Warsaw Uprising and Auschwitz Survivor Chavka Folman-Raban Blasts “Evil” Israeli Occupation of Palestine
One of the last remaining survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis delivered a fierce condemnation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine during a speech commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Tikun Olam reports that Chavka Folman-Raban delivered her address before a gathering at the Beit Lohamei Ha-Getaot (Ghetto Fighters’ House), an Israeli museum and community of Holocaust survivors which counts many partisan fighters among its ranks. According to the Ghetto Fighters’ House, Folman-Raban, who was born in Kielce, was interned in the Warsaw Ghetto with her family after the Nazis invaded and occupied Poland. She joined the underground Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB) during the early days of the Warsaw Uprising. Folman-Raban was captured by the Gestapo and sent to the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp, where she remained until liberated by Red Army troops in 1945. She lost her father and both of her brothers in the Holocaust. Reunited with her mother after the war, Folman-Raban emigrated to Palestine in 1947, a year before the founding of the modern Jewish state of Israel.
“For me to be in Israel is a dream,” Folman-Raban said earlier this year at an Israeli ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Uprising. “When I was a fighter in the Warsaw Ghetto, when I was caught and I sat in German prison, when we were deported and sent to the camps, on the death march and in the face of murderous atrocities and the flames and the smoke we never stopped dreaming of the land of Israel. We prayed that we’d arrive here and set up a kibbutz, and create a new life.”
But during her Monday speech at the Ghetto Fighters’ House, Folman-Raban excoriated her “beloved” Israel for what she called its “evil” occupation of Palestine.
“Continue the rebellion,” she told her rapt audience. “A different rebellion of the here and now against evil, even the evil befalling our own and only beloved country. Rebel against racism and violence and hatred of those who are different. Against inequality, economic gaps, poverty, greed and corruption.”
“Strengthen humanistic education and values of ethics and justice. These too are rebellion against alcoholism among our youth and the terrible phenomenon of attacks against the elderly.”
“Rebel against the occupation. No– it is forbidden for us to rule over another people, to oppress another people. The most important thing is to achieve peace and an end to the cycle of bloodletting.”
“My generation dreamed of peace. I so want to achieve it. You have the power to help. All my hopes are with you.”
Folman-Raban is not the first Holocaust survivor to condemn Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people, which prominent international observers including American UN human rights official Richard Falk and Nobel Prize-winning Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire have called “ethnic cleansing.”
“The Palestinians are victims of ethnic cleansing and apartheid,” Suzanne Weiss, whose parents were killed after the Nazis occupied France, said on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010. “The Israeli government’s actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family’s experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the checkpoints, the daily humiliations, killings, disease, the systematic deprivation. There’s no escaping the fact that Israel has occupied the entire country of Palestine, and taken most of the land, while the Palestinians have been expelled, walled off and deprived of human rights and human dignity.”
Dr. Hajo Meyer survived 10 months in the Auschwitz death camp.
“The Israelis tried to dehumanize the Palestinians, just like the Nazis tried to dehumanize me,” Meyer said during a 2010 lecture tour of Scotland. “Nobody should dehumanize any other and those who try to dehumanize another are not human.”
Hedy Epstein, who was a teenager when her parents died in a Nazi extermination camp, is horrified at what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.
“The model for Holocaust survivors has been ‘never again’ and ‘remembering,’” Epstein told journalist Silvia Cattori in 2007. “I certainly do my share of remembering, but remembering also has to have a future perspective. You can’t stop at remembering and saying ‘never again’ for Jews only. When I stood next to that terrible wall that Israel has built, separating Palestinian from Palestinian, I thought, ‘My God, this is what Jews are doing, the Jews that were one time forced behind walls, they are building a wall, and putting Palestinians behind that wall, and in the process destroying buildings, homes, wells and hope.”
“There are those in the mainstream (American) Jewish community for whom Israel is always the victim and the Palestinians are always the terrorists,” Epstein continued. “They don’t really understand, they don’t really ask questions, and they don’t really want to know what is truly going on.”
It should be noted that despite her criticism, Folman-Raban rejects comparisons between the Holocaust and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
“You cannot compare. Nothing is comparable to the gas chambers,” she once told a group of Palestinian students.
Sadly, many Holocaust survivors who criticize Israeli policies and actions are branded as “traitors,” “self-hating Jews” and even “anti-Semites” by their own people. Some have even been accused of abusing their status as Holocaust survivors by critics who have no direct knowledge of the Holocaust.
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