One criticism laid on Mitt Romney during the recent US presidential campaign was that he seemed to think rich people -- so called 'job creators' -- deserved a tax break because they needed an incentive to grow the economy but poor people, if they got help of any kind, well, they were just moochers.
That kind of thinking is a form of dehumanization. We count, but they don't. Our needs matter, but theirs don't. Our pain hurts, but theirs doesn't.
I've seen it endlessly from both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just take the latest events in Gaza and Israel. Hamas has lobbed hundreds of rockets, specifically targeting towns and cities. But because the rockets' capabilities are primitive and only a few have actually hit population centers or killed Israelis, apologists for the Palestinians claim that Israel's response has been an overreaction. "Only X Israelis have died, but how dare Israel kill Y innocent Palestinians!"
The exact same logic is coming out of the mouths of Israelis. "Those Palestinians, they target our cities and kill innocent people. We only target their terrorists. But if a family is wiped out in the process, that's simply collateral damage. They asked for it."
Dehumanization. Our dead are an outrage. Your dead are the price of war.
I had a heated exchange on Facebook yesterday with a supporter of Israel's right wing. I dared to compare Likud to Hamas, but it didn't go over very well. He told me that if I equated the two, any hope of achieving peace was pointless.
I strongly disagree and, in fact, I believe the complete opposite. I don't defend Hamas's policies. But if you're incapable of recognizing that Palestinians view Benjamin Netanyahu or Avigdor Lieberman in exactly the same way that Israelis see Khaled Mashal or Ismail Haniya, no matter who does "worse" things, no matter who kills more people or makes more inflammatory threats, then there will never be peace. If you're incapable of recognizing that the human fear of being driven into the sea and another Holocaust motivate Israelis in the same way that Palestinians' human pain and hatred over what they call the Nakba motivate them, then you are part of the problem.
This conflict will only end when enough people on both sides realize they bleed the same blood.
We're not there yet.