Can We Acknowledge Our Shared Humanity?

Palestinian Father with Dead Child

This image was posted on Google+ last night by Forever Palestine. I have no context for it. I assume it is a father kissing his dead daughter before he buries her. It is a heartbreaking image.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m highly sympathetic toward the Palestinians. But I don’t particularly take sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is a mess. I think lowly of the belligerents on both sides. But it is the Palestinians who are dying in such large numbers. And I don’t think that takes away from what Israeli civilians are going through. The random rocket fire does create terror, and for the people harmed or killed, it doesn’t matter what the numbers are.

But this image reminds me of Benjamin Netanyahu’s comment on CNN that Hamas “use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.” Undoubtedly, the corpses do have a PR value. But the statement is entirely typical of war propaganda: dehumanize the enemy. I think you can say that Hamas’ actions are shortsighted. (You can say the same thing about Israel’s actions.) But you can’t say that Hamas doesn’t love its children.

Another problem is that Americans tend to make assumptions about Hamas that are not valid. While the group does use terrorism as a tactic, the group is a lot more than that. Treating the group as a monolith is a mistake. Another false assumption is to equate Hamas with the people of Gaza. And blanket statements like Netanyahu’s only reinforce these false assumptions, which is probably why they are made.

Would it be so hard for us all to agree that all the peoples of the world value life? Or at least that we all love our children? This seems the very least we can do. But the dehumanization of the enemy is very important in allowing the killing to continue. And I don’t expect either side to acknowledge the humanity of the other any time soon. Meanwhile, the anguished man in the photograph is real. The child is dead. And regardless of PR or ideology or property right, this is wrong.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “Can We Acknowledge Our Shared Humanity?

  1. But you can’t say that Hamas doesn’t love its children.

    Are you nuts? Hamas doesn’t love children. Hamas doesn’t have children. You’re making the exact error you oppose in the next paragraph — equating hamas with the people of Gaza. Of course the people of Gaza love their children, but Hamas is a terrorist organization, with annihilationist goals toward Israel, which terrorizes the people of Gaza themselves when they get out of line. If Hamas cared about Gaza’s children, it wouldn’t expose them to danger by putting legitimate military equipment in places like schools.

    I’m sure the Germans in 1939-1945 loved their children, but that doesn’t mean the Nazi party did. And yes, in this case the analogy is justified, Godwin be damned.

    • Fair enough. I think it is clear that I meant that the people who make up Hamas.

      I don’t particularly like labeling Hamas as a terrorist group. It is bigger than that. It would be nice if we could decouple the political and military aspects as we did with Sinn Fein and the IRA. But we clearly can’t, so I try to be careful in my language.

      As for Godwin’s law, it is a pox on the internet. For one thing, it is generally misapplied. The Nazis are a perfectly good example. But like you, in order to protect myself, I almost always mention Godwin when I mention Nazis to stop the inevitable attacks.

  2. That humans can so quickly turn on others – no longer seeing a fellow human being struggling with similar hopes and hardships – but rather a ‘thing’ that deserves to die, is one of the most horrifying aspects of our nature. An abject flaw that is behind every ethnic cleansing, every genocide, every war.

    • Respect for human life is so thoroughly ingrained in humans that the power elite have to dehumanize in order to make war acceptable. And it isn’t just on the large scale. What are the police in Ferguson doing but trying to dehumanize Michael Brown to justify his killing.

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