Against the demonization of the Palestinian people

A few decades ago, a European Trotskyist leader who was a Holocaust survivor wrote the following phrase: "Barbarism in words precedes barbarism in actions."

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By Lautaro Lorenzo
Translation by Gabino Baldioli

Thus, something that occurred in all cases of genocides and ethnic cleansings from the 19th century onward is a prior phase of demonization of the victims in the realm of discourse and propaganda.

This was one of the foundations, though not the only one, that allowed atrocities such as the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the Suharto genocide in Indonesia, the genocide during the last military dictatorship in Argentina, and even the process of Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine that began in 1948.

Today, we are witnessing a media and propaganda operation by the Israeli regime and imperialism to demonize the Palestinian people and set the stage for the planned atrocities by the Zionist state. This operation has been led by the top Israeli authorities who designed a discourse that was later echoed by the world’s major international media. Many world leaders, including the Argentinian president and foreign ministry, made regrettable and shameful statements in solidarity with the racist State of Israel.

Inversion of the roles of victims and perpetrators

One of the central themes of the media and propaganda campaign to demonize the Palestinian people and show solidarity with Israel has been the inversion of the roles of victims and perpetrators. Thus, in major international media, Israel is portrayed as the poor and innocent victim of senseless violence carried out by wild and fanatical Arabs who oppose peace and democracy. In this way, the subsequent and disproportionate reprisals by the State of Israel are presented as the supposed exercise of a legitimate right to defense. This discourse is then reused by multiple international leaders and their spokespersons when taking a position on the events between Israel and Palestine.

For example, the spokesperson for the U.S. Security Council stated: “There is never any justification for terrorism. We strongly support the Government and people of Israel and express our deepest condolences for the Israeli lives lost in these attacks.”

Similarly, the President of the European Commission stated: “I unequivocally condemn the attack carried out by Hamas terrorists against Israel. It is terrorism in its most despicable form. Israel has the right to defend itself against such atrocious attacks.”

Here, we can also add the shameful statements of the argentinian president, Alberto Fernández, who, after months of maintaining a low profile, returned to the public scene to express solidarity with Israel: “I express my strong condemnation and repudiation of the brutal terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas from the Gaza Strip against the State of Israel. The people of Israel receive the full solidarity of this president and the Argentine people. Once again, we reaffirm Argentina’s commitment to peace and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. I have ordered the immediate dispatch of humanitarian aid to Israel to support them in this difficult time.”

Thus, many more examples could be cited (and there would be even more if we considered television news, newspaper headlines, etc.). However, they all convey the same message: victimizing the “poor” Israel while blaming everything on the Palestinians. Moreover, the events are not contextualized, and not a single explanation is provided for what has driven part of the Palestinian resistance to carry out such “atrocious attacks.” This is because if one delves a little into the history and the current reality in Palestine and Israel, it becomes easy to conclude that the true perpetrator is Israel, and the victim is the Palestinian population. Another central point of this discourse is that the Palestinian victims (the vast majority of whom are civilians) are not mentioned. They seem not to exist, or even worse, their lives appear to lack value.

To counteract this discourse, it is essential to remember that Israel is a racist, genocidal, and apartheid state that was founded through ethnic cleansing that began in 1948 and continues to this day. The Israeli state emerged through the violent expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are still not allowed to return to their lands today.

Furthermore, Israel maintains a racist policy up to this day. Arabs are second-class citizens, and a significant portion of the Palestinian population is confined in ghettos surrounded by walls, such as the Gaza Strip or what remains of the West Bank, where they live in inhumane conditions and are at constant risk of expulsion by Israeli settlers. However, this reality is consistently concealed by the Israeli state and its allies.

