In the early 1990s, prior to the Rwandan genocide, the minority Tutsi group in Rwanda were constantly called inyenzi, or cockroaches,
by those who sought to destroy them. The strategy was to dehumanize the
minority group, making it easier to inspire others to join in
destroying the minority group, thus resulting in the Rwandan genocide
in 1994. The same rhetoric has often been used by Israeli soliders
and generals which have been connected with Palestinian massacres. For
example, following the Sabra and Shatilla massacres in which thousands
of Palestinians were massacred, Rafael Eitan,
former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces, stated “the Arabs
could only run around like cockroaches in a bottle, like drugged
cockroaches inside a bottle.” At the same time, then Prime-Minister Menachem Begin called Palestinians “two-legged beasts”.
In fact, this trend of dehumanization is apparent in almost every epic of genocide, massacre, war, and atrocity including the Cambodian genocide massacres, the the massacres of Serbs and Bosnians in the Yugoslav wars, the Armenian genocide, and . As noted by Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, dehumanization of a people is a step toward genocide and other human rights abuses:
“One group denies the humanity of the other group.
Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases.
Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. At
this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to
vilify the victim group.”
As further noted by anthropologists Ashley Montagu and Floyd Matson:
“dehumanization might well be considered “the fifth
horsemen of the apocalypse” because of the inestimable damage it has
dealt to society. When people become things, the logic follows, they
become dispensable – and any atrocity can be justified.”
It is, therefore, no small thing when the Columbus Dispatch publishes a cartoon depicting Iranians as cockroaches crawling out of an sewer representing Iran. As noted by the National Iranian American Council:
“By publishing this racist cartoon, the editors of the Dispatch have
insulted and propagated hate against the Iranian American community.”
The Columbus Dispatch should be ashamed of itself for both being
historically ignorant and blatantly racist in its depiction of
Iranians. History has shown that it is precisely these allusions that have results in horrendous atrocities. The cartoon’s political point is outweighed significantly by the disturbing message it portrays about Iranians, particularly given the existing political and racial environment toward Iranians. Shame on them.