I was just reading an account of the Jewish armed uprising in defense of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, an astounding story of heroism in the face of almost certain death, as people armed with little more than pistols and home-made bombs held out for a month against the most powerful army on earth.
It is also a tale full of horrifying acts of a kind of ruthlessness and coldness that are hard to understand outside of the context of the fighting of that time: a 12-year-old boy who had ratted to his Nazi captors about Jewish insurgent bunkers who was summarily pushed out of a top floor building window by a Jewish fighter so he can’t do it again, Nazi captives who were simply executed, wounded comrades who were left behind to burn to death because rescuing them was too dangerous, fighters who hid themselves in crowds of civilians and then begin firing at Nazi troops, inevitably leading to the deaths of civilians in the resulting crossfire.
One thing that struck me as I was reading of the tales of incredible derring-do by the trapped Jewish ghetto fighters was how similar their desperate actions were to those of some of the Hezbollah fighters in Southern Lebanon, and some of the Palestinian fighters in Gaza today.
I don’t want to imply by this that Israel is Nazi Germany, or that the IDF is the German SS. That is not true. Firstly, the Israeli government, however brutal its behavior in Gaza and Lebanon, is not seeking the wholesale extermination of a race. Secondly, Hezbollah is not simply an innocent victim, as were the Jews of Poland.
That said, there is a ruthlessness in the Israeli assaults in Gaza and particularly in Lebanon that goes far beyond what is acceptable in war. Aid organizations have been warned that there will be no safety guarantees for relief convoys. Civilians carrying food and medical supplies from Syria and within Lebanon have been deliberately attacked with bombs and rockets. U.N. observers have been deliberately targeted and killed. Civilians are being killed in such disproportionate numbers, and with such evident lack of concern on the part of the IDF, that one can only assume there is a deliberate policy of terror in place. All these things are war crimes. And as for the charge that Hezzbollah fighters are hiding among civilians and firing rockets from civilian dwellings-this is simply what guerillas do in a war against a militarily superior enemy. It doesn’t justify Israel’s bloody response.
Embattled Polish Jewish fighters, it should be noted, did much the same thing in their struggle against the SS.
There simply is no parallelism here. Hezbollah is indeed randomly firing poorly aimed missiles and small rockets into Israel, where some strike military targets but most hit civilians, because Hezzbollah is a guerilla army, with no airforce. Israel, however, has free run over the skies of Lebanon, an unopposed airforce, and smart bombs. It has the technical ability to target-or not target-whatever it wants, and yet it is killing vastly more civilians-on a quantitative and a proportional basis, than is Hezzbollah.
None of this lessens the crimes of Hezzbollah, but certainly Israel’s crimes are much greater. There simply can be no justification for bombing civilian targets, relief convoys and vehicles, or fleeing refugees heading away from the conflict.
The real tragedy is that when all of this is over, it will be the Hezzbollah fighters who will emerge the heroes across the Arab and broader Islamic world. This is a war that Israel cannot win. The IDF may succeed, through massive and indiscriminate use of force against the people of southern Lebanon, in pushing Hezzbollah back from Israel’s northern border for a time, but Hezzbollah, by fighting with the same tenacity as the ZOB in the Warsaw Ghetto, will win in the end, gaining political strength in Lebanon through its fighters’ sacrifices, and ultimately, of course, returning to the lands in the south that so many of its fighters are currently giving their lives defending.
And the losers, as in all wars, will be the people–the civilian dead in Lebanon and in Israel, who must pay the price for the glory of leaders in what is really a stupid tribal conflict.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s new book is “The Case for Impeachment“,
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org