Occupiers do not criticise other occupiers, do they? It does not make sense, and it sounds ridiculous if they do. For example, imagine Tel Aviv criticising Russia’s occupation of Ukraine and how, innocent Israel might choose its words in making an official statement of such criticism? The idea of one occupier saying something bad about another just never happened, as if there is an implicit agreement among occupiers and aggressors not to do it. This has been a historical fact associated with colonialism and it is taking a new life of its own in modern days.
I am sure you have not read or heard any past or present French official, for example, expressing his “concern”, let alone criticising about the Italian occupation forces’ brutality and inhumane treatment of Libyans when they colonised them in 1911. At the time, France has already spent the last 81 years occupying Algeria, Libya’s western neighbour, and some four decades colonising Niger and Chad, Libya’s two southern neighbours. In fact, colonial France was competing with colonial Italy in invading other countries.
The Italians in Libya were the first in the world to use airplanes to bomb poor and mostly nomad Libyans, who had never heard of Italy before. That evil-pioneering experience made headlines around the world but, in France and other colonial powers, it was viewed with envy and jealousy. I imagine the question at the time in the French corridors of power then was: how could the Italians do this before us?The colonial practices are the same, because the colonial mindset that produced them never changed. And, even today, it remains the same.
This is why Israel, the oldest coloniser in the modern world, has been doing its utmost to avoid any direct strong criticism of Russia over Ukraine, despite its allies repeatedly asking it to do so. Israel officialdom even attempted to come up with a nicer public face to cover its ugly reality.
Former Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, shamelessly and over-confidently, came up with the most presumptuous idea of mediating between Moscow and Kyiv just days after the Russian tanks rolled over the border. On 27 February, 2022, daring, cheeky Bennett made the offer in a phone call to President Vladimir Putin. It was an unprecedented impudent political maneuver.
Even Ukraine’s President did not buy the idea of “Bennett the mediator”. Speaking to Israeli lawmakers in March 2022, via video link, Zelenskyy said that mediation “can be between states, not between good and evil”. Mr. Zelenskyy might have needed someone to remind him that the gentlemen listening to him were actually part of the evil in Palestine and dovish Bennett was only posturing!
Rebuffing the Naftali Bennett “peace maker”, Mr. Putin, surely with his eyes rolling, was asking: look who is offering to make peace? After all, Israel still occupies Arab land, Palestinian land, bombs Syria almost weekly and threatens Iran every day. It still passes and imposes apartheid laws on the Palestinians under its Occupation and discriminates against its own citizens just because they are Palestinians. Tel Aviv, surely, cannot claim the moral high ground in peacemaking to the point where it feels confident to propose mediation in other conflicts. Above all, Israel is the only country in the region – maybe the world – without any clearly marked borders, simply because it is ever-expanding by grabbing more land when it can.
The regime Mr. Bennett was leading last year attacked Gaza, demolished Palestinian homes, killed and imprisoned Palestinian civilians, including children. The same regime that existed in Israel ever since it was created.
Tel Aviv has failed over the last seven decades to make peace with the very people whose land it steals everyday—the Palestinians. It is just absurd, unethical, self-contradicting and scandalous to hear any Israeli official criticising, in any way, what Russia has done and continues to do in Ukraine. It is just as ironic to hear Israel talk about peace-making and facilitating negotiations between any two states.
In September 2022, and after the “peace” offer of Mr. Bennett failed, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, despite every bad deed Israel has been doing throughout its history, told the world in a statement that it will not “recognise” the results of the Russian referendum that, effectively, annexed four Ukrainian regions making them part of Russia. The statement even said Tel Aviv recognises Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”!
It is an irony of the first order: Israel, which annexed the Syrian Golan Heights, much of the West Bank (and soon the rest of it) and, of course, East Jerusalem considers the Russian annexation illegal or immoral!
In November of last year, at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Israel abstained, while 94 other countries voted for the unbinding resolution calling on Russia to pay reparations for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Some Israeli commentators interpreted this as the easiest and least costly diplomatic response for the Ukrainian vote in support of a resolution calling on the International Court of Justice to give advice on the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories—something Israel will never forget.
What is being said about the official Israel vis-à-vis the position on Ukraine can also be said about the Israeli society. Many, in Israel itself hoped that the Russian invasion of Ukraine might force ordinary Israelis to do some soul searching and become more dovish than Mr. Bennett, but with their own neighbours this time, by electing a more moderate government able to make peace. Instead, Israelis voted to bring back Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the most fascist government, even by Israeli standards. Mr. Netanyahu will not attempt to make peace between Moscow and Kyiv, but he will make sure that there is no peace either with his next door neighbours—the Palestinians.
If Israel wants to play the role of the peace maker, it should be making peace with the Palestinians, first and foremost, by recognising their rights under international law. Even the so-called “Abraham Accords”, signed in 2020 with four Arab countries, were made through American pressure and manipulation. Besides, the Israeli intentions behind the Accords are not genuine peace, but another initiative to, further, marginalise the Palestinians instead of making peace with them.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.