It doesn’t add up: From Ukraine to Palestine

The stark differences of the international community’s response to occupation from Ukraine to Palestine leaves us with questions.
an image of the concrete separation wall with graffiti that reads "Free Palestine"
Palestine 2009. Israel's Wall in Bethlehem, West Bank. Credit: Montecruz Foto / Flickr

War, whatever its causes, produces pain and crimes against humanity. The only winners of war are the politicians, and the victims are the innocent people—those who suffer trauma, displacement, starvation, and death. Through the news and social media, we are bombarded with daily accounts of killing and violence. We all sympathized with the victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as residents fled their homes and innocent people were killed. This war has continued for months. I hope it stops soon and that all residents can return to their country safely and peacefully. I hope the tears of every child who has been afraid of this ugly war are wiped dry. We, as Palestinians, are the most empathetic toward those who suffer from and resist war. We have been through many wars. 

We have cried, we have suffered, and we continue to be forcibly displaced from our lands. Our homes are being demolished and many of us are trapped, homeless or stateless. We have been torn apart from other citizens residing in Palestine in 1948: the Palestinians of Jerusalem, the Palestinians of the West Bank, and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. Some Palestinians from Palestine 48 have become internally displaced persons in the West Bank. Others have been forced out of Palestine. To this day, we are being divided and our land is being occupied. We are prevented from entering our country and our lands except when we get permits and approval from the Israeli occupation.

During the first days of the war between Russia and Ukraine, we watched the world’s reaction. Many countries condemned and denounced Russia’s invasion and began imposing economic sanctions on Russia. Since the fifth day of the war, sanctions have been imposed on the Russian president and Russian politicians. International giants like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Kentucky Fried Chicken closed all their branches in Russia, and even Apple, FedEx, Netflix, and MasterCard pulled out. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter put restrictions on Russia’s use of their platforms. Sanctions were imposed on the Russian press, and many countries froze Russian assets and Russian accounts at international banks. Many countries closed their airspaces to Russian airlines, Russia’s participation in global sports was prohibited, and Russian diplomatic missions and ambassadors in foreign countries were expelled. The International Criminal Court is preparing to investigate Russia’s war crimes.

These are all important ways to put pressure on Russia to stop the war. But why does the world not take a similar position regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestine? On topics of Palestine, the world is silent, seldom daring to condemn or denounce Israeli violence. While the countries of the world race to provide material and food aid—even military aid—in extensive international relief operations for Ukraine, Palestine continues to call for international protection from Israeli settler violence and attacks. In the Gaza Strip, under a suffocating siege, there are two million citizens who have been trapped for years, and yet nothing changes. 

Why is the world leaving Palestine and the Palestinian people to suffer? The reason stems from a culture of racism and discrimination based on ethnicity. Ukraine is a European country and Palestine is an Eastern and Arab country; this is why the world has responded differently to the situation in Ukraine. 

Palestinian refugees have been waiting seventy years for their right of return, as defined by international law, so what about them? Why has the world ignored Palestine but rose up together against Russia? Why have giant companies remained in so-called Israel instead of pulling out as they did in Russia? Instead, these companies have worsened the situation in Palestine as they support settler-colonialism by opening offices in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The world refuses to hold so-called Israel accountable to international law, the United Nations, or their decisions. But the decisions that Palestinians have waited to see implemented for seventy years were applied in Ukraine in seven days. Why? Is the Palestinian inferior to the Ukrainian? Why this discrimination?

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has followed the example of the international community and dealt humanely with Ukrainians in crisis. While the Israeli occupation has received many Ukrainian refugees and provided them with food, shelter, and health services, it continues to prevent Palestinians from moving freely.

Every day in Palestine the Israeli occupation arrests, beats, and kills people and seizes and demolishes Palestinian homes. In Jerusalem, the Israeli government makes it very difficult for Palestinians to get permits to build houses. When Palestinians build a house without a permit, the Israeli government demands that they demolish their house and pay the cost of the demolition while simultaneously building illegal settlements across East Jerusalem and the West Bank. 

The Israeli occupation confiscates lands from Palestinians. Israeli soldiers intimidate and detain children, and a wall divides Palestine and cuts Palestinians off from each other. A person who lives in the Gaza Strip cannot visit their relatives in the West Bank or even in Palestine 48. Stories have been shared of peoples’ suffering since 1948, but to this day the world only sees what it wants to see. Come to Palestine to see what is really going on here.

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