It is all too easy for Western commentators, and those in the pay of the West across the Middle East, to criticise the Palestinian resistance movements. Worse, such movements have been declared to be "terrorists" by governments whose "interests" trump human rights and international law in the region. This is not only plain wrong and unreasonable but also reveals selective recollection of historical precedents for heroic resistance groups fighting against tyranny and injustice.
Within living memory, in the Second World War resistance against the Nazis across Europe included the famous French Resistance, between 15 and 20 per cent of whose members were Jews. In fact, as the main victims of Nazi persecution and industrialised murder Europe's Jews were engaged in resistance activities across the Third Reich.
According to acclaimed author Martin Gilbert, Jewish resistance was found "in every ghetto, in every deportation train, in every Labour camp, even in the death camps". It wasn't limited to fighting, but included civil disobedience and defiance of German orders over everyday matters, such as "obtaining food and water". Writing in The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy, Gilbert said: "Even passivity was a form of resistance. To die with dignity was a form of resistance. To resist the demoralising, brutalizing force of evil, to refuse to be reduced to the level of animals… these too were acts of resistance."
Famously, the Jews herded into the Warsaw Ghetto took up arms against the occupation army, forming the Jewish Combat Organisation and Jewish Military Union to fight back. It is estimated that at least 13,000 Jews were killed when the Germans entered the Ghetto; almost 60,000 were taken to the death camps.
Resistance was considered to be so important that the British Army trained Jewish volunteers to organise groups across occupied Europe. British military training of Jewish volunteers backfired with the formation of terrorist groups such as Irgun and the Stern Gang, and even the Palmach and Haganah, the forerunners of the Israel Defence Forces, which fought against the British Mandate government in Palestine.
Movements resisting against the Nazis could be found in every country under occupation, including Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland, Norway and Holland. Mainland Britain was not occupied during the war, although the Channel Islands were. Nevertheless, the government had plans for a home-grown resistance movement, the secretive Auxiliary Units, just in case Hitler's forces crossed the channel. Now thought of as a butt of jokes thanks to the BBC's Dad's Army, Britain's Home Guard, in its various manifestations, was also intended to resist a German invasion. Even America had a role in establishing resistance groups in Europe through the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency, the OSS. Arabs and Jews fought alongside each other in Algeria's resistance movement formed to fight against the Germans in North Africa. The history of resistance to military occupation is long and noble.
It is ironic, therefore, that the main enemies of Palestinian resistance today are the descendants of the Jewish resistance fighters now living in Israel; and that their main supporters are heading towards the same end of the political spectrum as Germany's National Socialists against whom European Jews once fought so bravely. The current Israeli government and its supporters in the West are on the far-right wing (in spirit if not in name), and are willing and able to ignore international laws and conventions in order to crush legitimate resistance to Israel's occupation of Palestine. These laws were established in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust to ensure that such an atrocity could not take place again, but if they did, that the perpetrators would be brought to justice; that isn't happening, and is unlikely to happen in the near future, such is the influence of the pro-Israel Lobby over Western governments.
The brutality of Israel's latest military assault on the civilians of the Gaza Strip, sold to the world as "self-defence" against Palestinian resistance groups, has echoes of the German army's massacre of more than 200 people, including women and children, in the French town of Vassieux-en-Vercors in July 1944 as a "reprisal" for French armed resistance. The only difference appears to be that the Israelis have been even more merciless than the Nazis, with the death toll in Gaza approaching 2,000 and, yes, that includes many women and children. The Nazi analogy is even more striking given the Israeli deputy foreign minister's recent call for ethnic cleansing and the use of what would be nothing less than concentration camps to clear the Gaza Strip of its Palestinian population.
Which brings me back to my original question. What would you do if your country was occupied by a foreign army? Would you accept the status quo, collaborate and get on with your life subjugated and lacking in the basic freedoms that we all take for granted? Or would you stand up and fight for those freedoms, as our parents and grandparents did in World Wars One and Two, so that we could live in freedom or die with dignity? The Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have chosen the latter and, for doing so, Israel and the West, and their Arab lackeys, condemn them as "terrorists".
This hypocrisy is so obvious that it hardly bears comment, but it is a disgrace to the British values trumpeted by the current government led by David Cameron that he and other politicians continue with the charade that they are standing up for justice and freedom by standing with Israel today. They aren't. In fact, they are going against the very values that Britain, America (eventually) and Europe's Jews fought for so valiantly all those years ago. Remember this the next time that the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance is questioned by a politician or the media. History and international law are on the side of the Palestinians; our governments should be too.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.