For most, it is doubtless the case that what fuels their interest in the conflict in Gaza and Israel, is a desire to see a peaceful resolution, with the region secure for all who live on the land. I have no doubt that the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians just want to live a peaceful co-existence. But for others – including many in the leadership of both Israel and Palestine – the fuel is Messianic conquest; a desire to see the region controlled by their faith and their faith alone. Basic civil rights and protection of the people are a secondary concern. With this religiously motivated superiority complex, comes a familiar dehumanisation process aimed at those deemed to be the enemy. This comes from both sides of the aisle.
In the Arab world, it takes just one inoffensive cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad to spark off a campaign of violent reprisals. Yet, Arab-Muslim media outlets daily print cartoons portraying Jews (not Israelis) in the most offensive tone possible. The caricatures of Jews follows centuries of anti-semitism from the Catholic Church, appropriated by the Arab World. In 2002, Tishrin in Syria printed a cartoon of the Statue of Liberty smashed to pieces and replaced by a statue of a Jewish stereotype; a man with a long beard, and hat, crooked nose, holding the Torah in place of the Constitution, suggesting a Jewish takeover of the United States. In 2005, Al-Yawm in Saudi Arabia published a photo of the Jewish star of David interlaced with the words “Born to Kill”. In Qatar in 2006. Al-Watan published a cartoon of crooked nosed monstrous-looking villain chiseling a star of David underneath the Dome of the Rock. Most hideously of all, the website of the Arab European League published a cartoon of Hitler in bed with Anne Frank, and the caption: “Write this one in your diary, Anne“. The racist cartoons published by the Arab press help to perpetuate a narrative that has existed for centuries, that insists that Jewish people are inherently evil, seeking to dominate the World (ironic, given the oppressive dominance of Islam over the functions of state in many of those countries). In 1543 Martin Luther wrote:
“I have read and heard many stories about the Jews which agree with this judgment of Christ, namely, how they have poisoned wells, made assassinations, kidnaped children, as related before. I have heard that one Jew sent another Jew, and this by means of a Christian, a pot of blood, with a barrel of wine, in which when drunk empty, a dead Jew was found. There are many other similar stories.”
– Blood libel, caricaturing the Jewish people as inherently monstrous and murderous. This hasn’t stopped. It simply moved to a new form of media. Cartoons, alongside educational material in Palestinian textbooks for children that frame Jewish folk as the enemy, and horrifying pictures posted almost daily on social media of those killed in the Syrian civil war, reframed to look as if they were killed by Israeli troops. Also on social media, we see those deeply partisan few posting completely false statements by Israelis, to give credit to their deeply partisan comment:
– The irony of this specific Tweet, is that the quote is massively exaggerated, and works to perpetuate racist narratives that portray Jews as seeking complete domination. The Ben Gurion letter is a blueprint for his Zionist vision, and anti-Arab in tone. But the quote above, is wildly inaccurate and works to suggest a much more violent tone to the letter. Ben-Gurion – According to ‘Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting In America’ (CAMERA) actually said:
“We do not wish, we do not need to expel the Arabs and take their place. All our aspirations are built upon the assumption — proven throughout all our activity in the Land — that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs in the land [of Israel]. And if we will have to use force, not for the sake of evicting the Arabs of the Negev or Transjordan, but rather in order to secure the right that belongs to us to settle there, force will be available to us.”
– The blatant misrepresentations, the cartoons, the pictures from other conflicts that someone somewhere has sat and purposely manipulated, are all a continuation of centuries of anti-semitism, and it all plays into the hands of a group like Hamas, whose main goal isn’t the safety and security of the Palestinian people (their method of using civilians as shields for their weapons is evidence enough of that), but complete dominance of the entire region that they’re convinced was divinely ordained for they alone.
This racist and supremacist attitude is of course not restricted to the Arab side of the conflict. In Israel, Professor Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University studied 124 school textbooks on history, citizenship, and literature, concluding that the textbooks of the 1950s through to the 1970s told of an ancient industrious land of Palestine, ruined by the Arabs, and now to be saved by the returning Jewish people. Bar-Tal says the textbooks insisted that Jewish people were there primarily:
“…improving the country in ways they believe the Arabs are incapable of.”
– Bar-Tal goes on to say that the Israeli textbooks were portraying Arabs as:
“…tribal, vengeful, exotic, poor, sick, dirty, noisy, colored”
“…they burn, murder, destroy, and are easily inflamed.”
– Eli Yishai – ex-Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, and former leader of Shas – grew up as these textbooks that worked to dehumanise the Arab population of Palestine were prevalent. It is no surprise that Yishai now has an awful lack of consideration for human beings in Gaza. In 2012, Yishai said:
“The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.”
– This horrendous attitude was reflected by Gilad Sharon – son of Ariel Sharon – who also in 2012 said:
“We need to flatten all of Gaza. The American’s didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough – so they hit Nagasaki too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.”
– It takes a special kind of desensitisation to human suffering in order to advocate the comple ‘flattening’ of a city, invoking the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as desirable. Further, a poll of students in Israel conducted in 2010 by Israeli research institution Maagar Mochot, found that over half of those surveyed believed Arab-Israelis should not be banned from election to the Knesset. The majority of those who wished to see Arabs banned from the Knesset, were very religious, whilst almost half of secular Israeli teens also concurred that Arabs should be banned. Therefore, almost half of the secular students surveyed, along with a vast majority of religious students supported the institutionalisation of racism.
The lack of moral decency from the racists on both sides isn’t confined to a few supremacists. It is entrenched in media outlets, it shapes the debate, it ensures a new generation are ingrained with the same hatred through school textbooks, it goes viral on social media, it pushes ordinary people to embrace the extremes like Hamas, it empowers the religious supremacists, it serves a victim mentality used to justify sadistic acts of violence against innocents, and so by extension, it prevents a peaceful resolution.