Sarah Blum: Dehumanization and genocide

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at the Knesset. Netanyahu has vowed to pursue “total victory” over Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at the Knesset. Netanyahu has vowed to pursue “total victory” over Hamas. POOL/AFP

Published: 02-28-2024 5:36 PM

Dehumanization of the enemy seems to be an essential feature of war. The degree of violence perpetrated against the enemy is a direct consequence of the degree to which the enemy is dehumanized.

When the prime minister of Israel describes the war as, ” … a struggle between the children of light and children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle,” this dehumanizing rhetoric paves the way to the war crime of genocide. Mr. Netanyahu’s statement bluntly implies that his war is against all combatants and civilians is a holy war that is justified against the “children of darkness.”

Since Israel’s Oct. 27, 2023, siege against Gaza, the Palestinian population, trapped in their open-air graveyard, have been systematically deprived of water, electricity, medical supplies, and food. At present there is the imminent threat of mass starvation. Can there be this degree of collective punishment without dehumanization? And can there ever be the recognition of a free Palestinian State when the defense minister of Israel declares: “We are fighting against animals.”

After more than 128 days, when nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently stated at a news conference in Tel Aviv: “The brutality of Hamas attacks on Israel, cannot be used to justify brutalizing Palestinians. The hostages have been dehumanized every day [since Oct.7th] but that cannot be a license to dehumanize others.”

To what degree are we, the United States complicit in this “license to dehumanize others?” Mr. Blinken’s belated words cannot bring back the “others,” those tens of thousands of children killed and injured in the indiscriminate bombings, which our government financed.

As a Jew and an American, I cry out with the overwhelming majority of peaceful protesters in the world: “Not in Our Name!”

Sarah Blum


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