The Middle East:

Commentary and Analysis

An Old Warsaw Ghetto Partisan Expresses Sympathy

Palestine's partisans
Paul Foot
Wednesday August 21, 2002
The Guardian

The unquenchable defiance of the Palestinian people inspired the furious speech from the dock last week by the handcuffed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti. In a single sentence, repeated with great passion, he summed up the one absolutely undeniable truth about Palestine: that there can be "no peace with occupation". In other words, whatever the vacillations of Zionist intellectuals in the west, whatever the reactions to the suicide bombings, the plain fact remains that there is no hope for peace in the region as long as Israel maintains its illegal and brutal occupation of other people's territory.

Mr Barghouti was seized by military force in Ramallah, where, even according to the miserable treaties already agreed, criminal justice is a matter for the Palestinian authority. His illegal capture and trial is yet another pathetic attempt by the Israeli authorities to pretend that their military occupation and enforced settlement of other people's land has something to do with justice and democracy.

While Mr Barghouti waits for his trial to start, two other powerful voices have been raised to haunt the Israeli authorities. The first is that of Nelson Mandela, who says he will be closely following the trial proceedings. His involvement is a reminder of the similarities between the bantustans for South African black people under apartheid, and the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza. The other voice was that of Marek Edelman, who was deputy commander of the historic Warsaw ghetto uprising of the Jews against the Nazis in 1943.

Now in his 80s, Mr Edelman wrote a letter early this month to Palestinian leaders. Though the letter criticised the suicide bombers, its tone infuriated the Israeli government and its press. He wrote in a spirit of solidarity from a fellow resistance fighter, as a former leader of a Jewish uprising not dissimilar in desperation to the Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories. He addressed his letter to "commanders of the Palestinian military, paramilitary and partisan operations - to all the soldiers of the Palestinian fighting organisations".

This set up a howl of rage in the Zionist press, who reminded their readers that Mr Edelman, despite his heroism in the 1940s, is a former supporter of the anti-Zionist socialist Bund, and can therefore not be trusted. Nothing infuriates Zionists more than the arguments of anti-Zionist Jews, who have such a courageous and principled history. The essence of the intellectual case for Zionism is that its opponents are anti-semitic. But when Jews, especially heroic Jews such as Marek Edelman, speak out against Zionism, and especially if they denounce Israeli imperialism and defend the victims of it, how can they be accused of anti-semitism? What a boost it would be for the Palestinians and their cause - and for peace in the Middle East - if Marek Edelman could attend the Barghouti trial.

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