Israeli warplanes attacked hundreds of towers and civilian ‘targets’ in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)
Ilan Pappe, The Palestine Chronicle, March 4, 2022
The USA Today reported that a photo that went viral about a high-rise in the Ukraine being hit by Russian bombing turned out to be a high-rise from the Gaza Strip, demolished by the Israeli Air Force in May 2021. A few days before that, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister complained to the Israeli ambassador in Kiev that “you’re treating us like Gaza”; he was furious that Israel did not condemn the Russian invasion and was only interested in evicting Israeli citizens from the state (Haaretz, February 17, 2022). It was a mixture of reference to the Ukrainian evacuation of Ukrainian spouses of Palestinian men from the Gaza Strip in May 2021, as well as a reminder to Israel of the Ukrainian president’s full support for Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in that month (I will return to that support towards the end of this piece).
Israel’s assaults on Gaza should, indeed, be mentioned and considered when evaluating the present crisis in the Ukraine. It is not a coincidence that photos are being confused – there are not many high-rises that were toppled in the Ukraine, but there is an abundance of ruined high-rises in the Gaza Strip. However, it is not only the hypocrisy about Palestine that emerges when we consider the Ukraine crisis in a wider context; it is the overall Western double standards that should be scrutinized, without, for one moment, being indifferent to news and images coming to us from the war zone in the Ukraine: traumatized children, streams of refugees, sights of buildings ruined by bombing and the looming danger that this is only the beginning of a human catastrophe at the heart of Europe.
At the same time, those of us experiencing, reporting and digesting the human catastrophes in Palestine cannot escape the hypocrisy of the West and we can point to it without belittling, for a moment, our human solidarity and empathy with victims of any war. We need to do this, since the moral dishonesty underwriting the deceitful agenda set by the Western political elites and media will once more allow them to hide their own racism and impunity as it will continue to provide immunity for Israel and its oppression of the Palestinians. I detected four false assumptions which are at the heart of the Western elite’s engagement with the Ukraine crisis, so far, and have framed them as four lessons.
Lesson One: White Refugees are Welcome; Others Less So
The unprecedented collective EU decision to open up its borders to the Ukrainian refugees, followed by a more guarded policy by Britain, cannot go unnoticed in comparison to the closure of most of the European gates to the refugees coming from the Arab world and Africa since 2015. The clear racist prioritization, distinguishing between life seekers on the basis of color, religion and ethnicity is abhorrent, but unlikely to change very soon. Some European leaders are not even ashamed to broadcast their racism publicly as does the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Kiril Petkov:
“These [the Ukrainian refugees] are not the refugees we are used to … these people are Europeans. These people are intelligent, they are educated people. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists…”
He is not alone. The Western media talks about “our kind of refugees” all the time, and this racism is manifested clearly on the border crossings between the Ukraine and its European neighbours. This racist attitude, with strong Islamophobic undertones, is not going to change, since the European leadership is still denying the multi-ethnic and multicultural fabric of societies all over the continent. A human reality created by years of European colonialism and imperialism that the current European governments deny and ignore and, at the same time, these governments pursue immigration policies that are based on the very same racism that permeated the colonialism and imperialism of the past.
Lesson Two: You Can Invade Iraq but not the Ukraine
The Western media’s unwillingness to contextualize the Russian decision to invade within a wider – and obvious – analysis of how the rules of the international game changed in 2003 is quite bewildering. It is difficult to find any analysis that points to the fact that the US and Britain violated international law on a state’s sovereignty when their armies, with a coalition of Western countries, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Occupying a whole country for the sake of political ends was not invented in this century by Vladimir Putin; it was introduced as a justified tool of policy by the West.
Lesson Three: Sometimes Neo-Nazism Can Be Tolerated
The analysis also fails to highlight some of Putin’s valid points about the Ukraine; which by no means justify the invasion, but need our attention even during the invasion. Up to the present crisis, the progressive Western media outlets, such as The Nation, the Guardian, the Washington Post etc., warned us about the growing power of neo-Nazi groups in the Ukraine that could impact the future of Europe and beyond. The same outlets today dismiss the significance of neo-Nazism in the Ukraine.
The Nation on February 22, 2019 reported: