JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) – Within days of the Russian invasion, Western countries invoked international law, imposed crippling sanctions, began welcoming refugees with open arms and applauding Ukraine’s armed resistance.
The response has sparked outrage over the Middle East, where many see a glaring double standard in how the West responds to international conflicts.
“We have seen that all the resources we have been told can not be activated for more than 70 years have been deployed in less than seven days,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told a security forum earlier this month. Turkey said.
“Amazing hypocrisy,” he added.
The US-led war in Iraq, which began 19 years ago this month, has been widely viewed as an illegal invasion of one state by another. But Iraqis who fought against the Americans were branded as terrorists, and refugees fleeing to the West were often turned away.treated as potential security threats.
The Biden administration said on Wednesday that the United States has ruled that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine and will cooperate with others to prosecute offenders.. But the US is not a member of the International Criminal Court and is strongly opposed to any international inquiry into its own actions or those of its ally, Israel..
When Russia intervened in Syria’s civil war on behalf of President Bashar Assad in 2015 and helped its forces defeat entire cities and starve to submission, there was international outrage but little action. Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe have died on dangerous voyages or were repatriated as many branded them as a threat to Western culture.
In Yemen, a persistent years-long war between a Saudi-led coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels has left 13 million people at risk of starvation. But even scorching accounts of infants starving to death did not bring sustained international attention.
Bruce Riedel, formerly of the CIA and National Security Council, and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said it was “understandable” that many in the Middle East see a double standard by the West.
“The United States and the United Kingdom have supported Saudi Arabia’s seven-year-old war in Yemen, which has caused the world’s worst humanitarian disaster in decades,” he said.
Israel’s occupation of lands that the Palestinians want for a future state is well into its sixth decade, and millions of Palestinians live under military rule with no end in sight. The US, Israel and Germany have approved legislation aimed at suppressing the Palestinian-led boycott movement, while big firms like McDonald’s, Exxon Mobil and Apple won praise by suspending business in Russia.
On social media, the world applauded Ukrainians while accumulating Molotov cocktails and taking up arms against an occupied army. When Palestinians and Iraqis do the same thing, they are branded as terrorists and legitimate targets.
“We opposed the occupiers, even when the world was with the Americans, including the Ukrainians, who were part of their coalition.”Said Sheikh Jabbar al-Rubai, 51, who fought in the 2003-2011 Iraqi uprising against US forces.
“Because the world was with the Americans, they did not give us this honor and called us a patriotic resistance,” he rather emphasized the religious character of the uprising. “It is, of course, a double standard, as if we were subhuman.”
Abdulameer Khalid, a 41-year-old delivery manager from Baghdad, sees “no difference” between the Iraqi and Ukrainian resistance.
“If anything, the resistance against the Americans in Iraq was more justified, as the Americans traveled thousands of miles to get to our country, while the Russians continued behind a supposed threat next to them,” he said.
There are certainly important differences between the war in Ukraine – a clear case of one UN member state invading another – and the conflicts in the Middle East, which often involve civil war and Islamic extremism.
“In general, conflicts in the Middle East are incredibly complicated. They are not morality games, ”said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former Middle East adviser to Republican and Democratic administrations.
He said the Ukraine conflict was unique in its degree of moral clarity, with Russia widely seen than launching an aggressive, devastating war against his neighbor. The closest Middle East analogy could be Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, when Washington responded by forming a military coalition that included Arab states that had driven out Iraqi forces.
Yet Miller acknowledges that US foreign policy is “filled with anomalies, contradictions, contradictions and, yes, hypocrisy.”
The US invasion of Afghanistan was a response to the 9/11 attacks, which Osama bin Laden planned while being protected by the Taliban. The US justified its war in Iraq with false allegations of weapons of mass destruction, but the invasion also overthrew a cruel dictator who himself disregarded international law and committed crimes against humanity..
Yet the invasion is seen by most Iraqis and other Arabs as an unprovoked disaster that paved the way for years of sectarian strife and bloodshed.
Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Foreign Relations Council and a White House adviser when the US invaded Iraq, said there was a difference between Ukrainians fighting Russian invaders and insurgents in Iraq fighting Americans.
“Iraqis who fought American troops on behalf of Iran or ISIS were not freedom fighters,” he said, referring to the Islamic State group. “Making these moral distinctions is not an act of hypocrisy.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates back more than a century – long before the 1967 war in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Most of the world considers those areas occupied Palestinian territory and Israel’s continued settlement construction to be a violation of international law. Israel portrays the conflict as a territorial dispute, accusing the Palestinians of refusing to accept its right to exist as a Jewish state.
“Only the severely context-challenging people can compare Israel’s defense wars to Russia’s invasion of its neighbor,” the Jerusalem Post said in a March 1 editorial on the subject.
Russia’s intervention in Syria was part of a complex civil war in which several factions – including the Islamic State group – committed atrocities. While IS seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, many feared that extremists would slip in the midst of waves of refugees in Europe.
Yet many in the Middle East have seen harsh treatment of Arab and Muslim migrants as proof that Western nations still cultivate cultural prejudices despite advocating universal rights and values.
Many feel that their suffering is being taken less seriously because of widespread views that the Middle East has always been caught up in violence – do not care about the West’s role in creating and continuing many of its stubborn conflicts.
“There is this expectation, drawn from colonialism, that it is more normal for us to be killed, to grieve our families, than it is for the West,” said Ines Abdel Razek, advocacy director for the Palestinian Institute of Public Diplomacy.
Associated Press writers Josh Boak in Washington, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad, Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Noha ElHennawy in Cairo have contributed.
Follow the Associated Press’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine