Russia’s war against Ukraine has polarized the world. The reason for Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor notwithstanding, the wide rift has little to do with condemning the Kremlin’s illegal attempt to take over territories of a sovereign state. Few countries support Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest aggression.
The reality is that Moscow’s war is illegal, constitutes a violation of the UN charter and could trigger a wider conflict. Reasons for the global divide are many; a good number of countries do not wish to be forced into taking sides in what has turned into a confrontation between the West, led by the US, and emerging global powers, namely Russia, China and India.
At stake for Washington is the end of almost three decades as the sole global superpower. On its watch, the world witnessed illegal wars and unauthorized invasions of sovereign states, mainly by the US itself. And yet there was no reckoning for Washington — no sanctions, no boycotts and no indictments at the International Criminal Court.
This is why many activists on social media platforms have cried foul. The term more often used is “double standards” and the case they pointed to was Israel’s decades-old occupation of Palestinian lands and the West’s reaction to it.
While many leaders avoided referencing Israel’s occupation as a clear case of double standards, some did. It was courageous of former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al-Faisal to call for sanctions against Israel while accusing the West openly of applying double standards in responding to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News last week, Prince Turki said that he could not see the difference between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. “Aggression is aggression, whether it is committed by Russia or by Israel, and yet there has been no such effort to sanction Israel,” he said.
Comparisons between the two cases, as well as with the 2003 US invasion of Iraq on fabricated claims and without UN approval, have been rife. The West’s reaction to Russia’s attack has been unprecedented in modern history. Never before has the West imposed such tough sanctions on any country for breaching international laws. And yet the West, more often than not, turns its back when Israel, an occupying force under UN resolutions, violates international conventions on a daily basis.
To accuse the West of applying double standards is to be on the right side of history. Russia is accused of committing crimes in Ukraine, yet not a day passes without Israel committing all sorts of crimes against Palestinians. Not once has Israel been held accountable for its crimes. Not once has a Western country imposed sanctions against Israel. And not once has the West taken concrete steps to implement a UN resolution related to Israel’s occupation.
Prince Turki’s comments speak for tens of millions of Arabs and hundreds of millions of Muslims. He also speaks for millions of activists around the world who document Israeli crimes that go without punishment. The West is guilty not only of applying double standards, but of complicity in Israeli crimes.
The former Saudi envoy to Washington underlined his position by saying this: “There is no sign whatsoever that appeasing Israel is going to change their attitude. The Palestinian people are still occupied, they are still being imprisoned willy-nilly by the Israeli government. Attacks and assassinations of Palestinian individuals take place almost on a daily basis.”
The West’s complicity is not limited to governments and pro-Israel politicians. There is a shameful attempt to cover up and deny audiences the truth about what is happening in Palestine by the Western mainstream media. News about Israeli crimes is rarely reported and when it is, there is a deliberate attempt to whitewash the Israeli image and dehumanize the Palestinians. The decades-old occupation is often described as a “conflict” between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel is almost never portrayed as the aggressor. The killing of Palestinians in cold blood is almost never reported. While Western governments recognize the West Bank settlements as illegal, no action is taken when Israel approves plans to build more colonies on confiscated Palestinian lands.
And when entire civilian neighborhoods are leveled in the besieged Gaza Strip by Israeli F-16s on live TV, the West shies away from condemning what is clearly a war crime. Meanwhile, Russia is automatically and instantly accused of committing alleged war crimes in Ukraine — and Washington, which is not a member of the International Criminal Court, calls for an immediate investigation. Not once did Washington, London or Paris call for an independent investigation of Israeli war crimes.
Prince Turki Al-Faisal’s comments speak for tens of millions of Arabs and hundreds of millions of Muslims.
Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the West Bank is disputed territory. If it was Putin who said this about Ukraine, he would have immediately been denounced by the US and its Western allies.
The war in Ukraine has exposed the hypocrisy of the West and its adoption of double standards when dealing with the plight of the Palestinians as well as other victimized nations such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. While the majority of Arabs see the war as an aggression by Russia, they make the distinction that the West’s reaction is based on ideology rather than long-held principles.
Israel’s aggression toward the Palestinians is ongoing and has been for decades. While the West was quick to impose sanctions on Russia, Israel is getting away with murder, land theft and an attempt to erase the right of millions of Palestinians to self-determination. Double standards applied by the West are not an accusation, they are a reality.