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Israel isn’t fooling anyone by speaking up for Uyghur Muslims; its self-interest is obvious

July 9, 2021 at 1:02 pm

People demonstrate against China’s policies towards Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities, who are suffering crimes against humanity and genocide, outside the Chinese Embassy in London, United Kingdom on 1 July 2021. [Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency]

Last month, Israel called out China over human-rights abuses against more than one million ethnic Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. This was reportedly after US pressure to do so.

Ironically, Israel’s sudden interest in human rights followed its 11 day military offensive against Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip. Israeli bombs killed 260 Palestinians, including 66 children, and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.

This makes the criticism of China at the UN, initiated by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, all the more hypocritical and obviously insincere. Beneath the veneer of concern about human rights abuses lies an insidious political agenda that disregards human suffering on a daily basis while wanting to build closer ties with the Biden administration in Washington. The US shielded Israel at the UN Security Council during the offensive in May.

America, of course, is Israel’s most powerful and steadfast supporter. China, however, is Washington’s biggest rival at the moment.

It was not until 15 May, when Israeli forces targeted a 12-storey building in Gaza hosting international media including Al Jazeera and Associated Press that Biden began to talk about the need for an immediate ceasefire. Even that belated call for a cessation of hostilities was not down to a principled stance in favour of human rights; it was a response to growing domestic pressure, especially from fellow Democrats in the US Congress.

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Beijing slammed Biden’s delayed response to Israel’s air strikes in Gaza, describing it as a “political farce”. Despite its own ongoing persecution of the Uyghurs, who many believe are the victims of genocide, it was China which pushed the UN Security Council to hold three emergency sessions on Israel-Palestine within a week. Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the conflict as Israeli “hostilities”, excoriated the occupation state and demanded immediate “restraint”.

Washington has already declared that China’s policy towards the Uyghurs constitutes “genocide” but, like Israel’s, US foreign policy is not guided by concern for human rights. America’s track record around the world provides ample evidence of this. The crocodile tears shed by the US and Israel aren’t fooling anyone.

A Palestinian woman sits in front of a house damaged by Israeli attacks in Gaza on 7 June 2021 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency]

A Palestinian woman sits in front of a house damaged by Israeli attacks in Gaza on 7 June 2021 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency]

Nevertheless, Israel’s condemnation of China’s abuses of the Uyghur Muslims is significantly more than what many Muslim countries have done, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Both benefit from Chinese investments through Beijing’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative. Even so, when Israel, an apartheid regime, speaks out against the oppression by other regimes, it diverts attention away from its own human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Beijing denies all allegations of abuse against the Uyghurs. Although the regime initially denied the existence of the forced incarceration facilities, it now describes them as vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.

Xinjiang’s cities are under occupation. Police checkpoints are in place every few hundred metres. Surveillance cameras are everywhere. The government is also attempting to wipe out the Uyghur identity of the region, destroying mosques, bulldozing traditional neighbourhoods and banning the Uyghur language.

The same systematic offences are all too familiar to the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. This week alone, Israel bulldozed land owned by the Islamic Endowment Department in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Al-Suwaneh, in occupied Jerusalem. On Wednesday, the Israeli authorities demolished the Arab Bedouin village of Al-Araqeeb in the southern Negev region for the 190th time.

Moreover, the Israeli-run Jerusalem municipality has called for the eviction of 100 Palestinian families from their homes under the pretext that they were built without permits. Once the families are evicted, said local media, they will be demolished to make way for the construction of a “biblical park” for use by illegal settlers.

Israel cannot convince any reasonable person that it is concerned about the human rights of the Uyghur Muslims. China is the occupation state’s second-largest trading partner after the US. The occupation state is thus simply finding it difficult to balance the interests of two major allies to protect its own national interests. Human rights “concerns” are purely self-serving.

READ: Israel’s siege and violence are damaging Palestinian children’s minds

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.