John Passant

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Me quoted in Fairfax papers on tax haven use
Me quoted by Georgia Wilkins in The Age (and other Fairfax publications) today. John Passant, from the school of political science and international relations, at the Australian National University, said the trend noted by Computershare was further evidence multinationals did not take global regulators seriously. ”US companies are doing this on the hard-nosed basis that any [regulatory] changes that will be made won’t have an impact on their ability to avoid tax,” he said. ”They think it is going to take a long time for the G20 to take action, or that they are just all talk.” (1)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole
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Real debate?
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System change, not climate change
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Marek Edelman: from the Warsaw Ghetto to Gaza

I wrote this in 2010 in response to Jeremy Jones’ attack on me for writing the article ‘The Warsaw Ghetto uprising – it is right to resist’ (an article I republished the other day in light of the invasion of Gaza as A lesson from the Warsaw Ghetto – it is right to resist). This slightly edited repost is still relevant today as the Zionists shout anti-Semite at anyone who opposes the Israeli genocide of Palestinians.

John

Every year Jeremy Jones, the Director of International and Community Affairs, Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council, produces an anti-semitism report for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

This year [2010] in his report, the section on the Left at page 64 includes the following:

A number of other individuals identified with the political left made intellectually and racially/religiously offensive comments on matters of concern to the Jewish community.

As well as naming Guy Rundle and Liam Byrne, Jones specifically refers to an article of mine, written at the time of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, called The Warsaw ghetto uprising – it is right to fight back.

He says:

Self-described ‘revolutionary’ John Passant published a blog post ― The Warsaw Ghetto uprising – it is right to fight back, making an analogy between the fascist Hamas movement and Ghetto-fighters, and Israel with Nazi Germany.

Actually I praised the incredible courage of the Jewish resistance in Warsaw against the Nazis and the inspiration it provided for the 1944 Uprising. I finished off the article this way:

What courage, what humanity the Warsaw Ghetto Jews showed in resisting the monolith of Nazism. There is a universal message here. It was right then to fight back against the Nazi occupiers.  It is right now, even in the face of overwhelming force, to resist foreign occupation and invasion.

Evidently it is this paragraph which, in Jones’s words is ‘intellectually and racially/religiously offensive … to the Jewish community.’

Of course the criticism is nonsense and elides anti-zionism into anti-semitism. As I have written elsewhere on this blog, anti-zionism is not anti-semitism. The accusation is designed to shut down debate about Israeli crimes and the nature of the Israeli regime.

Marek Edelman, hero of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, wrote a letter in 2002 to the Palestinians, prompted by the Israeli show trial of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti. Here is how Paul Foot, writing in the Guardian, described it:

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”.

The references to the partisans and fighting organisations show clearly that Edelman was identifying with the Palestinian resistance.

While it is easy to defame me with accusations of anti-semitism, it is not so easy to do that with one of the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a man who remained a fierce opponent of Zionism all his life.

A freedom fighter himself, Edelman saw in the Palestinians the next generation of freedom fighters and with his words drew the analogy between the Warsaw Ghetto resistance and the resistance of the Palestinians. As he said, ‘to be a Jew always means always being with the oppressed and never the oppressors.’

It was this ‘siding with the oppressed’ and fighting the oppressors that gave Edelman the moral authority to both write to the Palestinians as brothers in arms and to then criticise suicide bombings and the futility of such actions, actions the ghetto fighters never undertook.  A word document copy of his letter is here.

Here is how David Rosenberg put it in a comment on a blog after Edelman’s death:

The arguments about who has the right to claim the history of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the holocaust more generally and for what purpose were addressed by Edelman himself. In common with a number of other Bundist survivors he was angered by any attempt by Israel’s leaders to appropriate the Holocaust and use it to justify its political/military actions. He made clear on many occasions that he opposed Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory, while urging Palestinian leaders (whom he poignantly addressed as “soldiers of the Palestinian Fighting Organisations”) to firmly reject terroristic methods of advancing their struggle.

But the general conclusion he drew from the experience is that this history belongs to no one exclusively but to everyone: that humanity must fight for equality, democracy, human dignity and human rights wherever these are threatened or suppressed.

And addressing himself particularly to those Jews who drew a narrow nationalist lesson from the tragedy that was inflicted by the Nazis, he stated simply that “to be a Jew always means always being with the oppressed and never the oppressors”.

