De-humanisation of people in the Middle East


9:05 am - November 20th 2012

by Robert Sharp    


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Ugh. I unwittingly clicked on a YouTube video showing the immediate aftermath of the assasination of Ahmed Al-Jabari in Gaza. A passer-by drags out dead body from the car… and half of it is missing.

It is sickening and certainly Not Safe For Work or children. I wonder how long it will remain live on YouTube before the company removes it for being too graphic.

The video is a huge contrast to the clinical black and white footage distributed by the Israeli Defence Force. Ever since Operation Desert Storm there has been discussion of the way in which TV pictures frame our view of war, sanitising the horror.

In recent years there has also been much analysis of the ‘gamification’ of war, as soldiers brough-up on video games join the army and begin shooting real people. The two contrasting images of the same incident speak to that dehumanising tendency.

The gruesome, visceral aftermath also provides some understanding of the hatred towards Israel that steams out of Palestine. In the background of the video you can see children observing the scene. I am glad that I never saw such sights in my childhood.

Is it any surprise that those who experience such visual traumas grow up to hate those responsible? Time and again, I find my thoughts returning to this 2005 essay by Laurie King on the symbolism of the body in war, occupation and resistance:

These violations [at Sabra and Shatila] of individual bodies were not haphazard or random acts carried out in the heat of murderous rage, but rather, part of a grammar of political exclusivity, a systemic and coherent — though certainly deranged — message that an entire group could be violated, perhaps even eradicated, with impunity. The message of that massacre endures and echoes a quarter of a century later. Its scars are social, physical, and symbolic, and are felt far beyond the scene of the crime.

So what we have here are different methods of dehumanisation. The fact that these people we fight against are our fellow humans is forgotten in the melee and the maelstrom. Some comments psoted below the video of the half-body:

Lol, not much of him left, and nice slug trail to boot (link)

I wish wars still involved swordmanship and valor but now we got this lame no effort shit. Oh well. (link)

Where’s the rest of him? Ah well…One less scum bag polluting the world (link)

These are not the comments of those who see the other side as human.

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Media ,Middle East

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Reader comments


1. Chaise Guevara

That comment about “slug trail” makes me feel physically sick.

You could call it the pornography of death, and it is disgusting. That said, I can shed no tears Ahmed Al-Jabari and his like, who, if they don’t want Gazan children to be traumatised by such sights, have only to stop firing missiles at Israel(some 800 this year, apparently)and stop using civilians as cover.

3. the a&e charge nurse

I think children should see the video, if only to illustrate how they will invariably be failed by responsible adults – I mean what chance have many of them got given the festering ocean of violence that awaits them in many parts of the world?

4. Man on Clapam Omnibus

Dehumanisation is part of the war of ideas.

‘The gruesome, visceral aftermath also provides some understanding of the hatred towards Israel that steams out of Palestine’

I can’t agree with this simply because that hatred ,or rather the interpretation of that hatred is constantly being mediated through opposing ideologies which are principally fostered by dominant ,well funded and well organised lobbies.

Its hardly coincidental that that position is pro Israeli especially since they have been buying US governments for donkey’s years and by proxy the opinions of any country allied to them.

Probably explains too,why UK state TV has been shamelessly pro Israel in the last few days.

5. Man on Clapam Omnibus

And just as I finished the above TONE (typically without any depth control) exemplifies the simpletons guide to the middle east.

Other more subtle things include reporters in Israel wearing flak jackets, while reporters from the same org in Gaza will pose unarmoured.

Moco @ 4/5:

“I can’t agree with this simply because that hatred ,or rather the interpretation of that hatred is constantly being mediated through opposing ideologies which are principally fostered by dominant ,well funded and well organised lobbies.”

The above is pretentious verbiage, worthy of Pseuds’ Corner.

FWIW, I don’t pretend to provide a guide to the Middle East conflict @ 2 – just an undoubtedly true observation about the latest hostilities.

8. Man on Clapam Omnibus

@7 Tone

What? if everybody stops shooting at each other then no one will get hurt! Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of that I wonder. You empiricists, always one step ahead!

Moco @ 8:

“Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of that I wonder.”

Hamas has not thought of it. Or they are such de-humanised religio-political nutjobs that they think the ordinary Gazan Palestinian can be sacrificed to their Islamo-fascist, anti-Zionist ideology. Either way, Hamas does not come out of it well, does it?

I’m no apologist for Israel. I think the Palestinians have some genuine grievances; and I want a two-state solution. However, Israel has been restrained in this latest spat, largely ignoring a sustained bombardment for a year. Hamas, on the other hand, has invited retaliation by firing some 800 missiles into Israel – often locating launchers in civilian areas and command centres in/under hospitals – but then makes propaganda about civilian casualties.

High falutin’ talk – eg about “hatred ,or rather the interpretation of that hatred is constantly being mediated through opposing ideologies which are principally fostered by dominant ,well funded and well organised lobbies” – lightens no-one’s darkness…

@6. Cylux: “Other more subtle things include reporters in Israel wearing flak jackets, while reporters from the same org in Gaza will pose unarmoured.”

That’s a good starting point for a PhD about risk analysis in war zones.

Perhaps the Gaza reporters know the ground and do not conduct broadcast pieces outside a likely bomb target. If the filming location has been blown to smithereens, you might need a crash hat to protect yourself from falling masonry more than a flak jacket.

Just a question, TONE. Given the fact that Gaza Strip is one big refugee camp/ city, and the high birth rate. Is there anywhere the glorified fireworks Hamas are using can be fired from, without retaliatory strikes hitting children?
Also, how many Israelis are actually been killed or injured, in comparison to Palestinians – a question behind me calling the rockets Hamas are using glorified fireworks, as it is hardly an evenly matched struggle…


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jason Brickley

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  5. Jamie

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  10. Sunny Hundal

    Very good piece by @robertsharp59 on how kids are being de-sensitised to deaths in the Middle East http://t.co/KrB2sZER

  11. Cllr Ralph Berry

    Very good piece by @robertsharp59 on how kids are being de-sensitised to deaths in the Middle East http://t.co/KrB2sZER

  12. kurdish blogger

    Watching YouTube video of immediate aftermath of assasination of Jabari, one can see children observing the scene
    http://t.co/ZkNDMmGy #Gaza

  13. linnet1968

    Very good piece by @robertsharp59 on how kids are being de-sensitised to deaths in the Middle East http://t.co/KrB2sZER

  14. Claudine Letsae

    Very good piece by @robertsharp59 on how kids are being de-sensitised to deaths in the Middle East http://t.co/KrB2sZER

  15. Ahmed El Anjanar

    Watching YouTube video of immediate aftermath of assasination of Jabari, one can see children observing the scene
    http://t.co/ZkNDMmGy #Gaza

  16. araarabella

    Very good piece by @robertsharp59 on how kids are being de-sensitised to deaths in the Middle East http://t.co/KrB2sZER

  17. Alia Waheed

    Very good piece by @robertsharp59 on how kids are being de-sensitised to deaths in the Middle East http://t.co/KrB2sZER

  18. Marmari

    This is a major concern: De-humanisation of people in the Middle East | http://t.co/zAsOqURp via @kurdishblogger #Gaza

  19. The Samosa » Archive » De-humanisation of people in the Middle East

    [...] published by Liberal Conspiracy  [...]





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