About six years ago, as part of his Bar Mitzvah, my son Jed did a project on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, producing his own graphic novel about the underground fighters who used courage, creativity and the city’s sewer system to, in some small way, offer resistance to the murderous program of the Nazis to exterminate Poland’s Jews.
In the course of his research, Jed interviewed a friend of my father’s, a Polish man who had been a teenager in Warsaw during World War II. He told my son how one day, as he was riding the streetcar to a job, the tram came to a halt near the wall of the ghetto. Everyone was told they had to get out. Standing there in a crowd outside the wall, he saw vast amounts of smoke and heard an enormous amount of gun and cannon fire, and bombs exploding. Asking what was happening, he said he was told by a Polish woman near him, “They’re barbecuing the Jews!”
It was, it turned out, the final catastrophic leveling of the Warsaw Ghetto that he was witnessing, and this man recalled, still in horror at the memory, that people had gathered from all over the city to watch it happen, like going to a fireworks display.
Now we’re seeing the same phenomenon in Israel, as the Israeli Defense Force enters its second week of bombing and invading the walled-in ghetto of Gaza, where some 1.8 million Palestinian men, women and children have been trapped for years with nowhere to go to escape the bombs, rockets, cannon fire and IDF snipers.
And like the horrific case of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, here too we have a small-scale, improbable, resistance being put up by fighters who use home-made rockets, small arms and a network of tunnels to challenge their much better armed attackers. We also have people -- ironically this time it’s Jewish citizens of Israel -- dragging lounge chairs and refreshments out to hillsides in the evening to watch the fireworks as the IDF’s tanks, bombers and ships off the coast of Gaza pulverize this huge ghetto that is fully under Israeli control.
As the New York Times reported in an article about the Israeli spectator sport of watching the leveling of Gaza, where by July 22 nearly 600 Palestinian, including over 100 children, had been killed by Israeli weapons, this was nothing new. Similar crowds gathered, equipped with comfortable seating and refreshments, during the prior bloody assault on Gaza in 2008-9 in which between 1160 and 1400 Palestinians were reportedly killed.
Israelis as spectators, enjoy the IDF assault on the Gaza ghetto (l), and a view of the damage from one IDF attack (r)