Menu Close

‘Human Animals’: this sordid language gives Israel a ‘Licence to Kill’

Add to my bookmarks

Share This Article:

Picture: Said Khatib / AFP / Taken on October 8, 2023 – Relatives carry the bodies of children from the Abu Quta family who were killed in Israeli strikes on the Palestinian city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, during their funeral on Sunday, October 8. The Defence for Children International-Palestine, a Palestinian child is killed every 15 minutes, and, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 70 percent of all of Gaza’s casualties are women and children, the writer says. The post-October 7 vocabulary used by Israelis, but also many Americans, created the atmosphere necessary for the savage Israeli response which followed, the writer says.

By Ramzy Baroud

“(Tutsis) are cockroaches. We will kill you.” – Rwandan national radio station, now defunct

Arabs are like “drugged cockroaches in a bottle”. – Rafael Eitan

The first quote was a line repeated frequently by the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, a Rwandan radio station, which is largely blamed for inciting hatred towards the Tutsi people.

The second is by former Israeli army Chief-of-Staff General Rafael Eitan in 1983, speaking at an Israeli parliament’s committee.

Rwanda’s hate-filled radio station operated for only one year (1993-94), yet the outcome of its incitement resulted in one of the saddest and most tragic episodes in modern human history: the genocide of the Tutsis.

Compare “Radio Genocide” to the massive Israeli-US-Western propaganda, dehumanising Palestinians almost with identical language to that used by Hutus’ media.

Since Israel’s top political authorities have already declared that all Palestinians are collectively responsible for the October 7 events, this means that all Palestinians are, per Gallant’s assessment, “human animals”, deserving no mercy.

Many seem to forget that, long before the Gaza war on October 7, and even long before the establishment of Israel itself in 1948, the Zionist-Israeli discourse has always been that of racism, dehumanisation, erasure and, at times, outright genocide.

If one is to randomly select any period of Israeli history to examine the political discourse emanating from Israeli officials, institutions and even intellectuals, one is to draw the same conclusion: Israel has always built a narrative of incitement and hatred, thus making a constant case for the genocide of Palestinians.

Picture: Mohammed Abed / AFP / Taken on October 9, 2023 – A fireball erupts from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on October 9, 2023. More than 6,500 Palestinians have died since October 8, when Israel declared war on Gaza. The post-October 7 language Israelis and also many in the US and its allied countries, has created the atmosphere necessary for the savage Israeli response that has followed, the writer says.

Only recently, this genocidal intent is becoming obvious to many people.

“There is … a risk of genocide against the Palestinian People,” the UN experts said in a statement on October 19. But this “risk of genocide” is not born out of recent events.

Indeed, effective political or military actions anywhere in the world hardly take place without an edifice of text and language that facilitates, rationalises, and justifies those actions. Israel’s perception of Palestinians is a perfect illustration of this claim.

Prior to the establishment of Israel, Zionists denied the very existence of the Palestinians. Many still do.

When that is the case, it becomes only logical to draw a conclusion that Israel, in its own collective mind, cannot be morally culpable of killing those who have never existed in the first place.

Even when Palestinians factor into the Israeli political discourse, they become “bloodthirsty animals”, “terrorists”, or “drugged cockroaches in a bottle”.

It would be too convenient to label this as just “racist”. Though racism is at work here, this sense of racial supremacy does not exist to merely maintain a sociopolitical order, in which Israelis are masters and Palestinians are serfs. It is far more complex.

As soon as Palestinian fighters from Gaza crossed into the southern border of Israel, killing hundreds, not a single Israeli politician, analyst, or mainstream intellectual seemed interested in the context of the daring act.

The post-October 7 language used by Israelis, but also many Americans, created the atmosphere necessary for the savage Israeli response that followed.

The number of Palestinians who have been killed in the first eight days of the Israeli war against Gaza has reportedly exceeded the number of casualties who have been killed during the longest and most destructive Israeli war on the strip, dubbed “Protective Edge”, in 2014.

According to The Defence for Children International-Palestine, a Palestinian child is killed every 15 minutes, and, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 70 percent of all of Gaza’s casualties are women and children.

For Israel, none of these facts matter. In the mind of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, often perceived as a “moderate”, the “rhetoric about civilians not (being) involved (is) absolutely not true”. They are legitimate targets, simply because they “could’ve risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime”, he said, referring to Hamas.

Therefore, “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible”, according to Herzog, who promised payback.

Ariel Kallner, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, explained Israel’s goal behind the Gaza war. “Right now, one goal: Nakba! A Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of 1948,” he said.

The same sentiment was conveyed by Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, the man responsible for translating Israel’s declaration of war into an action plan: “We are fighting human animals and we will act accordingly,” he said on October 9. “Accordingly,” here, meant that “there will be no electricity, no food, no fuel”. “Everything is closed.” And, of course, [it meant] thousands of dead civilians.

Since Israel’s top political authorities have already declared that all Palestinians are collectively responsible for the October 7 events, this means that all Palestinians are, per Gallant’s assessment, “human animals”, deserving no mercy.

Expectedly, Israel’s supporters in the US and other Western countries joined the chorus, also using the most violent and dehumanising language, thus cementing mainstream Israeli political discourse among ordinary people.

US presidential hopeful Nikki Haley told Fox News on October 10 that the Hamas attack was not just on Israel but “is an attack on America”. It was then that she made her sinister declaration, while looking directly at the camera, “Netanyahu, finish them, finish them … finish them!”

Though US President Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not use the exact same words, they both made comparisons between the October 7 events and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The meaning behind this requires no elaboration.

For his part, US Senator Lindsey Graham rallied American conservative and religious supporters, declaring on October 11, also on Fox News, “We are in a religious war here … Do whatever the hell you have to do … Level the place.”

Much more, equally sinister language was — and continues — to be uttered. The outcome is being broadcast around the clock. Israel is “finishing off” the Gaza civilian population, it is “levelling” thousands of homes, mosques, hospitals, churches, and schools. Indeed, it is producing another painful episode of the Nakba.

From Golda Meir’s “Palestinians did not exist” ( 1969) to Menachem Begin’s Palestinians are “beasts walking on two legs” (1982), to Eli Ben Dahan’s “Palestinians are like animals, they aren’t human” (2013), to numerous other racist and dehumanising references, the Zionist discourse remains unchanged.

Now, it is all coming together, the language and the action are in perfect alignment. Perhaps, it is time to start paying attention to how Israel’s genocidal language is translated to an actual genocide on the ground. Sadly, for thousands of Palestinian civilians, this awareness is simply too late.

Dr Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of the Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books including: “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (2019), “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (2010) and “The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle” (2006). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

This article was first published on Common Dreams