We find it appropriate to quote a statement from the renowned Israeli historian Ilan Pappe: “After the Holocaust, hiding large-scale crimes against humanity has become almost impossible. The modern world we live in, especially with the rise of electronic media, no longer allows catastrophes caused by human hands to remain beyond the reach of public opinion or to be denied. Nevertheless, such a crime has been almost completely erased from the global public memory: the plundering of the Palestinians in 1948 by Israel. This event, the most formative in the modern history of the land of Palestine, has been systematically denied and is still not recognized as a historical fact, let alone accepted as a crime that must be addressed from both a political and moral standpoint.”

Therefore, the violence of Palestinian resistance should not be decontextualized; it is the response of an oppressed and desperate people who see it as the only way to confront their situation.

Israel is not the victim but the perpetrator that violently oppresses the Palestinian population, constantly violating their human rights and then shedding tears when they respond.

The dehumanization of the Palestinian people

Another key element of this Israeli discursive and propaganda operation is the complete dehumanization of the Palestinian people, whether they are members of Hamas or not. Israel has gone to the extreme of comparing them to wild animals who do not have the right to be treated as human beings. Historically, this operation has preceded the commission of atrocities. This was the case under the Nazi regime, where Jews were dehumanized and considered a subhuman race that needed to be exterminated to avoid contaminating the Aryan race, among many other examples.

In recent days, we have heard public statements from different representatives of the state of Israel and various members of the international community that contribute to the dehumanization of Palestinians. For example, the Israeli Minister of Security stated: “Without fuel, even local electricity will be cut in a few days, and water wells will stop in a week. This is what we will do to a nation of killers and child butchers.” Similar statements were made by General Ghassan Alian, the top Israeli authority in the West Bank: “Hamas has become like ISIS, and the residents of Gaza, instead of being shocked, are celebrating. Humans acting like beasts are treated accordingly: Israel imposed a complete siege on Gaza. There will be no electricity or water. They wanted hell, they will have hell.”

Furthermore, we have seen echoes of this discourse from various representatives of the international community, with one of the most serious statements coming from the European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, who stated: “The scale of terror and brutality against Israel and its people is a turning point. There can be nothing as usual. As the largest donor to the Palestinians, the European Commission is reviewing its entire development portfolio, totaling €691 million. All payments will be suspended immediately. All projects are under review. All new budget proposals, including those for 2023, are postponed until further notice. A comprehensive assessment of the entire portfolio.”

Thus, if the dehumanization of others has historically been used to justify genocides and various atrocities, we are not witnessing any exception today. In this way, with the discourse of punishing a supposed population of terrorists and wild animals that endanger the lives of real human beings. The Israeli government, supported by the United States and others, seeks to legitimize its genocidal plans to eliminate the Palestinian population through bombings and a siege policy that could condemn approximately two million people living in Gaza to death or forced displacement.

Equating the violence of both “sides” is not valid

The State of Israel and the media talk about a supposed war between Palestine and Israel. This is false. To begin with, wars are between armies, and Palestine lacks armed forces, while Israel has one of the most powerful armies in the world, with the support of the United States and others. Thus, it is a profoundly unequal conflict: the primary targets of the Israeli military are always the Palestinian civilian population. It is a falsehood to speak of a war; things should be called as they are, and today we are facing the continuation of a policy of ethnic cleansing by Israel, which has found in the recent actions of Hamas an excuse to intensify it.

The violence of the aggressor is not the same as that of the defender; the violence of the oppressors seeking to maintain their position of privilege is not the same as the violence of the oppressed seeking to free themselves from such oppression. Officials and media outlets of imperialism raise an outcry over each case of Palestinian violence, after years of silence in the face of the daily massacres carried out by the Israeli army.

Here, the only aggressor and terrorist is the State of Israel, which has been implementing a policy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid against the Palestinian people for years. They are the ones who pushed the population of Gaza to support the policies of Islamist organizations like Hamas. Rebellion against tyranny and oppression is an inalienable right of peoples and cannot be used as an excuse for the atrocities that the Israeli regime commits and intends to carry out against the Palestinian population.

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