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[HumanRights] Dehumanizing and delegitimizing

Mazin Qumsiyeh

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



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