Michael Ettedgui
Commenting on Israel and the Jewish world.

On Jewish Resistance

For months now, we have watched enemies and imbeciles wage linguistic warfare on Israel and the Jewish people. The slogans have become familiar to us. “From the River to the Sea…,” “globalize the intifadah,” and “there is only one solution, intifadah, revolution” are just a few of the hollow chants heard across North American campuses in the wake of October 7. Efforts have been made to explain these words to the uninformed but make no mistake about it, those who chant them know exactly what they mean: the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.  

On Yom Hashoah, I was especially moved by the distortion of the word “resistance.”  Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas persistently used the word to condone mass murder of Israelis. Most recently, Hamas spokesmen have adopted the term when characterizing their sick actions. And now, in demonstrations regarding Israel’s just war against Hamas, university students are declaring their support for the most heinous forms of terror, chanting openly the need for “resistance by any means.”

Juxtaposing Jewish resistance in the Holocaust and that which is promoted by Israel’s current adversaries exemplifies our eternal morality versus their unending depravity. For the Jews of Europe, to resist was to remain human in the face of inhuman persecution. For the Jews of Israel, resistance does not consist of terrorism or ignorant catchphrases but the stubborn insistence to live as free men and women in their ancestral homeland.       

From 1942 to 1944, as many as 20,000 Jewish partisans throughout Eastern Europe engaged in armed resistance against Axis forces, fighting with whatever weapons they could muster while living in freezing cold forests. These heroic fighters refused to go like sheep to the slaughter. They sang songs of freedom and Zion, while enduring horrendous conditions, famine and disease. Innocent men, women and children, imbued with an obsession to survive, resisted the darkest forces Europe had ever known. In their most famous song, Zog Nit Keyn Mol, they declared, “Never say that you’re going your last way / Although the skies filled with lead cover blue days / Our promised hour will soon come / Our marching steps ring out: We are here!” were the words of partisans singing in the forests of Europe. This is Jewish resistance. 

In April 1943, approximately 700 Jewish fighters rose up against Nazi forces in the Warsaw Ghetto, using smuggled weapons and ammunition and relying heavily on the starving Jews among them to fight back. They fought heroically until May 16, managing to hold off Nazi forces longer than the entire Polish army after Germany’s invasion of that country in 1939. In his last letter to the fighters, Mordechai Anielewicz, the 23 year old uprising commander, admitting defeat was inevitable, declared, “Peace go with you, my friends. Perhaps we may still meet again. The dream of my life has risen to become fact. Self-defense in the ghetto will have been a reality. Jewish armed resistance and revenge are facts. I have been a witness to the magnificent, heroic fighting of Jewish men in battle.” This is Jewish resistance.

In the Terezin Concentration Camp, teenage boys published a secret magazine titled Vedem, which printed prose, poetry and editorials for the Jewish prisoners.  According to Yad Vashem, in one letter, one of the teenagers wrote, “We no longer want to be an accidental group of boys, passively succumbing to the fate meted out to us. We want to create an active, mature society and through work and discipline, transform that fate into a joyful, proud reality.” This is Jewish resistance.

And today in tunnels under Gaza, Jewish hostages are resisting their terrorist captors. By their very survival, they are doing so.  

Yom Hashoah reminds us what our enemies have apparently not yet learned: the Jewish people will never succumb. Against all odds, against forces far more numerous than ours, we will resist evil and live virtuously. Israelis will fight back while continuing to build the most liberal, advanced, moral nation in the Middle East. They have no choice. They will resist the only way they know how, the Jewish way, the just way. And they will be rewarded for doing so.   

About the Author
Michael Ettedgui is a lawyer in Toronto.
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