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  • Writer's pictureAmr Abbas

The Tick and the Barbarians: A Reflection on the Gaza War

There are a few words that bother me as much as the term “barbarian” in modern-day politics.

 

When I arrived in Sweden, I was introduced to something so insignificant to us as human beings on a larger scale: insect hotels. I was walking in the woods when I first encountered one. I think my immediate reaction was something along the lines of “What the hell is that? Was someone experimenting with a drill?” and then I was told that it was an insect hotel. It consisted of different types of wood with different-sized holes in them. So, you can imagine what went through my head when I saw that. It was weird and fascinating and delightful all at once.. There is a certain level of respect for insects that they are offered hotels…in the woods…where there is wood…

I keep thinking about that.

Then, I am constantly horrified by a video that popped up some months ago during the war in Gaza in which John F. Kirby makes a statement about the civilian casualties and someone on the internet decided to compare it to his reaction to the war in Ukraine. In the video, Kirby is matter-of-factly about the civilian casualties in Gaza, whereas he stutters and pauses in grief over the war in Ukraine.

The relationship between Russia and America has been, for as long as I remember, complex. The relationship between Israel and Palestine has also been complex to the highest of levels. The relationship between Swedes and insects is not. It’s simple. I live, I work, you live and you work. There’s nothing too complicated about that. We need the insects for the flowers to bloom.

 

On the Barbarians

(n)

1. a person from an alien land, culture, or group believed to be inferior, uncivilized, or violent—used chiefly in historical references

2. a barbarous person: a rude, crude, uneducated, or uncivilized person

 

Emmanuel Kant referred to “Barbarians” and “Brutes” whom he pointed out would have received a “restrained” form of freedom. When I read that, I understood something novel to me. I, with my dark skin and my background, can so easily be perceived as the Barbarian here. Of course, that is hardly the case. I do not face a lot of direct racism in most of the places that I have been. That, however, doesn’t eliminate the forms of unseen racism that I likely have faced.

Racism would have been a good thing to discuss herein; however, it is not racism that I want to discuss; it is the dehumanization of an entire ethnic group. With a war going on between Israel and Hamas that, so far, has taken the lives of over 30,000 civilians—women, children, and men—it wasn’t the dramatic toll on Gaza and the civilians that made the United States President Joe Biden call for a ceasefire. It was the seven humanitarian workers of the World Central Kitchen (WCK) that led Biden to call for a ceasefire.

The seven workers, according to the reports, were killed by an Israeli strike, or in that case, three Israeli strikes that targeted the vehicles. According to some reports, after the first strike, the workers moved from one car to the other, and then after the second strike, the survivors moved to the other vehicle. The UN reports that 196 aid workers have been killed by Israeli strikes since October 7, 2023. I am not certain of their ethnicities, but since they worked for UNRWA, they didn’t make the news as well. Were they Barbarians?

Bibi constantly addresses Gazans as “Barbarians” or calls the fight a fight against barbarism. That is not the first time Arab Gazans were called by dehumanizing terms. The UN, chief as early as December of last year, warned against the dehumanization of Palestinians.

 

What Does It Take?

I have a soft spot for journalists and journalism despite the fact that I cannot vouch for the objectivity of journalism. I follow the news, and nowadays I follow the news more anxiously than ever. Journalism plays a vital role in our everyday life. Journalists are in a way, humanitarian workers despite having their agendas. Over the course of the war that started after the horrendous attack on Israel, 95 journalists and media workers have been confirmed dead between the 7th of October 2023, and the 5th of April 2024. More than 75% of the journalists killed in 2023 died in the Gaza war, including 2 Israelis.

I have heard multiple times the term “good vs. evil” in describing Israel vs. Hamas/Gaza as per my previous reflection. However, with the UN humanitarian chief calling the war a betrayal against humanity, I find myself in a vortex of shambled mess. I hear the Israeli representatives at the UN claiming that the world is standing against them.

 

Antisemitism

A dear friend of mine informed me that when she arrived in Germany, she found no one wearing the Palestinian scarf. She felt like the odd one out. I don’t think anyone was wearing the scarf because they did not support the cause of a Palestinian state and Palestinian freedom, but I understand the idea that Germans would want to distance themselves from the whole conflict with what appears to be support for Israel. At the end of the day, it was because of Nazi Germany and the horrors of the holocaust that Israel was founded.

Israel is such a beautiful concept on paper. A home for the Jewish people in the birthplace of all Abrahamic religions. It is certainly a beautiful concept. I wish that the concept could be as beautiful as the reality. When I write, I keep thinking about the idea of antisemitism. Yes, I criticize Israeli politics and occupation, but I also criticize and mourn the land of Syria, and the Arab nations that are united in one thing and one thing only, dictatorships.

Perhaps Israel has been far too influenced by the politics of the Arab nation and has succumbed to dictatorship. Perhaps we have all been fed the same poison in the area that we have grown to hate each other. Perhaps…

I am not antisemitic. Neither are many of the people that criticize the actions of Israel. Many Jews would be—and have been called—antisemitic for their criticism. The problem is not with the religion, but with the state of Israel and what it has done since 1948.

The history of Israel from the holocaust until today is horrific and troubling. The story of the Jews throughout history is just as troubling. But because I have been wronged by an American in 2009 does not mean that all Americans will wrong me.

 

The Tick

Back to the beginning, if you ever decide to visit Sweden, it’s not the moose that you have to be wary of. Of course, if you encounter one, you should be scared, especially if they are drunk. It’s not the wolves or the foxes. It is the tick!

The tick is the most dangerous creature in Sweden according to the folks here. Ticks thrive in long grass. Sweden has not attempted to remove all the long grass for fear of the tick.

We live in the 21st century where we understand the value of insects to the ecosystem. We do not remove patches of grass anymore just to kill a tick. Sure, we take precautions, but we don’t mindlessly attack or retaliate. We can get emotional, we can get upset, and we defend ourselves if the need comes, but we do not treat other human beings as vermin. This dialogue should have ended with the establishment of the UN. It should not be repeated by the victims of the greatest atrocity of mankind in the 20th century on the people without a land. In theory, Israel should be a champion of humanity, not dehumanization.

I wish all the pain and suffering for all the countrymen of Israel and Palestine to stop. I hope that the cost of repairing all of this will not be as high as it is now. The inflation of human life has caused the worth of life to diminish. If we accept this today, tomorrow, it will be you and I. Privilege does not last.


Written by Amr Abbas.

Cover photo by Victor Alexander Olsson.


Editors’ Note: The current Israel-Hamas war is part of a long and complex history. The issue is emotionally and politically charged which makes it all the more difficult to discuss the current situation in a rational and unbiased manner. Recognizing this, we nonetheless consider it important to debate and raise awareness on ongoing events and to provide a platform for diverse perspectives. In doing so we seek to be as reflexive, objective, and critical as possible while taking a firm stand against all forms of discrimination and injustice – racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, or otherwise. If you think that there is a mistake or problematic statement in our content, we are always open to feedback which you can send to us through our contact form.



 


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