Aleje Jerozolimskie, or in English, Jerusalem Avenue, is major road that runs through the center of Warsaw. Looking out my window, I see this road trailing off into the west. Almost always busy from the early morning until the late night, Aleje Jerozolimskie is a special road. A little history,
“The name of the street comes from a small village erected in 1774 by prince and marshal August Sułkowski for the Jewish settlers in Mazovia. The name of the village was Nowa Jerozolima (New Jerusalem), and the road to Warsaw was named Aleja Jerozolimska (singular, as opposed to the modern Polish name, which is plural). Although the village was abandoned shortly after its foundation, and most of the Jews eventually moved to the city itself, the name stuck and has been used ever since.”
Warsaw had a long history of Jewish residents, generations living, raising children, dying and passing on their history, heritage and culture. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Jewish residents of Warsaw were rounded up into the Warsaw Ghetto. A little more history,
“[The Warsaw Ghetto] was established by the Nazi German authorities in the Muranów neighborhood of the Polish capital between October and November 16, 1940; within the new General Government territory of German-occupied Poland. There were over 400,000 Jews imprisoned there, at an area of 3.4 km2 (1.3 sq mi), with an average of 7.2 persons per room; barely subsisting on meager food rations. From the Warsaw Ghetto, Jews were deported to Nazi camps and mass-killing centers. In the summer of 1942 at least 254,000 Ghetto residents were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp during Großaktion Warschau under the guise of “resettlement in the East” over the course of the summer.
The death toll among the Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto is estimated to be at least 300,000 killed by bullet or gas, combined with 92,000 victims of rampant hunger and hunger-related diseases, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the casualties of the final destruction of the Ghetto.”
Before the Second World War, and Hitler’s Holocaust, Jews made up 30% of Warsaw’s population. After the war, the Polish Jewish population had been reduced from 3.5 million to perhaps 200,000 and those remaining faced,
“Anti-Jewish riots [which] broke out in several Polish cities and hundreds of Jews were murdered in anti-Jewish violence (see: Anti-Jewish violence in Poland, 1944–46). The best-known case is the Kielce pogrom of 1946, in which thirty-seven Jews were brutally murdered. The Kielce antisemitic riot, amidst the raging civil war in postwar Poland, discouraged many survivors from rebuilding their lives there and convinced them to emigrate … Between 1945 and 1948, 100,000–120,000 Jews left Poland. Their departure was largely organized by the Zionist activists in Poland such as Adolf Berman and Icchak Cukierman under the umbrella of a semi-clandestine organization Berihah (“Flight”). Berihah was also responsible for the organized emigration of Jews from Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia totaling 250,000 (including Poland) Holocaust survivors.
“A second wave of Jewish emigration (50,000) took place during the liberalization of the Communist regime between 1957 and 1959. After 1967’s Six-Day War, in which the Soviet Union supported the Arab side, the Polish communist party adopted an anti-Jewish course of action which in the years 1968–1969 provoked the last mass migration of Jews from Poland.”
In total some 6 million Jews would be killed by the Nazis in the Death Machine called the Holocaust. Systematic, organized and bureaucratic, Hitler wanted the ‘Jewish Question’ – that ‘question’ (What to do with the Jews?) that had ‘hung’ over Europe for centuries – eliminated. Hitler largely succeeded in his vile mission.
Living near the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto wall, looking at Aleje Jerozolimskie, where I reported on a far-right anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and homophobic nationalist rally organized for Polish Independence Day on the 11th of November, I am daily reminded of the horrors of antisemitism. In point of fact, living in Eastern Europe, seeing how antisemitism still lives on, despite the fact there are virtually no Jews left in Poland, has changed my perception of Israel. During my 20s, I largely supported the Palestinian cause, often blindly; I recall being disgusted at antisemitism I witnessed during a protest against Israel’s brutal bombardment of Gaza in 2010. In Los Angeles, attending a pro-Palestine demonstration at the Israeli Embassy, I saw a man wearing a huge mask of a face with a caricatured long, large nose; I felt sick seeing this blatant antisemitic garb being accepted by the anti-war movement.
The history of the Holocaust and continued antisemitism, which is strong throughout the world, leads me to support a Jewish state. Synthesizing my latest experiences, witnessing the fragments of a city (and nation) torn asunder by a militarized antisemitic death machine, I cannot say ‘no’ to an Israel. However, Israel is faced with several choices, as the horror of the Holocaust was recapitulated in the trauma of the Nakba. A little more history,
“The 1948 Palestinian exodus, also known as the Nakba (Arabic: النكبة, al-Nakbah, literally “disaster”, “catastrophe”, or “cataclysm”), occurred when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes, during the 1948 Palestine war. Between 400 and 600 Palestinian villages were sacked during the war, while urban Palestine was almost entirely extinguished. The term “nakba” also refers to the period of war itself and events affecting Palestinians from December 1947 to January 1949.
