OPINION – Ukraine and Gaza: Exposing the West’s Double Standards

Dr. Sami A. Al-Arian |


Ever since Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, the United States (US) and its Western allies have mobilized the whole world against Russia as they called attention to the devastation caused by the war. The United Nations estimates that Ukraine suffered [1] around 10,000 civilian deaths, including 560 children, and about 18,500 injured during the first 21 months of the conflict. Every Western official, from US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to all other high-ranking American and European officials, accused Russian troops of committing genocide [2] and war crimes. [3]

Meanwhile, Israel has killed at least 26,000 Palestinians, while thousands more remain missing, in just the first 100 days of its onslaught on Gaza in the wake of the Hamas attack on 7 October. Seventy percent of the casualties are women and children. In addition, there have been over 63,000 injured [4] Palestinians, many maimed for life, and once again, the majority of those are women and children. While the destruction of property cannot be minimized in wars such as in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, the destruction in Gaza against civilian life and structures has exceeded [5] all levels, the likes of which, according to the United Nations, have not been seen since World War II.

Double standards and dehumanization of the victim

Yet, the United States has not only justified Israel’s brutal actions and supplied it with all weapons used to wreak havoc on Gaza but has also shielded it diplomatically, using its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to kill [6] resolutions calling for a ceasefire, and defending its ruthless behavior in other international forums in the face of desperate pleas and warnings from the UN Secretary General [7] and dozens [8] of leaders from around the world.

Though this double [9] standard applied by the United States in the case of Israel is extreme, it’s not unique. The US has built an international order that favors certain countries, peoples and cultures. It’s the continuation of the legacy of imperialist European powers that go back centuries.

A British governor of Bombay in 1875 wrote “We hold India by the sword.” More than a century later, in 1988, an Israeli prime minister witnessing the first Palestinian uprising against Israel’s brutal military occupation said, [10] “The Palestinians must be crushed like grasshoppers, and their heads smashed against the boulders and walls.” Thirty five years later in October 2023, another Israeli defense minister pledged to starve the Palestinians of Gaza calling [11] them “human animals.”

In its quest to demonstrate its “superior” culture and values, the West indulges in self-righteousness, using lofty rhetoric of its unyielding belief in democracy, rule of law, human rights, free speech, representative government, international institutions, the right to self-determination, respect for diversity, and so on. Yet, every time these principles and ideals get in the way of exercising its hegemony over the Global South or advancing its narrow interests, it turns a blind eye to these ideals and principles.

When over 1.8 billion Muslims are offended by political cartoons with insulting depictions of the Prophet Muhammad or public celebrations of Qur’an burnings, the West is quick to condemn “Muslim outrage” and defend these provocative actions under the justification of defending the value of free speech or expression. Yet, when supporters of the Palestinian struggle speak out against Israeli aggression and its genocidal war, or call out the racist and supremacist nature of the Zionist ideology and institutions, Western governments, politicians, media outlets, and cultural elites immediately lead campaigns to silence anti-Zionist voices or cancel them, if not outright defame them, fire them from their jobs, or even prosecute them.

The West celebrates its liberal values when applied to its societies but is not willing to extend them universally. It promotes them selectively depending on its system of racial hierarchy of peoples around the world. Israel is, thus, judged by one standard, considered a democracy, and afforded all the privileges and benefits given to the Western class of countries. Palestinians are not.

Colonialism’s new face: Israel

The Zionist state has, thus far, been successful in establishing a settler-colonial state in the historical land of Palestine. It has implemented several strategies and employed varying tactics to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians since 1948. It uses tactics that include the forced expulsion of millions of Palestinians and the denial of their return, the confiscation and annexation of territories and holy shrines, the establishment of a security state where over half of the population in historical Palestine is subject to military rule and discriminatory practices protected by unjust laws. Israel institutionalizes an ID system based on ethnicity, the establishment of Jewish-only colonies/settlements, and the construction of separate roads for Israeli citizens around many of these colonies. It uses hundreds of military checkpoints in the West Bank, erects the separation wall around the majority of Palestinian communities and uses Palestinians as cheap labor, sanctioning inequities in infrastructure, legal rights, and access to land and resources. A discriminatory legal structure is instituted, including marriage law, the passing of citizenship and Jewish nationality law, the continuous Judaization of Jerusalem, and denial of religious rights for Muslims and Christians. Assassinations are used as a tool to eliminate thousands of Palestinians and other supporters around the world for resisting the brutal occupation, as well as countless other tactics to usurp Palestinian territories and exclude as many Palestinians from their historical land as possible. In addition, it has imposed a crippling siege over Gaza for over 16 years before undertaking a genocidal and destructive war against the people of Gaza over the last 16 weeks with no end in sight.

Such strategies and tactics used by Israel over decades have resembled and surpassed many aspects of the South African Apartheid regime of a bygone era, and constitute blatant forms of neocolonialism and a new form of an Israeli Apartheid system, contrary to international and humanitarian laws. But the US has yet to condemn, let alone actively reverse, any of these actions that directly contradict its professed liberal values.

Because of their deep racist attitudes towards non-Western peoples, the United States and its Western allies have refused to acknowledge Israel’s oppressive regime. They only see one side as human, one party as deserving sympathy and backing with all means, without any compunction or sense of guilt.

The great American author Noam Chomsky once said, “For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” That’s the primary principle by which the US has used to maintain its primacy in the world, and by extension to overlook Israel’s crimes and allow its hegemony over its victims. If double standards must be used to achieve that, then so be it, liberal values be damned.

[1] https://ukraine.un.org/en/253322-civilian-deaths-ukraine-war-top-10000-un-says

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-61093300

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrbNKLAJAhY

[4] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/gaza-death-toll-from-israeli-attacks-nears-25-500-since-oct-7-health-ministry/3116243

[5] https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/gaza-destruction-bombing-israel-aa528542

[6] https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/12/1144562

[7] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/12/7/un-secretary-general-invokes-article-99-on-gaza

[8] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/12/13/unga-decisively-backs-gaza-ceasefire-resolution-how-your-country-voted

[9] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/gaza-ukraine-wars-show-us-double-standards/3044159

[10] http://www.miftah.org/Doc/Factsheets/Other/mar11a2k3.html

[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbPdR3E4hCk

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu.