Humanize Palestine is a new initiative intended to challenge the commonly dehumanizing or insensitive portrayal of Palestinians in mainstream media. This unique project aims to restore and maintain the identities of Palestinians killed at the hands of the Israeli military, particularly when they are dryly featured in news stories or depicted as collateral damage in an ongoing conflict.
According to website’s ‘About’ page, the individuals behind this effort take issue with the presentation of casualties in this latest military offensive. When a Palestinian is killed, news networks almost always circulate photographs of the victim’s funeral or of a burned, beaten, or otherwise mutilated body. But when an Israeli goes missing or is killed, the media introduces their story with photographs of them smiling with friends or positing with family. To the website creators, this creates a level of empathy that allows viewers to connect with the victim — a connection that is just not afforded to Palestinians.
Worse still, the presentation of Palestinians as disposable bodies strips the victims of their identities, their agencies, and their life stories which are just as important as anyone else’s. Humanize Palestine aims to combat that. For example, Abdulla Amara’s memorial page reveals that he was on his way to becoming a human rights lawyer before being killed in the shelling of Gaza City’s Shuja’iyya neighborhood.
“They all have lives, loved ones, dreams and aspirations,” said one of the website creators in an emailed correspondence. “Why are Palestinians denied that? Repetitive images of deceased bodies devalue their lives as humans and reduce them to a number.”
The website creators have chosen to remain anonymous so that all attention can be focused on the victims of Israel’s assault. With the death toll in the Gaza Strip rising to nearly 700 since Israel commenced the invasion on July 8, there is more need for this initiative now than ever before.
“Although we try to recite their names at protests or on social media, it’s hard to remember the name without matching it to a picture of a face. When you see a picture of someone who has died, they become real. They become someone you know. They become someone you love. They deserve to be remembered in a positive light,” adds one of the minds behind the effort.
One of the project’s main goals is to centralize and consolidate these positive images for use by news networks and media agencies across the world. That way, the website creator adds, the victims will not exploited or dehumanized.
There is an implicit understanding that not every victim will be represented with a photograph. Some victims were too young to have taken been in a photograph. Others might not have had access to a camera before their deaths. Some might not have ever uploaded anything to a computer, and whatever physical photographs they owned were destroyed by an air strike.
Despite this, Humanize Palestine still aims to feature every Palestinian it can. The death toll is climbing, however, and the website administrators cannot always keep up. If you have any photographs of the victims at a happier time or if you have any details you think would be important to add or fix, Humanize Palestine urges you to contact them and make a submission.
You can follow Humanize Palestine on Twitter at @HumanizePal.