Calling for an awakening of conscience: Palestinians are real people

Co-authored by Bassem Eid and Fred Maroun

Israel is accused by “pro-Palestinian” activists of having little care for Palestinian civilians, of dehumanizing them, but reality is quite different.  Although there is extensive dehumanizing of the Palestinians, the guilty party is not who you might think.

Israel is accused of humiliating Palestinians at security checkpoints, and she is accused of not taking enough care in attacks against Hamas to avoid civilian casualties. Some even go as far as accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians.

The truth is quite different. Although Palestinians do indeed experience humiliation in some cases at checkpoints, and although there are too many civilian casualties during Israeli attacks on terrorists (even one is too many), there is extensive evidence that Israel applies standards of care that are at least as good as any Liberal democracy would apply in similar circumstances. And there is certainly no genocide.

The dehumanizing of the Palestinians does indeed happen among overzealous pro-Zionist activists.  Some of these activists, especially the ones who do not live in Israel, tend to think of Palestinians in abstract terms.  They use arguments such as “there is no such thing as Palestinians”, and they insensitively dismiss real Palestinian tragedies (such as the destruction caused by wars in Gaza, or the dire situation of refugees in Arab countries) as unimportant since Israel is legitimately defending itself.

The dehumanizing of the Palestinians is also widespread among Arab regimes. They used the Palestinians as pawns from the moment Israel’s independence was declared, and they continue to do so today.  The fact that Arab regimes do not offer citizenship to the Palestinian refugees that they have hosted for decades is a neglect that would be vilified in the strongest terms if it were taking place in Europe or North America, but because the offenders are Arabs and the victims are Arabs, the world ignores the crime and even encourages it by funding it through a specially-formed UN agency (the UNRWA).

The all-time champions in dehumanizing Palestinians, however, are the inappropriately named “pro-Palestinian” activists.  While some Zionists unfairly ignore any deaths in Gaza, “pro-Palestinian” activists use Palestinian deaths for propaganda purposes and in the same breath refuse to demand an end to terrorist attacks from Gaza.  Yet stopping terrorist attacks from Gaza is the only way to prevent civilians from being caught in the crossfire of retaliations by Israel.  While some Zionists see the defense of Israel as an objective that overrides any Palestinian interests, “pro-Palestinian” activists see the destruction of Israel as an objective that can only be achieved through Palestinian deaths.

In the West Bank too, “pro-Palestinian” activists use Palestinians as pawns. They are engaged in a campaign to de-legitimize Israeli businesses that operate in the West Bank regardless of the fact that those businesses typically provide good employment opportunities to Palestinians.  “Pro-Palestinian” activists see the loss of jobs by Palestinians as a reasonable price to pay for the greater goal of weakening Israel.

The “pro-Palestinian” activists have therefore entirely completed the switch from supposedly being pro-Palestinian to being fully anti-Palestinian.  While they claim to defend the interests of Palestinians, they in fact thrive on the deaths and unemployment of Palestinians.

Palestinians are real.  They are not abstractions, and each Palestinian life matters.  John Calvin is a Palestinian refugee in Canada who is in danger of being deported back to the Palestinian territories where his life would be at risk due to his homosexuality, his conversion to Christianity, and his support for Israel.  We have yet to see a single “pro-Palestinian” group come to the defense of Calvin.  There is no doubt that if Calvin was a supporter of Hamas and in danger of being jailed by Israel, “pro-Palestinian” groups would have sprung to his defense, but because he supports Israel, they do not see him as a Palestinian worth defending.  It is not Palestinian lives that “pro-Palestinian” activists value; it is the propaganda value of Palestinian lives and deaths that they value.

Of course for anti-Zionists, it all starts with dehumanizing Israelis.  If they realized that Israelis are real people, they would be more likely to realize that Palestinians too are real people.  Anti-Zionists, however, see Israelis as an abstract imperialist blob.  Besides the fact that Israel is not an imperialist enterprise but a native enterprise, no two Israelis are exactly the same, but to anti-Zionists, all Israelis must be denounced, boycotted, isolated, and ultimately made to disappear.

Is it important that the IDF see Palestinians as people?  Yes of course it is, but the IDF is reminded of this fact 24 hours a day, every day of the year, by hordes of people, even Israelis themselves, but in reality the IDF does a decent job of it and does not need to be reminded so often.  Those hordes of people do not however look in the mirror and see that they, more than anyone else, routinely and thoughtlessly dehumanize Palestinians.

Whenever they are told that their actions hurt the Palestinians far more than they hurt Israel, “pro-Palestinian” activists plug their ears and start shouting “la la la la, I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you”, then they go back to their mantra about the Israelis having stolen land and needing to be punished and being all-around evil people and so on.  It would be funny if it were not real.

It is appalling but somewhat expected (given over 67 years of violence against Israel) that some Zionists would dehumanize Palestinians, but it is quite a tragedy that “pro-Palestinian” activists are even worse offenders. The compulsive and fanatical nature of anti-Zionism is the problem. It prevents its adherents from seeing the trees while they obsess about a forest that mostly exists in their imaginations.  The hateful nature of anti-Zionism burns everything around it, and the Palestinians are its main victims.

We therefore call for an awakening of conscience among the ranks of those who call themselves pro-Palestinian.  If they truly are pro-Palestinian, and not simply anti-Israel, then we expect them to strongly condemn Hamas terrorism and Fatah corruption which are the main causes of Palestinian suffering, rather than demonize Israel while ignoring the consequences of that demonization on the lives of real Palestinians.

Note: For further writings by Bassem Eid, see  For further writings by Fred Maroun, see Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post.  The parts of their writings that are most relevant to this blog are referenced within the blog.

About the Author
Bassem Eid (born 5 February 1958) is a Palestinian living in Israel who has an extensive career as a Palestinian human rights activist. His initial focus was on human rights violations committed by Israeli armed forces, but for many years has broadened his research to include human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Palestinian armed forces on their own people. He founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group in 1996, although it ceased operations in 2011. He now works as a political analyst for Israeli TV and radio.
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