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Friday, April 19, 2024

Do not play the game of dehumanization

A letter to our Davis community

 

BY NOUR TAHA —- nmtaha@ucdavis.edu

 

Nour is a UC Davis senior and the Senior International Editor and Writer for the Davis Political Review. 

 

For those of us with a conscience, the horrifying images and reality of the situation in Gaza which has led to the brutal killing of 28,000 Palestinians, of which 12,000 were children, by Israel’s military offensive is vicious beyond our emotional comprehension. There is no question the political world and international community at large have failed the Palestinian people. Many across our Davis community and the world at large often feel severe helplessness and an inability to change the political realities that led to the displacement and unspeakable torture of over two million innocent civilians.

At the end of the day, we are merely civilians. We do not make political choices, we cannot singlehandedly end wars or start them. As painful as it may be to hear, we are not the decision makers.  

However, we still have a responsibility to our fellow humans who are targeted simply for who they are, especially when they are part of our community. One of the most troubling developments we have seen in the past few months in our country — which has begun to dangerously bleed into our beloved Davis community — is the start of a disgusting and dangerous game: a systemic and strategic multi-step plan of dehumanization of Palestinians at large, from Gaza to Davis. There is a clear attempt to strategically dehumanize Palestinians and subconsciously change the outlooks of communities just like ours and make them complicit in their ideological and fanatical political goals. 

This is the duty that we have not only to the two million innocent Palestinians being killed with our tax dollars, but also to the Palestinians and activists in our Davis community. If we truly want to be looked upon kindly by the history books and sleep with a clear conscience, we must know the game of dehumanization being played around us and unilaterally reject it in all of its forms. 

The game of dehumanization being played in front of our eyes is a multi-step process that began with the hyperfixation and misrepresentation of Hamas after the Oct. 7 attacks and a conflation of Hamas with all Palestinians in Gaza. Immediately after the attacks, the Israeli narrative developed with Benjamin Netanyahu’s first speech, where he declared that “Hamas is ISIS. And just as the forces of civilization united to defeat ISIS, the forces of civilization must support Israel in defeating Hamas.”

In the beginning of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, this narrative became the predominant Israeli mantra in order to justify their actions to citizens across the world, and especially American communities whose taxpayer money provides Israel the weapons and bombs necessary to obliterate Palestinian land and peoples in Gaza. 

Hamas is an armed political resistance movement, just like countless others in the world, which can be validly criticized and attacked for any actions it has taken before, during or after the Oct. 7 attacks. However, if we wish to criticize Hamas, we must first know what Hamas is not, what its role is in Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation — which predates Hamas by over 50 years — and why people want to convince our community and nation at large that they are ISIS. 

Scholars from Tareq Baconi, expert on Hamas and author of the book “Hamas Contained: A Rise and Pacification of Palestinian resistance,” to diplomats such as Hanan Ashrawi and Mustafa AlBarghouthi, who have dealt with Hamas extensively throughout the decades, have made two points painstakingly clear. 

First, Hamas is not ISIS or other extremist Islamist factions demanding a global Islamic caliphate and a destruction of the west, and such arguments are misleading and facetious. The attempts to conflate the two is one to convince western and American audiences that a complete destruction of Gaza is justified no matter the civilian cost, as it is harboring an ISIS-like group who wants to kill all of us.

Second, Hamas is an institutionalized grassroots resistance movement that demands the liberation of Historic Palestine and is part of the political, social and ideological fabric of Palestinian society — which merely represents a new face in the fight for Palestinian liberation that has gone on for more than 75 years. A hyperfixation on Hamas for being “radical Islamic terrorists” completely disregards the fact that every accusation being thrown at Hamas for being a radical terrorist organization has been thrown at every single historical face of Palestinian resistance, whether socialist, Islamist, liberal or communist. Thus, the core of the issue has never been about Hamas, but rather about Palestinian liberation and freedom.

The following steps of dehumanization after conflating Hamas with ISIS are a dehumanization of Palestinians at large, both within Palestine and in the diaspora. This began with over 500 incitements of genocide from Israeli decision makers and elected officials claiming “We are fighting human animals,” “There are no innocent civilians in Gaza,” “Bomb without distinction!! Flatten Gaza,” “Those are animals (in Gaza). They have no right to exist,” “The children of Gaza have brought it upon themselves” and many more genocidal claims all by elected Israeli officials in government from Ministers to the Israeli President and Prime Minister. 

This is followed by a downplaying of the brutality of the Israeli military in Gaza and a lack of agency over who is responsible for Palestinian casualties. The vast majority of American news outlets that have covered the conflict consistently refer to Oct. 7 as a massacre by Hamas on Jews where Israelis were killed, while Palestinians passively ‘die’, without referring to their cause of death or killer. 

The final step in the game of dehumanization is an organized and widespread effort to dehumanize Palestinians and pro-Palestine activists in the United States and falsely accuse them of supporting terrorism and anti-semitism, along with constant attempts to censor these voices. 

This has dangerously spread into our own Davis community. Certain members of the Davis community, and even in some incidents ASUCD Senators, who have a duty to serve and protect all of the Davis student community, have made public statements and articles villainizing Palestinian student groups on campus and falsely accusing them of being terrorist sympathizers. Some of these community members have even made up fake scenarios, such as falsely claiming that the UC Davis chapter of Students For Justice in Palestine (SJP) mocked Israeli students and threw objects at Jewish students during an ASUCD meeting, a claim that has been disproven by both witnesses at the meeting and other Senators. 

These efforts, along with the constant surveillance and censorship efforts of Palestinian students at rallies, protests and events, are done both to intimidate Palestinians and pro-Palestine supporters in our community and to make the Davis community fearful and spiteful of its Palestinian members. 

All of these steps are connected and lead to one common goal of successfully dehumanizing and villainizing Palestinians, in our community and beyond. My message to the Davis community is simple: we are better than that. Do not allow our diverse and respectful community be dragged into a disgusting game of complicity and genocidal intent. Do not accept false pretenses and narratives. Do not fall for the dehumanization of Palestinians, and do not allow yourselves to be blinded by fear mongers. Do not fall for the game. 

 

Written by: Nour Taha — nmtaha@ucdavis.edu 

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