Why must we treat Palestinians as humans?

Racism, mainstream Israeli-style:

“When Israel sends a sophisticated satellite into space, the Arabs come up with a new kind of hummus,” Dr. Dan Schueftan told students during his course on Israel’s security perspective in the diplomacy and security program for senior managers at Tel Aviv University.

An essay that was published in last Friday’s weekend supplement reveals that during his lectures, Dr. Schueftan made additional remarks such as “The Arabs are the biggest failure in the history of the human race. There’s nothing under the sun that’s more screwed up than the Palestinians”; “The Iran-Iraq war was, in Hanna Szenes’s words, ”˜My God, my God, I pray that it never end. Seven years of pure pleasure”; “Throughout the Arab world, people fire guns at weddings in order to prove that they have at least one thing that’s hard and in working order that can shoot.”

Schueftan has a great deal of influence over high-ranking members of the security establishment and the upper political echelon. Several high-ranking officials of the Mossad and of the army took his course at Tel Aviv University as well. Some of them did not like Schueftan’s remarks. “Even if we enjoyed the course itself, we didn’t like the style,” one student said. Another student even left the course after several meetings. “It’s not respectable and even vulgar to make remarks like that during a lesson,” she said. “I chose not to confront him. That’s not why I went to university. I chose to leave.”

As Omar Barghouti, a leader of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, writes:

The racist utterance by Prof. Dan Scheuftan of Tel Aviv University is quite typical in the Israeli academy, a bastion of racism that has for decades proven to be an essential, reliable and very effective partner in the Israeli regime of oppression against the Palestinian people. The peculiar thing about this specific incident is that it got reported; 99% of similar incidences go unreported. It is no big deal today in the Israeli academy to make revolting racist remarks against Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims that would cause an uproar in any decent society had they been made against ANY minority, let alone against Jews! But, then again, who said Israel was a “decent” society?!

Israeli star academics, like Arnon Sofer, who considers himself the conceptual father of Israel’s Wall in the occupied territory and the brain behind most of the Jewish-only colonies — Mitzpim — in the predominantly Palestinian Galilee in the north of Israel, are celebrated by the academy, not censured. The Mitzpim project, after all, is a normal — if not very successful — Israeli exercise in demographic control and geographic development.

Israel’s arguably most influential and celebrated philosopher, Asa Kasher, co-authored the code of conduct of the Israeli occupation army, giving “moral” justification for extra-judicial killings, collective punishment, among other acts that are regarded as crimes of war in international law. A normal Israeli exercise in moral philosophy.

And the list goes on … endlessly. The history of the Israeli academy is more than anything else the history of providing the academic and intellectual scaffolding, design, justification and… normalization… of Israel’s fatal cocktail of apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism. As Ilan Pappe rightly points out, Israeli academics, with a few bright exceptions, act like ambassadors that whitewash their state’s crimes and justify its every violation of international law and basic human rights.
Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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