The similarity between Jenin’s fighters and the Ghetto Warsaw uprising

Yossi Schwartz ISL the RCIT section in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 18.07.2023

Marek Edelman was born either 1919 in Homel, or 1922 in Warsaw and died on October 2, 2009, in Warsaw. Edelman was the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Long before his death, he was the last one to stay in the Polish People’s Republic despite harassment by the Stalinist regime. Before WWII he was a Bundist and during the war he became the leader of the uprising after the death of Mordechai Anielewicz.

We knew perfectly well that we had no chance of winning. We fought simply not to allow the Germans alone to pick the time and place of our deaths. We knew we were going to die. Just like all the others who were sent to Treblinka…. Their death was far more heroic. We didn’t know when we would take a bullet. They had to deal with certain death, stripped naked in a gas chamber or standing at the edge of a mass grave waiting for a bullet in the back of the head…. It was easier to die fighting than in a gas chamber.

After the war he refused to immigrate to Palestine and stayed in Poland. He was a member of the workers Defense Committee struggling against the Stalinist oppressive regime. He was an anti-Zionist and a strong supporter of the Palestinian resistance.
Edelman said: “The most important is life, and when there is life, the most important is freedom. And then in a 1985 interview, he said Zionism was a “lost cause” and he questioned Israel’s viability.

He spoke in defense of the Palestinian people. In August 2002, he wrote an open letter to the Palestinian resistance leaders that infuriated the Israeli government and the Zionist press press. According to the late British writer and activist Paul Foot, “He wrote [the letter] in a spirit of solidarity from a fellow resistance fighter, as a former leader of a Jewish uprising not dissimilar in desperation to the Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories

 He addressed his letter “To all the leaders of Palestinian military, paramilitary and guerilla organizations – To all the soldiers of Palestinian militant groups”.

Moshe Arens, former Israeli Defence Minister and Foreign Minister, visited Edelman in Warsaw in 2005 to discuss the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Arens admired Edelman and tried unsuccessfully to gain official Israeli recognition for him. Following Edelman’s death, Arens recalled in Haaretz:

“Many of the survivors of the uprising who settled in Israel could not forgive Edelman for his frequent criticism of Israel. When on my return from Warsaw I tried to convince a number of Israeli universities to award Edelman an honorary doctorate in recognition of his role in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, I ran into stubborn opposition led by Holocaust historians in Israel. He had received Poland’s highest honor, and at the 65th commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising he was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal” [1]

The young fighters of Jenin fighting with light weapons -rifles and explosives against one of the strongest army in the world that uses the air force, armored vehicles and bulldozers to destroy the infrastructure of the camp including homes of thousands of people fought not to win but to die as free people.

A fighter from Jenin spoke with Al Jazeera: “We knew nothing about life outside of the Jenin camp,” the fighter, who did not wish to be named for security reasons, says of his life before joining the resistance. “We have never seen a swimming pool or a sea in our lives.”

We only had light weapons. They [Israeli forces] made a big deal out of the invasion. They wanted to deter us,” he says matter-of-factly.

He recalls relentless attacks. One memory remains ingrained in his mind, a missile that he says struck a group of 20-30 fighters and injured 17.

Twelve Palestinians, including three children, were killed in the attack on the camp.

He is, however, adamant that Israel’s plan to strike fear into the fighters and wider community has not worked.

“We will not be deterred. Only death can stop us. They can kill us; in which case we will be martyrs.” The people of Jenin opened their doors to the fighters. “They gave us food. Even people who left their homes wrote messages on the fridges for us to eat whatever we wanted.”

And after the attack, the fighter says that sense of togetherness led to a swell of people wanting to sign up to fight. “Many people want to join the factions, but we do not want to expand. We do not want people to die in vain,” he says.

Many fighters were forced to withdraw from the camp during the attack, a tactical retreat they said they had long prepared for” [2]

And it is only proper to bring up the song of the Jewish Partisans that today belongs to the brave young fighters in defense of Jenin:

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!’

From green lands of palm to lands with white snow
We come with our pain and our woes
And from where a spurt of our blood falls
Will sprout our strength and our courage

Today the morning sun will accompany us
And the night will fade away with the enemy
But if the sun waits to rise
Like a password this song will go from generation to generation

This song is written with blood and not with [pencil] lead
It’s not a tune sung by birds in the wild
This song was sung by people amidst collapsing walls
Sung with pistols[3] in their hands

So 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’!

For a Palestine red and free from the river to the sea!


[1] The last Bundist Moshe Arens, Haaretz, October 5, 2009

[2] Life as a resistance fighter in Jenin: ‘Only death can stop us’ | Israel-Palestine conflict News | Al Jazeera


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