Like Edelman, I and many others on the Left side with the oppressed against the oppressors.  We side with the oppressed Palestinians against their oppressors, Zionism. That is the reason apologists for Zionism attack us, just as they ferociously attacked Edelman.

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Bashing the unemployed is about cutting wages

Emma Alberici interviews employment Minister Eric Abetz.

The government’s ‘bash the unemployed’ has two aims. The first is to scapegoat those whom capitalism throws onto the rubbish bin of unemployment. The victims of capitalism become the cause of their own unemployment (much like it is all the fault of the Palestinians for the Israelis having to kill so many of them.)

If the cause of unemployment is the unemployed, then clearly it is not the fault of the government in managing capitalism and is definitely not the fault of capitalism itself. It is OBVIOUSLY the result of those lazy bludging no hopers. I mean it is just so OBVIOUS.

Isn’t it funny then how unemployment goes up and down, sometimes very markedly, and it is always connected to the overall strength or weakness of the economy? When the economy is booming presumably all the lazy do-nothing bludgers become keen and hard working employees. But when the economy busts, all these lazy buggers emerge from the shadows just clamouring for more state support.

This government knows just how to deal with these shirkers. If you are younger than 30, then you will lose the dole for 6 months each year. That should help crime rates, suicide rates and self esteem. And it will put real downward pressure on wage rates, especially the minimum wage.

All the unemployed will have to apply for 40 jobs a month.

Or as the Abetzorator puts it – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. With about 7 unemployed for every vacancy, forcing them to send out form letters for jobs will do nothing to put those on the dole into jobs. It will massively increase red tape for business. And it will put real downward pressure on wage rates, especially the minimum wage.

Abetz’s response was to promise those unemployed ‘spamming’ employers would lose their payments. What planet do these vicious little men live on? Maybe, just maybe, the government could remove the pressure to spam by abandoning the idea to force the unemployed to make 40 job applications a month. But that doesn’t fit into the blame the victim strategy or the cutting wages strategy behind these attacks on the unemployed.

The backlash against the proposal from business, economists, social service organisations and the general populace has seen Abetz start to talk about a lower job application target per month This is a white bread version of the shit sandwich.

Depending on your age, you’ll have to work for the dole for 15 or 25 hours a week. This is the same scheme we have for criminals. And it will put real downward pressure on wage rates, especially the minimum wage.

All of these government changes to the dole, as well as demonising the victims of capitalism and deflecting attention away from the system that creates unemployment by putting profit before people, are also aimed at driving wages down.

Desperate people, faced with losing the pittance of $35 a day that is the dole, will accept $10 an hour jobs. The minimum wage is currently almost $17 an hour.

That will drag down not only the minimum wage and those wage rates linked to it, but all working class wages.

The threat from this Government to our living living standards is real. Why aren’t our unions leading the fightback against Abbott and Abetz? Only organised labour has the capacity and power to defeat this government.

Does Israel have a right to exist?

Nick Dyrenfurth in the Fairfax Daily (The Age, The Canberra Times, and I assume the Sydney Morning Herald) the other day wrote his usual unthinking rant in defence of Zionism and Israel, in effect a defence of the long slow genocide that Israel has been carrying out against Palestinians since 1948. The current massacre in Gaza is but the next step in that genocide.

Dyrenfurth pretends that he sees the suffering of Palestinians but does not understand that it is the very Zionism he embraces which is the cause of their suffering.

I wrote a letter to the Canberra Times in response to Dyrenfurth’s article but like all of my letters over the last few months I am pretty sure it will not be published. Here is what I said:

Nick Dyrenfurth uses his usual sophistry to defend the genocide Israel is carrying out against Palestinians. (‘Gaza and Israel: Why I will not be silent’, The Canberra Times July 27).

In among his endless irrational rants in mindless defence of Israel, he calls a meeting Socialist Alternative are holding in Melbourne ‘pure evil’. He doesn’t explain why a talk on ‘How to smash Israel’ deserves such a description, and apart from the heavy implication of anti-Semitism, doesn’t bother to explain why a democratic and secular state of Palestine for all who want to live there – a rainbow nation – is evil.

