Perhaps the only good thing about the Russian invasion of Ukraine is that it has exposed the real, instinctively racist face of the West to the whole world. According to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, for example: "Europe stands by those in need of protection. All those fleeing Putin's bombs are welcome in Europe." When the world speaks of Ukraine, the inherent racism is very clear.
Europeans have indeed welcomed the Ukrainian refugees, preparing for them a decent life with long-term residence permits; with no need to apply formally for asylum, they have access to employment as well as healthcare and education. Financial assistance is being given by governments across Europe, and they can move freely within the EU as they seek out places with established Ukrainian communities. All of this, remember, even though Ukraine is not a member of the EU.
Refugees from elsewhere, such as Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians, are also hoping for such generosity. They believe the slogans about human rights and universal values, but find themselves in shabby refugee camps not fit for human beings. New laws have been enacted which make asylum procedures more complicated. Hundreds of Arab and African refugees have died in the Mediterranean in a desperate effort to reach the shores of Europe.
It is impossible to apply for asylum in Hungary, but the far-right government has agreed a process for the Ukrainians. The hard-line nationalist Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, explained brazenly that there is a difference between the manner in which his country is dealing with Ukrainian refugees and how it dealt with Syrians and Afghans in 2015. "We are not living in a comfortable West, we are living in the midst of difficulties, not just now but throughout our history, so we are able to tell the difference between who is a migrant and who is a refugee," he said. "Migrants are stopped. Refugees can get all the help."
In a bold article, Le Monde explained the difference of approach in a number of European countries. Under the headline "With the Ukrainian refugees, the Europeans found the meaning of reception", the French newspaper pointed out: "The change that occurred in Denmark, for example, was remarkable, although the democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had set 'zero refugees' as a goal, we saw her immigration minister issue a set of decisions that allow Ukrainian to obtain the right to work, educate their children, and receive aid upon arrival." This is at a time when residency permits of Syrian immigrants were cancelled and Afghan refugees were expelled.
In Greece, Le Monde noted other contradictions. The Minister of Migration called for solidarity with the "real refugees" on the same day that the bodies of six people were found after they tried to enter the country via the island of Lesbos. The Greek government cancelled housing provisions for officially registered refugees in 2019. Greece tends to label any asylum seeker as an "economic refugee who the concerned authorities do not deal with based on the logic of whether they meet the criteria for asylum or not, but instead adopt another approach of determining whether the refugee will be in danger if they are deported to Turkey, which is usually where they are coming from."
Another example of such abhorrent racism and the arrogance in which they speak about the Arab world, came from an American journalist hosted by CNN: "It's one thing for sarin gas to be used on people in faraway Syria who are Muslim and who are of a different culture, but what is Europe going to do when it's used on European soil on Europeans?" Putin, it was implied, may dare to use chemical weapons against Europeans, and then what?
We can shout as loud as we like about double standards, but the international community which claims to revere human rights and universal values is deaf, dumb and blind towards the state violence and oppression — including invasion and occupation — in the Arab world. On the contrary, it is often at the heart of such violence, supplying weapons and giving regimes political cover at the UN.
So we see volunteers heading to fight against Russia in Ukraine being applauded by the likes of Britain's foreign secretary. Meanwhile, anyone who seeks to support the oppressed in Gaza, Syria, Yemen or Libya, even with humanitarian aid, is demonised as a "terrorist". Russia is also playing the game, recruiting "volunteers" from Syria in return for payments of up to $300 per month plus financial compensation if they are wounded or killed. Weapons are being sent to the Ukrainians openly, but woe betide anyone who tries to send weapons to the legitimate Palestinian resistance fighters or Syrian opposition groups.
On social media, Facebook has closed tens of thousands of accounts and deleted millions of posts condemning the Israeli attacks on Palestinians. My own account has been banned dozens of times under the pretext that my content encourages violence. However, Facebook ignores content showing violence against Russian soldiers. In this, the social media giant is reflecting the immorality of the hypocritical, deceitful West.
There are too many contradictions to list; everyone knows what they are. Ultimately, they confirm that we are living in a one-eyed world that only sees injustice from the perspective of its own interests. Human rights and universal values? They're a myth that only "blond haired, blue eyed" people can rely on. The rest of us have to make do with the crumbs thrown from the Western table.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.