Middle East

Israel paints Palestinians as 'animals' to legitimize war crimes: Israeli scholar

Israel 'dehumanizes Palestinians in claims that they are immoral,' Israeli professor of international law and human rights Neve Gordon tells Anadolu

Halil İbrahim Medet  | 23.10.2023 - Update : 24.10.2023
Israel paints Palestinians as 'animals' to legitimize war crimes: Israeli scholar Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border as the clash between Israeli army and Palestinian factions continues in Israel on October 19, 2023. Yoav Gallant on Thursday hinted of starting an expected ground operation in the Gaza Strip soon as he visited troops on the border.


Israel is using a "dehumanization" strategy to justify its attacks on civilian areas in Gaza following the surprise attack by Hamas's armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, according to an Israeli professor of international law and human rights. 

Neve Gordon, a member of the Faculty of Law at Queen Mary University in London, who is of Israeli descent, told Anadolu that Israel is working hard to legitimize the war crimes it commits.

According to Gordon, attacks on civilian areas, hospitals, the wounded, medical personnel, and protected areas are generally considered war crimes, and Israel is also committing war crimes by blocking access to electricity and water in Gaza.

Gordon said he believes state armies try to see themselves as moral but must adhere to the laws of war to be considered a moral army. 

Neve Gordon, a member of the Faculty of Law at Queen Mary University in London

Israel "interprets its actions in such a way as to show that they were carried out according to the laws of war, and therefore, it claims that it is moral ... At the same time, it dehumanizes the Palestinians in claims that they are immoral,” he explained.

"Palestinians are presented as barbarian and as primitive and as people who do not understand the laws of war, people that do not make distinctions between civilians and combatants, and so forth, and therefore they are immoral, while Israel claims that it tries to protect civilians.”  

‘Legitimizing’ war crimes

Statements like Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant saying, "We are fighting against animals" are clear examples of the strategy to try to legitimize war crimes, said Gordon.

Comparisons of Palestinians to "rats or snakes" on Israeli social media accounts are an effort to "dehumanize" them and "legitimize civilian deaths."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that Gaza is a “city of evil," he said, adding: "When Israel tells 1.1 million Palestinians to move south, and then claims that any Palestinian civilian that stayed there is involved in the conflict, and therefore, a legitimate target, is a way of manipulating the laws of war."

Gordon stressed the need to reduce violence in conflicts, highlighting that it begins with recognizing that each person who dies is a human being with a name, a family, children, sisters, brothers, and friends.   

Importance of understanding that each life matters

He also said he finds it horrifying to label civilians who die in conflicts "collateral damage," as no one would want to be referred to as such. The use of such terms sterilizes the field and allows for more destruction, he said.

Gordon pointed to the extreme asymmetry in the conflict, with Israel possessing much more advanced weaponry than the Palestinians.

He said he believes "this might be even the most asymmetrical war ever" and called on Western and international leaders to work toward reducing tension and stopping the violence instead of "fanning the flames" by sending aircraft carriers to the region.

He also urged Western media to emphasize the humanity of those killed and draw attention to the structural inequality between Israel and Palestine in the occupied territories.

He voiced support for bringing the Palestinian group Hamas and Israel to the negotiating table, to work for the release of hostages held by both sides, and to facilitate a cease-fire.

Gordon stressed that talking about a cease-fire alone is not enough, and the decolonization of the West Bank and Gaza must also be addressed. Efforts should be made to reach a democratic agreement between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, he said.

Israel on Oct. 7 launched a relentless bombardment campaign on the Gaza Strip following a cross-border attack by Hamas into Israeli border towns. The bombing put the territory’s 2.3 million residents under total siege and a blockade of food, fuel, and medical supplies.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an “immediate humanitarian cease-fire” to ease the “epic human suffering.”

Nearly 6,500 people have been killed in the conflict, including at least 5,087 Palestinians and more than 1,400 Israelis.  

*Writing by Alperen Aktas

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.