Of course to Zionists anything that questions the apartheid state of Israel is evil. That in part explains Dyrenfurth’s return to a particular Zionist theme, that all who criticise Israel are anti-Semitic. It is a lie, and avoids the debate we have to have about Israel, including the concentration camp it runs called Gaza.

If people want to hear an alternative to the rantings of a man who defends the Israeli genocide of Palestinians, a long slow genocide going on since 1948 and of which the latest massacres in Gaza are the latest example, can I suggest people go to the Socialist Alternative meeting today (Thursday) at 6 pm at the ANU in Copland room G 39. Their talk is called Australia, USA and Israel: Partners in genocide and it will discuss why the brutal attack on the Gaza strip is happening, and why the US and Australia have always gone out of their way to apologise for Israel’s war crimes.

It seems to me that the one state option – a democratic and secular Palestine in which all who want to can live – is the only way forward. That won’t happen until the Arab revolutions break out again and deepen to thoroughly democratise the region by challenging not just imperialism’s sway but capitalism itself.

Here is Faisal Bodi in The Guardian in 2001 mmaking the case for a one state solution. Of necessity that means Israel simply has no right to exist.

Here is Thomas Maunder in the International Socialist Journal in 2007 reviewing Jamil Hilal (ed), Where now for Palestine? The Demise of the Two-State Solution (Zed Books, 2007), where a range of academics discuss why the two state solution is dead.

One thing that seems clear in all of this is that the reality of the war crimes Israel is committing means that its lies are not being accepted by many Western publics, such as the UK, where well over 60% think Israel is committing war crimes.

Australia in the Great War: Myths and ambitions

In commemorating the Great War, which broke out 100 years ago next month, we recall one of history’s greatest crimes writes Tom O’Lincoln in Red Flag. Sixteen million dead and 20 million wounded. Such a grubby mix of murder and profit-hunger confronts us. Dividends rise and workers fall.

Even conservative NSW governor Philipp Game declared at the opening of a war memorial in 1930: “None of us can say that the world is better for the Great War.”

So why did Tony Abbott in June travel as far as France to celebrate it? The most obvious reason came a few years back from the cynical lips of former defence minister Kim Beazley: “Politicians need the Anzac myth or they would never be able to convince soldiers to go to war.”

The rulers of wartime Australia had another fear, articulated by archbishop Mannix: “Within the past 12 months, [the] well paid had their salaries increased, while poor working men had been turned out idle in hundreds. What wonder if idle starving men find themselves driven to socialism.”

They need the Kokoda myth, too, for those who don’t buy Anzac. They can even find use for a relic like Coral Sea week. But Anzac gets massive official support. Last time I had a look at it, it seemed like every marching band in the state was marching. But what did a war in Europe have to do with Australia?

A global order?

When one Western government after another declared its participation in World War One, Australia was part of the rush. Unlike in Britain, there was relatively little opposition to conscription at first. This passivity seems to show Canberra’s total subservience to Britain. If so it would be a damning accusation, and neither is it totally false. What passes for Australian foreign affairs thinkers are under some pressure to disprove it. The Australian’s Greg Sheridan has tried.

Sheridan actually thinks the war was important for building a better world. “It was vital that German militarism not be allowed to triumph over British and French democracies and the global order they represented”, he writes. This stirs up anti-German prejudices, so most people think it must contain some truth. But in fact it comes from reflecting backwards from the Nazi experience.

German militarism in the 1914 version was repulsive, but if you’d gone with me to the site of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, India, you’d doubt whether British global rule was any better. When a crowd gathered to protest against the arrest of two local community leaders, brigadier general Reginald Dyer gave the order and the army fired on the crowd for 10 minutes, firing largely towards the few open gates through which people were trying to flee. Dyer became a hero to old blimps of the Raj, but the massacre horrified all of India.

And which of Britain’s other colonies were run democratically? What of its pivotal ally tsarist Russia – a model of democracy?

Australian ambitions

We still haven’t decided why Australia joined the war. Fortunately, Greg Sheridan has more to say. In the run-up to the last Gulf war, he let the cat out of the bag. For Australia’s rulers, the Great War wasn’t primarily about bailing out the British at Gallipoli or Poziere. Rather, as he points out, “[W]e dealt with Germany’s Pacific colonies … before we dispatched troops to Britain.”

