As the number of casualties among civilians in Ukraine rises, people around the world are hoping and praying for an end to the war that Russia has launched against its neighbour. By any measure, the Russian invasion is illegal under international law and the UN Charter, even if Moscow tries to claim "self-defence". Ukraine did not attack or threaten Russia or any other UN member state; in fact, the opposite is true.
The UN Charter is binding on all 193 member states. Article 51 provides that "nothing in the present charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations."
In 1974, the UN General Assembly issued Resolution 3314, which prohibited "any military occupation, however temporary." This came 25 years after the ratification of the Geneva Conventions and their protocols, which stated that occupied nations have the right to engage in armed resistance against their occupiers.
On that basis alone, it appears that the US and Europe, which have been sending arms to Ukraine in support of the resistance against the Russian occupation, are acting in accordance with international laws and conventions.
Reports in Germany reveal that the EU has earmarked €450 million ($503 million) to send arms to the Ukrainian armed forces, including air-defence systems, anti-tank weapons and ammunition. The US is also stepping up its arms shipments, and is providing an additional $350 million in military assistance, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, small arms and ammunition.
"We are stepping up our support for Ukraine," said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission. "For the first time, the EU will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and equipment to a country under attack. We are also strengthening our sanctions against the Kremlin." She hailed the resilience of the Ukrainian people as "outstanding and impressive" and "an inspiration for all of us."
The Vice-President of the EU Commission, Josep Borrell, added: "We see blatant violations of international law and with more and more civilian infrastructure being targeted, violating international humanitarian law. Putin is bombing, launching missile strikes and killing innocent people. But the Ukrainian armed forces are fiercely fighting back and showing a heroic resistance to this invasion. It's a people's army fighting their invader."
Support for the oppressed should not need to be dependent on laws and conventions, or permission from anyone. It should be the default position. That is why we have international laws and conventions, to ensure that this is the case, but they are not working for the benefit of all people.
I back whatever is being done for the people of Ukraine, but am wondering why the US and Europe are so keen to stand against the Russian occupation of Ukraine, and defend the right of the Ukrainians to resist the occupation, and yet they have not adopted the same measures to support the people of Palestine, who have suffered under a brutal Israeli occupation since 1948.
It is also reasonable, I believe, to ask why the Ukrainians resisting the occupation of their land are being hailed and supported as heroes, while Palestinians who do the same are criminalised as "terrorists". Why are these countries sending high-tech and gamechanger arms to Ukraine to be used against the Russian occupation, but in occupied Palestine they actually send arms to the occupation forces of the apartheid state of Israel?
The US and EU justify their support for the armed resistance of the Ukrainian people because the occupying power, Russia, is "bombing, launching missile strikes and killing innocent people." US President Joe Biden has said that Russia is intentionally targeting Ukrainian civilians in its attack on the country. He pointed out that targeting transport infrastructure, homes, hospitals and schools is clear evidence that civilians are being targeted by the Russians.
And yet, doesn't Israel "bomb, launch missile strikes and kill innocent people" in occupied Palestine? Of course it does, but the language coming out of Washington and Brussels is very different when that happens, as it does, with sickening regularity. Moreover, neither have ever taken any meaningful punitive action against the occupation state of Israel — certainly not sanctions or anything remotely like them — despite its daily attacks on the Palestinians. When Israel attacks Palestinian transport infrastructure, homes, hospitals and schools, all that the US and Europe say is that Israel has the right to defend itself.
The absurdity of this claim is being exposed daily in Ukraine. No occupying power has the right to claim "self-defence" when people resist the occupation. Such a defence simply does not exist in international law.
Furthermore, the US and EU not only back the occupation state of Israel and whitewash its crimes against the Palestinians, but also seek to suppress criticism of the state and its pernicious ideology, Zionism. Even entirely peaceful resistance, such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, is alleged to be "anti-Semitic" and is thus criminalised.
It can't be said often enough that the situation in Ukraine has revealed the true colours of the West. Its hypocrisy is breathtaking, with comments from politicians and media personalities making it very obvious that the application of international law is selective, based upon the faith and ethnicity of the victims and oppressors. So-called "universal values" are anything but; they certainly aren't universal — as the Ukraine-Palestine comparison demonstrates — and so have no value to the people living under the occupations and tyrannies supported by the US and EU. Western double standards are despicable and have no place in international relations.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.