The precise number of refugees, many of whom settled in refugee camps in neighboring states, is a matter of dispute but around 80 percent of the Arab inhabitants of what became Israel (50 percent of the Arab total of Mandatory Palestine) left or were expelled from their homes. Approximately 250,000-300,000 Palestinians had fled or been expelled prior to the Israeli Declaration of Independence in May 1948; a fact which was named as a casus belli for the entry of the Arab League into the country, sparking the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Later, a series of laws passed by the first Israeli government prevented them from returning to their homes or claiming their property. They and many of their descendants remain refugees. The expulsion of the Palestinians has since been described by some historians as ethnic cleansing, while others dispute this charge.
The status of the refugees, and in particular whether Israel will grant them their claimed right to return to their homes or be compensated, are key issues in the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The events of 1948 are commemorated by Palestinians both in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere on 15 May, a date now known as Nakba Day.”
Given that Jews, rightfully fleeing a hostile and deadly Europe, traumatized by the horrors of the Holocaust, founded a nation where people were already living, any contemporary support for the idea of a Jewish state, must in fact take into consideration the ethnic cleansing committed by the Zionist militias.
President Trump’s decision to name Jerusalem (as opposed to Tel Aviv) as the de facto and de jure capitol of Israel is dangerous because it does not acknowledge this tense dialectic. While the United States has for decades consistently supported Israel, with weapons, including a nuclear arsenal, Trump’s move ramps up the US’s careless disregard for the Palestinian people. Jerusalem has a long and complicated history, yet to put the situation pithily, since 1967 Israel has illegally occupied East Jerusalem. Multiple United Nations Resolutions, from the Security Council and the General Assembly, have stated the occupation of all land not held by Israel prior to 1967 is now under an illegal occupation. Palestinian people in the West Bank, which includes East Jerusalem, are essentially stateless, and they are subject to Israeli military occupation. Treated with disdain by the Israeli government, Palestinians often have their homes and fields demolished ‘for security reasons;’ they are imprisoned, tortured and killed with impunity by the Israeli Defense Forces.
“Israel engaged in extensive human rights violations in 2016, including detaining or continuing to imprison thousands of Palestinians without charges or trial, torturing many of those held in custody, promoting illegal settlements in the West Bank and severely hampering the movement of Palestinians, according to the Amnesty International Annual Report, published on Wednesday.
The report found that among those tortured and detained under administrative orders were also children. Methods of torture included beatings, painful shackling and sleep deprivation. Among 110 Palestinians killed last year by Israeli forces, the report charged, some posed no threat to life and thus were shot unlawfully.” (Haaretz, “Israel Tortures Palestinian Children, Amnesty Report Says,” 02/2017)
Of course, the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank isn’t Israel’s only serious violation of international law. Despite no longer directly occupying the Gaza Strip, Israel blockades and bombards this densely populated, narrow ‘strip’ of land, ruthlessly. I first became involved in pro-Palestinian activities during Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead,’ or the Gaza Massacre (2009), which killed 1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. Clearly ‘war’ between Israel and Palestine is asymmetric. Due to Israel’s blockade, “a new report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development on assistance to the Palestinian people warns that the Gaza Strip could become ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020.”
Israel’s continual disenfranchisement, oppression and military occupation of Palestinian lands must end. For years, under successive Palestinian leaders, making East Jerusalem the capitol of Palestine has been a sticking point. By recognizing ‘Jerusalem’ as Israel’s capitol, without specifying West Jerusalem is dangerous; additionally, without parametric application of final status negotiations, namely recognizing East Jerusalem as the capitol of a future Palestinian state, which China has done, this unilateral decision by the Trump administration basically gives a further set of giant green lights to Israel’s illegal settlement building in East Jerusalem. Land-swaps, negotiated peacefully, administratively and sensibly, along with a resolution based on two-states, Israel and Palestine, are quickly becoming anachronistic. Israel has two choices: either withdraw all of its military and settlers from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, allowing for an autonomous Palestinian state with its capitol in East Jerusalem (and ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which would also be sovereign Palestinian land), or enfranchise every Palestinian living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank (and those who would have been citizens of Palestine in Gaza) as citizens of Israel. Passport, voting rights, creating electoral districts and expanding the number of seats in the Knesset to fully represent all of Israel-Palestine. It really is either/or in this situation, as the status quo is untenable. Let us never forget the horrors of forced expulsion, mistreatment and murder by a State, let us never forget the lessons of the Holocaust.
I look down Aleje Jerozolimskie, the sun has set; Haaretz reports,
“One Palestinian protester was killed and at least 60 others were wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Friday. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in a second “Day of Rage” following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
A 30-year-old Palestinian was killed by IDF gunfire in the Khan Younis region in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials. The protester, Mahmoud Al-Masri, was critically hurt and later died of his wounds.”
I am 30 years old.
. . .