Dehumanizing and Delegitimizing

There is a growing movement of applying Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions
(BDS) on Israel just like we did to defeat apartheid in South Africa.
Zionist apologists are understandably declaring war on this nonviolent and
moral movement. In many countries including several states in the USA,
there are attempts to delegetimize the movement and declare BDS illegal. Of
course this is contrary to the principles of free speech and free
association. People’s right to boycott was recognized in key legal
precedents but more legal challenges are needed to dispel the myth that
engaging in BDS is somehow illegitimate. Israeli apologists around the
world engage in all sorts of dirty tricks to keep the racist system going
(a racket to keep the flow of cash if I may say so). Having faced Israeli
apologists in public debates, many do not want to debate again because they
lose badly as they attempt to delegitimize and dehumanize their victims.
They have no facts and they are defending injustice. So they resort to
personal attacks and strange racist mythologies (for example that we
Palestinians sacrifice our children for publicity or that we “hate Jews”).
This is expected from colonial power to dehumanize their victims.

Elie Wiesel died recently. He spent most of his life defending Israel and
dehumanizing Palestinians. He was challenged on many occasions to say
something about the Palestinian victims and all he could muster was
regurgitating Zionist lies about colonizers needing to “defend themselves”.
Here is what a real prophetic Jew  (Sara Roy who teaches at Harvard) wrote
on September 9, 2014

Mr. Wiesel,
I read your statement about Palestinians, which appeared in The New York
Times on August 4th. I cannot help feeling that your attack against Hamas
and stunning accusations of child sacrifice are really an attack, carefully
veiled but unmistakable, against all Palestinians, their children
included.  As a child of Holocaust survivors—both my parents survived
Auschwitz—I am appalled by your anti-Palestinian position, one I know you
have long held. I have always wanted to ask you, why? What crime have
Palestinians committed in your eyes? Exposing Israel as an occupier and
themselves as its nearly defenseless victims? Resisting a near half century
of oppression imposed by Jews and through such resistance forcing us as a
people to confront our lost innocence (to which you so tenaciously cling)?

Unlike you, Mr. Wiesel, I have spent a great deal of time in Gaza among
Palestinians. In that time, I have seen many terrible things and I must
confess I try not to remember them because of the agony they continue to
inflict.  I have seen Israeli soldiers shoot into crowds of young children
who were doing nothing more than taunting them, some with stones, some with
just words. I have witnessed too many horrors, more than I want to
describe. But I must tell you that the worst things I have seen, those
memories that continue to haunt me, insisting never to be forgotten, are
not acts of violence but acts of dehumanization.

There is a story I want to tell you, Mr. Wiesel, for I have carried it
inside of me for many years and have only written about it once a very long
time ago. I was in a refugee camp in Gaza when an Israeli army unit on foot
patrol came upon a small baby perched in the sand sitting just outside the
door to its home. Some soldiers approached the baby and surrounded it.
Standing close together, the soldiers began shunting the child between them
with their feet, mimicking a ball in a game of soccer. The baby began
screaming hysterically and its mother rushed out shrieking, trying
desperately to extricate her child from the soldiers’ legs and feet. After
a few more seconds of “play,” the soldiers stopped and walked away, leaving
the terrified child to its distraught mother.

Now, I know what you must be thinking: this was the act of a few misguided
men. But I do not agree because I have seen so many acts of dehumanization
since, among which I must now include yours. Mr. Wiesel, how can you defend
the slaughter of over 500 innocent children by arguing that Hamas uses them
as human shields?  Let us say for the sake of argument that Hamas does use
children in this way; does this then justify or vindicate their murder in
your eyes? How can any ethical human being make such a grotesque argument?
In doing so, Mr. Wiesel, I see no difference between you and the Israeli
soldiers who used the baby as a soccer ball. Your manner may differ from
theirs—perhaps you could never bring yourself to treat a Palestinian child
as an inanimate object—but the effect of your words is the same: to
dehumanize and objectify Palestinians to the point where the death of Arab
children, some murdered inside their own homes, no longer affects you. All
that truly concerns you is that Jews not be blamed for the children’s
savage destruction.

