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Thursday May 24, 2012

The Slippery Slope of Dehumanization

Posted by Omar Baddar at 4:06 pm

Something rather outrageous took place in Tel-Aviv last night. Israeli right wingers (with the participation of politicians from Likud and other rightwing parties) staged a rally to express their dissatisfaction with the growing number of African refugees and migrant workers in Israeli cities. Shortly after, the rally turned into mob violence, attacking African residents, destroying their property, and looting their possessions.

Writing in Ha’aretz, one veteran Israeli journalist who was attacked by the mob for allegedly being a “leftist” said,

I’ve seen fury, frustration, despair, and sadness in a variety of places and forms. But I’ve never seen such hatred as it was displayed on Wednesday night in the Hatikva neighborhood. If it weren’t for the police presence, it would have ended in lynching. I have no doubt.

Noise is often made about alleged Palestinian incitement (and much of it false), but we rarely hear complaints about Israeli incitement, like the fact that Likud Knesset Member Miri Regev called African migrants "a cancer in our body." Of course, anyone familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict wouldn’t find xenophobia in Israel particularly surprising. For decades, Palestinian society has been undergoing an erasure process which included a great deal of violence, from ethnic cleansing, to settler attacks, to occupation violence. A poll taken in 2010 found that half of Israeli high school students opposed equal rights for Arab citizens of their country. But that racism is so longstanding that it has been practically normalized. In a powerful piece today, Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now (APN) put last night’s xenophobic violence in Tel-Aviv in its proper context:

The ongoing dehumanization of African migrants, legal or illegal, is just the latest symptom of the erosion of democratic values inside Israel.  It is part and parcel of the growing intolerance and dehumanization aimed at the Israeli left, at organizations working for human and civil rights, and at the longstanding dehumanization of Palestinians, both Israeli citizens and those living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza [emphasis added].

Once the dehumanization of one group is legitimized, the dehumanization of any other group becomes all that much easier, opening the door for ever wider societal disintegration. Dehumanization itself in all its forms, whether directed at Palestinians, African migrants, or anyone else, is what should be vigorously combatted by all people of conscience.

Tagged as Issues, Palestine, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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