Legendary Warsaw Ghetto and Anti-Apartheid Fighters Support the Palestinian Resistance!

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

As soon as the new bloodbath in the Middle East began, the label of anti-Semite that Israel’s supporters so readily attributed to all those who dared to criticise its policies was replaced by… criminalisation, censorship and all kinds of persecution, even against those who merely declared their solidarity with the Palestinians. But the most scandalous and shocking thing is that, in most cases, these self-proclaimed hunters of anti-Semites are themselves racists and… patent anti-Semites! Although “paradoxical”, the phenomenon is sufficiently dangerous for us to be concerned about it, because it promises a very worrying future for our most basic democratic rights and freedoms…

The apparently paradoxical fact that so many, if not most, of today’s best ‘friends of Israel’, and Netanyahu himself, are notorious anti-Semites, should surprise only those who are ignorant of the rationale and history of the Zionist project. The founder and ideologist of the Zionist movement himself, Theodor Herzl, based his project on the prediction that the anti-Semitic leaders of the great powers of his day “will be very interested in giving us sovereignty”, in other words a Jewish state. And it is true that history has not belied this prediction. The man who, with his famous ‘Declaration’ (1917), paved the way for the creation of this ‘Jewish State’, Arthur Balfour, then Foreign Secretary of the British Empire, was a notorious anti-Semite, of the kind of US-based ‘Christian Zionists’ who are today the most fanatical supporters of Israel. ..and Trump (1) As for the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, it is certainly no coincidence that the great power that first recognised it and helped it – even supplying it with weapons! in its first crucial steps was the Soviet Union under the almighty Stalin. A Stalin who had already distinguished himself by his (deadly) anti-Semitism, which culminated in 1953 in the infamous ‘conspiracy’ of Jewish doctors who allegedly planned to poison the entire Soviet leadership.

And what about today? Does this “apparently paradoxical fact” only concern Mr Orban? This Hungarian Prime Minister, who declares himself to be Mr Netanyahu’s “best friend”, but also an admirer of the work of his country’s dictator and ally of the Third Reich, Admiral Horthy, who did nothing to oppose the deportations and murders of Hungary’s Jews when he was in power? Sadly, no. Mr Orbán, who also likes to make ‘jokes’ about… the gas chambers of the Holocaust (!), is just one of many arch-anti-Semites who not only support Mr Netanyahu’s Israel, but also stigmatise as anti-Semites those who dare to criticise the policies of Israel and its leaders. This is the case, for example, of French far-right leaders Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour, who are nostalgic for the collaborator and persecutor of the Jews, Marshal Pétain. Or Italy’s ‘post-fascist’ Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who makes no secret of her admiration for her political mentor Benito Mussolini, who also distinguished himself by his ‘racial laws’ and persecution of the Jews. And of course, the countless far-right and racist politicians, from America’s Trump to Italy’s Salvini, and from Russia’s Putin to Spain’s Franco-nostalgic VOX, who worship Netanyahu and remain committed racists, simply replacing their traditional anti-Semitism with the currently more “acceptable” and fashionable Islamophobic racism .

And what about us? All of us who persist in saying that what Israel is currently doing in Gaza flouts humanitarian law and constitutes the very definition of genocide. What do we have to say to Mr Netanyahu’s friends in Israel who fell asleep as anti-Semites and woke up as irreconcilable opponents of anti-Semitism? No, this time we won’t call on the testimony of the most famous of all Jews, and one who almost became Israel’s first president, Albert Einstein, who had no hesitation in warning – 75 years ago! – that Mr Netanyahu’s mentors and political predecessors were “fascists”, “terrorists” and “criminals”. (2) This time, we will call on the invaluable testimony of two very special people who were protagonists in two enormous historical events, both directly concerning Jews and Israel: the (victorious) struggle against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa and the heroic Warsaw ghetto uprising.

The first of these is South African Ronnie Kasrils, who was much more than just an anti-racist activist in apartheid, leading the armed struggle of the African National Congress (ANC) and serving as a minister in Nelson Mandela’s first post-apartheid governments. Clearly, his personal experience at the forefront of the anti-racist struggle for 30 years means that Ronnie Kasrils’ views on Israeli apartheid should be authoritative. And as if all that wasn’t enough, he is also … Jewish, with a refugee background and family members who perished in the Holocaust!

So here’s a little insight into what Ronnie Kasrils thinks and says about Israel and the Palestinians, who often visits occupied Palestine and maintains fraternal relations with its resistance organisations:

“We should recall that when Zionism’s 19th Century founder, Theodor Herzl, sought support from European powers, he promised that a “Jewish state” in Palestine, would build an iron wall “against Asian barbarism”. He was offering to securing Western imperialist interests against the Arabs and eastwards, by a European colonial settlement in what for centuries had been a flourishing land called Palestine”.

