OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

The Russia-Ukraine war and Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be compared

Attempts to do so are artificial and contrived to the point of being willful and malicious.

A Hamas parade in Gaza, May 2021. Source: Screenshot.
A Hamas parade in Gaza, May 2021. Source: Screenshot.
Alan Baker (JCPA)
Alan Baker
Amb. Alan Baker is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Political groups, organizations, politicians and columnists seem to be bending over backward to find or invent similarities between the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Several factors seem to be driving this phenomenon.

First and foremost is the fear that the Russia-Ukraine war might be overshadowing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Second, there is the concomitant fear that the international community, witnessing in real-time the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine, might realize the utter transparency and hollowness of its long and tedious preoccupation with Israel.

This obsession has been stoked artificially and ceaselessly by a well-polished propaganda campaign and by manipulating international organizations led by the United Nations and its specialized agencies.

Third, it is likely that the high-intensity conflict in Ukraine will end sooner or later, while the low-intensity Israeli-Palestinian conflict will almost certainly continue to simmer indefinitely, with renewed and periodic outbreaks of violence and terror.

While one might hope that the international community would not be easily duped by attempts to equate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the war in Ukraine, when it comes to Israel, nothing can be taken for granted.

The differences between the two conflicts are clear and unmistakable. They must be impressed upon the international community and media in such a manner as to forestall false manipulations directed against Israel.

• Russia is conducting an open, high-level war of aggression with the indiscriminate and massive bombardment of civilian population centers, schools, hospitals and railway stations, as well as religious and cultural centers and monuments, in violation of the basic and widely accepted norms and principles of international humanitarian law.

• Russia is employing cluster bombs and other proscribed weapons, in violation of international conventions and protocols.

• Russia has caused masses of refugees, consisting of a significant percentage of Ukraine’s civilian population, to flee their homes, towns and villages.

By contrast:

• Israel is not conducting a high-level war of aggression against its Palestinian and other neighbors, nor does it employ prohibited and inhumane weaponry. Furthermore, Israel does not willfully and deliberately target civilians or civilian concentrations or attack religious, cultural, educational and medical sites.

• Israel faces ongoing terror attacks, periodic massive rocket barrages targeting its civilian population and the continuous excavation of offensive tunnels into its sovereign territory for the purpose of carrying out attacks within its towns and villages.

• Palestinian terrorist groups use civilian facilities—schools, hospitals, clinics, mosques and private homes—as weapons storage facilities and rocket emplacements. In addition, they use high-rise commercial buildings as tactical, operational and communications headquarters, all to shield their facilities from Israeli attack. Such cynical abuse of humanitarian norms is perhaps seen most starkly in the vast web of tactical tunnels that the terror organizations have constructed underneath Palestinian towns, civilian roads and infrastructure.

• Israel is obliged by its military doctrine to avoid civilian casualties despite such Palestinian tactics. Before any military action and often prejudicing its own tactical advantage, Israel provides early warning to civilians so that they can distance themselves from the target of an Israeli strike.

• Israel does not target Palestinian public utility facilities, power plants, or locations and monuments of religious, cultural, or historical significance.

• Israel enables a constant flow into Palestinian areas of thousands of trucks carrying supplies, food, provisions, medicines and materials through the various border passage points.

• Palestinian political tactics include manipulating and abusing the International Criminal Court by openly attempting to turn it into an international political organization devoted to delegitimizing Israel, in violation of its statute. They do this by referring hundreds of trumped-up complaints to the court despite the questionable legal status of such complaints as well as legal doubts over the Palestinians’ own status before the court.

It is clear that attempts to draw a comparison between the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine to Israel’s defense of its civilian population from ongoing Palestinian terror are artificial and contrived, to the point of being willful and malicious.

All self-respecting national parliamentary institutions and leaders and responsible media organizations are urged to reject out of hand such fake attempts to delegitimize Israel.

Ambassador Alan Baker is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.

This is an edited version of an article first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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