Time for West to End Its Double Standards

Chris Doyle :
One of the great challenges in addressing European and American politicians is to open their eyes to the blatant double standards in their contrasting handling of Ukraine and other crises, such as Palestine. What is as clear as the sun in the sky to those in the developing world seems to be alien to the worldview of so many in Washington, London, Berlin and Paris.
This is why Prince Turki Al-Faisal was spot on to chastise the hypocrisy of the West. Across the world, right-thinking people agree that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a blatant aggression on a peaceful neighbor, a violation of international law and something that needs to be opposed.
But what so many Western politicians fail to comprehend is that, in the rubble of Mariupol, Palestinians see Gaza, Syrians see Aleppo, Raqqa and Homs, and Iraqis see Mosul. Palestinians in Gaza still navigate the rubble from not just one but at least five major Israeli bombardments of their open-air prison this century. When Arabs see Ukrainian refugees crossing into Poland, they think of Syrians fleeing into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Palestinians think of their Nakba, or catastrophe, 74 years ago, when 70 percent of their people became refugees. They shudder at the overt racism on display when various members of the European commentariat welcome Ukrainians because they are “like us” – blond-haired and blue-eyed, watch Netflix and have Instagram accounts.
Yet, perhaps most jarring of all is what Prince Turki focused on: The speed and toughness of the sanctions imposed on Russia, strengthened every other day, contrasted with the complete lack of accountability that Israel benefits from vis-a-vis its oppression of Palestinians. This was clear even before the latest Russian invasion of Ukraine; after all, it took just a few days for the EU to impose sanctions on Moscow back in 2014 for its invasion and annexation of Crimea.
Any talk of sanctions on Israel is not only not entertained but, in many cases, almost criminalized. Israel has occupied the West Bank including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights for close to 55 years. Just as Russia has been accused of the war crime of transferring citizens into occupied Crimea, Israel has transferred more than 650,000 of its citizens into occupied territory. Russia and Israel have apparently transferred Ukrainians and Palestinians, respectively, out of occupied territory, also a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. And Israel has bombed civilian targets in Gaza, frequently using many of the lame excuses we now find trotted out in official Russian propaganda.
The International Criminal Court has rightly started an investigation into potential Russian war crimes in Ukraine with additional funding from major powers. But when the ICC dared to consider starting an investigation into the possible crimes committed in Palestine by any party – in other words both Israeli and Palestinian groups – the Trump administration sanctioned not Israel but ICC officials.
Quite naturally, no Western power is selling arms to Russia. Rightly so. Yet practically every Western power has a thriving arms trade in both directions with Israel. The US provides billions of dollars of military aid every year.
Major international companies have, within weeks, packed up their businesses in Russia. Woe betide any company that considers doing so regarding Israel. Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream company, last year took a principled decision to stop selling its products in illegal Israeli settlements. The outcry was heard around the globe.
Why should Israel continue to exercise a get out of jail free card? Anger could be assuaged with some modicum of effort to hold Israel to account, even if it fell far short of the draconian measures implemented against Russia. The international consensus is, for example, that Israeli settlements are illegal. EU statements say this routinely. Why then does the EU continue to trade with settlements? This is trade in the proceeds of crime. At best, governments have issued guidelines to ensure the labeling of such products. Israeli leaders are laughing.
One would love to think that Israel will alter its behavior and end its occupation and systemic discrimination against Palestinians without sanctions and legal measures. One hopes that, one day, Israeli leaders will realize that true peace and security can only be achieved by ending these. The evidence thus far is that this is not happening, no more than the Russian leadership has comprehended the folly of its Ukrainian gamble.
Post-Ukraine, the international order needs to be revitalized. It is outdated, unfit for the 21st century. One thing in particular must change: The era of one rule for some and another rule for the rest has to end. Principles have to be applied evenly and fairly. The West and its friends such as Israel have to submit themselves to exactly the same rules as everyone else. As we all long to see the end of the Russian aggression and occupation of Ukraine, we must also push for and demand the end of the Israeli occupation and aggression against Palestine.

(Chris Doyle is director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding. Courtesy: Arabnews).