Are the Warsaw Ghettos the same as the Gaza Strip?

Warsaw Ghetto

Warsaw Ghetto, 1943

John Minto, among others, has compared the Gaza Strip with the Warsaw Ghettos. Based on this comparison he has justified Hamas’ policy of violence and advocated that New Zealanders should support the Palestinians in their endeavours.

While there are some similarities between the two situations, there are also some important differences between them. These differences are:

* The Germans created the Warsaw Ghettos as a precursor to exterminating the Jews altogether. Gaza is not a ghetto created by Israel. It is a piece of land captured by the Egyptians when they declared war on Israel immediately after the UN mandated Israel’s creation. Egypt administrated the territory from 1947 until 1967. Israel no longer governs Gaza. Gazans have their own elections, organise their own coups and fire their own rockets.

* The walls of Warsaw were built to contain the Jews to more efficiently stage their transportation to the Camps. The Walls of Gaza were built to prevent the large number of suicide bombings occurring at that time. After the Gazan walls were built, suicide-bombing numbers fell by over 90%. The Warsaw Walls were built for death; the Gazan walls preserve life.

* The Jews of Warsaw did not have the stated aim of destroying the nation of Germany. Hamas has a stated aim of destroying the State of Israel.

* The Jews of Warsaw were predominantly pacifists and most did not take up arms. The Warsaw uprising only started after less than 50,000 remained; the remainder either died in the Ghetto or the Death Camps. Violence was an action of last resort. Hamas openly advocates taking violent action against Israel.

* The population density of the Warsaw Ghetto was 129,412 per sq km; the population density of Gaza is 4,117.

* Israel has no extermination camps. If Israel could believe that these Palestinians might be trusted to become responsible participants of a democracy then some believe citizenship would be offered. However because a culture of resistance and hatred is so deeply ingrained within Gazan society, such an action is unlikely.

* The blockade of Gaza is a result of Hamas’ ongoing policy of violence. When the level of violence was low, Israelis have allowed Gazans to find employment within Israel and commerce has been allowed to develop. Despite offering the Germans no resistance, Jews were not allowed to be employed outside of the Ghetto and any commerce was clandestine in nature.

Instead of comparing Gaza with the Warsaw Ghettos, it might be more sensible to compare the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the relationship between India and Pakistan. The formation of Pakistan bears some similarity with the formation of Israel.

Minto also draws comparisons with Apartheid but the South African authorities did not face an ethnic group which wished to impose a second class citizenship on non-negro South Africans. On the other hand, Hamas wishes to create a Muslim state which would result in the supremacy of Sharia Law over any other and the imposition of a Dhimmi tax on all non-Muslims. Hamas expressly holds to Koranic writings that foretell the eventual hunting and extermination of all Jews. Jews do not have an equivalent theology.

The existence of the Palestinian refugee is a direct outcome of the first Arab-Israeli war. A war that started when the neighbouring Arab states rejected the UN declaration and declared war on the newly formed Israel. Their economic deprivation and low living standards are deplorable but if their society could focus on economic development instead of diverting much needed resources to their war effort, the well-being of their people would be greatly advanced.

Sometimes the population density of Gaza is used as an argument that economic sustainability is impossible. However, there are many societies who have achieved economic sustainability and even prosperity, despite having a greater population density than Gaza:

Pop density (per sq km)

Tel Aviv 7,445
Hong Kong 6,352
Singapore 6,252
Moscow 4,900
London 5,100
Gaza 4,167


For a local comparison:

Central Auckland 2,326
Auckland 989


The difference is a state of peace and rule of law.

During the six month “ceasefire” that ended on 19 December 2011, Gazans fired 329 rockets and mortars. Most of these attacks went unreported in the West. Israel acted with restraint throughout this period. Yet when Israel acts decisively to address the safety of its citizens it is accused of reacting disproportionately. How does one act proportionately in such a situation? Are we in the West seriously suggesting that Israel should emulate the Gazans and take random pot shots into Gaza?

It would be nice to think that Jews and Palestinians could participate as equal citizens in a nation building process. But how can a sustainable society be maintained if a significant proportion finds secular democratic rule with Jews an ethnically and religiously repugnant prospect? Many, including the UN, have come to the conclusion that it is not possible and settled on a two-state solution as the only sustainable one. Unfortunately even after two states are formed, if one of them continues a policy of belligerence towards the other, then we are not much further ahead.

John Minto calls for New Zealanders to support the Palestinians. New Zealanders pride ourselves on being fair-minded people. Let’s not easily take sides in a complex, long-running and deep-seated conflict, if at all, until we have familiarised ourselves with all the facts, thought through the issues and seen the matter from both perspectives.