The war between Israel and Hamas is bad news for Ukraine. The conflict has already shifted news coverage and public attention in the West away from Russian aggression. It may also force Western exporters to divert portions of their arms supplies from Ukraine to Israel, as the United States is already thought to have done. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned last week of a “long and difficult war ahead,” which could give Russian President Vladimir Putin an additional incentive to drag out the war in Ukraine, betting on the West’s declining interest in—or capacity to—arming Kyiv as time goes on.
But a potentially more damaging problem for Ukraine are the accusations of hypocrisy that observers and policymakers from across the global south are leveling at the West. Many in the developing world have long seen a double standard in the West condemning an illegal occupation in Ukraine while also standing staunchly behind Israel, which has occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967 and maintains settlements in the former—moves that are considered illegal by most of the international community. Israel has also held Gaza under a land, air, and sea blockade since 2007.
While Western governments were quick to condemn Russia for violating international law when it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, observers in the developing world say the West has been far more reluctant to forcefully condemn Israel both for the enduring occupation and for not doing enough to prevent the deaths of thousands of civilians in its ongoing assault on Gaza. Israel’s siege of the enclave is a response to Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which killed more than 1,400 people and took over 200 hostages.
Western capitals, led by the United States, have strongly denounced Hamas’s assault and underscored Israel’s right to defend itself. But so far, they have chosen not to put much pressure on Israel to adopt a cease-fire even as civilian casualties from Israeli bombardments mount and humanitarian conditions in Gaza worsen. So far, at least 9,000 Palestinians in Gaza are reported to have died since the war’s outbreak, and the United Nations has expressed concern about “the clear violations of international humanitarian law” taking place in Gaza. [Continue reading…]