Russia dehumanizes Ukrainians in strikingly similar ways that Israel dehumanizes Palestinians

By | March 9, 2022

Peter Beinart writes:

In the days since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, Ukrainians and their supporters have been lionized for the same forms of resistance to oppression for which Palestinians are routinely condemned. Western television networks have approvingly broadcast video of Ukrainians assembling Molotov cocktails. Governors who signed legislation penalizing boycotts of Israel have promoted boycotts of Russia. When Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced last month that he would join a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council because “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscores the Council’s mission to promote human rights and respond when they are violated or abused,” the Palestinian American writer Yousef Munayyer noted that the US had left the Council because it “didn’t want to see accountability for human rights abuses and violations of law committed by Israel.”

Late last month, a tweet circulated that purported to show a Ukrainian girl confronting a Russian soldier. It called the girl’s behavior “courageous” and included the words “Pray for Ukraine.” The Palestinian American journalist Mariam Barghouti noticed the error. “This is Ahed Tamimi,” she wrote, “a Palestinian standing up to an Israeli settler soldier trying to steal the lands of her family in Nabi Saleh . . . She is indeed brave. Just not Ukrainian.”

In mainstream American discourse, Ukrainians, a mostly white and Christian people battling an American foe, are viewed as fully human, and thus entitled to fight for their freedom. Palestinians, a mostly nonwhite and non-Christian people battling an American ally, are not. The irony is that the arguments Russia’s government deploys to dehumanize Ukrainians are strikingly similar to the ones Israel’s government uses to dehumanize Palestinians. For Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian peoplehood is invented, weaponized, and genocidal, which is how Israeli leaders have long described Palestinian peoplehood. In both cases, this three-part claim—that a neighboring people is not really a people, that it is controlled by foreign foes, and that it seeks your extermination—justifies aggression and the brutal denial of human rights. [Continue reading…]

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