Despite your eloquence, it is clear that you believe only Jews are capable
of loving and protecting their children and possess a humanity that
Palestinians do not. If this is so, Mr. Wiesel, how would you explain the
very public satisfaction among many Israelis over the carnage in Gaza—some
assembled as if at a party, within easy sight of the bombing, watching the
destruction of innocents, entertained by the devastation?  How are these
Israelis different from those people who stood outside the walls of the
Jewish ghettos in Poland watching the ghettos burn or listening
indifferently to the gunshots and screams of other innocents within—among
them members of my own family and perhaps yours—while they were being
hunted and destroyed?

You see us as you want us to be and not as many of us actually are. We are
not all insensate to the suffering we inflict, acceding to cruelty with
ease and calm. And because of you, Mr. Wiesel, because of your words—which
deny Palestinians their humanity and deprive them of their victimhood—too
many can embrace our lack of mercy as if it were something noble, which it
is not. Rather, it is something monstrous.

Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern
Studies, Harvard University.
Max Blumenthal similarly wrote a poignant reflection on the hateful
tribalist opportunist Elie Wiesel

But our problem is not with Wiesel now, he is gone. Our problem is with
those who are around trying to go more right wing hoping somehow that saves
the silly notion of a “Jewish state”. It is not less crazy than an Aryan
white state or an Islamic state or a Christian state. All such concepts are
destined for the dustbin of history. Isn’t it also boring to try to create
monolithic societies? Isn’t it time people respect other religions and
cultures and learn to share in equality this beautiful earth instead of
spoiling it?

>From here in Palestine we cry out for justice and for simple human rights.
The rights of refugees to return and the right to live in our lands
peacefully regardless of our faiths/beliefs. First do no harm. Here are my
reflections on our responsibility (the Savior in each of us) that I wrote
six years ago and is still relevant today

Stay human and welcome to visit us in Palestine

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine

8 thoughts on “Dehumanizing and Delegitimizing

  1. “I read your statement about Palestinians, which appeared in The New York
    Times on August 4th. I cannot help feeling that your attack against Hamas
    and stunning accusations of child sacrifice are really an attack, carefully
    veiled but unmistakable, against all Palestinians, their children

    I feel this deep need to spit on you and I am one of those who support a 2 state solution

    • Supporting a two-state solution doesn’t exactly make you a friend of Palestine.

      • I don’t have to be a “friend of Palestine”. I only have support, security for friends and family close to me, mutual recognition and mutual respect. Depending in how things develop afterwards friendship might follow. Blowing buses, cafes and stabbing little girls in the sleep is not a god direction for Palestinians.

  2. I am a Jew who is very bothered by Jew hatred and other prejudice. Some, possibly most, people think a solution is to set up national enclaves where a group can be separate. I disagree. As difficult as it may be to achieve I prefer democracy where people of different ethnicities and religions work out ways of living together. If people feel more secure in living together with those of shared ethnicity and religion that’s fine as long as they don’t try to set up a separate nation. If people want to assimilate into a majority culture that’s also fine as is any place between those two extremes. I think there should be no barriers in making such a decision. However, a national religious and ethnic enclave is a rigid structure. It has a tendency to set up the people in it against the rest of the world. It melds feelings of ethnicity and religion together with nationalism. To me the mixture is toxic. I see it as good to see more democracies which make no distinctions among its citizens on the basis of religion or ethnicity. I see it as bad to set up more national enclaves based on religion or ethnicity. We Jews have suffered much in those kinds of states which had no place for us. I see Israel as a copy of those national religious and ethnic enclaves and a step backward into that bloody past. I am a dual citizen of the United States and Australia. If either of those two countries became a Christian state I would become a second-class citizen. I cannot support Israel as a Jewish state where non-Jews are second-class citizens.

