The most fearful weapon in Israel’s assault: dehumanisation

12 Aug

The most fearful weapon in Israel’s assault: dehumanisation

Canberra Times
August 7, 2014

A Palestinian man at a funeral carries the body of a girl whom medics said was killed by an Israeli air strike. Photo: Reuters

If we were witnessing a kangaroo cull through aerial bombardment, there would be moral outrage. If we were witnessing a whale cull through ships, there would be moral outrage.

But we are witnessing a Palestinian cull by air, land and sea, and we are told to blame the victims for hiding among terrorists.

One euphemism used for this mass murder of civilians in Gaza is ”mow the lawn”, reducing Palestinians not to animals but to blades of grass. It is sold to us as a two-sided war between the Israeli Defence Forces and Hamas terrorists – not Palestinian people. The Palestinians all belong somewhere on the terrorism continuum as potential terrorists, breeding terrorists, born terrorists, supporting terrorists, hiding terrorists or armed terrorists. The loaded label is intended to throw a blanket over our eyes to blind us from any questions of legitimacy or humanity.

This is the well-worn, war-time propaganda of dehumanisation, aimed to absolve us from any guilt that the humans are like us – with a name, a face, a family, a home, a dream.
But it is time that this dehumanisation was worn out and discarded. It is the ”de” that needs to be mowed away to so we can see humanisation.

Propaganda relies on controlling the cameras. But social media has become a powerful weapon. As pilots ”send” air missiles down to Gaza, Palestinians ”send” videos up for the world to see – graphic and uncensored. Unlike the pilots who see inhuman dots on a screen, the videos enable us to see terrified humans with nowhere to hide. In real time, we become witnesses to the destruction of indigenous Palestinians and the reduction of their homeland to an abattoir.

When the terror-tinted glasses are discarded, this is not hyperbole. This is the making of history. This is the map of Palestine being shrunk and flattened, year after year, war after war, talk after talk, settlement after settlement.

If we could see Palestine from high above the unmanned drones, the picture makes more sense. Gaza is only 360 square kilometres, home to 1.8 million Palestinians, less the current cull. It is wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, so unless they can swim, fly or dig, the people are besieged. Even the birds and fish avoid the area as a no-go zone.

This is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, with more than 5000 people a square kilometre. This equates to Drummoyne in Sydney, St Kilda in Melbourne or Fortitude Valley in Brisbane.

Imagine a leaflet telling you to leave these crowded areas. How is it possible for Israel’s pinpoint technologies to avoid the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent civilians? Where exactly are the humans supposed to swim, fly or dig? How can combatants hide behind human shields in a totally civilian area? How can there be any shields when no school, hospital or UN shelter is spared?

While the charter of Hamas may claim to eradicate Israel ”in words”, it is Palestine that is being eradicated ‘’in deeds’’ through regular culls named Cast Lead, Pillar of Defence and Protective Edge. The proof of the real eradication is in the grotesquely disproportionate fatalities.

The dehumanisation is central to Israel’s arsenal, but is also central to Palestinian reality. Since electing the wrong government in 2006, when Hamas took control of Gaza, these Palestinians endured a siege that has rationed their water, food, medicines, electricity and sanitation.

For the Palestinians in Gaza, the difference between a ceasefire and a war was the difference between continuing to die slowly, or die quickly.

This noose must be loosened if the Palestinian voices are to be heard. The deprivation of these basic human rights of a besieged people is a protracted war crime. The dehumanisation blindfolds us to two facts: all human life is absolutely equal, and these two ”sides” are absolutely unequal.

Any state claiming that their land ”belongs” to their religion, whether Israeli Jews or Hamas Sunnis, leans towards theocracy, not democracy. With or without Israel’s Iron Dome defence missiles, the rockets from Gaza have murderous intentions and must be condemned.

I dread the day that our children’s future children go on a school excursion to the Holocaust Museum and then to a Palestine Museum. They will see the shrinking map of Palestine, before it completely disappeared off the face of the earth. They will see photos, artefacts, testimonials, videos and timelines. They will see how the indigenous people were labelled as Arabs, Muslims, Gazans, Hamas, terrorists and refugees, but rarely as Palestinians. They will see how one proud people (the Palestinians) paid the price for the crimes committed against another proud people (the Jews). They will see how both people were dehumanised.

And our grandchildren will say: but they should have been best friends. And they will ask us how we let this happen to humans.

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