“Throughout history slave uprisings have targeted slave owners and their families as well as the system of slavery. These uprisings were just. We must regret all loss of civilian life, especially war crimes, but that regret cannot be misused to deny the justice of the Palestinian cause and the moral and legal right of Palestinians to armed resistance”.

“Announcing the onset of a “total war” Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, declared in words that will shame Israel for all time: “I have ordered a complete siege of the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel… We are fighting human animals.” I do not say this lightly but it is a plain fact that these words could have come from the mouth of a Nazi exterminator”.

“Around the world people of conscience remember and celebrate the courage of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto who rebelled, guns in hand, against Nazi incarceration, prepared to die on their feet rather than passively await death like sheep. Although South Africans were declared to be terrorists when we took up arms against apartheid the armed struggle was widely recognised as wholly legitimate. Armed resistance against military occupation and tyranny is recognised as a universal right in international law and as a moral right in the theory of just war”.

“Many Jews, including some courageous citizens of Israel, are deeply opposed to Zionism and to the Israeli state. In the United States large numbers of younger Jews have turned against Israel. International anti-Zionist Jewish networks have been proclaiming that Palestinians have every right to resist, declaring that Israel does not speak in their name. This is an important rebuttal of Zionist propaganda, claiming that Israel represents all Jews across the world”.(3)

Marek EdelmanThe second of these two very special personalities is Marek Edelman, deputy leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and one of the few fighters to survive. For his attitude to the State of Israel, Zionism and the Palestinians, here is what we wrote in his obituary in 2009:

“Edelman never ceased to denounce the State of Israel, with which he wanted nothing to do. “What Jewish people are we talking about?” he once told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot. “Israel was created on the destruction of the vast, centuries-old Jewish culture that flourished between the Vistula and the Don. Israeli culture is not Jewish culture. If you want to live among millions of Arabs, you have to mix with them, let assimilation and intermarriage do their work”.

“The State of Israel hated Marek Edelman because he was the living negation of all its original sins and crimes. He was the most famous and emblematic figure of a past, of the pre-war anti-Zionist socialist and workers’ movement of the majority of Jews in the European diaspora, of which Zionism – and Israel – has done everything and continues to do everything to erase every trace from history, and even from libraries! And when an Israeli journalist asked him if he feared that his own death would make people forget the Warsaw ghetto uprising, Edelman replied: “No. That event has left too many traces in history, music, literature and art. It is in Israel that our memory is in danger of being erased. For you Israelis, the Six Day War (1967) is the most important event in modern Jewish history. You can count on a State, tanks and a powerful American ally. At the time, we were just 200 young men with only six revolvers, but we were morally superior”. And when the journalist tried to discredit the role of Jewish collaborators in the genocide, a scathing Edelman put her in her place: “That’s your Israeli philosophy, which consists of believing that you can kill 20 Arabs as long as one Jew remains alive. With us, there is no place for a chosen people or a Promised Land”…(4)

On the one hand, the crowd of insensitive monsters who feel nothing in the face of the slaughter of thousands of children in Gaza and stubbornly support Netanyahu and his genocidaires. And on the other, the Kasrils and Edelmans who continue the long Jewish emancipatory tradition of Marx and Einstein, Walter Benjamin and Rosa Luxembourg, Kafka, Trotsky and so many others. On the one hand, cynicism, murderous rage and mortal hatred for all the Edelmans and Kasrils. On the other, what Kashrils calls “the moral and legal right of Palestinians to armed resistance”, supplemented by Edelman who, in 2003, addressed an open letter to “all the leaders of Palestinian military, paramilitary or guerrilla organisations and all the soldiers of Palestinian militant groups”, describing them not, of course, as… terrorists but as “partisans”. They certainly know better than anyone what it means to resist injustice and subjugation and to fight racism and inhumanity.


1. See Gilbert Achcar’s excellent text The Zionist Project’s Duality: Escaping Racist Oppression and Reproducing It in Colonial Context

2. http://www.cadtm.org/When-Einstein-called-fascists-those-who-rule-Israel-for-the-last-44-years

3. Extracts from Ronnie Kasrils’ text “Israel’s barbarism in Gaza”: https://www.palestinechronicle.com/like-the-phoenix-gaza-will-rise-from-the-fire/

4. Text existing only in greek: https://www.contra-xreos.gr/arthra/1380-marek-edelman-1919-2009.html