The Problem of Narrative: Ukraine vs. Palestine | Politics & Elections | Detroit
It has been just over two months since Russia invaded Ukraine, which has sparked harsh reactions from the West, as well as accusations of hypocrisy and double standards.
As airstrikes continue to cause carnage, civilians are targeted, buildings are bombed and a new refugee crisis looms in Europe. If this sounds all too familiar, it’s because it’s been happening for a very long time – just not in Europe, but especially in Palestine and other countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Less than a year ago, Palestine faced one of its biggest aerial bombardments in recent times, which claimed the lives of at least 255 Palestinians. It seemed that the Palestinian narrative had finally gained momentum on the international stage, but little had been done in relation to the efforts being made for Ukraine.
Sanctions against Russian oligarchs and asset freezes have been imposed, but now Facebook and Instagram will temporarily allow posts calling for violence against Russians or the death of Putin, according to a Reuters report. This unprecedented move is a curious move given that so many pro-Palestine posts have been taken down over the past year by the same platforms. 7amleh, a non-profit organization aimed at enabling Palestinian society to use social media effectively, had received more than 200 complaints about deleted posts and suspended accounts linked to Sheikh Jarrah, the Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem that faced forced evictions and home demolitions, leading to the start of last year’s violence between Israel and Hamas.
The conflict in Ukraine has rekindled these double standards, with social media users quick to point out the contrast between Palestine and Ukraine in Western media and government responses.
CJ Werlemen, a journalist and anti-Islamophobia activist, tweeted that those who support the Palestinian resistance often allude to terrorism — something that doesn’t seem to apply to those who support Ukraine’s right to self-defense.
If a Muslim expressed support for the occupied Palestinians, using the exact same words white people use to support the Ukrainian resistance, then they would be blocked and put on a no-fly list.
— CJ Werleman (@cjwerleman) March 9, 2022
As the gruesome scenes of hundreds of missiles targeting Ukrainian towns unfolded, another tweeted how Israel fired the same amount of missiles in an hour into Gaza.
Russia has fired more than 625 missiles at Ukraine in the past two weeks, according to the Pentagon.
This number is meant to shock you.
Consider this, Israel fired the same number of shells at a single Gaza neighborhood *in one hour* in its 2014 attack.
—Ahmed Eldin | أحمد شهاب الدين (@ASE) March 9, 2022
An old photo of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi was also making the rounds on TikTok and Twitter – mistaken for a Ukrainian woman standing up to a Russian soldier, until the false claim was quickly debunked. Many have expressed their anger based on the double standard of resistance to being the wrong “white”.
It’s funny how she’s not a terrorist anymore when people think she’s white https://t.co/0q8RUJbY9F
— Mo (objectively correct) Ⓐ☭🇵🇸 (@__MoBlack) February 27, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyym echoed that sentiment in a television interview with the BBC when he said: “It’s very moving for me because I see Europeans with blue eyes and blond hair being killed, children being killed every day”.
The images have gone viral on social media, among other news stories. A journalist posted a thread about such media coverage as “inaccurate and dangerous”.
Here is a thread with more examples of thinking in some newsrooms when it comes to international news. I have a lot more to say about this. But another day and probably not on Twitter. https://t.co/5RK22rwGAP
— Megha Mohan (@meghamohan) February 27, 2022
Another resemblance emerged between the two countries when Russian airstrikes destroyed a children’s hospital and a maternity hospital in Mariupol. A few days earlier, a maternity hospital was also bombed in the city of Zhytomyr, where new mothers and their babies had to be evacuated. Amnesty International and the President of Ukraine have equated indiscriminate attacks on civilians with war crimes.
That plea from Ukraine reverberated among its Western allies, as sympathy poured in with sanctions aimed at blocking Moscow from the global economy.
But where were those sanctions when schools, mosques, media towers and hospitals were targeted by Israel last year?
On a much smaller scale, the international BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement against Israeli products has done just that.
Last year was a turning point for Palestine, as it was evident that the Palestinians had won the narrative through social media and public pressure, causing well-known companies like Ben & Jerry’s to halt production in Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.
Given the actions that are being taken against Russia, it is clear to see why many would agree that BDS is the legitimate action to take against an occupying force.
However, many people have been irritated that while pressing action against Russia, the United States and other governments have resisted similar measures against Israel.
In March, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken condemned Russia during a session of the UN Human Rights Council.
In the same speech, Blinken made a point of highlighting Israel. “We will continue to fight against anti-Israel bias and the unfair and disproportionate attention given to the Council by Israel,” he said, adding that the Council’s investigation into Israel’s crimes “is a stain on the credibility of the Council”.
Palestinians or not, such grievances seem to have fallen on deaf ears as the United States has presented one exceptional rule for Israel and another for the rest of the world. The danger ripples through stifling such arguments and reinforcing those double standards in which people of color or religion can only be confined.
Such rhetoric from the US government has repercussions closer to home, here in Detroit.
In June 2021, Wayne State University President Roy Wilson was accused of blocking WSU’s student senate from using the school’s email list to make a statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a statement to Metro timetablesWilson said he supports free speech for students.
“By making available the use of a university mailing list, a university resource, one could interpret that the statement of the Student Senate represented the views of the university, which it did not,” a- he declared. “However, we strongly support their free expression.”
Like academic institutions, students were forced to remain impartial in the face of the conflict.
Kay Moussaoui, 24, a law student at WSU, observed that law students “are afraid to speak up because if they’re looking for a corporate job, they don’t want to get caught up in the Canarian mission.”
The Canary Mission documents individuals caught up in protests in Palestine or promoting pro-Palestinian sentiment. It contains students, professors, activists and organizations like BDS, AlJazeeraand Jewish Voice for Peace.
Student activist Husam Kaid, 23, from New York, is one of many young people blacklisted for protesting and being associated with organizations like Student for Justice in Palestine and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). .
He argues that many students who are documented on the Canary Islands mission become “unemployable” when they graduate, especially when funding is tied to wealthy Zionist organizations such as WSU.
Another Georgetown University law student shared a post. “When Palestinian students asked the Dean of Georgetown Law why our school kept silent about the Israeli bombardment and killing of over 250 people in Gaza and the desecration of Al-Aqsa during Eid and Ramadan of 2021, we were told ‘Georgetown does not comment on international issues.’ The University has released a statement to offer prayers to the victims of the Russian invasion,” the message read.
When Palestinian students asked the Dean of Georgetown Law why our school kept silent about the Israeli bombardment and killing of over 250 people in Gaza and the desecration of Al-Aqsa during Eid and Ramadan of 2021, we told us “Georgetown does not comment on international issues”. pic.twitter.com/yCuS8MHomt
— هناء (@hana4now) February 24, 2022
The general census of the current narrative is that the international response to the crisis in Ukraine has taught a number of lessons to the international community: Calling for any form of boycott or sanctions from a foreign nation is not necessarily inappropriate or racist , social media giants will censor posts when it’s in their best interests to do so, and apparently sympathy is capped if you’re a brown refugee who also happens to be a Muslim.
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