Westerners live in denial,
convinced they’re the good guys
By Jonathan Cook
October 17, 2022:
Information Clearing House
- No one took responsibility for the
explosion over the weekend that ripped through a
section of the Kerch Bridge that links Russia to
Crimea and was built by Moscow after it annexed
the peninsula back in 2014.
But it was not just Kyiv’s gleeful
celebrations that indicated the main suspect.
Within hours, the Ukrainian authorities had
released a set of
commemorative stamps depicting the
Russian President Vladimir Putin was under no
illusions either. On Monday, he
struck out with a torrent of missiles that
hit major Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv and Lviv.
It was a pale, Slavic echo of Israel’s
intermittent bombardments of Gaza, which are
expressly intended to send the Palestinian
"back to the Stone Age".
If the scenes looked familiar – an attack by
one party, followed by a massive retaliatory
strike from the other – the mood and language
that greeted the Ukrainian attack and the
Russian counter-attack felt noticeably different
from what passes for normal western commentary
about Israel and Palestine.
The blast on the Kerch Bridge was welcomed
with barely concealed
excitement from western journalists,
politicians and analysts, while Moscow’s strikes
on Kyiv were
uniformly denounced as Russian brutality and
state terrorism. That is not the way things work
when Israel and Palestinian factions engage in
their own rounds of fighting.
Had the Palestinians openly celebrated
blowing up a bridge in East Jerusalem, a
territory illegally annexed by Israel in the
1960s, and killed Israeli civilians as
collateral damage in the process, who can really
imagine western media reports being similarly
Nor would western academics have lined up, as
they did for Ukraine,
to explain in detail why destroying a bridge
was a proportionate act and fully in accordance
with the rights in international law of a people
under belligerent occupation to resist.
Instead, there would have been thunderous
denunciations of Palestinian savagery and
In reality, Palestinian resistance nowadays
is far more modest – and yet
still receives western censure. Palestinians
need only to fire a home-made rocket, or launch
an "incendiary balloon", usually ineffectually
out of their cage in Gaza – where they have been
besieged for years by their Israeli persecutors
– to incur the wrath of Israel and the western
powers that claim to constitute the
Even more perversely, when Palestinians
solely target Israeli soldiers, as they are
unambiguously entitled to do under international
law, they are similarly reviled as criminals.
But the double standards do not end there.
Western media and politicians were
unreservedly appalled by Moscow’s
retaliatory strikes on the Ukrainian
capital. Despite the media’s emphasis on
Russia’s targeting of civilian infrastructure,
the number of civilians killed across Ukraine by
the wave of missile hits on Monday was reported
to be low.
Western media are
far less horrified when it comes to Israel’s
regular rampages across Gaza – even when Israel
"retaliates" after much less provocation and
when its strikes
inflict far greater suffering and damage.
And, of course, it is not just Israel that is
benefiting from this hypocrisy. The United
States’ “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign that
the war on Iraq in 2003 – and so impressed
western commentators – killed many thousands of
Iraqi civilians. Russia’s strikes on Kyiv pale
There are other glaring inconsistencies.
After Russia’s missile strikes, Ukraine is
gaining an even more receptive ear in western
capitals to its demands for additional weaponry
regain the eastern territories Moscow has
By contrast, no one in the West is suggesting
that the Palestinians should be armed to help
them fight off decades of Israeli occupation and
Quite the reverse. It is invariably western
weapons that rain down on Gaza, supplied to the
belligerent Israeli occupier by the very parties
now condemning Russia.
And in stark contrast to Britain’s
whole-hearted support as Ukraine battles to stop
Russia’s annexation of its eastern territories,
the UK’s prime minister Liz Truss stated only
last month that she may reward Israel for its
illegal annexation of Jerusalem by
moving the British embassy there.
Whereas Palestinians are constantly inveigled
to postpone their liberation struggle and wait
for their occupier to agree to peace talks, even
when Israel openly scorns engagement, Ukrainians
are pushed by the West to do the exact opposite.
They are expected to
delay any negotiations with Russia and
focus on the battlefield.
Similarly, those who promote talks between
Israel and Palestine that are never going to
take place are
praised as peacemakers. Those who
advocate for talks between Ukraine and
Russia – when Moscow has expressed a repeated
willingness to negotiate, even if its
overtures are disparaged by the West – are
rounded on as appeasers.
Russia, meanwhile, faces sustained and
comprehensive sanctions imposed by western
bring it to heel.
By contrast, those proposing a far weaker tool –
grassroots boycotts – to pressure Israel to
loosen its choke-hold on Gaza are
smeared as antisemites and face legislation
to outlaw their activities by the same western
states sanctioning Moscow.
It is almost as if the "freedom-loving" West
has an entirely inconsistent agenda when it
comes to the plights of Ukraine and Palestine.
Israel’s hold on Palestine is unfortunate but
justified; Russia’s over Ukraine is emphatically
Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s “unprovoked
aggression” is heroic. Palestinian resistance to
Israel’s violence – invariably presented as
self-defence – is terrorism.
Western news at the moment is a litany of
these double standards and legal and ethical
contradictions – and yet barely anyone seems to
Westerners, for example, are currently
cheering the protests in Iran, where women
and girls have taken to the streets and created
mass disturbances in schools. Their protests
were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini after
she was taken into custody for wearing her hijab
head covering too loosely.
Western media celebrate these young women
casting aside the hijab in defiance of the
unaccountable clerics who rule over them. The
bewails the beatings and attacks they
receive from a tyrannous, patriarchal Iranian
And yet there is no comparable solidarity
with Palestinians when they collectively defy an
unaccountable Israeli occupation army that rules
over them. When they turn out to protest at the
fence Israel has built all around Gaza to
imprison them, preventing them from leaving for
work or to see family overseas, or to reach
hospitals much better equipped than their own
that have been under Israeli blockade for years,
they are shot down by Israeli snipers.
Where is the applause for those brave
Palestinian protesters standing up to their
oppressors? Where are the denunciations of
Israel for compelling Palestinians to endure a
tyrannous, apartheid-enforcing Israeli
Why is it entirely unremarkable that
Palestinians – young and old, men and women –
regularly beaten or
killed by Israel, while the death of a
single Iranian woman is enough to reduce the
western media to paroxysms of outrage?
And why, just as pertinently, does the West
care so much about the lives of young Iranian
women and their hijab protests when it appears
not to give a damn about these women’s lives, or
those of their brothers, when it comes to
decades of western sanctions? Those
restrictions have plunged parts of Iranian
society into deep and sustained poverty that
puts Iranian lives at risk.
Such is the reflexive hypocrisy that Israeli
women who have shown no solidarity with
Palestinian women abused and killed by the
turned out last week to cut their hair in a
public act of sisterhood with Iranian women.
There is nothing new about these double
standards. They are entrenched in western
thinking, based on a profoundly racist, colonial
worldview – one that sees “the West” as the good
guys and everyone else as morally compromised,
or irredeemably evil, if they refuse to bow to
That is highlighted by the current battle of
an 88-year-old Palestinian businessman, Munib
al-Masri, to win an
apology from Britain.
At his instruction, two eminent lawyers –
Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former chief prosecutor at
the International Criminal Court, and Ben
Emmerson, a former United Nations expert on
human rights –
have been reviewing evidence of crimes committed
by British forces in the years before 1948,
when the UK ruled Palestine under a mandate.
When Britain withdrew, it effectively
allowed Zionist institutions to take its
place and create a self-declared Jewish
state of Israel on the ruins of the
documented by Ocampo and Emmerson – which
they describe as "shocking" – includes
crimes such as arbitrary killings and
detentions, torture, use of human shields,
and home demolitions weaponised as
If that all sounds familiar, it should.
Israel has been terrorising Palestinians
with these same exact policies over the past
74 years. That is because Israel
British mandate’s "emergency regulations" permitting
such crimes into its legal and
administrative codes. It simply continued
what Britain had started.
Masri hopes to present the 300-page
dossier to the UK government later this
year. According to the media, it will be
"reviewed thoroughly" by the Ministry of
Defence. But do not hold your breath
waiting for an apology.
The reality is that Ocampo and Emmerson
did not need to conduct their research.
Nothing they tell the UK government will be
a revelation. British officials already know
about these crimes. And there is no remorse
– as demonstrated by, if nothing else, the
fact that Britain continues to back Israel
to the hilt even while the Israeli military
continues the same reign of state terror.
Israel’s task was to rebrand as a
"western-style democracy" the British
mandate’s brutal colonial rule over the
Palestinian population. It is the reason
receives billions of dollars in aid from
the US every year, and why it never faces
consequences for any of the crimes it
The ugly truth is that westerners dwell
permanently inside their own bubble of
disinformation, one puffed up by their
leaders and the media, that allows them to
imagine themselves as the good guys –
whatever the evidence actually proves.
The double standards in the West’s
treatment of Ukraine compared to Palestine
should be a moment when that harsh
realisation finally dawns. Sadly, western
publics just seem to sink ever deeper into
the comforting illusion of
The views expressed in this article
belong to the author and do not necessarily
reflect the editorial policy of Middle East
Jonathan Cook is the author of three
books on the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, and a winner of the Martha
Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism.
His website and blog can be found at
Views expressed in this article are
solely those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.
in this article are
solely those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.
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