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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/5/18

Fourteen-year-old Ghada was the latest victim of Israel's dehumanizing machine

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Was this not precisely what Hannah Arendt, the Jewish philosopher of totalitarianism, meant when she identified the "banality of evil" while watching the trial of the Holocaust's architect, Adolph Eichmann, in Jerusalem in 1962?

Arendt wrote that totalitarian systems were designed to turn men into "functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery," to "dehumanize them."

Even the worst bureaucracies contain few monsters. Its officials have simply forgotten what it means to be human, losing the capacity for compassion and independent thought.

After five decades of ruling over Palestinians, with no limits or accountability, many Israelis have become cogs.

Most of the Palestinian victims of this "system" remain hidden from view. Only occasionally a Ghada suddenly throws a troubling light on the depths to which Israel has sunk.

Another example is Ahed Al Tamimi, who spent her 17th birthday in prison last week, charged with slapping a heavily armed soldier during an invasion of her home. Moments earlier, his unit had shot her 15-year-old cousin in the face, nearly killing him. She now risks a 10-year jail sentence for her justified anger.

Michael Oren, Israel's former ambassador to Washington and now a government minister, was so unwilling to believe Ahed could be blonde-haired and blue-eyed -- like him -- that he ordered a secret investigation to try to prove her family were actors.

Most Israelis cannot believe that a Palestinian child might fight for her home and for her family's right to live freely. Palestinians are expected to be passive recipients of Israel's "civilizing," bureaucratic violence.

Soldiers helping settlers to steal her community's farmland have scrawled death threats against her on the walls in her village, Nabi Saleh.

Oren Hazan, a parliament member from the ruling Likud party, told the BBC last week that Ahed was not a child, but a "terrorist." Had he been slapped, he said, "she would finish in the hospital for sure ... I would kick, kick her face."

This dehumanising logic is directed at any non-Jew with a foothold in the enlarged fortress state Israel is creating.

But belatedly, a few Israelis are drawing a line. A backlash has begun as Israel this week begins expelling 40,000 asylum seekers who fled wars in Sudan and Eritrea. In violation of international treaties, Israel wants these refugees returned to Africa, where they risk persecution or death.

Unlike Palestinians, these refugees tug at some liberal Israelis' heartstrings, reminding them of European Jews who once needed shelter from genocide.

Nonetheless, Israel has incentivised its citizens to become bounty-hunters, offering $9,000 bonuses to self-appointed "immigration inspectors" who find illegal African migrants.

Progressive rabbis and social activists have called for Israelis to hide the refugees in attics and cellars, just as Europeans once protected Jews from their persecutors.

It is a battle for Israel's soul. Can Israelis begin to see non-Jews -- whether Africans or Palestinians like Ghada -- as fellow human beings, equally deserving of compassion? Or will Israelis sink further into the darkness of a banal evil that threatens to engulf them?

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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