    • The Middle East is not the US or Australia. Do you see any country in the Middle East where diversity works? Lebanon, a country populated by Christians, Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Druse, went through a 20 year civil war? Look at Syria where Sunnis and Shia are blowing themselves to smithereens with the help of Sunni Saudi and Shia Iran. Arab states where Jews had resided for centuries expelled them. Israel is far more diverse than its neighbors and its Arab minority within the green line have far more civil rights than any neighboring Arab country. It’s far from perfect and the territorial dispute with Palestinians has yet to be resolved, but it is far better off than its neighbors. If the Arab world accepted the establishment of the Jewish in 1948, we might be admiring a different picture of the Middle East.
      “Arabs made a “mistake” by rejecting a 1947 U.N. proposal that would have created a Palestinian state alongside the nascent Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview aired on Friday”.

  3. I am very liberal on many issues and work for the environment, animal rights, Planned Parenthood, interfaith harmony and I engage in many dialogues with the Muslim community and I am often critical of the policies of Israel. Despite my liberal leanings on so many issues, I am appalled that Tikkun Magazine would publish a letter that slanders and denigrates one of the greatest Jews who ever lived, Elie Wiesel and allow your magazine to peddle the filth that compares Israel to the Nazis and then castigates Elie Wiesel as a supporter of Nazi-like cruelty. The letter writer sees no difference between Israel and the Nazis. Have you no shame. I believe in freedom of speech as much as the next guy and often defend it. But just because someone is free to say despicable, irrational, anti-Semitic lies, does that mean that a magazine named Tikkun (healing) should publish it. You say that you will not publish personal attacks and hateful speech, yet you publish a personal attack on Elie Wiesel and hateful speech against Israel? An apology and retraction is more than warranted on your part.

  4. My objection to BDS is that it is part of the Palestinian effort to destroy Israel. If Israel were to withdraw from Judea and Samaria today, this movement would continue.

    One of their tenets is that Israel has no right to exist and that the entire region should be made Judenrein by any means available. There were anti-Jewish pogroms in the region well before the establishment of the State of Israel. If you watch Palestinian children’s television, you can see children being indoctrinated with Kill the Jews attitudes.

    Another is that the Jews stole the land from its Palestinian inhabitants. The reality is that [for the most part] it was purchased from the legal owners.

    On the question of the legitimacy of states or other organizations refusing to do business with those who support BDS, how is that illegitimate? If you claim the right to boycott then you have to allow others the same right, whether they are individuals or organizations, even states.

    If the Palestinians want peace, the first step is for them to accept the right of Jews, and especially Israelis, to live in peace. This means taking the very risky step of changing their basic rules.

    As has been demonstrated by treaties with Egypt and others, you do not have to love your neighbors, you simply have to accept them.

    We Arabs managed our relationship with Israel atrociously, but the worst of all is the ongoing situation of the Palestinians. Our worst mistake was in not accepting the United Nations partition plan of 1947.

    Perhaps one should not launch wars if one is not prepared for the results of possibly losing them.

    The Jews are not keeping the Arabs in camps, we are.

    Jordan integrated some refugees, but not all. We could have proven that we Arabs are a great and noble people, but instead we showed the world, as we continue to do, that our hatred towards each other and towards Jews is far greater than any concept of purported Arab solidarity.

    This is part one of a two-part series. The second part will examine what we Arabs can do differently today.

    In the current state of the relationship between the Arab world and Israel, we see a patchwork of hostility, tense peace, limited cooperation, calm, and violence. We Arabs managed our relationship with Israel atrociously, but the worst of all is the ongoing situation of the Palestinians.

    The Original Mistake

    Our first mistake lasted centuries, and occurred well before Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948. It consisted of not recognizing Jews as equals.

    As documented by a leading American scholar of Jewish history in the Muslim world, Mark R. Cohen, during that era, “Jews shared with other non-Muslims the status of dhimmis [non-Muslims who have to pay protection money and follow separate debasing laws to be tolerated in Muslim-controlled areas] … New houses of worship were not to be built and old ones could not be repaired. They were to act humbly in the presence of Muslims. In their liturgical practice they had to honor the preeminence of Islam. They were further required to differentiate themselves from Muslims by their clothing and by eschewing symbols of honor. Other restrictions excluded them from positions of authority in Muslim government”.

    On March 1, 1944, while the Nazis were massacring six million Jews, and well before Israel declared independence, Haj Amin al-Husseini, then Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, declared on Radio Berlin, “Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.”

