NY Times marks 70th anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto uprising with jab at Israel
Seventy years ago, a shrinking contingent of Jews rose up in the Warsaw Ghetto against the might of the Wermacht -- and for a brief spell got the upper hand until the German military regrouped and burned the ghetto to the ground. Tens of thousands of Jews perished before, during, and after the uprising.
After the war, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising became an iconic chapter in Jewish history -- a demonstration that Jews wouldn't allow themselves, in docile fashion, to be shoved into the slaughterhouse of the Holocaust.
The uprising also became an inspirational morale-booster for the post-war Zionist drive to establish a Jewish state -- plus an object lesson that Jews, to guarantee survival, could not afford to be stateless.
In Israel, the uprising was marked this year with a host of commemorative ceremonies -- a remembrance debt to the heroic resistance fighters.
The New York Times, however, didn't see it quite that way. In a lengthy op-ed, the paper plucked out of the many heroic figures of the ghetto uprising Marek Edelman, the last commander. But this wasn't the reason the paper chose Edelman. What qualified him in the Times for special status as the ultimate Jewish hero is that Edelman was an anti-Zionist who didn't believe in the creation of a Jewish state ("The Jewish Hero History Forgot" by Marci Shore, associate professor of history at Yale University, April 19, page A23).
What appeals to Shore is that Edelman remained in Poland after the war, working with the anti-Soviet Solidarity Movement.
In Shore's writing, Edelman personifies the antidote to Israel's attempt "to monopolize the history [of the uprising] as a battle for the new Jewish state." Shore uses Edelman as the poster resistance fighter to demonstrate that "the ghetto uprising was not a purely Zionist affair."
Shore's anti-Zionist thesis hinges on the supposed assumption, attributed to Israel, that Warsaw's Jewish resistance fighters somehow were fighting for a Jewish state. Not so. Their only motivation, of course, was survival if possible, and if not, an honorable death.
So Shore sets up a straw-man argument and then bats it down. However, while the ghetto uprising was not fought for creation of a Jewish state, it became a hugely important post-war impetus for Zionism in its fight for Israel's independence.
Shore briefly mentions that two other resistance fighters, Yitzhak Zuckerman and Zivia Lubetkin, who had survived with Edelman, founded a kibbutz in Israel after the war. But they're not featured as the stars of the article. The author prefers putting the spotlight on Edelman, quoting him as observing that a "single nation-state is never a good thing." Take that, Israel -- and Jewish nationalism. The Jewish hero who remained in Europe gets top billing, while those who made alyah to Israel rate a footnote.
And this, of course, fits entirely with the anti-Zionist agenda of the New York Times, which still hasn't digested creation of a Jewish state.
Ironically, Shore, as an academic historian, argues that "how we remember the Warsaw Ghetto uprising says more about the present than the past" -- a cautionary observation, all right, but one that also fits Shore. Historical revisionism in this instance doesn't stop at the author's door.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.