Dehumanising Our Conscience

The Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East has not only divided global public opinion but has given rise to hatred against  both Jews and Muslims, we cannot let hate divide us anymore in this already polarised world

By Pranay K Shome

Opinion

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Hate is defined as a strong repulsive or aversive feeling towards the ‘other’. Hate can be of various shades and nuances. Hate in Homo Sapiens can be directed not only towards objects but also fellow human beings. The ‘other’ in this context refers to any particular individual. On a societal scale, it may refer to hatred against a particular ethnic, religious or social community.

This otherisation manifests itself in denouncing their actions, berating their nature by conjuring up stereotypes etc. Joshua Greene, a psychologist and academic in his brilliant book Moral Tribes-Emotion, Reason and the Gap between us and them states that this repulsive feeling descends into more serious and perverted form when the members of the in-group liken them to animals or insects; in other words, dehumanising their very existence.

A culmination of all this results in a potentially lethal outcome-ethnic cleansing or genocide; the final solution to the ethnicity problem.

The Holocaust of the Jewish people, masterminded by Adolf Hitler and his henchmen in the form of the Final Solution to the ‘Jewish Question’ can be compared to the pogrom the Romans carried out against the Jews in 70 AD as they were expelled from Judea, notes historian Simon Sebag Montefiore in his book Jerusalem-The Biography. The Holocaust was a caustic cocktail of otherisation of the Jewish people. It started in the form of the Kristallnacht, followed by the passing of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 that forbade intermarriage between Jews and Germans. The ostensible rationale was to not allow the impurity of the German Aryan blood by inter-marriage.

Hate is defined as a strong repulsive or aversive feeling towards the ‘other’. Hate can be of various shades and nuances. On a societal scale, it may refer to hatred against a particular ethnic, religious or social community

The process of dehumanisation continued unabated; Jewish property was confiscated, their homes destroyed by Nazi thugs. The condition of Jewish people in Germany continued to deteriorate with the Nazi regime launching a malicious state sponsored propaganda which portrayed Jews as ‘rats, cockroaches’ etc. All this continued as the Final solution took shape slowly.

One of the reasons why Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia was to not only consolidate his hold over Europe but also to bring as much territory as possible to exterminate the Jewish people, once and for all.

Operation Barbarossa was also motivated by the need to not only establish a thousand-year German Reich ‘stretching from the Volga to Urals’, but also Hitler’s intense ideological hatred against the Communists on one hand and ethnic hatred against the Jewish people of Russia.

Fast forward to the present day, we see a war in the Middle East that has grabbed global headlines for all the wrong reasons. There is no doubt that the Hamas attack on 7 October  on Israel was dastardly and demands not only the strongest of condemnations but also a swift and effective military response to dismantle the Hamas terror group.

The Holocaust was a caustic cocktail of otherisation of the Jewish people. It started in the form of the Kristallnacht, the ostensible rationale was to not allow the impurity of the German Aryan blood by inter-marriage

But instead, we are being witness to Israel unleashing havoc in the name of continued military attacks. Israeli airstrikes and ground operation has reduced the length and breadth of Gaza to a barren wasteland. Infrastructure stands in ruins. Over 85% of the Gazan population have been displaced.

But what is more concerning is the unprecedented human costs. So far, over 21,000 Palestinians have died. Israel’s airstrikes in the civilian areas, particularly refugee camps, present a clear violation of international humanitarian laws. South Africa has taken the lead in filing a petition at the International Court of Justice against Israel over the ‘genocide’ in Gaza.

To complicate matters further, we see rising anti-Semitism against Jews and Islamophobia against Muslims across the world. A particular point of concern has been the rise in Anti-Semitism in the elite US university campuses. The presidents of elite Ivy league universities like Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of British Columbia have all resigned due to their failure to curb the hate currently underway in the campus.

While the hatred against Jewish people is really concerning, what is more concerning is the increased virulent anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe. The rise of far-right parties in Europe; particularly in Holland, Italy, Hungary has become a challenge of sorts to the liberal values espoused by the West in the name of protection of human rights.

Today, we are being witness to Israel unleashing havoc in the name of continued military attacks. Israeli airstrikes and ground operation has reduced the length and breadth of Gaza to a barren wasteland

The hawkish tone adopted by ruling parties in these countries against predominantly Muslim immigrants from the Middle East is being seen in many circles as a resurrection of the Clash of Civilisations thesis – Liberal West versus Islamic world on the other hand.

We must realise that what is of paramount importance is love and compassion. The 20th century was the bloodiest in human history in terms of human lives lost. Hate was one of the drivers of such carnage.

We cannot allow hate to divide us, not at a time when humankind is at a critical stage in its history. We cannot let a rerun of the Holocaust in any part of the world. Humanity needs to unite immediately.

–The writer is currently working as a Research Associate at Defence Research and Studies (dras.in) and is a columnist. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda