On the ‘telegenically dead’

From my latest for Al Jazeera English:

Social media has been described as “humanising” the Palestinian victims. Television may be decried by politicians and pundits, but the internet is where Gaza’s story is told firsthand by its residents, where graphic images of the grieved are shared.

If you are being “humanised”, you are already losing. To be “humanised” implies that your humanity is never assumed, but something you have to prove.

“What am I supposed to do/be to be qualified as a human?” Maisam Abumorr, a writer and student in Gaza, asks. “As far as I can tell, I live like normal humans do. I love, I hate, I cry, I laugh, I make mistakes, I learn, I dream, I hurt, I get hurt… I still have not figured out what crime I have committed to endure this kind of wretchedness. I wonder what being human feels like.”

For every group that uses media to affirm its humanity, there is another group proclaiming that humanity as irrelevant, or inconvenient, or a lie. One can see this not only in the Middle East conflict, but in movements like Nigeria’s “Bring Back Our Girls”, frequently proclaimed “forgotten” due to their so-called “nameless and faceless” victims. But the girls were never nameless and faceless to the Nigerians who fought, and continue to fight, for their survival. They have names that few learned, faces from which many turned away. The people who refuse to forget are the ones the West has now forgotten.

In all documentation of violence, from memoirs to social media, lies a plea to not forget. There is a reason Netanyahu fears the “telegenically dead”. They haunt the world like ghosts – a reminder of what we have done, what we are capable of doing, and the lengths gone to justify it.

Those dehumanised in life become humanised in death. With this realisation you mourn not only the dead. You mourn the living too.

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