Canberra’s first goal was grabbing territory and projecting power in its own sphere of influence. That wasn’t just about thwarting the Germans, whose positions in the Pacific were indefensible anyway. It most of all was about securing a strategic position against the Japanese. In World War One, Japan was an ally, but that didn’t stop prime minister Billy Hughes from plotting against it, and vice versa.

And when it came to local conquest, democracy and human rights counted for little. True, the platitudes were there, even if confused. Senator Mathew declared grandly that Australia must treat Pacific peoples “like grown-up children”.

There was more to imperial rule than condescension. In the pre-war years, reforming German administrators in New Guinea had made some advances in the condition of local peoples. But human rights seem to have gone backwards once the Australians took over.

Historian Derryck Scarr records that the “often callow Australian servicemen who ruled the former German New Guinea from 1914-1921 were able to flog freely, just as their own concept of military justice allowed them to shoot pretty much at random when whites were killed by New Guineans”. After 1921, the administration kept a “permissive view” towards punishment and was freer with hangings than the Papuan government.

In addition to grabbing territory, Australia needed to put in a juggernaut performance on the battlefield to make sure it had sufficient clout to confront Japan at the 1920 Paris conference. This was the macabre logic behind the intensive Australian war effort. Reminded at Paris that he spoke for only 5 million Australians, Hughes shot back: “I represent 60,000 war dead.” (US casualties were far fewer per head.)

Having hurled enough meat into the grinder, Australia had the prestige among the delegates to belligerently oppose anti-racist arguments from the Japanese. These were more than ideology. Australia wanted to administer its Pacific territories on a legal basis consistent with White Australia. Japan was exposing this racist logic – for its own imperialist reasons, of course.

The Japanese were furious at Hughes; in revenge, they threatened to undermine US president Wilson’s League of Nations project. But there was a ruthless way to mollify them. Wilson agreed to Japanese control of German-held territories on China’s Shantung Peninsula. Here was a step deeper into the race conflicts that scarred the 20th century.

War myths

For most people, the carnage of the war was a tragic waste. Hughes made the toll of fallen “diggers” into bargaining chips to be cashed at Paris when the time came.

Children, asked on TV to explain the wonders of the war, commonly say the diggers fought for “freedom”. But this is idiotic when applied to, say, Australia’s invasion of Turkey, so the clichés quickly move on to the diggers’ heroics.

Didn’t Aussie troops fail at Gallipoli only because the British officers were fools? Not really. It was simply an unwinnable battle, against a fiercely determined enemy on difficult terrain.

Didn’t our heroic diggers break through the Hindenburg Line – a fearsome series of German fortified positions? Yes, but other allies made similar breakthroughs at other points. A major factor was explosive gas shells that hadn’t been available a year or two earlier. Delightful.

Then there is the incipient racist idea that Aussies are just naturally better soldiers – we learned to shoot in the bush, you see. I heard someone on TV during the recent football World Cup declare, “The Dutch are scared of us because we’re Anzacs.” This is much the same as one of Peter FitzSimons’ semi-fictional diggers declaring, “Just cut our blokes loose on the Wops!” In fact, most army recruits came from cities, and most had to be trained to shoot.

In itself, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is how tenacious these myths are – so hard to kill that a recent book about them is called Zombie Myths. Why is it so hard to kill them off? Because they serve the needs of the system.

Ask your local and federal Parliamentarians to sign this statement from Australian MPs in support of Gaza

Ask your local and federal Parliamentarians to sign this statement from Australian MPs in support of  Gaza.

[Signatures are still being added.The latest update of signatures - see below -  was at 8pm 28/7/2014.]

We the undersigned members of Australian federal and state parliaments, call on all Australian politicians to condemn the ongoing Israeli military bombardment and invasion of Gaza.We call on Australian politicians to support an immediate cessation of hostilities and a ceasefire deal which includes an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and to the blockade of Gaza.

We call on all Australian politicians to also support the United Nations Human Rights Council’s decision to launch an independent inquiry into purported violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Over 1000* Palestinians in Gaza [27 July update] have been killed, since Israel started its military attack on Gaza three weeks ago. The United Nations says at least 75 percent of the dead are civilians, including an estimated 168 children. In the last two days, Palestinian children have been killed at a rate of one per hour.

