Douglas Murray in this week’s ‘Spectator’ raises the question why is Israel the only country in the world that is censured for defending its own people. In the immediate wake of the Hamas terrorist attacks, the media expressed condemnation, with reluctance on the part of some UK media to dub Hamas a terrorist organisation, preferring the less volatile and sanitised term “militant”. Semantics aside, the slaughter of innocent civilians is murder, or is unlawful killing going to be subject to editorial debate?
Back to Murray’s insightful observation. Russia, under Putin, has consistently argued the Ukraine has always been an integral part of Russia, even though that does not accord with the historical record. When the Ukraine became a sovereign state in 1991, there were many in the former Soviet Union who were unhappy about this republic and many others from breaking away from totalitarian rule. Those who maintained close ties to Russia were not perceived as a threat, provided, of course, they did not align with NATO. The Ukraine, contrary to the Russian view, sees itself as a distinctive culture and as such has ploughed its own furrow to establish close relations with the EU and aspires to join NATO to safeguard its territorial integrity.
Are there parallels between Ukraine’s defensive war and Israel’s battle for survival against Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamist terror groups, not forgetting the chief puppeteer and paymaster, Iran?
Hamas and its diverse allies regard the land of Israel as legitimately belonging to the Palestinians, even though much has been written to show the concept of a Palestinian people per se is nonsense. The rationale is Israel is a non-state, has no legitimacy and the people living there have to be removed by whatever means available. Putin would argue that the Ukraine should be Russified, and should never have broken away from Russia in the first place, and therefore his war is justified to re-establish the status quo.
The West has been fully supportive of Ukraine’s right to self-defence; there has been no question of showing restraint in the face of Russian aggression. Since the war started there have been 26,015 civilian casualties in the country: 9,369 killed and 16,646 injured. The Russians, like Hamas, have not been over cautious about targeting civilians. Israel does its upmost to attack military installations; it has no interest in killing innocent people, but with Hamas deliberately using civilians as human shields collateral damage is inevitable. If Ukrainian forces stepped up operations and inflicted serious damage on a Russian city as the Russians did on Mariupol would the West condemn the Ukrainians? So why should Israel be singled out for criticism when it takes action to defeat an enemy comparable to ISIL?
The Ukraine is fighting against a regime in Russia that wishes to snuff out freedom and the right to self-determination. Israel is fighting for exactly the same rights, no more, no less. The difference is not in the legitimacy of the claims of the Ukraine and Israel but in how the conflicts are presented by the media. There is an inherent bias toward the Palestinians, presented as a sad, harmless people, seeking to live in peace with its neighbours. Opportunities to demonstrate this public presentation have been many, but nothing of substance has been forthcoming because Hamas’ agenda is destruction, not peace. When the Knesset voted to return Gaza to Palestinian control in 2005 the chance to make the territory an example of peaceful cooperation with Israel was there, but the potential for peace was squandered by a leadership that have no interest in the welfare of the Palestinians. Vast sums of money from the EU, UN and many other contributors have done nothing to dissuade Hamas from taking the road to war. If only moderates had governed Gaza, then the prospect for a Palestinian state would have been advanced, incorporating the strip and West Bank. Although some still talk of a “two state solution” to this conflict, no one who is in the business of “realpolitik” would contemplate the suicide of their homeland.
So there are parallels between the war in Ukraine and the ongoing struggle between Israel and Hamas. Both Russia and Hamas lay claim to independent nations; both are prepared to use brutal measures to accomplish domination and neither is prepared to compromise. The difference: Ukraine has the unequivocal support of democratic states, Israel is asked to fight with one hand behind its back, and support is conditional that Israel “goes easy” on its enemy.