Gaza-Ukraine: Doing The Western Hypocrisy Rag

Missile strike on Gaza
Israeli missile strike on Gaza
People picking through the wreckage of flight MH17
People picking through the wreckage of flight MH17

Last week, by grisly coincidence, two horrible tragedies occurred at once.

One saw a packed passenger jet shot out of the sky over rural Ukraine, probably by Moscow-armed pro-Russian separatists. 298 people were killed, 30 of them children. The other saw a defenceless slum-city the size of the Isle of White, already half-flattened by weeks of aerial bombardment, invaded by one of the most technologically advanced armies in the world. Even before Israeli troops entered Gaza, their air offensive had already killed 259 people, 39 of them children, and injured nearly two thousand.

Then ‘the West’ responded. The reaction, from senior politicians and the media mainstream, would be shocking, mad, morally baffling if we hadn’t seen it all before.

Within hours, Western politicos were falling over themselves to pile condemnation on Russian President Vladimir Putin. The media began provocatively thumbing through Obama and chums’ options – diplomatic sabre-rattling, economic sanctions, even, at the Fox News end of the spectrum, military reprisals against nuclear-armed Russia. Meanwhile, at the crash site, news cameras lingered on the scattered remnants of the downed plane, fishing children’s toys and other banal but horribly poignant trinkets from the wreckage. And with charred corpses lying unattended all around them, on-the-scene correspondents duly dwelt on the horror of it all.

But on Israel-Gaza, the leaders of the free world didn’t budge an inch from their customary position – full, unquestioning support for whatever Israel does. Repeatedly, they called for ‘peace’. They expressed ‘concern’ at the potential for civilian casualties. But these gestures were as toothless as ever. Ultimately, the official line ran thus – Hamas is firing rockets into Israel. Israel has a right to defend itself. The explicit message came with an implicit addendum – if you’re going to fire missiles into civilian areas, Mr Netanyahu, try not to kill too many children. And the news media obediently played ball, ballooning Hamas into some kind of looming existential threat to the Israeli way of life.

Vladimir Putin is authoritarian, jingoistic, homophobic, and, probably, a thoroughly nasty piece of work. But there is absolutely no evidence to suggest he had any direct influence over the individuals that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Plainly eager to annexe more of eastern Ukraine, Putin’s government has given military hardware to pro-Russian rebels in the area. That hardware very probably included the ground-to-air missile launcher than downed the plane. But all evidence points towards the rebels themselves being left to use that weaponry as they see fit. Flight 17 almost inevitably met its end after a barely trained guerrilla fighter took a pot shot at what he thought was a Ukrainian military aircraft and got lucky.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally ordered the military action in Gaza. Hospitals, schools, and civilian houses have been obliterated as a result, along with a lot of the people inside. The fourth most powerful military on the face of the earth has nonchalantly lobbed state-of-the-art missiles into an obscenely cramped, sprawling slum, chasing a handful of militants in amongst 1.8m Palestinian civilians. All this in response to Hamas, a rag-tag band of Islamic fundamentalists (albeit a democratically elected one), flinging antiquated, unguided rockets in Israel’s vague direction from the Gaza Strip – rockets that either fly hopelessly wide, or are efficiently blasted out of the sky by the Iron Dome, Israel’s high-tech US-funded air defence system. It’s like flicking Tic Tacs at a castle.

Before Netanyahu’s campaign is over, it’s looking likely that over a thousand innocents will have been killed at this rate (note added Aug 7th – current death toll over 1,800). It’s very clear which head of state is the real war criminal.

Iran is frequently criticised for being viciously conservative, ruthlessly self-interested, and prepared to go to any lengths to defend itself and its interests – a rogue state in the Middle East, run by xenophobic extremists. And it is all those things. But so is Israel.

Now, there needs to be as much moral opprobrium heaped on anything Israeli as there was anything South African during the apartheid era. BDS – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement – probably won’t be enough to bring Israel to heel, especially while the United States backs it to the hilt. But it is a relatively easy way for outraged individuals worldwide to show the Israeli government that its fanaticism won’t be tolerated.

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