On the Dehumanization of the Palestinians
Date: 
October 23 2023
blog Series: 

One of the more horrifying dimensions of the unfolding events in Palestine is witnessing the utter dehumanization of the Palestinian people through the symbiotic nexus of Western governments and the mainstream news media. The current genocidal assaults on Palestinians in the Gaza strip have undoubtedly been enabled by decades of anti-Palestinian racism propagated by both government and military officials and by media outlets. This comes as no surprise to those of us who are familiar with the deep, omnipresent bias against Palestinians in mainstream news media, where the necessary historical context is wholly avoided, and where Palestinians simply and passively “die,” while Israelis are actively “killed.” There has been a concerted effort to dehumanize Palestinians through racist framings and Orientalist tropes for decades. This has never been clearer than over the course of the last two weeks as U.S. and Israeli political and military leaders sow fear and paranoia, and trot out the worst anti-Arab rhetoric we have seen since the period following 9/11. This racist rhetoric is intended to dehumanize the Palestinians in order to neutralize public outrage at what may amount to the worst ethnic cleansing since the 1948 Nakba and what constitutes a genocide at the hands of one of the most advanced militaries in the world, all while world powers watch and do nothing.

By all accounts, the mass murder that took place at the al-Alhi (Baptist) Hospital in Gaza, along with the thousands of children and civilians bombed to death by Israel in the days before and after, should compel the Biden Administration to force a ceasefire. Instead, it continues to provide Israel with unconditional diplomatic cover and hand-feed the media mendacious statements in support of Israel’s continuing war crimes. These official statements are being parroted largely without question by compliant news media outlets who cravenly suspend their journalistic duties when reporting on Israeli crimes. It can be maddening to hear journalists crow about their mission to ‘defend democracy’ and ‘truth’ while abdicating these principles and making every exception when it comes to coverage of Palestine. Perhaps even more disturbing is the public mourning for journalists killed in places like Ukraine, wherein the blame for the killing is laid precisely at the hands of the guilty, while the outright murder of journalists like Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin and Issam Abdallah in South Lebanon is given only tepid coverage. In the cases where Arab journalists are murdered in the field, responsibility is clouded through weak verbiage and by media outlets that allow officials to outright lie and muddy the waters. Even worse is when the media produces propaganda for Israel, in the case of Issam Abdullah by not stating outright that Israel killed him, but rather absurdly saying that he was killed by missiles “fired from the direction of Israel.”

The sheer imbalance of value afforded to Israelis lives at the direct cost to Palestinian life has never been more obvious. While the colors of the Israeli flag are projected on the White House to pay tribute to dead Israelis, not a word of condemnation is uttered when Palestinian civilians are starved, maimed, tortured, or killed. Instead, the U.S. supplies weapons to a racist apartheid government, the leader of which deploys explicitly racist terminology to label Palestinians “children of darkness” who live by the “laws of the jungle.” The American government props up an Israeli military that openly condemns Palestinian children to death and refers to Palestinian civilians as “human beasts.” Palestinian life does not hold value in the profane equation of American power, wherein the bombing of a hospital in Gaza is rendered “an explosion.”

The dehumanization of Palestinians by the U.S., Israel, and their allies is clear, as they continue to justify the mass murder of people held in the world’s largest open-air prison. They are not led by their declared intentions to ‘spread democracy in the Middle East,’ but rather to ensure a continued strategic foothold in the region and provide profits to the weapons manufacturers that fund the personal fortunes and election campaigns of American politicians. Perhaps we should not be surprised that such a machine consumes us and rejects the collective humanity of victims and witnesses alike. The media must be held to account for so severely abdicating their responsibility to inform the public and, as a result, enabling these crimes against humanity.

We should reject the ridiculous overly simplistic assertion that the long arc of history bends toward justice, and instead find some semblance of hope in the form of mass protest and civil disobedience in order to make the machine stop. We are, fortunately, beginning to see the results of appeals made to our common humanity, even at the institutional and state level. The arc of history does not bend through some invisible hand or natural process. We can only bend it ourselves, through sheer force of will and determination, in order to bring historical justice and a lasting peace to Palestine and Palestinians.

About The Author: 

Stephen Bennett is the Director of the Institute for Palestine Studies-USA in Washington, DC.


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