The rockets fired from Gaza are not in any way justified and insofar as they threaten and harm civilians are illegal under international law. However, these imprecise rockets cannot be compared with the broad-scale bombing of Gaza by Israel which has one of the world’s largest military forces.

Collective punishment is not permitted under the Geneva conventions and is a war crime.

Hospitals, places of worship, and a centre for people with disabilities have been among the Israeli military’s targets.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is providing shelter to more than 102,788 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The international community including Australia has a vital responsibility to put pressure on Israel to end its current military attack on Gaza and broker a solution of justice and peace.

Signed by -
1. Maria Vamvakinou MP
2. Melissa Parke MP
3. Laurie Ferguson MP
4. Alan Griffin MP
5. Sharon Claydon MP
6. Adam Bandt MP
7. Barbara Perry MP
8. Andrew Giles MP
9. Paul Lynch MP
10. Jamie Parker MP
11. Lynda Voltz MLC
12. Shaoquett Moselmane MLC
13. David Shoebridge MLC
14. Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC
15. Dr John Kaye MLC
16. Jeremy Buckingham MLC
17. Jan Barham MLC
18. Senator Claire Moore
19. Senator Nick Xenophon
20. Senator Christine Milne
21. Senator Lee Rhiannon
22. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
23. Senator Larissa Waters
24. Senator Janet Rice
25. Senator Richard Di Natale
26. Senator Penny Wright
27. Senator Rachel Siewert
28. Senator Scott Ludlam
29. Senator Peter Whish-Wilson
30. Senator Sue Lines
31. Tammy Franks MLC
32. Graham Perrett MP
33. Senator Anne Urquhart
34. Terri Butler MP
35. Julie Owens MP
36. Lisa Chesters MP
37. Senator Gavin Marshall
38. Senator Anne McEwen
39. Senator Carol Brown
40. Senator Doug Cameron
41. Cassy O’Connor MP
42. Senator Jan McLucas
43. Lynn MacLaren MLC
44. Jill Hall MP
45. Jackie Trad MP

Any Australian politician who would like to add their name to this letter may contact the office of Melissa Parke or Senator Lee Rhiannon: melissa.parke.mp@aph.gov.au or senator.rhiannon@aph.gov.au

Jonathan Cook: A legal and moral case for Hamas rocket fire

On his page, the blog from Nazareth, Jonathan Cook summarises the case Norman Finkelstein and Chris Hedges make for Hamas firing rockets into Israel. He also has the links to their full articles. He introduces the article this way:

Two leading intellectuals make separate and eloquent cases that the people of Gaza have the right to resist by any means – including by firing rockets – Israel’s efforts to slowly extinguish their right to self-determination, and possibly to life itself. They argue that the Palestinians have this right most certainly at a moral level, but also almost certainly at the level of international law.

I recommend reading each article in its entirety but, knowing the constraints on readers’ time and attention, I have extracted the most salient points they make.

To read Cook’s article and links to the Finkelstein and Hedges’ pieces, click A legal and moral case for Hamas rocket fire.

Professor Noura Erakat: debunking Israel’s lies

Professor Erakat

 

“(1) Israel is exercising its right to self-defense. (2) Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005. (3) This Israeli operation, among others, was caused by rocket fire from Gaza. (4) Israel avoids civilian casualties, but Hamas aims to kill civilians. (5) Hamas hides its weapons in homes, mosques and schools and uses human shields.”

How many times have you heard these Hasbara generated cliches repeated on the US and UK media?

Now sit down for a few minutes and read how Professor Noura Erakat one by one dismantles all of them and exposes the moral and intellectual depravity of Zionist propaganda.

Professor ‪Noura Erakat‬ is a Palestinian American human rights attorney and as of Fall 2014, she is an Assistant Professor at George Mason University.

She has taught international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University since Spring 2009.

She is also a Co-Editor of Jadaliyya – a leading online journal of critical thought on the Arab and Muslim world.

Here is a snippet from her article debunking 5 main lies of the Israelis.

Israel’s propaganda machine, however, insists that these Palestinians wanted to die (“culture of martyrdom”), staged their own death (“telegenically dead”) or were the tragic victims of Hamas’s use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes (“human shielding”). In all instances, the military power is blaming the victims for their own deaths, accusing them of devaluing life and attributing this disregard to cultural bankruptcy. In effect, Israel—along with uncritical mainstream media that unquestionably accept this discourse—dehumanizes Palestinians, deprives them even of their victimhood and legitimizes egregious human rights and legal violations.

