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The jury is still out, and maybe it will always be. The recent Israeli-Polish accord on the actions of the Poles during the Holocaust ignited a firestorm of controversy in Israel. Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu categorically rejected allegations that the accord was "a betrayal of Holocaust remembrance".

Woman chased by men and youth armed with clubs, Medova Street in Lviv, Ukraine, July 1941.

First the facts: Poland itself was invaded by Nazi Germany at the outset of WWII. At the same time, there are reams of documented evidence, including photographs, proving that many Poles participated in pogroms and reporting Jews to the Nazis. Granted, there was a smaller number of some 6,000 Polish citizens who risked their lives in saving Jews and who have been rightly honored by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. The bitter controversy flared last February when the Polish Parliament passed a law that imposed a three-year prison sentence on anyone who contended that the Poles had collaborated with the Nazi regime. There was immediate outrage in Israel and among many historians who had researched the Holocaust. The clash even threatened to sabotage relations between Jerusalem and Warsaw.

Probably better late than never, Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki stepped in and reached a compromise. They believe there is a joint responsibility to permit free Holocaust research and preserve the memory of the Holocaust. The three-year prison term was also eliminated, and both leaders concurred: "We condemn every act of cruelty conducted by Poles during the war. We proudly recall the heroic deeds of many Poles who risked their lives by saving Jews."

The Polish government has done a great deal to memorialize the 1,000 years of Jewish history in Poland...

Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister who was born in Poland, has written a book about the Jewish resistance in Poland. Arens summed up his assessment in the Haaretz newspaper: "The Polish government has done a great deal to memorialize the 1,000 years of Jewish history in Poland and to improve relations with Israel since establishing diplomatic ties in 1990. The joint statement by the Israeli and Polish leaders has ended what became a superfluous obstacle in this process."

Now, to an actual firestorm in Gaza...

Violent Riots in the Gaza Strip (CC IDF)

After three months of Palestinian firebombing, the Israeli government has closed the Kerem Shalom border crossing that enables Gaza to carry on trade with the rest of the world. The IDF is now allowing only humanitarian aid such as medicine to go through the Israeli border crossing with Gaza (Egypt also borders Gaza, but has closed its border terminal due to Hamas support of the ISIS rebels in Sinai). But, the Hamas government in Gaza argues that it should be allowed to firebomb Israel, yet Israel must still keep open the border crossing. Hamas calls it "an act of war" for which Israel will pay the consequences.

It appears that after 12 straight weeks of the firebombing, that Israeli public opinion has forced Netanyahu to closed the border crossing. Many Israelis are asking why didn't he do it after the first week? The question now is whether Hamas will retaliate - it has already spent some 45 million dollars of its foreign aid to finance the firebombing campaign. If Hamas again reverts to rocketing Israel, the IDF will respond with air strikes. With the tension over the Iranian military buildup in Syria, Jerusalem has been trying to ride out the flames from Gaza, but enough was enough!

Questions for US Senator Bernie Sanders...

This brings me to the recent condemnation of Israel by Senator Sanders. The (Jewish) Presidential candidate joined the chorus of critics condemning Israel's use of firepower in preventing tens of thousands of rioting Palestinians from breaking through the border fence into Israel. This while armed terrorists used them for cover in order to attack Israeli soldiers; and while others launched scores of balloons and kites attached to incendiary bombs that drifted into Israel where they caused havoc and endangered Israeli civilians. Hamas says that 136 Palestinians have been killed so far. Senator Sanders was outraged: "Those are terrible actions. Instead of applauding Israel for its action, Israel should be condemned. Israel has a right to security, but shooting unarmed protesters is not what it is about."

Question for Senator Sanders: What if you were US President? How would you react to tens of thousands of angry Mexicans, some of them armed terrorists, who are continually sending firebombs into Texas where they destroyed tens of thousands of acres of farmland, as well as endangering the lives of American children, women, and men?

Incidentally, writing earlier about Poland, Sander's parents emigrated to American from that country. Fortunately, they got out long before the Nazis arrived and sent the Jews off to Auschwitz. In fact, Sanders and his older brother Larry actually visited the family's ancestral home of Slopnice. Unfortunately, there was nothing Jewish left for them to see.

Anne Frank and her family were not so fortunate. The New York Times has reported that her father Otto desperately applied for entry visas to the US from Holland. To make and long and sad story short, Otto Frank and his family were turned down. What is known is that Anne Frank was murdered in the Bergen-Belson Camp along with her mother and sister in 1941.

Four Jewish children from the SS St. Louis which was ultimately denied entry to US ports and forced to return to Germany

In fact, America (Canada as well) was not receptive to accept Jewish refugees from Europe fleeing from the Nazis. There is the case of the SS St. Louis that sailed from Hamburg with over 900 Jewish refugees, many of them children. The US refused, despite a request to Presiden Rosevelt, to let the ship enter any of its ports. So did Canada and Cuba for the matter. So, the SS St. Louis had to sail back their ultimate destination - the death camps in Germany and Poland. As a matter of interest, opinion polls at that time revealed that two-thirds of Americans opposed the entry of Jewish refugees.

Is there a connecting thread between these different past and present events - the Holocaust, the Gaza situation, the condemnation of Israel for defending itself from Muslim fanatics such as Hamas and Iran and their ultimate intention to wipe the Jewish state off the earth. Turn back to our opening story and photos from the Holocaust. Every reader can draw her/his own conclusions about Israel's fate if it loses just one war against those who deny its right to exist.

Political Analyst David Essing


David Essing

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