than is given to the Jews worldwide and deprives the Palestinians of their rights to return to their former lands.

The Nazis applied whatever was at their means to break the will of the Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto. Israelis do the same thing; they use whatever is at their means to break the will of the Palestinians.

The Nazis killed the Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto indiscriminately. Don’t the Israelis kill indiscriminately the inhabitants in forcing their control over Gaza?

The Jews of Israel and elsewhere are quite right to protest at the inhumanity of the Nazis in their treatment of them and oblige the world not to allow the same situation to happen again. The Palestinians protest at the inhumanity of the Israeli treatment, yet in a bizarre twist of events, the world still allows the oppression to happen and continue.

It was after the Jews in the ghetto had been largely killed or transported that the world stood up and felt guilty in not acting sooner.

With the picture of Mohammed Al-Borai in my mind I question when the world will stand up and say: Enough is enough, there is not going to be a repeat of the Warsaw Ghetto and particularly when its perpetrators are those who suffered the most by its conduct.

There is a basic conflict of inhumanity occurring to the Palestinian people of Gaza that the world is deliberately ignoring. An inhumanity that was inflicted by the Nazis on the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto is now more than ever closely paralleling that which they are inflicting on the people of Gaza. They learned a hard lesson but it was not a lesson learned well. They have been given the power to practice humanity but have decided instead that they will treat the concerns of the Palestinians in the same inhumane way the Nazis treated them.

A future monument will no doubt contain photos of Mohammed Al-Borai in the arms of his father and the world will decry the injustice.

— Steve Hutcheson has worked in crisis recovery in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Indonesia for the past several years and is now based in Thailand. He can be contacted at:

This article was published with the author’s generous authorization.

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