Here is the link to Professor Erakat’s full response:

Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza—Debunked

Enjoy, learn, spread the word!

A lesson from the Warsaw Ghetto – it is right to resist

I wrote this over 5 years ago. I have edited it slightly. It is as relevant now as it was then.

John
_______

In 1940, the Fascists herded 4000,000 people into the tiny space that became the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis walled it in and put barbed wire and glass on top of the wall to make sure no-one could get out. The 400,000 Jews, cut off from the rest of the world, lived on top of each other in misery and hunger. Many died and lay unburied in the streets.

In 1942 the Fascists began to transport Jews to Treblinka, a concentration camp with gas chambers. The Nazis told the people they were to be re-settled. It is likely the Jewish council and Jewish police knew that these people were going to their deaths but said nothing.

A member of the Bund, a Jewish socialist organisation, with help from a Polish socialist railway worker, secretly followed one of the trains and came back to reveal the truth.

By late October 1942 there were only 60,000 people left in the Ghetto, and with death at the hands of the Nazis their only alternative, fighting back was becoming an option. The remaining members of the anti-Zionist Bund, left Zionists and the Communists formed a group called the Jewish Fighting Organisation, or ZOB.

They executed those Jews who were collaborating with the Nazis.

When the Germans did surround the Ghetto on 18 January, the ZOB fought back. They had a few pistols, grenades and petrol bombs. And lots of courage.

After four days of guerrilla warfare, the Germans withdrew. The ZOB had forced them out.

The Fascists returned in April. For weeks the battle raged. The might of the Nazi Army could not easily defeat a group of committed and principled fighters whose courage and dignity inspire us still today.

The fascists decided to burn the Ghetto to the ground. Rather than die at the hands of the Nazis, many of the fighters ran back into the flames.

On May Day 1943 the fighters sang the socialist song, the Internationale. Here is how Marek Edelman, one of the few who survived, describes this moving moment in his book, The Ghetto Fights.

But never yet had the Internationale been sung in conditions so different, so tragic, in a place where an entire nation had been and was still perishing. The words and the song echoed from the charred ruins…indicat[ing] that socialist youth was still fighting in the ghetto, and that even in the face of death they were not abandoning their ideals.

The Warsaw Ghetto Jews had no chance of victory. But they fought to restore their humanity and to show that the Nazis were not unbeatable.

The West did nothing. At the same time as the Jews were rising up against the Nazis, the Allies were turning Jewish refugees away. They refused to bomb the railway lines to the concentration camps even though they knew the evil purpose of these places.

The outside Zionist Organisations refused to help, saying that the establishment of the Zionist state of Israel was the top priority and helping the Ghetto would detract from that goal.

One consequence of the Uprising was that it showed non-Jewish Poles that you could fight back against the overwhelming military power of the Nazis. Polish resistance against the fascists began to grow as a result. This helped defeat the Nazis. The ZOB fighters did not die in vain.

What courage, what humanity the Warsaw Ghetto Jews showed in resisting the monolith of Nazism. There is a universal message here.

It was right then to fight back against the Nazi occupiers. It is right now, even in the face of overwhelming force, to resist your oppressors, their invasions and occupation.

Like all posts on this blog, comments – see the link under the heading – close after 7 days.

For this article I have drawn heavily on Liz Walsh’s Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto from the April 2008 edition of Socialist Alternative.

Leunig: We are good

General your tank is a powerful vehicle

Poem by Bertolt Brecht (German original and English translation)

General, dein Tank ist ein starker Wagen.
Er bricht einen Wald nieder und zermalmt hundert Menschen.
Aber er hat einen Fehler:
Er braucht einen Fahrer.

General, dein Bomberflugzeug ist stark.
Es fliegt schneller als ein Sturm und trägt mehr als ein Elefant.
Aber es hat einen Fehler:
Es braucht einen Monteur.

General, der Mensch ist sehr brauchbar.
Er kann fliegen und er kann töten.
Aber er hat einen Fehler:
Er kann denken.

General your tank is a powerful vehicle.
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.

General, your bomber is powerful.
It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant.
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.

General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.