Since the Cold War, supporting the “rules-based international order” has been the de facto foreign policy of the West in general and the US in particular. One would assume that the unbiased agenda of such an order would extend to every state regardless of skin color, creed and ethnicity. Sadly, this is not the case.
The Irony of the UNGA Vote
The war in Ukraine was the highlight of 2022. Notably, the West united against the Russian invasion. Led by the US, it placed crippling sanctions on the Kremlin, cut energy imports from Russia, and sent military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Already, the US has appropriated $65 billion to Ukraine and President Joe Biden signed off on an additional $47 billion in assistance.
The US action against Russia is not new. In 2014, Russia took over Crimea. In response, the US led the effort to eject Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), to censure the country in the UN General Assembly (UNGA), and to suspend it from the Group of Eight (G8).
In the words of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the US stands for the “defense of the UN Charter and in resolute opposition to Russia’s devastating war of aggression against Ukraine and its people.” In addition to actions against Russia, the US has issued sanctions on Iran for supplying military drones to Russian troops. These are allegedly for surveillance of and then attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
Is the UN Charter absolute or subject to the selective judgment of the US? Is all aggression against any innocent civilians culpable, or does it apply just to the Russian invasion of Ukraine? The answer to this question was made abundantly evident on the penultimate day of 2022.
The UNGA voted on a resolution that asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to opine about the “legal consequences of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.” To put this context, Israel colonizes swathes of Palestinian land beyond the borders established under the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, this illegal occupation also includes Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. The UNGA resolution passed with 87 to 26 votes with 53 abstentions.
Unsurprisingly, the states opposing the resolution were the US and the UK: the flag-bearers of justice for Ukraine. They supported Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for dragging Russia to the ICJ. This hypocrisy of the West is a historic phenomenon.
The Dualism of Western Justice
Last month, US House Representatives Steve Cohen and Joe Wilson introduced a bipartisan congressional resolution “call[ing] on President Joe Biden to boot Russia from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)” for its “flagrant violations” of the UN Charter. Those violations include Russia’s “illegal annexation vote in four Ukrainian oblasts [and] perpetuating atrocities” against civilians in Ukraine. While the expulsion proceedings of a permanent member of the UNSC are both obscure and, frankly, unrealistic without Russian consent, this scenario is spectacularly ironic given the UNSC’s seeming apathy towards Palestine.
For historical context, in November 1967, the members of the UNSC voted unanimously for Resolution 242, calling on Israel to withdraw from the annexed territories seized in the Six-Day War. Yet 55 years later, Israel not only continues to violate the resolution, it also proceeds to expand settlements on expropriated Palestinian land with impunity. In the last five decades, the Israeli regime has demolished over 28,000 Palestinian homes in the occupied territory. Israel also spawned more than 200 settlements and outposts in this territory, leading to 600,000-750,000 Jewish settlers moving into the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Often these settlers unleash violence on their Palestinian neighbors. This violence has never ceased and the West maintains a deafening silence.
The American opposition to Israeli settlements has always been rhetorical at best. The US officials have often maintained a programmed PR narrative of “Israel’s right to defend itself.” The Palestinians do not have a state and lack a functioning military. They are powerless and are being squeezed out of their homes. The question arises: from whom is Israel defending itself—children?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Israeli aggression in Gaza displaced more than 74,000 Palestinians, including 7,000 children without a roof, scant food supplies, and virtually no access to medical assistance. The WHO also reported the decimation of 30 health facilities in Gaza due to Israeli airstrikes. Yet, annualized military aid to the tune of $3.8 billion continues to flow to Israel from the US.
According to the data from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), a total of 424 children have been killed in Ukraine by Russian barbarity. Apartment blocks have been razed mercilessly and the electricity grid battered to the brink of collapse. The US has termed it a “systemic” assault on humanity, and Biden even called it a “genocide.” In May 2021, the OHCHR reported that the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip killed 242 Palestinians, including 63 children. However, Biden supported Israel instead of holding them to account for their war crimes.
In fact, Biden praised the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—Biden’s proclaimed “friend for decades” and architect of the 11-day war in 2021—on forming the government. In the same breath, Biden conspicuously ignores concerns regarding Netanyahu including far-right racist politicians in his cabinet. Note that Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has openly proclaimed Jewish supremacy in the past and argued for expulsion of indigenous Palestinians from Israel.
Puritan US Is Not So Pure
History is riddled with American moral and political duplicity. For example, the US acquiesced to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which galvanized the Shiite Islamist group Hezbollah. The US vetoed the 1982 UNSC resolution—one of its 53 vetoes time and again used to shield Israel from global denunciation—calling for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. An estimated 49,600 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians died during the occupation.
Over the years, the US has supported Israel regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats were in office. In fact, each successive American regime sets new records of cant and hypocrisy, as if trying to remind us of its duplicity and dishonesty.
American military interventions tend to be unjust like the Israeli ones. The US supported the Afghan mujahideen blindly against the Soviet Union. This led to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The US invaded Iraq on the utterly bogus canard of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction. Between 2003 and 2006, the US-led assault resulted in over 655,000 Iraqi civilian casualties, primarily due to the indiscriminate aerial bombardment of Iraqi towns and cities by the US. After the war, the American policy of dismantling all Iraqi administration provided a fertile breeding ground for radical offshoots of Al-Qaeda, the most radical of which was the Islamic State.
How can the US still enjoy a moral high ground when its historical scroll stands emblazoned with unilateral aggression, illegal intervention and unabashed obstruction of justice against its genocidal allies? The answer: it cannot and it does not.
The US has one set of principles for Ukraine and another for Palestine. This may be because of race, religion, interests, interest groups or geopolitics. Yet this dualism demonstrates that the puritanical US is far from pure and the Global South can no longer rely on the world policeman.
[Bella Bible edited this piece.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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