Humiliation is one of the most powerful human emotions, causing intense feelings of shame in the victim. To humiliate someone means to violate their dignity by disregarding their basic human rights. That’s how the Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust at the Holocaust Museum in Washington describes the public humiliation of Jews in Nazi Europe.
The humiliation inflicted on Jews and their other victims by the Nazis was no accident. It was an intrinsic part of the Nazis’ systematic, racist oppression. Public humiliation under the Nazis had several functions, one of which was to create “critical distance” between them and their victims. This made it easier for the Nazis to perpetrate horrific acts of violence against fellow human beings.
“The Nazis used humiliation tactics not only to debase their victims, but also to reinforce lessons about racial hierarchy for German citizens and populations under Nazi occupation,” explains the encyclopaedia. “Since the humiliation was public, it functioned further as a warning to anyone who transgressed Nazi racial law.”
There are well-known photos of the public humiliation of European Jews, such as cutting off their beards followed by taunts by the Nazi criminals. This held deep religious and cultural meaning for the innocent victims. This sort of thing was done by German policemen and the Gestapo in ghettos such as the one in Zawiercie, Poland.
How is it possible that almost 85 years after the Kristallnacht — and, incidentally, we must not forget that the Old Bridge in Mostar was demolished on the 55th anniversary of that atrocity — we now see shocking video content created by Israeli Jews mocking the suffering of Palestinians without water, electricity, food and medical aid in Gaza?
They make fun of the Palestinian women, saying that they have no teeth and have moustaches, and so on. It’s worth remembering that Dutch soldiers described a Bosnian woman by writing graffiti on a wall: “No teeth…? A moustache…? Smell like sh*t? Bosnian Girl!” Bosnia’s well-known visual artist Sejla Kameric helped to engrave this in the world’s memory with her 2003 work “Bosnian Girl”.
Some videos even show Palestinians being compared to dogs. It is paradoxical that European history records the proscription “No entry to dogs and Jews”. We all know how that ended, with Jews in concentration camps and the Holocaust.
Following such abusive content some people wrote on X that the videos were terrifying, perhaps more terrifying than the horrendous reality being seen in real time in the devastated Gaza Strip. That such videos can be made when more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, more than half of them children and women, beggars belief. Those killed exceed the number of Muslims killed at Srebrenica in 1995, which is rightly called genocide.
There is, of course, a desire for revenge against members of Hamas for killing up to 1,600 people in Israel. According to Haaretz, so far the names of 554 civilians and 347 soldiers and members of the security services are known, and that, contrary to earlier reports, no Israeli under the age of 16 was killed. What, though, does this have to do with the 2,823 women, 4,324 children, the elderly and other innocent people killed and the 2.3 million innocent others held hostage by Israel in the Gaza ghetto? The makers of those awful videos don’t mock Hamas, they mock all Palestinians.
The lack of empathy for the victims of Israel’s indiscriminate destruction of Gaza and the scale of the crime is shocking on several levels, not least the process of dehumanising the people of occupied Palestine. Award-winning investigative journalist Andrew Mitrovica says that, “Dehumanisation of Palestinians is as central to Israel’s war strategy as the deadly missiles it wields.”
However, this process is not restricted to the Middle East. As the Palestinian-American writer Ra’fat Al-Dajani explains, the dehumanisation of Palestinians works on two principles represented in the western media: “Palestinians are violent because of who they are — because of something intrinsic in their very nature and culture [but not] because of the oppression and violence of the Israeli occupation.” Hence, “Since Palestinians lack basic standards of morality… the only way to interact with them is through the use of force, whether state-sponsored force by the Israeli security forces or non-state actors such as Israeli settlers. Force is the only language they understand.”
Netanyahu’s chilling vow to destroy Gaza and his warning that the two+ million Palestinians living on this small piece of land should “get out” is an inevitable expression of apartheid, which is based on the dehumanisation of an entire people, notes Mitrovica.
In contrast to the approach shown in the available video footage, Jews are joining people around the world and raising their voices for peace. Meanwhile, the dehumanising narrative is promoted in Israel in order to create the above-mentioned “critical distance” from the Palestinians. This provides the far-right Israeli regime with tacit approval for the destruction of Gaza, for the sake of conquering the territories and persecution. In short, for the ethnic cleansing of the “undesirable population”. It all sounds horrifically familiar. Indeed, it is particularly alarming that children are often used in the disgusting videos, which means that the dehumanising narrative is transgenerational.
In the opinion of Sasha Havlicek from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), “The basic tenet of all extremist ideologies is the dehumanisation of others”, because “when you establish an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mindset you can create incredible divisions and conflicts between people.”
Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian content is flagged as inappropriate or removed from social media. As one Bosnian wrote recently, this speaks volumes about today’s world, which has plunged into darkness.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.