CST Blog

Cemetery desecration in the 21st century

29 June 2010

The neo-Nazi tactic of desecrating Jewish cemeteries is one that is sadly familiar across Europe. Normally, the results look something like this:

 daubing on graves

The purpose of these kind of attack is clear: to shock and offend Jews. There is something particularly despicable about desecrating a cemetery, as if Jews are not safe, even in death, from their persecutors.

More recently, the type of people who are motivated to desecrate Jewish graves has started to change. In January 2009, during Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza,  Glenduffhill Jewish Cemetery in Glasgow was desecrated with pro-Hamas graffiti, as reported in the Jewish Chronicle:

Slogans sprayed on walls around the cemetery and on the headstones themselves pledged support for Hamas and the Scottish Nationalist Party and called for Jews to leave Scotland. One chilling slogan spread across three headstones simply read "Kill The Jews".


Now, this trend has been taken to a new low, and to its logical conclusion. We have writtenbefore about the abuse of the Holocaust by anti-Zionists who draw false parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany, in order to make their political point. But it is hard to appreciate the breathtaking arrogance and callousness that led two anti-Zionists, one Israeli and one Polish, to daub "Free Gaza" graffiti on the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto:


Yesterday, Israeli and Polish activists met in the ruins of Warsaw’s old Jewish Ghetto.

The activists sprayed ‘Liberate All Ghettos’ in Hebrew, followed by ‘Free Gaza and Palestine’ in English on a wall of an original block in the ghetto. The block is across the street from the last fragment of the remaining perimeter wall of the Ghetto. They also hung Palestinian flags from the wall.

This was first time such an action took place in the ghetto.

Yonatan Shapira former Israeli Air Force captain and now refusnik and BDS activist said:

‘Most of my family came from Poland and many of my relatives were killed in the death camps during the Holocaust. When I walk in what was left from the Warsaw Ghetto I can’t stop thinking about the people of Gaza who are not only locked in an open air prison but are also being bombarded by fighter jets, attack helicopters and drones, flown by people whom I used to serve with before my refusal in 2003.

I am also thinking about the delegations of young Israelis that are coming to see the history of our people but also are subjected to militaristic and nationalistic brainwashing on a daily basis. Maybe if they see what we wrote here today they will remember that oppression is oppression, occupation is occupation, and crimes against humanity are crimes against humanity, whether they have been committed here in Warsaw or in Gaza’.

Ewa Jasiewicz, activist with Kampania Palestyna and one of the co-ordinators of the Free Gaza Movement who just returned from participating in the Freedom Flotilla said:

`Yonatan could have been the pilot in the Blackhawk that dropped commandos onto the Mavi Marmara that killed nine activists from our flotilla. I could have been one of them. Poland is full of the ruins of ghettos and death camps and shrines to those who sacrificed their lives in the defence of not just their communities but in resistance to fascism.

People here need to wake up and realise that occupations and ghettos did not end with the end of the second world war. These tactics and strategies of domination and control of other people and lands are present in Palestine today and are being perpetrated by the state of Israel. We have a responsibility to free all ghettos and end all occupations’.

Let's be clear: Shapira, Jasiewicz and everyone else are free to campaign against Israel as much as they like, to condemn Israeli policy and to criticise its actions. But the Warsaw Ghetto is, effectively, a huge Jewish cemetery: over 100,000 Jews died in the Ghetto between its construction in 1940 and its liquidation in 1943, mainly from starvation, disease and random killings by their German guards. It is not a place to daub political graffiti, much less anti-Israel graffiti. If Israel had existed in the 1930s, it is possible that many of the Jews who died  in the Ghetto, or were taken from there to their deaths, would have been saved. I don't know if Shapira and Jasiewicz thought about this when they were in Warsaw, or if they consider it at all relevant. I also don't know if they thought about the use of boycotts as a discriminatory weapon by the Nazis to separate Jews from wider society, before exterminating them; however they did think about boycotts of Israel, because they held a Palestinian flag marked with 'BDS' (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) against the Ghetto wall:


If their purpose was to shock and offend, then they have succeeded. If anti-Zionists want to avoid being accused of antisemitism, they should not adopt antisemites' lowest form of attack, by desecrating a Jewish cemetery.

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