A Dangerous Double-Standard

The world is justifiably outraged by the atrocities occurring in Ukraine at the hands of the Russian government. In stark contrast, the human rights violations committed by the Israeli government in Palestine remain largely ignored. The Western world has imposed increasingly harsher sanctions on Russia, Putin, and his close circle of supporters but they have failed to hold the Israeli government accountable for breaking international law and committing crimes against humanity in Palestine. As recently as February 2022, Amnesty International called for sanctions to be imposed against Israel, arguing that “governments who continue to supply Israel with arms and shield it from accountability at the UN are supporting a system of apartheid” and “the international community must face up to the reality of Israel’s apartheid and pursue the many avenues to justice which remain shamefully unexplored” (Amnesty International). Ukrainians have received U.S.’ government support in the form of monetary aid, weapons, and the formation of a council dedicated to their security, yet the U.S. government has responded to the Israel-Palestine conflict by aiding Israel financially and providing them with arms. In the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian civilians were lauded for their bravery for making and throwing Molotov cocktails, but Palestinian children defending themselves with slingshot rocks is deemed as threatening behavior and justification for the harsh force used by Israeli soldiers. The fate of Ukrainian women and children are a cause for concern, but when Palestinian children are killed by Israeli airstrikes, we turn a blind eye. Ukrainians are not the first to defend themselves against their malicious oppressors; Palestinians have done the same, yet patriotic Europeans are seen defending themselves while patriotic Muslims are viewed as violent and impulsive. These patterns are not exclusive to Palestine; the same can be seen in America’s response to the cruelty in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. Sarah Lee Winston, former director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division, states that the U.S. government and companies are attempting to sanction and boycott anything that is associated with the Russian government, yet “contrast that with the exact opposite when it comes to sanctioning Israel for its violations of international law to the point where American states are passing laws to punish Americans unless they promise never to boycott Israel” (The Guardian). It seems the underlying cause for these inconsistent responses are race and religion. Bluntly said, Americans view Palestinians as terrorists and Ukrainians as heroes. Khaled A. Beydoun, writing for the Washington Post, states the racialization of Islam and the word “terrorist” have in turn designated Muslims as espousing anti-Western ideals. This has in turn allowed the West to pick and choose which of the oppressed to offer support. For instance, European countries have welcomed Ukrainian refugees with open arms, but refugees from Palestine, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan have been limited and sometimes outright rejected. America cannot assist the oppressed without considering the benefits they receive from the oppressor. Not only has America ignored the oppressed in Palestine, but they have also continuously sided with the oppressor. Israel’s military capabilities and their intelligence services are so valuable a resource to the US that Congress has attempted to outlaw boycotts of Israel, according to Lara Friedman, President of the Foundation of Middle East Peace. America, and the world, must distinguish the Islamic extremists who committed brutal atrocities on 9/11 from the vulnerable Muslim civilians in Palestine. Until then, Palestinians will be misunderstood and maltreated while Ukrainians receive the world’s sympathy and attention. Ultimately, America’s hunger for hegemony has led to selectively choosing which human rights violations to address.