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US Hypocrisy Over Russian and Israeli Killings

Destruction in Gaza Strip. Credit: UNICEF/Hassan Islyeh

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 2 2024 (IPS) - When US President Joe Biden lambasted “the largest aerial assault,” which hit “a maternity hospital, a shopping mall and residential areas killing innocent people”, he was not talking of the devastating Israeli attacks on Gaza but criticizing the most recent Russian military assault on Ukraine.

Biden obviously has one yardstick for the Russians and another for the Israelis –displaying sheer hypocrisy and political double standards.

The statement that came out of the White House last week read: “It is a stark reminder to the world that, after nearly two years of this devastating war, Putin’s objective remains unchanged. He seeks to obliterate Ukraine and subjugate its people. He must be stopped.”

Perhaps from a more realistic angle, his statement could have read: “…Netanyahu’s objective remains unchanged. He seeks to obliterate Palestine and subjugate its people. He must be stopped.”

And the more contrasting picture are the 21,700 civilian killings in Gaza, including 8,697 children and 4,410 women, compared to the scores of civilians killed last week by the Russians. Still, the bottom line is there is no justification for either.

Destroyed buildings in Odesa, a port city in southern Ukraine. Credit: UNOCHA/Alina Basiuk

Norman Solomon, Executive Director, Institute for Public Accuracy and National Director, RootsAction.org, told IPS Biden’s rhetorical steps have landed with both feet in an Orwellian zone that is inadequately described as “hypocrisy.”

He gets it only half-right when condemning Russia while supporting Israel.

“In reality, the president has plunged the USA into an immoral abyss so deep that he has created huge revulsion and disgust inside the United States and in much of the rest of the world”.

Biden is so eager to help the Israeli military continue to kill Palestinians en masse in Gaza that he has twice bypassed Congress to authorize large shipments of weaponry to Israel, while knowing full well that the U.S. government is thus directly aiding and abetting the systematic large-scale killing of children, women and other civilians, said Solomon, author of “War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine”

Last month, Biden’s fleeting comment that Israel should stop its “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza was swiftly walked back by the White House. And the U.S. has notably assisted with that indiscriminate bombing by shipping 5,000 2,000-pound bombs to Israel since October.

In short, said Solomon, Biden’s condemnations of Russia fully apply to Israel and also to the U.S. as a direct participant in carnage that has already taken upwards of 20,000 civilian lives in Gaza during the last three months.

“The world desperately needs a single standard of human rights and actual adherence to international law. Biden makes a mockery of both concepts as he justifiably denounces Russia’s war on Ukrainians but powerfully helps Israel to engage in genocidal warfare on Palestinian people in Gaza”.

“All over the world, we need sustained outcries and intense diplomatic pressure for an end to the carnage, beginning with an immediate and permanent ceasefire”, he declared.

In an analytical piece published in Common Dreams, a US website, Jessica Corbett, a senior editor and staff writer, says while the wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip are different for myriad reasons, Western leaders have been called hypocrites for opposing the Russian invasion but backing what global experts warn is a “genocidal” Israeli operation—criticism that was renewed last Friday in response to a statement from U.S. President Joe Biden.

Biden’s statement came after Russia launched its “most massive aerial attack” since invading Ukraine in February 2022, killing dozens, injuring more than 150, and hitting “over 100… private houses, 45 multistory residential buildings, schools, two churches, hospitals, a maternity ward, and many commercial and storage facilities,” according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

After noting the impact of the “massive bombardment,” Biden took aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that his “objective remains unchanged. He seeks to obliterate Ukraine and subjugate its people. He must be stopped.”

Journalist Mehdi Hasan—whose MSNBC show was just canceled after offering rare critical coverage of the U.S.-backed Israeli assault on civilians in Gaza—shared that portion of the president’s remarks on social media with a suggestion, writes Corbett.

“I challenge you to read this statement from the White House today… but… change the words Russia, Ukraine, and Putin to Israel, Gaza, and Netanyahu,” he said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Go on. Do it. See for yourself.”

In an interview with Connor Echols, a reporter for Responsible Statecraft, Kenneth Roth, the former Executive Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Biden administration has been far too deferential to the Israeli Government, despite the pretty clear commission of war crimes in Gaza.

“And while the administration has pushed to ameliorate some of those war crimes — by pressing for humanitarian access, by urging greater attention to avoiding civilian casualties — that rhetorical push has not been backed by the use of the leverage that the administration has that might have really put pressure on the Israeli government to stop– whether that would be withholding or conditioning ongoing arm sales or military assistance, or even allowing a Security Council resolution to go forward.”

Asked what a better approach would look like, Roth said the initial problem was that Biden pretty unconditionally wrapped himself in the Israeli government’s response to the horrible October 7 attacks by Hamas. If you look at his initial comments, while there were caveats written in about the need to respect humanitarian law, there was no emotional punch behind them.

“It was pretty clear that Biden simply stood with Israel and was giving it a green light to proceed with its military response to Hamas without much effort, at least during the first few weeks, to ensure that that response really did comply with humanitarian law.”

“So, I think the Israeli government got the message that the references to humanitarian law were necessary for certain audiences, but that the administration’s heart was not in them,” he pointed out.

Asked if U.S. officials could be legally complicit if Israel is found to have committed war crimes in Gaza, Roth said: “Well, they could be. Biden’s references to the Israeli military conducting indiscriminate bombing were clearly not just a verbal slip. It probably reflected the internal conversations that the administration has. The second one even seems to have been somewhat deliberate.

And the significance of that is that indiscriminate bombardment is a war crime. As any administration lawyer would know, continuing to provide weapons to a force that is engaged in war crimes can make the sender guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes.

“That is not some crazy, wacko theory. That was the basis on which former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted by an internationally backed tribunal, the so-called Special Court for Sierra Leone, for providing weapons to the Sierra Leonean rebel group known as the Revolutionary United Front, a group that was notorious for chopping off the limbs of its victims,” Roth said.

Because Taylor kept providing arms in return for the RUF’s diamonds while he knew the RUF was committing these war crimes, this internationally-backed tribunal found him guilty of aiding and abetting, convicted him, and sentenced him to 50 years in prison, which he is currently serving in a British prison, he declared.

IPS UN Bureau

 


  
 
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