    If we had not made this mistake, we might have benefited in two ways.

    Jews would likely have remained in the Muslim Middle East in greater numbers, and they would have advanced the Middle Eastern civilization rather than the civilizations of the places to which they fled, most notably Europe and later the United States.

    Secondly, if Jews felt secure and accepted in the Middle East among Arabs, they may not have felt the need to create an independent state, which would have saved us from our subsequent mistakes.

    The Worst Mistake

    Our second and worst mistake was in not accepting the United Nations partition plan of 1947. UN resolution 181 provided the legal basis for a Jewish state and an Arab state sharing what used to be British-controlled Mandatory Palestine.

    As reported by the BBC, that resolution provided for:

    “A Jewish State covering 56.47% of Mandatory Palestine (excluding Jerusalem) with a population of 498,000 Jews and 325,000 Arabs; An Arab State covering 43.53% of Mandatory Palestine (excluding Jerusalem), with 807,000 Arab inhabitants and 10,000 Jewish inhabitants; An international trusteeship regime in Jerusalem, where the population was 100,000 Jews and 105,000 Arabs.”

    Although the land allocated to the Jewish state was slightly larger than the land allocated to the Arab state, much of the Jewish part was total desert, the Negev and Arava, with the fertile land allocated to the Arabs. The plan was also to the Arabs’ advantage for two other reasons:

    The Jewish state had only a bare majority of Jews, which would have given the Arabs almost as much influence as the Jews in running the Jewish state, but the Arab state was almost purely Arab, providing no political advantage to Jews within it.
    Each proposed state consisted of three more-or-less disconnected pieces, resulting in strong geographic interdependence between the two states. If the two states were on friendly terms, they would likely have worked in many ways as a single federation. In that federation, Arabs would have had a strong majority.
    Instead of accepting that gift of a plan when we still could, we Arabs decided that we could not accept a Jewish state, period. In May 1948, Azzam Pasha, the General Secretary of the Arab League, announced, regarding the proposed new Jewish part of the partition: that, “This will be a war of extermination, a momentous massacre, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” We initiated a war intended to eradicate the new state in its infancy, but we lost, and the result of our mistake was a much stronger Jewish state:

    The Jewish majority of the Jewish state grew dramatically due to the exchange of populations that occurred, with many Arabs fleeing the war in Israel and many Jews fleeing a hostile Arab world to join the new state.
    The Jews acquired additional land during the war we launched, resulting in armistice lines (today called the green lines or pre-1967 lines), which gave Israel a portion of the land previously allocated to the Arab state. The Jewish state also acquired much better contiguity, while the Arab portions became divided into two parts (Gaza and the West Bank) separated by almost 50 kilometers.
    Perhaps one should not launch wars if one is not prepared for the results of possibly losing them.
    After the War of Independence (the name that the Jews give to the war of 1947/1948), Israel was for all practical purposes confined to the land within the green lines. Israel had no authority or claim over Gaza and the West Bank. We Arabs had two options if we had chosen to make peace with Israel at that time:

    We could have incorporated Gaza into Egypt, and the West Bank into Jordan, providing the Palestinians with citizenship in one of two relatively strong Arab countries, both numerically and geographically stronger than Israel.
    We could have created a new state in Gaza and the West Bank.
    Instead, we chose to continue the hostilities with Israel. In the spring of 1967, we formed a coalition to attack Israel. On May 20, 1967, Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad stated, “The time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.” On May 27, 1967, Egypt’s President Abdul Nasser declared, “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel”. In June, it took Israel only six days to defeat us and humiliate us in front of the world. In that war, we lost much more land, including Gaza and the West Bank.

    After the war of 1967 (which Jews call the Six-Day War), Israel offered us land for peace, thereby offering us a chance to recover from the mistake of the Six-Day War. We responded with the Khartoum Resolutions, stating, “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel”.

    Not having learned from 1967, we formed yet another coalition in October 1973 and tried again to destroy Israel. We achieved some gains, but then the tide turned and we lost again. After this third humiliating defeat, our coalition against Israel broke up, and Egypt and Jordan even decided to make peace with Israel.

