Western leaders accused of hypocrisy over response to Palestine, Ukraine

US President Joe Biden holds a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York City, the US, September 20, 2023 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Social media users, including journalists and observers, are calling out what they call a ‘double standard’.

After Saturday’s surprise attack by the Palestinian group Hamas on Israel, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took to the social media platform X to offer “condolences go out to everyone who lost relatives or close ones in the terrorist attack”.

He also stated, “Israel’s right to self-defence is unquestionable.”

Many world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, shared similar sentiments.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated, “Israel has the right to defend itself – today and in the days to come. The European Union stands with Israel.”

Accusations of Western ‘double standards’

Some social media users have criticised these statements, saying they highlight a double standard.

Ukraine’s right to defend itself is praised by most international leaders while Russia’s invasion is condemned, but commentators said the same cannot be said about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Aaron Bastani, a leftist British journalist, said on X that there’s a “clear double standard in endorsing terrorism against civilian targets in Ukraine … and condemning it by Palestinians”.

Many users said Western diplomats and media support the Ukrainians who defend their land, but label the Palestinians fighting against Israel as “terrorists”.

An illustration of a woman’s face, in which one eye is closed beside a Palestinian flag, and one eye open beside a Ukrainian flag, has been regularly shared as a symbol of the West’s alleged double standards in how the two conflicts are viewed.

Clips also emerged on social media from a CNN interview with Mustafa Barghouti, the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, in which he posed the rhetorical question, “Why does the United States support Ukraine in fighting occupation – while here they support the occupier, who continues to occupy us?”

It is not the first time Western nations have been accused of double standards in their stance on the Ukraine war.

Earlier in the year, Amnesty International published a report highlighting the West’s “double standards” on global human rights.

Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary-general, told Al Jazeera at the time that the occupation of Palestinian territory was a “particularly important one”.

“Without making any comparison between Russia’s aggression and Israel … it is clear the Palestinian people are under a regime of oppression – a regime of occupation and a regime of apartheid,” Callamard told Al Jazeera.

Over the last three days, X users recirculated earlier statements calling out what they called Western hypocrisy, sharing video by the Irish lawmaker Richard Boyd Barrett from March 2022 in which he berated the Irish government’s double standards regarding Ukraine and Palestine:

“You’re happy to use the most strong and robust language to describe the crimes against humanity of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, but you will not use the same strength of language when it comes to describing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.”

Barrett on Sunday again called out what he described as “shocking double standards of Western leaders supporting Ukraine resistance but condemning Palestinian[s].”

Meanwhile, others warned against comparing conflicts.

And some cautioned that Hamas and the Palestinians should not be seen as one and the same.

Ukrainian footballer Oleksandr Zinchenko, who plays for Arsenal, posted on Instagram, stating he “stands with Israel”.

Zinchenko has been a vocal supporter of his home country in its ongoing defence against Russia, and he participated in a Game4Ukraine charity match in London earlier this year to raise money for Ukraine.

After online backlash, with some questioning an alleged double standard in his support of Israel, the footballer removed the post and switched his social media account to private.

Several people claimed that Zinchenko’s football club, in not responding to his comments, was guilty of hypocrisy after they had distanced themselves from former player Mesut Ozil’s comments in 2019 over alleged human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in China.



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