Ukrainian suffering and the Palestinians cannot be compared
By Rolene Marks
For nearly two weeks, the world has watched with horror as Putin’s troops have invaded Ukraine, decimating and laying siege to cities and creating a grave humanitarian crisis. The United Nations estimate that the number of Ukrainian refugees is roughly 1.45 million; and growing by the day.
The world has also been inspired by the incredible courage of the Ukrainian people, men and women taking up arms against the invading Russians, led from the front by their President Volodymir Zelensky (who is Jewish and has compared his country’s fight against Russia to Israel saying “we should become like the Israelis defending our territory”) and have taken to the streets, social media platforms and philanthropy to show their support. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter et al is awash with the blue and white colours of the Ukrainian flags and passionate cries of “Slava Ukraini” (for the Glory of Ukraine). In a world that has become so polarized along so many different lines, solidarity behind the Ukraine and her people has been unifying.
With attention rightly squared on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, the anti-Israel folk have ramped up their efforts in chastising the media and the west, to lament that the focus of the world is on Ukraine and not the Palestinians and that the situation for both peoples is the same.
The lack of concern about the plight of Ukrainian refugees and Russia’s merciless bombing of civilians, including humanitarian corridors is staggering. The “whataboutism” is astounding – and more than a little obscene. There can be no comparison between the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign state and the situation for Palestinians, whose leadership have refused every offer of a state and have engaged in steady incitement for decades.
Unlike the Palestinians, egged on by decades of incitement of hate against Israel and the Jewish people, the Ukrainian people have not fired thousands of rockets into Russia, have not dug tunnels to kidnap Russian civilians, thrown Molotov cocktails into fields and cars, stoned Russian drivers or shot and stabbed civilians in malls and on streets. President Zelensky, like a modern day Maccabee, is leading his people from the front. Nobody can forget his famous refusal of President Biden’s offer to airlift him to safety when he responded with “I need ammunition, not a ride”. This is unlike the leadership of Hamas who enjoys 5-star hotel and private jet hospitality in Qatar or Hezbollah’s Nasrallah who is hunkered down in his bunker, while doling out his threats against Israel.
More than 1 million children have fled Ukraine in the less than two weeks since Russia first invaded the country, says UNICEF spokesperson James Elder, calling it “a dark historical first.”
This means that children represent around half of the more than 2 million people that have fled the war, an exodus that the UN refugee agency has called the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
Comparing the situation in Ukraine is astoundingly disingenuous and shows a spectacular lack of self-awareness. Not content to appropriate the South African narrative and suffering during the Apartheid years, the grave, lived experience of the Ukrainian people and the many civilians from other countries who are trying to flee the military onslaught is up for grabs. Heaven forbid they get any news coverage!
They put the blame squarely on the west and render the media complicit. Palestinians have dominated the headlines for several decades and there is a disproportionate focus on the nearly 80-year-conflict between Israel and her neighbours. A conflict that the world is growing weary of. In the last two years, several Arab countries have normalized ties with Israel with others poised to do the same. The Kuwaiti editor-in-Chief of the Arab Times Ahmed al-Jarallah stated in a recent op-ed that “When [the Palestinians] are happy, they curse the Gulf leaders and people. When they are angry, they use all of the defamatory and abusive words in their dictionary against us.” The editor-in-chief continued:
“We, the Gulf nationals, overlook all that by sending them aid.”
In an editorial, titled “Normalize, let insulters fend for themselves,” al-Jarallah pointed to the Palestinians support for Saddam Hussein, Jamal Abdul Nasser, former Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi and IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, saying that this was “just the tip of the iceberg.”
Strong words indeed.
The world is focused on assisting Ukraine while isolating Russia through aggressive sanctions and other means. Failure to do so could lead to a war that threatens to engulf Europe and there is no doubt that China and Iran are watching with bated breath, looking to see how the West reacts and if they can flex their military muscles on China and Israel respectively.
At the time of this writing, Israel’s Prime Minister has embarked on a shuttle diplomatic mission to Moscow and has spoken several times to Putin in an attempt mediate, at the behest of President Zelensky. This serves to emphasise the increasing role Israel is playing on the world stage and the regard that the Jewish state is afforded. Israel has also sent an extraordinary amount of humanitarian aid, including 100 tonnes and three plane loads of medicines, supplies, tents, blankets and more. In addition, Israel’s Ministry of Health is building a field hospital that will be manned by 50 medical personnel from Sheba Medical Centre on the Ukrainian side of the border, while United Hatzalah and IsraAid are already manning field hospitals in neighbouring Moldova.
Diplomats from Romania, Poland and Slovakia are stationed on the border helping to evacuate not just Israeli citizens but have helped many from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and others. Israel’s Interior Ministry announced that in addition to absorbing 100,000 Jewish Ukrainians as citizens, Israel will host 25,000 other Ukrainians until the danger subsides in their country.
Israel will likely be the country offering safe refuge to the most amount of people from Ukraine from a non-bordering country. Jewish organisations like Chabad whose Rabbi’s will never abandon the communities they are sent to serve, are also giving shelter and help to many, including this Palestinian doctor and his family:
It is a pity that the anti-Israel contingent aim their focus, much like the Soviet era propaganda that gave impetus to the narrative they peddle, in scuppering peace and not building bridges. It is astounding that they are disgruntled that they are not dominating the headlines like they are used to doing. This is what separates the true social justice warriors from the imposters.
This is a great pity – but not as staggeringly disingenuous as trying to appropriate the suffering of Ukrainians. As the kids would say, READ THE ROOM.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).