The process of genocide unfolds in various stages, and one pivotal step revolves around dehumanization. Perpetrators, seeking to cope with the psychological burden of mass murder, convince themselves that the victims possess lower levels of humanity than they do. This twisted mentality allows them to rationalize their atrocious actions as necessary. Importantly, dehumanization demands continuous effort to acquire support from both the domestic population and international actors.
A recent and highly contentious incident sheds light on the significance of dehumanization in the process of genocide. The Washington Post, known for its thought-provoking content, faced significant backlash due to a caricature published during the period when Israel was targeting Gaza civilians. Titled "Human Shields," the cartoon depicted a man with bestial traits, portraying the enemy as barbaric, criminal, and an imminent danger to women and children. The public outrage arising from this depiction prompted the editor to remove the cartoon, recognizing the profound and divisive impact it had on the community.
It is vital to acknowledge that this portrayal of Arabs in a dehumanizing light is not an isolated occurrence; rather, it aligns with a consistent trend prevalent in media and films. Such media practices bear similarities to the dehumanizing caricatures of Jews during the era of Nazi Germany. The underlying intention behind these depictions is to create a clear division between the righteous "us" and the bestial "them," instigating further division and conflict.
This incident serves as a potent reminder of the insidious nature of dehumanization and its role within the broader context of genocide. It underscores the critical need for increased awareness and accountability regarding the contents disseminated by the media and the subsequent impact on shaping public opinion. By striving to eradicate harmful and dehumanizing narratives, societies can take a significant stride towards fostering empathy, understanding, and peace.Anti-Japanese propaganda cartoons from World War II, including those by renowned children's author Dr. Seuss, utilize similar techniques. In the late 19th century, anti-Irish cartoons in the UK and the US also portrayed Irish immigrants as savage animals. Similarly, Black Americans have historically been depicted as monkeys or apes. The purpose of these portrayals is clear and malevolent: to link one's character with their physical appearance, portrayed as repugnant. However, the Nazis took this dehumanization to an even further extreme by regularly depicting Jews as rats with inhumane features, suggesting they scurry away from the "cleansing" actions of the Aryan race. Shockingly, the Daily Mail replicated these Nazi tactics in 2015, although they didn't explicitly portray migrants as rats, effectively stripping them of their humanity.
This reprehensible act was attributed to Michael Ramirez, a Pulitzer Prize winner, for his cartoon titled "Human Shields," published in The Washington Post in 2018. Despite the context of the Palestinian Great March of Return, in which unarmed protestors were killed by Israeli snipers, Ramirez chose to draw a cartoon featuring a swarm of rats carrying Palestinian flags, being fired upon, and falling off a cliff, while placing blame on Israel for their fate. The fact that The Washington Post overlooked the deeply divisive nature of this artwork is evident.