The latest example of Western hypocrisy is Germany's outrageous and unjustified campaign against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who described the ongoing Israeli onslaught against the people of occupied Palestine as a "holocaust". Such hypocrisy is at an unprecedented level.
Despite the daily killing of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers and the terrorism of illegal Jewish settlers, a journalist at the joint press conference in Berlin for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Abbas on 16 August chose to ask the Palestinian leader if he will apologise to the Israelis for the 1972 Munich Olympics incident in which several Israelis were killed. The attack was in response to Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.
This was a provocative question, not least because the journalist ignored what is going on across the occupied Palestinian territories. New victims of Israeli violence are reported every day. Less than two weeks ago, Israel's bombing of residential areas in Gaza killed almost fifty Palestinians, including seventeen children. Why not ask about them?
The reality is that the journalist's question reflected the prevailing Western mindset which sides with the occupation aggressor, Israel, rather than the victims of the colonial occupation, the Palestinians. In fact, the Palestinians and their legitimate rights are ignored to the extent of them sliding into oblivion. Their narrative is neither listened to nor accepted.
Abbas didn't deny the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews and other groups during the Second World War. He tried to point out that with Israel's ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine since 1948, the Palestinians are facing a type of holocaust that has lasted more than seven decades and seeks their extinction in their own land. Israel has committed well-documented crimes and massacres, and imposes apartheid — akin to a crime against humanity — on the Palestinians which, when considered together, amount to a holocaust-like scenario. The desired end result is the same; only the means used to achieve are different.
According to the mainstream media in the West, the Palestinians are the aggressors; their legitimate resistance against Israel's occupation is described as "terrorism"; and their narrative is marginalised. Politicians push this one-sided view to garner votes and election donations from pro-Israel lobbyists.
Moreover, Western journalists are all too often far from neutral when reporting incidents in occupied Palestine. Israeli attacks on Palestinians and the response of the latter are usually referred to as "a flare-up of violence". The fact that this is not a struggle between two armies or states is lost as the asymmetric nature of the conflict is ignored. Hence we see the villain portrayed as the victim, and the victim portrayed as the villain.
Even though the Western media did not tolerate Abbas's comparison of Israeli violations and crimes with the Holocaust, no suitably accurate alternative descriptions of Israeli violations against the Palestinians were put forward. So we weren't told about Israeli apartheid, illegal settlements, colonisation, home demolitions, extrajudicial killings, denial of free access to places of worship, closures and curfews, military checkpoints, arbitrary arrests and administrative detention with neither charge nor trial. These are brushed under the carpet by most Western coverage of the conflict. The dictionary definitions of "holocaust" — not "the Holocaust" — include "any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life", which sums up Israel's actions against the Palestinians.
However, the Palestinians are fighting back using social media. If the mainstream is going to ignore and distort the reality of life under Israeli occupation, then the Palestinians will use social media to get the correct message across. It is generally successful, which explains why many pro-Palestine websites, accounts and posts are censored by the social media platforms. Freedom of speech is in the news with the attack on Salman Rushdie; where are those who defend his right to say what he wants when it is the Palestinians who are being censored?
The Holocaust card has been weaponised by Israel to ensure that Israelis are seen as victims, and to let them act with impunity against the Palestinians. When Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, Israeli officials rejected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's comparison with the Holocaust. Israeli officials have always sought to keep the term "holocaust" as exclusive to Jewish suffering and use it to blackmail anyone who dares to speak against them. With help from the Western media they have largely succeeded.
The remark by Mahmoud Abbas was thus yet more evidence of Western hypocrisy whereby some suffering is more important than any other, based on biased political calculations and interests. The result is that some suffering must be remembered every year even 80 years later or longer, while suffering happening before our eyes is brushed aside as "collateral damage" or denied altogether.
The German reaction to Abbas's words demonstrated that Western governments in Europe and the US are far from being honest brokers in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. When the mentality is such that governments refuse to admit to the daily and ongoing suffering of the Palestinians, then these governments will always act in Israel's favour; the villain will always be viewed as the victim, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The Holocaust was indeed a terrible thing, but that doesn't mean that the injustices meted out to the Palestinian people for more than seven decades should be condoned or overlooked. Far from it; they must be revealed to the whole world. Palestinians and their supporters everywhere must speak out about the Israeli occupation, using alternative media so that their voices are not only heard, but listened to.
At the same time, Palestinian leaders must seek a new vision of liberation and independence that does not count on Europe or the US to reclaim their legitimate rights. Such a vision should encompass the likes of Russia and China, as well as a strong, united and inclusive Palestinian leadership that can stand up against the Israeli occupation and its propaganda.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.