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Justice denied to Palestinian Arabs and Muslims means the West has lost all credibility

February 22, 2024 at 2:21 pm

A Pro Palestinian protester stands outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ) prior to the ICJ’s order on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel on January 26, 2024 in The Hague, Netherlands. [Michel Porro/Getty Images]

There is no doubting the bravery and courage of Alexei Navalny, the recently deceased Russian dissident who became a symbol of resistance against Vladimir Putin’s regime. However, the global outpouring of grief and condemnation over his suspicious demise surprised me and further highlighted the double standards and unbridled racism and Islamophobia in the West.

The BBC chose to focus on the fact that “his steadfast commitment to the fight for a free and democratic Russia served as a rallying point for those advocating for change.” The Guardian, meanwhile, which is equally critical of Moscow’s war in Ukraine, has devoted numerous articles to all aspects known about his death.

There has been little or no mention of Navalny’s repugnant views on migrants and Muslims, though, who he once described as insects and “cockroaches” during his flirtation with far-right groups in Russia. Navalny did not deserve to die, regardless of his vile video and views, but I have to question the outpouring of grief in the media.

My criticism focuses on the tale of two political prisoners, each praised for standing up to brutal regimes and tyrants, and the media reaction that followed their incarceration and murder.

Remember Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi? He was arrested and locked up during a military coup led by the current Egyptian military dictator, General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, in July 2013. Morsi’s “crime” was that he was part of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement which is both feared and loathed by most Arab dictators and tyrants.

Like Navalny, Morsi was put before a court on trumped up charges but, as an Arab Muslim, the Islamophobic and racist Western media barely ran with the story. They cared not that he was denied life-saving medicine and kept in atrocious conditions in prison. Had the democratic West’s leaders produced the sort of scathing criticism and outrage that they used when news of Navalny’s death broke, it might have been different for the very first democratically elected Egyptian president.

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Unlike the coverage given to concerns by Navalny’s family and legal team about his health behind bars, growing concern about Morsi’s rapidly deteriorating health and prison conditions rarely went beyond a single column hidden away in the foreign pages of Europe’s newspapers. When Morsi finally succumbed to his tormentors, he collapsed in the dock during a court appearance and was duly ignored by the police officers supposed to be guarding him. His burial the following day was attended by members of the family in Cairo’s Madinat Nasr after the authorities refused to grant permission for a burial in his home province of Sharqiya in the Nile Delta.

“We washed his noble body at Tora Prison hospital,” explained Morsi’s son Ahmed, “and performed prayers for him in the prison mosque… the burial was at the cemetery for Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guides.” Morsi’s lawyer, Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud, confirmed that the burial took place in Al-Wafaa wa Al-Amal cemetery the day after he died. At least Morsi was given the dignity of a funeral, I suppose, but it was nowhere near the scale of what it would have been had the burial taken place in his home town.

Besieged Gaza is the open-air prison resisting Israel’s colonisation of Palestine - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Besieged Gaza is the open-air prison resisting Israel’s colonisation of Palestine – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Navalny’s family, of course, have yet to see his body, more than five days after his reported death, and so cannot even plan a funeral. This has given rise to speculation that he was poisoned with Novichok, which was used in the attempted murder of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England, in 2018. His family claim that Navalny’s body is being kept until traces of the nerve agent have disappeared. He survived an attempt to kill him using the poison in 2020, according to his supporters.

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Call me a cynic, but I reckon that if Navalny had been a prisoner in, say, Saudi Arabia, few people would have read about his death and Britain would not have reacted to Riyadh in the same way it has reacted and lashed out against Putin and Moscow. Both Britain and the US are imposing sanctions on Russia, including the freezing of assets of six Russian officials in charge of the Arctic Circle prison where opposition leader Navalny died. No doubt other Western countries will follow suit.

The six officials will also be banned from travelling to the UK, which the Foreign Office says is the first country to impose sanctions over Navalny’s death. Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said that those responsible for Navalny’s “brutal treatment” would be held accountable.

I find the foreign secretary’s reaction particularly galling

When I personally raised concerns about President Morsi’s health and the other Muslim Brotherhood political prisoners in Cairo when Cameron was prime minister, he barely registered any response whatsoever. Instead, he rolled out the red carpet for Sisi calling him “a vital partner for us both in terms of our economic and our security ties” during a Downing Street press conference.

Of course, as the prime minister of the day, he was too busy making friends and cutting deals with Sisi the dictator and his allies in Saudi and the UAE where the Muslim Brotherhood is now banned. Indeed, far from sanctioning President Morsi’s tormentors, it was Cameron who launched an investigation designed to discredit and undermine the Muslim Brotherhood. However, his attempt to ban the movement backfired spectacularly when it was given a clean bill of health by Sir John Jenkins, a former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia who headed up the international aspects of the review.

Two more courageous political prisoners who deserve our admiration and concern are Pakistan’s Imran Khan and Australian-born journalist Julian Assange, the editor of Wikileaks, who is fighting deportation to the US in the High Court in London today (Thursday). With spineless governments like Britain’s seeking their own places on the global stage, who is going to challenge and sanction Washington, which has been a prime antagonist against both men?

Justice in the West, as always, is justice denied when it favours the oil-rich friends and supporters of the military industrial complex, and the media plays a huge role in empowering politicians to ensure that the Establishment narrative dominates.

The late, great Malcolm X, the anniversary of whose assassination we remember this week, got it right when he said: “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” Known to Muslims as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, the human rights activist also said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Malcolm’s words ring true today, not only in the hypocritical positions taken on Navalny, but also in the disgraceful double standards applied when it comes to justice for the people of occupied Palestine.

A genocide is being played out for all to see in real time on social media, and yet politicians turn a blind eye in order to protect the genocidal regime in apartheid Israel. It is disgraceful. Malcolm X had something to say about that kind of thing as well: “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

On the evidence of the shambolic House of Commons vote on a ceasefire resolution on Wednesday, very few British MPs are able to claim such noble principles. As justice is again being denied to Palestinian Arabs and Muslims, the West has lost all credibility as an honest broker for peace.

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