Mondoweiss / March 22, 2022
Palestinians are evidently not entitled to the same rights as other people. This is the only Western standard that has been applied in the last hundred years.
There are no Western double standards, as claimed by most Palestinians and their supporters. In fact, the capitalist West has been consistent in its support for the Zionist enterprise in Palestine since its inception. It has never claimed otherwise. Not in 1948, when it recognized the establishment of a Jewish State at the expense of the indigenous population of Palestine, nor in 1967 when Israel expanded its colonial project to occupy the rest of Palestine with some parts of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. And since 1967, it has expanded its settlements in the occupied West Bank, besieged the Gaza Strip, committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and openly endorsed apartheid laws against its second-class Palestinian citizens. These have been testified to by mainstream, Western human rights organizations, but Western governments have done absolutely nothing in support of the Palestinian people. On the contrary, those same governments have been absolutely clear about their racist policies vis-à-vis Palestinian human rights. For them, dark, “Airab,” Palestinians are not as human as white, Ashkenazi Jews who happen to be the victims of the worst antisemitic, Western pogrom of the 20th century.
If Israel attacks Gaza (as it did in 2009, 2012, 2014, 2021) and kills thousands of innocent civilians, destroys high rise buildings, and murders nonviolent demonstrators, it is Palestinians who are to blame. At best, “both sides” should show “self-restraint,” i.e., the army that is equipped with American-made F35 fighter planes, nuclear warheads, tanks, and phosphorous bombs to name but a few, and children and women deprived of their basic rights and besieged in what has become the largest open-air prison on earth, are treated equally. The latter’s crime is that they are not born to blonde, blue-eyed mothers! This is racist white supremacy at its best.
We dare not ask for a boycott of apartheid Israel, nor actual respect for our basic human rights, let alone for our popular resistance. Isn’t that what the same Western governments support in Ukraine? But how dare we Palestinians even think of that analogy?
As a refugee whose parents, together with 750,000 Palestinians, were ethnically cleansed in 1948, and have become refugees in camps in Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora, I cannot but feel the horrific pain of Ukrainian refugees. We also condemn, in the strongest possible terms any war crimes committed by any military, whether in Iraq or in Afghanistan, or Syria, or Ukraine. Victims of those crimes are all equal in their victimhood regardless of their ethnicity, religion, and sex.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, has been met with the strongest and swiftest Western condemnation for these reasons mentioned by unblinking white reporters and politicians: Ukrainian refugees are like “us,” white, middle class, European, Christians (and some are Jews,) unlike the dark, Middle-Eastern, African and Muslim “mobs” who want to flood Europe in “droves!” But, these have always been Western policies, conservative and liberal: racist, colonialist and classist. They are upon reflection a Darwinian worldview, that humans are different only because of biological reasons: the whiter, the better! And, therefore, cultures reflect those biological differences. As Étienne Balibar puts it in his discussion of cultural racism: “culture can also function like a nature, and it can in particular function as a way of locking individuals and groups… into a determination that is immutable and intangible in origin.”
Now that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and even B’Tselem have all concluded that Israel is practicing apartheid, unquestionably a crime against humanity, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, what are liberal, Western governments going to do about it? Are they going to heed the call made by Palestinian civil society, namely boycott, divest from, and sanction apartheid Israel until it complies with international law, the same international law that was created by them after World War II? Are they going to support the Palestinian pursuance of justice and accountability via the International Criminal Court the same way they do the Ukrainian pursuit of justice? Are they going to support Palestinian resistance to occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid?
The answer is a big NO only because Palestinians are not entitled to the same rights as Ukrainians. This is the only Western standard that has been applied in the last hundred years. To claim otherwise is—to put it mildly– a misreading of history.
Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s Al-Aqsa University