By Michael Kramer
Published Jul 19, 2010 12:00 AM
An Israeli military veteran, with help from Polish activists from the Palestine solidarity organization Kampania Palestyna, on June 27 tagged a remnant of the wall that surrounded the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw with “Liberate All Ghettos” in Hebrew and “Free Gaza and Palestine” in English. A Palestinian flag was hung from the top of the wall after the tagging was completed.
The wall was built in 1940 when Poland was occupied by German fascists who were known as Nazis. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, as well as smaller numbers of Romani people, were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto before they were transported to the Auschwitz and Treblinka extermination camps. In April 1943 a heroic armed uprising began in the ghetto and lasted for one month before being put down by the German army. The ghetto was then completely leveled, yet some fighters were able to hold out for months in underground bunkers.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is an important event for all oppressed people, including the Palestinians.
Yonatan Shapira was a captain in the Israeli Air Force. He flew U.S.-made Black Hawk helicopters in the same unit that was to take part in the May 2010 attack on the Gaza Flotilla ship Mavi Marmara in international waters.
In 2003 Shapira wrote a letter refusing to take part in missions targeting Palestinians. It was co-signed by 27 other Israeli pilots. That was the end of his military career. Since then he has become a well-known activist who supports Palestinian self-determination.
He is also a strong supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and a co-founder of Combatants for Peace, an organization of former Palestinian and Israeli armed combatants.
In a video interview Shapira described his background and motivation: “Most of my family came from Poland and many of my relatives were killed in the death camps during the Holocaust. When I walk in what was left from the Warsaw Ghetto, I can’t stop thinking about the people of Gaza who are not only locked in an open-air prison but are also being bombarded by fighter jets, attack helicopters and drones, flown by people I used to serve with before my refusal in 2003. ...
“I was always taught growing up that the atrocities that happened to the Jewish people happened because the world was silent. And therefore I cannot be silent. The Jewish people needed to be liberated from the ghettos, and now Israelis need to be liberated from the crimes of their own government. Each of us can take part in this global struggle for justice and support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for the sake of not just the Palestinian people but for Israelis, too.” (www.kampania-palestyna)
Shapira is not alone. Ewa Jasiewicz, a Pole who participated in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, says, “Poland is full of the ruins of ghettos and death camps and shrines to those who sacrificed their lives in the defense of not just their communities but in resistance to fascism.”
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