As a child growing up in Israel, I saw how Palestinians became increasingly dehumanised

Fifty years later, we are now witnessing the result. Can you imagine if the British had treated the Irish in the same way?

Share

“People of Belfast! We, the British, have had enough of the deadly antics of the IRA who live among you and attack us using you as human shields.

“We hereby warn you to vacate your homes and leave your city, as we intend, without further notice, to bomb you back to the stone age, as our media is demanding. To that end we will also cut off your electricity so that your dialysis patients will discover whose blood is redder, on the advice of the Deputy Speaker of Parliament.

“Although there is no place for you to go, we will, of course, blame you for this, as you and your toddlers and hospital patients are very scary and lack all concern for civilians.”

The Gaza strip, which actually received such a notice on Sunday and again on Tuesday, is a fraction the size of Ulster but with a similar population. Its narrow, shambolic streets crammed full with desperate people trying to make ends meet.

Over the past decade we have had “Operation Cast Lead” (2008/9) in which illegal white phosphorus was employed, 1,400 Gazan civilians were killed including one family whose children bled to death on the roof because Israeli aircraft prevented their evacuation. The Israelis lost 11 soldiers. In “Operation Pillar of Smoke”, (2012) hundreds more Palestinians died.

As far as Israel is concerned, the only change since then (apart from people like the woman who today tweeted that killing Arabs “gives me orgasms”) has been that between each attack Hamas’s rockets have increased their range.

They are still little more than toys compared with Israel’s smart bombs and heavy artillery and – yes! – nukes, not to mention the sophisticated anti-rocket devices, sirens and shelters which help protect the Israeli population. But they allow Israel to remain – in its own eyes and those of its blinkered backers – always the victim.

Why do Israelis feel like this about people they have only ever overpowered? Growing up in Jerusalem in the 1950s and 60s, I was vaguely aware that we lived in close proximity to “The Arabs” (the word Palestinians didn’t come into the vocabulary until after the 1967 war), but they might as well have been on another planet.

 

Instead of teaching Arabic as a second language in all schools, to enable us to communicate with our near neighbours, we were taught English, French and even Latin. The only demand for Arabic came from blokes who were looking for a career in military intelligence.

Importantly, back then there were virtually no rockets, no bus explosions, no suicide bombers. But also no respect. The Arabs were not like us, refined Western Jews who went to philharmonic concerts and competed in the Eurovision.

They were dirty, smelly, incomprehensible, mildly dangerous, not to be associated with whatsoever. The ones living in Israel were to shunned. Others would sneak over the border and try to do mischief (the word “terrorism” in its current meaning was only defined by the UN as recently as 2004) and were summarily dealt with by the army.

It is a short step from that attitude to the de-humanisation of the Palestinians, which is now ubiquitous. And if they’re not quite human, then... well, just look at the news.

I don’t think this happened in Northern Ireland even in the darkest days of The Troubles. Which is why I don’t expect any Good Fridays in the Middle East any time soon.

Read more: Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
Israel’s reaction has been vicious and misdirected
War is war: Why I stand with Israel

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced