ANALYSIS: By Professor Hatem Bazian
Ten lessons to be learned from the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the war rages into its second week.
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- The people of Ukraine are “European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed” while Palestinians are Arab and have darker complexion. Lesson one: Empathy and recognition of pain and suffering is colour coded and race still matters in 2022.
- Palestine, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Syria where violence is normal and death is “baked” into the culture while Ukraine is a “European city” that is modern and advanced and these things are not supposed to happen in this area. Lesson two: Western and European history is but a long series of erasures, amnesia and deeply held view of exceptionalism.
- Volunteering to fight in defence of the Ukraine from outside is a heroic act, which indeed it is, but volunteering to resist settler colonialism and Apartheid is framed as “terrorism” by Western powers. Lesson three: Palestinians are demonised no matter what heroic acts they underake.
- When an officer in the Ukraine blows himself and destroys a bridge to prevent the Russians from advancing then he is celebrated for this sacrifice. Lesson four: Palestinians are demonised for merely being Palestinians and any and all resistance are framed as terrorism.
- Sport teams and famous sport figures can express solidarity and carry the Ukrainian flag, post messages on the electronic boards and demonstrate this on the play field, which are all very positive and players should have the right and ability to do it. However, Palestine is an exception when it comes to sport figures expressing any support for the Palestinians who are living under settler colonial occupation that structured with an embedded Apartheid system of racial-religious segregation. Lesson five: The sport administrative structure hands out fines and sanctions (red card) for anyone who expresses support for Palestine including on the occasion of fans hoisting Palestinian flags in the stands.
- Calls for sending weapons to Ukraine so as to resist and fight Russian invasion and occupation is supported and expressed as a fundamental right for people facing such an enemy. Anyone who calls for supporting the Palestinians by sending military equipment or items to strengthen the resistance is criminalised and often imprisonment under the spacious law designation of material support. Lesson six: Palestinians don’t have the right to defend themselves but must accept to be occupied and the world community is committed to fund and extend all types of support to the settler colonial occupier.
- For the Ukraine, international law advocates in Western world brought out the defence of the 4th Geneva Convention, brushed-up on definitions of war crimes and genocide but none of this applies to Palestine and Palestinians. One can add must of the Global South and the Muslim World suffer the same type of double standards when it comes to international law and 4th Geneva Convention. If you have a doubt for a moment then ask the Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians on this single point then we can have a large discussion. Lesson seven: Palestinians are made to live outside the scope of international law and the Western world delivers the weapons and instruments used by Israel to violate the 4th Geneva Convention and the Convention on Genocide. The Ukraine invasion made this very clear.
- Media coverage rightly focused on the victims of the Russian invasion and the human stories with people taking weapons to defend their families, homes, and cities. Palestine always faces the media coverage that amplifies, humanises and centres the narrative of the settler colonial occupation, while erasing or often problematising Palestinian narrative in the often deployed euphemism of death during “clashes”, Israel having the right to defend itself or responding to rocket firing. Lesson eight: Palestinians are made to be the guilty party for wanting to live on their land and having the audacity to insist on it. Double standard and culpability of the Western world in furthering settler colonialism in Palestine.
- Educational institutions across the Western World expressed solidarity with the Ukraine, again rightly so when a people face an invasion. Last April-May period, Israel launched a massive attack on the Palestinians on the holiest night of Ramadan, the 27th Night of Ramadan, then followed by a massive bombardment of Gaza. When faculty members, departments and students at universities expressed solidarity with Palestine and Palestinians, a steady stream of political figures, university presidents and media figures insisted that colleges and universities should not be politicised and to make sure that their internal policies prevent them from expressing such solidarity positions. Lesson nine: Palestine on college campuses always meets the administration, Zionist and settler colonial checkpoints that are structured to prevent solidarity with the Palestinians.
- The push for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Russia are moving faster than the speed of light and often by the same set of characters that pushed for legislations to criminalise and punish the Palestinian BDS movement. Lesson ten: Palestine faces the constant double standard on the BDS front, free speech and constitutional rights. No clear evidence of double standard than to listen to the same individuals and groups who now are on the front line of seeking legislation to authorise BDS effort directed at Russia while on record opposing the Palestinian BDS Movement.
Professor Hatem Bazian is executive director of the Islamophobia Studies Center and a professor at Zaytuna College and lecturer in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures and Asian American Studies, UC Berkeley.