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When Will Palestinians Become Human?


We Palestinians have been struggling for a long time.  I am not speaking of the struggle to be recognized as an independent state, or the struggle to be recognized in the United Nations, or even the struggle to be recognized in international courts.  I am speaking, rather, of the struggle to be recognized as human beings.

I am a comedian, and I travel to Israel and Palestine often to perform, visit, and conduct workshops.  I have, to this point, done all of my work for Palestinian audiences and participants.  My first job is to be funny.  But I also hope to show that Palestinians can laugh just like everyone else, especially at ourselves.  If I do my job well, maybe I can show that we can be funny too.

The legal decision handed down yesterday in Israel, absolving the government of any and all responsibility in the 2003 death of American Rachel Corrie in Gaza, confirmed something to the world that we Palestinians are already acutely aware of:  We, and those who dare to stand with us, are simply not human beings.

In the past few weeks, this phenomenon has become all too clear in Israel.  On August 16, a group of teenagers beat a Palestinian boy to near death in a Jerusalem square.  One of those arrested for that crime publicly declared his astonishment for being held accountable for beating an Arab.  On that same day, a taxi carrying a family of Palestinians was firebombed near Hebron in the southern West Bank.  Six Palestinians were injured in that attack.

Rachel Corrie was killed while she was decrying the demolition of homes in the Gaza Strip.  She was engaging in something that we Americans have been politically and socially bred to have pride in: non-violent protest.  She stood in front of a bulldozer, only to have the driver run her over, viewing her life as no more worthy than the owners of the house he was destroying.

It is no small thing to say that the state of Israel views Palestinians as subhuman.  I do not say it lightly.  I have traveled to Israel many times, encountering the various checkpoints, border crossings, and security personnel.  I am always shocked by how Palestinians deal with this everyday.  I am never shocked by, sadly, the subhuman manner in which Israel treats them.

The Qalandia checkpoint from Ramallah to Jerusalem consists of cages and steel revolvers.  Palestinians are let through at the whim of the Israeli soldiers manning their stations.  The checkpoint itself is filthy and unsanitary.  Arab towns inside Israel are many times rundown, almost completely neglected by the Israeli government, while Jewish towns are generously funded and kept up, resembling upscale American suburbs.  Studies have shown that the Israeli government spends three times as much on schools populated by Jewish students as it does on schools with Arab students.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once referred to the Palestinian citizens of Israel as a “demographic threat.”  That remark, is, of course, utterly racist.  But one has to wonder how someone like Mr. Netanyahu, who graduated from both high school and college in America, could refer to a group of people that existed in that land for centuries before the establishment of Israel as a “demographic threat.”  The answer is simple: Palestinians are simply not human.

Newt Gingrich has called us “invented,” Barack Obama was attacked in 2008 for having a “Palestinian friend,” Ehud Barak referred to us as “crocodiles,” and former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who famously made peace with Egypt, said that Palestinians were “beasts.”  Why would we expect Israel to hold anyone responsible for killing a young woman foolish enough to protect the rights of these creatures?

Amer Zahr is a Palestinian-American residing in Dearborn.  He is a comedian and graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.


A Special Memorial Issue of CounterPunch

Featuring recollections of Alexander Cockburn from Jeffrey St. Clair, Peter Linebaugh, Paul Craig Roberts, Noam Chomsky, Mike Whitney, Doug Peacock, Perry Anderson, Becky Grant, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Neumann, Susannah Hecht, P. Sainath, Ben Tripp, Alison Weir, James Ridgeway, JoAnn Wypijewski, John Strausbaugh, Pierre Sprey, Carolyn Cooke, Conn Hallinan, James Wolcott, Laura Flanders, Ken Silverstein, Tariq Ali and many others …

Subscribe to CounterPunch Today to Reserve Your Copy


October 13, 2015
Dave Lindorff
US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
Steve Martinot
The Politics of Prisons and Prisoners
Heidi Morrison
A Portrait of an Immigrant Named Millie, Drawn From Her Funeral
Andre Vltchek
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Jeremy Malcolm
All Rights Reserved: Now We Know the Final TTP is Everything We Feared
Omar Kassem
Do You Want to See Turkey Falling Apart as Well?
Paul Craig Roberts
Recognizing Neocon Failure: Has Obama Finally Come to His Senses?
Theodoros Papadopoulos
The EU Has Lost the Plot in Ukraine
Roger Annis
Ukraine Threatened by Government Negligence Over Polio
Matthew Stanton
The Vapid Vote
Mel Gurtov
Manipulating Reality: Facebook is Listening to You
Louisa Willcox
Tracking the Grizzly’s Number One Killer
Binoy Kampmark
Assange and the Village Gossipers
Robert Koehler
Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime
Jon Flanders
Railroad Workers Fight Proposed Job Consolidation
Mark Hand
Passion and Pain: Photographer Trains Human Trafficking Survivors
October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria