Segregating Gazans has made them easier to demonise

Amira Hass writes: A stout sense of humour and self-irony is the least most Israelis expect of Gazans. It is certainly true today, when they are spoken of almost solely through the hyperbole of military commentators who jump frantically from discussing the Iranian threat to the danger that the tiny, overcrowded, impoverished and besieged enclave poses to the state of Israel, a global military power.

But that sense of humour is also lost in the victim-oriented Palestinian media reports or the militant statements of anonymous veiled speakers and lower-tier Hamas politicians of which the meagre Israeli media diet ordinarily consists.

Now we would struggle to understand stories such as the following anecdote, relayed to me by the Fatah activist Abu Mustafa. Thirty years ago, Mustafa was being tortured by an Israeli interrogator. “You must be getting a double salary,” Mustafa told the oversized interrogator, who was stepping on his back and squeezing his arms. “How come?” The Israeli was surprised. “Because of your weight,” said Mustafa, as he was struggling with the pain. According to this thin and shy man, the interrogator burst out laughing, was unable to continue his chore and left the room. Did Mustafa want to mellow his own memory of the torture when he shared that story with me, or did his humour indeed reach home with his tormentor?

Even 25 years ago, the relationship between Gazans and Israelis was very different. Back then, Gazans were a reservoir of cheap labour and still flocked to the streets of Israeli towns – to be found in every restaurant, clothing factory, garage and construction site. How were they seen then by the ordinary Israeli? Were they mere functional shadows who disappeared in their dorm shanties? Dispensable ghosts? Savages? An Uncle Tom? [Continue reading…]

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