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Middle EastNews

Dehumanisation Of Palestinians Is Part Of Israel’s Security Apparatus

Far from a democratic state, Israel employs dehumanisation as part of its politics, while Palestinian themselves are deprived of denouncing Israel’s violence as a political act against them. 

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Far from a democratic state, Israel employs dehumanisation as part of its politics, while Palestinian themselves are deprived of denouncing Israel’s violence as a political act against them. 

Israel’s dehumanisation of Palestinians has been observed mostly in terms of its visibly violent aggressions, notably state and settler violence. Gaza is perhaps the most widely recognised example of how Israel dehumanises Palestinians due to the aerial bombardments on the enclave.

In the occupied West Bank, the checkpoints provide the most constantly visible example of Israel’s dehumanisation of Palestinians, where one of the most basic human rights – freedom of movement – is subject to mockery and ridicule by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

Testimonies collected and recently published by Breaking the Silence attest to dehumanisation of Palestinians being an integral part of the state’s policies and administrative duties. The testimonies focus on the Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is responsible for administering civilian matters related to Palestinians, including permits, imports and exports, natural resources, and civilian infrastructure. Palestinian civilian affairs are managed through Israel’s security narrative and structure, thus giving the security service, Shin Bet, power over the occupied Palestinian territories. 

Israeli soldiers working for COGAT described the bureaucratic system in their testimonies to Breaking the Silence, asserting inadequate preparation for their roles which would ultimately lead to misunderstandings and contribute towards a decline in dehumanisation and violence against Palestinians. The language barrier is one impediment which COGAT reinforces, alongside the racism which is inherent in the Israeli state’s social structure.

A lieutenant stationed at the Erez Crossing in Gaza in 2013 describes the violence thus: “I think it might not look like the violence we’re used to hearing about, violence at the checkpoint, or soldiers abusing Palestinians. But it’s a different kind of violence. It’s bureaucratic violence.”

In Beit El in 2017, soldiers were commanded to delete all permits for visits related to prisoners who were participating in a hunger strike, as one coercive measure to influence Palestinian prisoners to call off their resistance: “I was an instrument in this whole story, I pushed buttons and helped the military break these people morally and physically. And that’s why it really kind of scarred me because I was 19 and what do I understand about the conflict at all?” 

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Palestinians also have their permits revoked without their knowledge, as explained in the testimonies. One particular testimony that stands out narrates the story of a Palestinian whose house is fenced in by Israel and has to ask permission through the Operations Room to leave or enter his house. 

One blatant example of how COGAT influences dehumanisation is a soldier’s description of his perception of Palestinians. “When a Palestinian calls me from a checkpoint, I can’t be bothered talking to him, and he really does seem to me like a nuisance who is far less important than other things that I had to do at the time. I’d also developed this sort of very casual hatred of Palestinians. For me, they were simply a dataset in a system.”

Notably, the testimonies also illustrate how the Palestinian Authority is completely subjugated to Israel. Asked whether the Palestinian police have any autonomy, a soldier stated, “We’re the commanders of the Palestinian police. We run the Palestinian police. They don’t make a squeak without us telling them.”

Israel has not created a questioning society. Rather, it thrives upon a system that gives little input while expecting complete adherence to its institutions, and it also caters to ensure that its security narrative remains intact. The testimonies expose the relatively unexplored side of Israel’s violent bureaucracy and how normalising Israel violence means that most narratives remain untold, were it not for specific projects which run counter to the colonial state’s official narrative.

Far from a democratic state, Israel employs dehumanisation as part of its politics, while Palestinian themselves are deprived of denouncing Israel’s violence as a political act against them. 

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