A group of Israeli left-wing activists and pro-Palestinian demonstrators last week sprayed graffiti on remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto, calling for all ghettos to be liberated, including Gaza.
One of the activists was conscientious objector Yonatan Shapira, an Israel Air Force pilot who authored the Pilots Letter – a 2003 statement signed by 27 Israeli pilots who publicly refused to fly missions over the Palestinian territories. Shapira was subsequently ousted from reserve duty and also lost his job as a commercial pilot.
Last week Shapira joined a group of Israeli, Palestinian and Polish activists at a demonstration near the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto, where they sprayed graffiti on one of the walls saying "Liberate all ghettos" in Hebrew and "Free Gaza and Palestine" in English.
The activists' rally took place near the last fragment of the perimeter wall of the Ghetto. They also hung Palestinian flags from the wall.
Shapira on Monday defended his actions, saying, "The Holocaust cannot be appropriated only by Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu], [Avigdor] Lieberman or anyone else in the Israeli government.
"My action is not controversial," Shapira told Army Radio on Monday. "I am not saying there is a comparison with the monstrosity of Nazi death camps, but I am saying we must talk about the silence in Israel and the world when people are confined in a ghetto-like place."
Shapira went on to call the Israeli public indifferent and said "we will do everything to wake it up, even spray graffiti on an abandoned ghetto wall."
During last week's protest, Shapira 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 cant 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."
He continued, "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."
Shapira said he feels it is important to express these views as Israelis and Jews and as offspring of Holocaust survivors.
"It may be difficult for Israelis to hear these things," Shapira told Haaretz, "but that is no reason not to say them. No one is saying Israelis are Nazis. The message is that people are imprisoned in a ghetto, and a ghetto can take different shape – and this is something that cannot be."
David Zonstein, another IDF objector, said he disagrees with Shapira's tactics at the Warsaw Ghetto protest. "The Holocaust doesn't need to be a part of this discussion, but rather in the background. I wouldnt have done this in his place."
Yad Vashem also issued a statement on Monday condemning Shapira's actions.
"Yad Vashem is repulsed by Yonatan Shapiras actions and statements," the statement said. "We see in his actions a provocation that perverts the history both of the Holocaust and of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. These actions, tainted with anti-Semitism, point to a person who has lost all factual and moral judgment. The use of the Holocaust in the way that Shapira has chosen to do so is a crass manipulation that warps the historical truth."