War in Ukraine shows Western ‘double standard’ say Palestinians

5. Letter from Jerusalem
People take part in a rally in support of Ukraine in central London on March 13, 2022, following the invasion of the country by Russia. (Photo: AFP)
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — When the war in Ukraine broke out three weeks ago, many Palestinians questioned the way European and the US reacted, particularly the difference in the  international community’s response compared to the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.اضافة اعلان

Soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, images started emerging of Ukrainian civilians preparing Molotov cocktails and arming themselves to resist the Russian military, with military, financial, and political backing from Western governments, and unprecedented praise from journalists and media outlets.

Drawing on the decisive response from Washington, London, Berlin, Paris, and Brussels against Moscow, Palestinians wondered why the same treatment wasn’t applied to them.

Political analyst Nour Odeh told Jordan News that the EU and US’ double standard is “jaw dropping”.

“I think the most striking aspect of the hypocrisy of it all is hearing state representatives talking about the illegality of the acquisition of territory by force, talking about upholding international law, talking about accountability, when these same representatives refuse to apply that standard of international law to Israeli actions regarding occupied Jerusalem, the West Bank, and illegal settlements,” Odeh said.

According to Odeh, while Western media have framed the actions of Ukrainians defending their homeland and resisting occupation forces as “rightfully” legitimate, the Palestinians — who are internationally recognized as a people under occupation —  do not receive the same treatment from those same governments and media outlets.

Israel describes Palestinians who resist the occupation forces using the same methods and tools as “terrorists”, and Palestinians say even throwing rocks at Israeli tanks has become forbidden.

Palestinians laud Ukrainians’ efforts to defend their country and resist a Russian occupation, but call for the international community to apply the pressure it is exerting to expel Russian forces out of Ukraine on Israel, she said.

Western media coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine raised eyebrows throughout the Middle East, with people comparing European and US media outlets’ language and coverage of the war to that of the their coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza, Israeli home demolition policies, or Israel’s forced evictions of Palestinians. This has culminated in these outlets being accused of unfair and biased reporting.

“The criticism is warranted; we’ve seen enough evidence to see that objectivity is completely discarded,” Odeh said.

“As a Palestinian it shocks me. I can see reports on mainstream media outlets where the reporter expresses personal views, awe, and (praise for) Ukrainians preparing Molotov cocktails,” she said, adding that “the same reporter would be talking of Molotov cocktails in the hands of Palestinians as terrorist,” says Odeh.

Palestinians lament the West’s hypocrisy toward their efforts to resist Israeli occupation. For years they called out Western countries, accusing them of paying lip service to the Palestinian cause and providing absolute support for Israel.

Ali Jarbawi, an associate professor of political science at Birzeit University, told Jordan News that ti is a “double standard in the clearest way”.

“This hypocrisy is governed by interests, on the basis of which political and international relations are built,” he said.

Furthermore, Jerbawi stressed that the US and Europe do not see Ukrainians as different from them.

“They consider Ukraine as part of the Western group, as opposed to Palestine being the ‘other’, which it deems different — and they consider Israel also as part of the Western group.”

Last month, a report published by Amnesty International accused Israel of apartheid for its treatment of Palestinians, prompting Israel to fire back, labeling the allegation as anti-Semitic.

“Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights,” the report from the London-based Amnesty read.

The report found that the Israeli state maintains “an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis.”

The US dismissed the report.

“I reject the view that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid. The (US State Department’s) own reports have never used such terminology,” its spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

“I think that it is important, as the world’s only Jewish state, that the Jewish people must not be denied their right to self-determination, and we must ensure there isn’t a double standard being applied,” he added.

Palestinians said they were not surprised by the West’s policies towards them.

“Laws were adopted in the US to literally punish Palestinians, and to sanction the ICC because it dared to open an investigation into Israeli war crimes in Palestine — so the double standard at the state level was absolutely stunning,” Odeh said, referring to the International Criminal Court.

The US and many other Western nations took swift measures following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month, imposing crippling economic sanctions almost immediately, but have avoided taking similar steps against Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the UN Human Rights Council that it must send a “resolute message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop an invasion that has destroyed schools, hospitals, and residential buildings, and killed hundreds of civilians.

“These are the human rights abuses this council was created to stop. If we cannot come together now, when will we come together?” he said.

Palestinians accuse Washington of cherry picking, arguing that the US only turns to the UN when it serves its interests. They point to a different speech by Blinken, in which he described the council’s ongoing investigations into Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories as “a stain on the council’s credibility” and called for those investigations to be halted. The investigations have found Israel responsible for persistent “violations of the right to life” and other crimes.

All this further cements the belief that there are two sets of laws, Odeh said.

“I think ultimately what this crisis has done is reveal and expose the fact that powerful countries treat international law as a tool to serve their political goals and interests, and they are willing to bend the law — and to even undermine it — in order to protect an ally like Israel.”

She chastised the way Israeli media have been covering the war calling it “bizarre” and “schizophrenic”.

“They don’t see the occupation and they don’t see the Palestinians, and they identify themselves as European, Western, and ‘civilized’ — belonging to that club,” she said.

In Britain, Labor MP Julie Elliott told parliament that there was a double standard when it comes to standing up for Palestinians.

“The Palestinians are looking to us to speak and act in the same terms. We sanctioned Russia over Crimea, and we are now likely to impose more sanctions, with which I wholeheartedly agree, yet Palestinians ask why we do nothing to end Israel’s occupation,” she said.

Palestinians say even sports was used to show support for Ukraine, when its flags have been widely flown at recent football matches with the approval of footballing authorities. However, UEFA fined the Scottish Premier League team Celtic after its fans flew Palestinian flags at international games, saying that they were political symbols.

Irish lawmaker Richard Boyd Barrett slammed his government for “double standards” for its sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but not taking similar measures against Israel for its violence against Palestinians.

Barrett sits in the Irish parliament for the left-wing People Before Profit party.

“You’re happy to correctly use the most strong and robust language to describe the crimes against humanity of Vladimir Putin but you will not use the same strength of language when it comes to describing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians,” he told parliament.

He listed Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, including assaults on Gaza and the annexation of land, and said: “You don’t want to even use the word apartheid, never mind sanctions.”

“(It took) five days for sanctions against Putin and his thugs. Seventy years of oppression of the Palestinians, and it wouldn’t be — What was the word you used? — it wouldn’t be ‘helpful’ to impose sanctions.”

Attorney Moien Odeh, who specializes in human rights and international law, told Jordan News that applying a double standard is not a new approach for different countries in general and the West in particular.

“International law and the UN bodies were always a tool for the supreme powers against the weak ones,” he said, adding that he did not doubt that Russia’s actions in Ukraine “deserve to be in the ICC”, and that its crimes in Syria are “no less horrific”.

“Unfortunately, in the Syrian case the international community didn’t want to intervene or take the Russian crimes to the ICC,” he said.

The US and its allies are “defending their crimes in Iraq and Palestine,” the lawyer explained.

“I think it is an important moment for the Palestinians to support the West’s efforts of taking the Russian crimes in Syria and Ukraine to the ICC and to request the West’s support of taking the Israeli crimes against them to the ICC as well. I think the Palestinian Authority should start an international advocacy campaign to support Ukraine and to show the Israeli crimes at the same time.”

Read more Region and World