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If You Don’t Agree With Russia, You Shouldn’t Agree With Israel

The image that has been curated of the Middle East by the West is one of constant terror and aggression. An image that helps facilitate the narrative that the West is more developed and more sophisticated than their eastern counterparts. I do not wish to point out the obvious, that the West is the cause of a large list of Middle Eastern conflicts,  despite their desperate desire to flaunt their savior complex (their need to broadcast that they are heroes that do what they can to help others). I merely wish to point out the hypocrisy that has stemmed from western responses to the recent Russia-Ukraine conflict, which feels eerily similar to the Israel-Palestine conflict that has spanned decades.

After World War 2, the United Nations set up a partition plan that would separate Palestine into a part Jewish (Israel) and part Arab state as retribution for the tragedies committed during the Holocaust. Palestine resisted this, as their land was being taken away from them. Furthermore, they view this land as holy because of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. This is the site where the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have made his journey to the heavens, first leading the 124,000 prophets before him in prayer. Israel was given the land anyway and has been moving further on its neighbor and stealing more of their land ever since.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict began due to a trade agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. After former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign, choosing closer ties with Russia instead, the Euro-Maidan Revolution began. This allowed a new Ukrainian government to be established, and the trade agreement to be signed. Russia took this as a threat, as Ukraine creates ties with the West. In response, Putin launched the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. His motives are constantly changing, but the ultimate goal seems to be to take as much land as he can manage.

Western involvement in both cases is undeniable. The United States is Israel’s biggest weapons supplier, exporting over 70% of their arms between 2009 and 2020. Within that time, Israeli forces have bombed, poisoned, and shot thousands upon thousands of Palestinian civilians that do not have a quarter of the strength or resources to fight back. Their land was stolen, their heritage erased, and their homes occupied by strangers, simply because they are seen as pawns in a much larger game of power and greed.

The same governments that advocate for a person’s right to speech, to land, to protest. The same politicians who claim to have the roadmap to world peace, and chastise others for not following their lead. The same self-proclaimed “super-powers” that keep you in their thoughts and prayers are the ones passing out guns and ammo, taking the safety off, and declaring that they are not responsible for somebody else pulling the trigger.

I can be the first to admit that the Palestine-Israel conflict is complicated. There are layers of context filled with years of hostility and retaliation. Both sides have been aggressors, and both share a disturbingly large casualty count. Although, it is abundantly clear which side has the disproportionate advantage. What should also be highlighted is now that Ukraine is in a position where their land is being threatened, the West takes a sudden stance condemning imperialism. “Hold Russia accountable,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. The US is committed to “Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity” he said. The irony is oozing out of every word, and still is going completely unaddressed.

Both Russia and Israel are motivated by the same fear and the same possible gain. They both find themselves searching for a way to solidify themselves as a world power, they both fear being undermined by their far smaller opponents, and they are both willing to spare innocent lives to cushion their thrones. However, the victim of one is seen as just that, and the victim of the other is somehow seen as the perpetrator.

“The settlers are not living in my house permanently. They come in groups, dance, pray and swear against us. Then they leave again, and others come after a while” said Rifqa Al Kurd, a woman who has lived in Palestine her entire life, and whose home was subject to the Sheikh Jarrah soldier occupation, “They know she has heart problems and they always hit her close to her heart. Once, if it had not been for a neighboring doctor who rushed and helped her, she would have died.”

“I remember my brother and father and how they were killed in every moment… we were a happy family. Now I don’t feel happy anymore,” Amal As Samouni says of the day her house, which Israeli soldiers ordered over 100 of her family members to be in, was hit by live ammunition and artillery shells. This happened when she was 8 years old, she lost 27 family members, while 35 (including herself), were injured. “For one year we lived with the parents of my mother... then we lived in a storage room for a year and a half. It didn’t have a floor. For the last six months, we have been living where our old house used to be.”

All of this is to say that this double standard exists to fuel a system that the West has been fostering for far too long. History being told by the winners can no longer be an excuse in the age of the internet and social media, where both sides of the story are immediately available for anybody with the access and the will to search for it. First-person accounts are being shared on TikTok, journalists risk their lives to tell these stories; artists and activists fight for their cause on Twitter in hopes that people will recognize their pain. For decades, Arabs have been screaming of this injustice over the fake prayers and empty gestures, over the sound of cities collapsing and hearts shattering, over page after page and channel after channel of breaking news, of ruptured families, of stolen houses on stolen land, of hope withering away and disintegrating with whatever is left of the place people call their home. 

It seems that this issue is being dismissed because there are many facets to truly understand the entire conflict at hand. The reality is that it is easier to associate this issue with the carefully crafted image of the Middle East that has been painted through the media worldwide than to try and fully grasp the real violence happening on both sides.

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