War Is Not a Game
Etgar Keret’s “Not Human Beings” is the story of Schmulik Stein, a soldier who is young and jaded by the realities of death and violence. As an officer during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he is forced to recognize the serious nature of conflict he is involved in when he is recruited to go with Israeli border patrol officers. He is then put to the greatest test of all, to dehumanize, stand his ground and witness things he may never be able to forget. At the end of the story Stein realizes that this is no longer a game but life and death. Keret suggests that while some people are exposed to the atrocities of war become demonized by it; others remain intact with their humanity but can ultimately become lost individuals due to the trauma. While the Israeli border patrol officers refer to certain races as not human beings shows their lack of respect toward the human race, it is fair to say they have been demonized. Stein, however, deplores the depreciating value of human life and is beaten by fellow officers for objecting to the cruel treatment of an old Arab man. Violence unfolds before his eyes, watching as a man is destroyed as if he were not a man at all. Rather than admitting what is happening in front of him, Stein pictures things from a different perspective. Taking what one of the officers stated and using it, he views the Arab man as an object instead of a human being. This is what ultimately helps him cope mentally, with the situation in his own way. In the beginning of the story is a young man who is merely more concerned with his backgammon game than the war that is at hand. He is in the beginning portrayed as an ignorant and impatient man, naïve to the fact that he is in fact in the middle of war. As he so simply states to his comrade “If you don’t shoot the dice, I’ll go to the personnel officer right now and ask him to send me. Maybe with those guys. I’ll at least be able to finish a game.” (755) When driving into the...
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