In the eyes of the West, and specifically America, not all illegal occupations and military invasions are the same.
On Wednesday, the Israeli military invaded the Palestinian city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, killing at least 11 Palestinians and injuring scores more.
But it was the deadly occupation by another military power that consumed much of the West and its media’s attention. Just as Israel was once again raiding Palestinian territories, President Joe Biden was returning from a secretive trip to Ukraine celebrating and honoring the country’s heroic resistance to Russia’s yearlong war and even longer illegal occupation.
As we reflect on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine, we should be encouraged by an example of the U.S. standing up to an occupier, pledging support and honoring those on both sides of the battle who have paid the ultimate price in the course of a devastating conflict.
When the American ally is Israel, the U.S. is funding and protecting the occupier.
But the contrast of international response to Ukraine versus the occupied territories in the West Bank proves once again that in the eyes of the West, and specifically America, not all illegal occupations and military invasions are the same. In Ukraine, resisting occupation is celebrated and its struggle is heralded as a fight for freedom. Western governments have shown they are prepared to send billions in aid, heavy weapons, tanks and sophisticated weaponry to repel and defeat Russia’s aggression.
But when the American ally is Israel, the U.S. is funding and protecting the occupier, equipping it with sophisticated weaponry and billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money to maintain its brutal and oppressive control of Palestinians.
When Russia annexes Ukrainian territory, the U.S. and the West rightfully condemn it and mobilize international fora to reject such moves. When Israel moves to expand and build Jewish outposts on occupied Palestinian lands, the U.S. blocks international efforts to hold Israel accountable.
This week, the United Arab Emirates initially considered a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s plan to build Jewish settlements. The resolution would have called on Israel to immediately halt and withdraw all settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, but that resolution was tabled when it appeared the U.S. was going to shield Israel by vetoing it. Instead, the resolution was swapped in favor of a nonbinding U.N. Security Council statement that said the body expresses “deep concern and dismay” over Israel’s plans to expand settlements.
At least 60 Palestinians, including women, children and elderly, have been killed in the first 54 days of 2023. Eleven Israelis, including two children, have been killed during that same time. It’s an ominous sign of what is to come in a conflict that has seen the rise of Israel’s most extreme Jewish government and a boiling frustration among Palestinians oppressed for years.
So dangerous is this right-wing government that Israel’s opposition parties and thousands of Israelis for weeks have been protesting proposed changes to the country’s judiciary, sounding the alarm about the country’s future. Former officials have warned that proposed changes would effectively erode the judiciary’s independence and continue to entrench the undemocratic nature of the Middle East’s so-called only democracy, one which has been accused of committing the crime of apartheid against the Palestinians.
"I am very worried about what Netanyahu is doing and some of his allies in government and what may happen to the Palestinian people," Sen. Bernie Sanders said in an interview with CBS News’ Margaret Brennan. "And let me tell you something, I mean, I haven’t said this publicly. But I think the United States gives billions of dollars in aid to Israel. And I think we’ve got to put some strings attached to that and say, 'You cannot run a racist government.'"
That statement is as far as any American politician has recently gone in condemning Israel’s actions. For most, what happens in Israel-Palestine barely registers beyond the usual platitudes of American politicians’ knee-jerk reaction that Israel has a right to defend itself from Palestinian attacks.
The deadly start to 2023 for both Israelis and Palestinians, albeit in incomparable measures, coupled with the rise of a Jewish extremist government hell-bent on consolidating power and evading accountability both at home and abroad, suggests we are at a tipping point in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
We may be reminded again very soon, just as previous American administrations have learned, that ignoring the oppression of Palestinians for political conveniency is perilous and irresponsible.
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