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The West must decide what to support: Israel’s genocide in Gaza or Ukraine’s war against Russia

February 16, 2024 at 11:30 am

An aerial view of the civil defence teams and Palestinians conduct search and rescue operations among the rubbles of the destroyed buildings after Israeli attacks on the house belonging to the Reyyan family as Israel’s air, land and sea attacks continue on the Gaza Strip at Nuseirat refugee camp in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on February 15, 2024 [Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency]

Walking the streets of Lviv in western Ukraine in December, trying to avoid the deadly black ice which is the bane of winters there, the last thing I expected to hear was the question “What do you think about Israel and Palestine?” I turned my face to Yulia, a lawyer who I had met only an hour before, slightly surprised at the fact she was even interested in the region. “I think you support Palestine, yes?” she pushed.

When I pointed out that the Palestinians were in a situation not so different than the Ukrainians, both holding out amid endless bombardments, military offensives and occupation by an aggressive neighbour with ideological claims to their land, she was in disbelief. Her expression was as if I was a pro-Russian propagandist myself.

“But it’s the other way around, the Palestinians are like the Russians and the Israelis are like us Ukrainians,” she countered. After I reiterated the point, she finally narrowed her objection down to the perception that Russia is siding with the Palestinians diplomatically, as well as holding good relations with Iran. In a classic binary worldview, that must apparently mean Palestinians are inherently against Kyiv and with Moscow.

It was a conversation I was to have many times throughout my stay in war-ravaged Ukraine, a country now largely on the defensive against Russian forces following the lack of momentum in the long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive last summer.

The view is hardly surprising, as it is the common one held by populations in countries within the orbit of the US and NATO, such as Kosovo, South Korea and now Ukraine.

It does, of course, contradict their own situations: the Kosovan Albanians would hardly tolerate occupation by the Serbs, and the Ukrainians are attempting to resist invasion and occupation by the Russians. Yet politics is far more influential than moral arguments, so one should not expect populations who are grateful to the Americans and NATO to oppose Israel and its occupation any time soon.

READ: Supporting Tel Aviv’s war, Zelenskyy says Israel can go ‘beyond laws’

The perceived affiliation of the Palestinians with Russia is also a largely flawed and mistaken one, though, as Moscow is neither a great supporter of Palestine nor an enemy of Israel. Its official stance is to support the establishment of a Palestinian state, true, and it has an alliance with states such as Iran and Syria which are part of the alleged ‘axis of resistance’ against Israel and American hegemony, but Russia remains largely a neutral player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A far more accurate view amongst many other Ukrainians I found was firstly that the Israel’s war in Gaza did not much concern Ukrainians, as they have their own war against Russia to deal with, and even more so that the overwhelming feeling in Ukraine is that the Israeli offensive is stealing the bulk of the international community’s attention away from the Russian offensive and Ukrainian war effort.

And they are not wrong in that view in the slightest. Not only is Tel Aviv’s military operation stealing away the world’s attention and diverting diplomatic efforts, but it is also directly impacting Kyiv’s ability to procure arms supplies vital to its efforts to militarily repel – and therefore diplomatically counter – Moscow’s invasion.

One reason for that is the strategic American weapons stockpiles within Israel, established as part of an agreement between the two countries for the purpose of ensuring Israeli military and security dominance over the occupied Palestinian territories and the wider region.

A year ago, at the beginning of 2023, the US had permitted Ukraine to use that cache as a further stream of arms supplies for its war effort, giving Kyiv and its military an unspecified amount of artillery shells and possibly other arms.

In October, however, following Hamas’s operation into areas surrounding the besieged Gaza Strip, the US began diverting the supplies away from Ukraine and to Israel instead. American officials insisted that the diversion would have no immediate impact on Ukraine’s ability to fight against Russian forces, and Pentagon spokesperson Patrick Ryder told reporters that “We are confident we can support both Ukraine and Israel in terms of their defensive needs.”

Despite that, the shift in the cache’s use seems to be having some impact upon the Ukrainian war effort, as the country’s military reports a severe and growing shortage in its supply of artillery shells.

READ: Putin’s gambit amidst Israel’s war on Gaza

Another way that the Israeli offensive and genocide in Gaza distracts from Ukraine’s struggle is the $95 billion aid package currently being passed through US Congress to provide military funding to both Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Although Kyiv is set to receive the vast sum of $60 billion and Tel Aviv $14 billion, that latter amount is one that could have gone toward the Ukrainian war effort if it was not for Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza.

Whether one sides with Ukraine or Russia, or whether one calls the war an invasion or a ’special operation’, it is undeniable that Ukraine as a state – and potentially as a people, if you believe Russia has genocidal intentions as many Western policymakers assert – is facing an existential threat at the hands of the much vaster Russian military with seemingly ever-replenishing supplies. Territorially, Ukraine also has less strategic depth to fall back on, in comparison to Russia’s boundless land mass.

Israel is facing no such existential threat: whatever the outcome of the current and ongoing conflict, Hamas is backed into a corner. It has surprised many, including Israeli forces, by surviving this long and maintaining the capabilities of its armed wing amid the occupation’s genocidal onslaught, but despite that, Israel clearly has the upper hand militarily and is under no direct threat from the surrounding compliant Arab states.

Israel does indeed possess a limited amount of strategic depth to fall back on in the very unlikely and fantastical event of a conquest by Hamas or another Palestinian force, and it does have strategic territorial objectives by which it seeks to secure its military supremacy, but Hamas’s strategic depth is practically non-existent, with only the tunnels beneath Gaza and the diplomatic halls in Doha to fall back on.

In every possible and perceivable avenue, and from a purely objective viewpoint, Ukraine’s war is one for its existence, while Israel’s war is one of military domination, occupation and the extermination of an entire population.

Israel is stealing both the world’s attention and the West’s resources and military support from Ukraine. It is time for Kyiv to wake up to that fact, and for the US and the Western world to decide which front is its priority.

READ: Ukraine and Gaza: Exposing the West’s double standards

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