    The rest of us remained stubbornly opposed to Israel’s very existence, even Syria which, like Egypt and Jordan, had lost land to Israel during the Six-Day War. Today Israel still holds that territory, and there is no real prospect for that land ever going back to Syria; Israel’s Prime Minister recently declared that, “Israel will never leave the Golan Heights”.

    The Tragedy of the Palestinians

    The most reprehensible and the most tragic of our mistakes is the way that we Arabs have treated Palestinians since Israel’s declaration of independence.

    The Jews of Israel welcomed Jewish refugees from Arab and other Muslim lands into the Israeli fold, regardless of the cost or the difficulty in integrating people with very different backgrounds. Israel eagerly integrated refugees from far-away lands, including Ethiopia, India, Morocco, Brazil, Iran, Ukraine, and Russia. By doing so, they demonstrated the powerful bond that binds Jews to each other. At the same time, we had the opportunity similarly to show the bond that binds Arabs together, but instead of welcoming Arab refugees from the 1947/48 war, we confined them to camps with severe restrictions on their daily lives.

    In Lebanon, as reported by Amnesty International, “Palestinians continue to suffer discrimination and marginalization in the labor market which contribute to high levels of unemployment, low wages and poor working conditions. While the Lebanese authorities recently lifted a ban on 50 of the 70 jobs restricted to them, Palestinians continue to face obstacles in actually finding employment in them. The lack of adequate employment prospects leads a high drop-out rate for Palestinian schoolchildren who also have limited access to public secondary education. The resultant poverty is exacerbated by restrictions placed on their access to social services”.

    Yet, Lebanon and Syria could not integrate refugees that previously lived a few kilometers away from the country’s borders and who shared with the country’s people almost identical cultures, languages, and religions. Jordan integrated some refugees but not all. We could have proven that we Arabs are a great and noble people, but instead we showed the world, as we continue to do, that our hatred towards each other and towards Jews is far greater than any concept of purported Arab solidarity. Shamefully to us, seven decades after the Palestinian refugees fled Israel, their descendants are still considered refugees.

    The worst part of the way we have treated Palestinian refugees is that even within the West Bank and Gaza, there remains to this day a distinction between Palestinian refugees and native Palestinians. In those lands, according to the year 2010 numbers provided by Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet at McGill University, 37% of Palestinians within the West Bank and Gaza live in camps! Gaza has eight Palestinian refugee camps, and the West bank has nineteen. The Jews are not keeping the Arabs in camps, we are. Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas claims a state on those lands, but we can hardly expect him to be taken seriously when he leaves the Palestinian refugees under his authority in camps and cannot even integrate them with other Palestinians. The ridiculousness of the situation is rivaled only by its callousness.

    Where We Are Now

    Because of our own mistakes, our relationship with Israel today is a failure. The only strength in our economies is oil, a perishable resource and, with fracking, diminishing in value. We have not done nearly enough to prepare for the future when we will need inventiveness and productivity. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, “Although Arab governments have long recognized the need to shift away from an excessive dependence on hydrocarbons, they have had little success in doing so. … Even the United Arab Emirates’ economy, one of the most diversified in the Gulf, is highly dependent on oil exports”.

    Business Insider rated Israel in 2015 as the world’s third most innovative country. Countries from all over the world take advantage of Israel’s creativity, including countries as remote and as advanced as Japan. Yet we snub Israel, an innovation powerhouse that happens to be at our borders.

    We also fail to take advantage of Israel’s military genius to help us fight new and devastating enemies such as ISIS.

    Worst of all, one of our own people, the Palestinians, are dispersed — divided, disillusioned, and utterly incapable of reviving the national project that we kidnapped from under their feet in 1948 and that we have since disfigured beyond recognition.

    To say that we must change our approach towards Israel is an understatement. There are fundamental changes that we ourselves must make, and we must find the courage and moral fortitude to make them.

    The Jews are not keeping the Arabs in camps, we are.

    Fred Maroun, a left-leaning Arab based in Canada, has authored op-eds for New Canadian Media, among other outlets. From 1961-1984, he lived in Lebanon.

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