By Mazin Qumsiyeh
13 July, 2012
It is abundantly clear that oppressors spend an inordinate amount of time and resources to dehumanize their victims. But we humans spend an inordinate amount of time also trying to suppress our own humanity. To dehumanize someone is to deprive them of essential human qualities such as compassion, individuality, love, and social contact. Making a family line up in the sun for hours to cross a checkpoint is a form of dehumanizing. It is dehumanizing to deny medical care, to destroy means of livelihood, to take someone's land, to put someone in solitary confinement in jail for months and years, or to tell someone that she is not of God's chosen peopel so she has lless rights.
Dehumanizing makes it easier for the colonizers to not feel compassion for their victims as they rob them of their lands and natural resources. In so doing the occupiers thus also dehumanize themselves because they have to desensitize themselves to human suffering. But the victims themselves can also internalize the dehumanization to think of themselves as somehow unworthy or that their life can only gain meaning if they emulate their oppressors and thus become oppressors themselves. That is why abused children may sometimes grow up to abuse their own children. This spiral of dehumanizing can and must be challenged and the obvious way to do it is via our efforts to humanize ourselves and others: show compassion, mercy, love, and connectedness. The styruggle is mostly inward and it is our own negativism that must be challenged every day, nay every hour. That is the humanizing struggle that is the hardest struggle of all.
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Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine. He serves as chairman of the board of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour He is author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle" and “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment” http://qumsiyeh.org
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