columnIsrael News

Why liberals fail to equate Israel and Ukraine

The reaction to aggression against each country plays very differently in the anti-Semitic West.

An illustration of Israeli and Ukrainian flags. Credit: ruskpp/Shutterstock.
An illustration of Israeli and Ukrainian flags. Credit: ruskpp/Shutterstock.
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir, Guardian Angel, has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy, in 2018. To access her work, go to:

Two women and a rabbi were among four Israelis murdered in a terrorist attack this week in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva.

The terrorist, a Bedouin from a village of Houra, north of the city, had previously been jailed for supporting ISIS.

The Beersheva attack was, in fact, the fourth terrorist attack on Israelis in a week. There were also stabbings and a shooting attack in eastern Jerusalem, west Jerusalem and a village near Nablus, injuring civilians and a policeman.

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad welcomed all these attacks and called for increased “resistance.” Britain’s Jewish Chronicle reports that there’s been a surge in online jihadi calls for such “resistance” that’s believed to be driven by Iran.

Police and counter-terrorism experts told the paper that they were discounting any involvement of ISIS in the Beersheva attack. Instead, they said, a shadowy Iranian group has been training Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah in how to use social-media platforms to sow hatred for Jews among Arab Israelis.

None of these attacks, however, merited more than glancing media coverage in Britain or America.

The contrast with public concern over Ukraine is stark. Of course, these situations are totally different in scale.

But even when thousands of rockets were being fired from Gaza into Israel last year with the aim of murdering Israeli civilians, the situation received scant coverage in Western media until Israel finally took military action against Hamas.

No mainstream Western journalists hastened to southern Israel to inform aghast British or American readers about the appalling trauma being endured by families forced to live for weeks or even months in bomb shelters.

Like Ukraine, Israel is a country under existential attack. The fact that, unlike the current Russian onslaught on Ukraine, Israel is subjected to an unending war by terrorist proxies backed by rogue states—punctuated over the past century by all-out regular wars—doesn’t alter that similarity.

Yet today, hardly any Western journalists are equating Israel with Ukraine. Instead, more people in Britain are appallingly equating Israel with Russia’s warmongering and tyrannical president Vladimir Putin.

This is because they have uncritically absorbed the propaganda pumped out for decades by the Palestinian Arabs that Israel has taken over their historic lands.

In fact, the reverse is the case. The Jews are the only people for whom the land was ever their national kingdom—long before the waves of invasion by Romans, Christians and Muslims.

That’s the reason that, in the 1920s, the international community gave the Jewish people alone the right to settle throughout their ancient homeland—the area which is now Israel, the “West Bank” and Gaza.

That right has never been abrogated. Yet many in the West believe that the Jews are the interlopers.

It’s a belief that appears to be shared by the U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides. He told Americans for Peace Now that the idea of Jewish settlement growth in eastern Jerusalem and the disputed territories “infuriates me.”

“We can’t do stupid things that impede us for a two-state solution,” he said. “We can’t have Israelis doing settlement growth in east[ern] Jerusalem or the West Bank.”

His ignorance was staggering. He seemed to be oblivious that the war to exterminate Israel started when Israel was reborn, decades before Jews started to settle the “West Bank.”

He ignored the fact that ever since its creation, the State of Israel has repeatedly agreed to a Palestinian state alongside it, and that the people who have rejected that “two-state solution” are the Palestinian Arabs.

And he seemed unaware that, since the Jews are the only people with a legal and historical claim to the whole of the ancient land of Israel, the inescapable logic of his objection to Jews living in parts of that land must therefore extend to Jews living in any of it.

What he went on to say, however, was even worse. Referring to the payments made by the Palestinian Authority to the families of terrorists—termed “pay-for-slay”—Nides said: “These martyr payments, you know we can debate and talk about it, have caused an enormous amount of problems. And I’m working with [Israeli Defense] Minister [Benny] Gantz and the prime minister and the Palestinians to figure out how to stop it, because it gives the haters—and there are haters—who say: ‘We can’t do this because they are paying for people to kill Jews.’ ”

By haters, Nides didn’t mean the Palestinian Arab leaders who teach their children to hate Jews, murder Israelis and steal their land. He meant those who stand against them.

Astonishingly, he was saying that while Israeli settlement growth was so bad that it mustn’t be tolerated at all, rewarding terrorists’ families and thereby incentivizing terrorism merely caused “problems”—because this could be used as an argument against a Palestinian state.

Just how morally degraded is this thinking? Moreover, endorsing the false claim that the Israeli residents of the territories are the problem because no Jews should live there serves to legitimize and thus further incite more Palestinian terrorist attacks.

And yet Nides professed horror and sympathy over the Beersheva atrocity. “Despicable terrorist attack today in Beersheva,” he said. “This has to stop! My heart goes out to the victims and their families.”

Nides’s mindset reflects the left’s fantasy that eastern Jerusalem and the disputed territories are Palestinian land that Israel has no right to be in at all.

This is the same kind of mind-bending reversal that we hear from Putin, the former KGB officer, when he dismisses Ukraine as a fake country involved in aggressive action against Russia.

The similarity is hardly surprising since the entire Palestinian fiction was concocted in the 1960s between the terrorist leader Yasser Arafat and the Soviet Union.

This has been nourished in the West by the liberal belief that the nation-state is the fount of all evil, and that nationalism (in this case, Zionism) leads inevitably to prejudice, aggression and war.

Yet although Putin is an advertisement for monstrous nationalist excess, the astonishing defense against him being mounted by the Ukrainians demonstrates how an aggressor can only be repelled if people have the strongest possible attachment to their nation and understand that their freedom depends upon its survival.

The idea that Western liberals will therefore now rethink their hostility to the nation is, however, surely misplaced. This is because they aren’t in favor of national self-determination so much as they are opposed to economic and military power, which they believe makes inevitable victims out of those who can’t match it.

By this standard, the West can never be victimized by the developing world, whose violence is to be excused as “resistance.”

This is why to such people the Israelis, who have economic and military power, can never be victims. More noxiously still, the endemically anti-Semitic West believes that the Jews are cosmically all-powerful, and run the world in their own interests and to the disadvantage of everyone else. So Israel is multiply damned.

The recent upsurge of attacks against Israelis has reinforced concerns that the imminent arrival of Ramadan will produce a lethal spike in incitement and terrorism.

There are particular worries that the upcoming surrender to Iran by the Biden administration over the nuclear deal will galvanize Gaza and the disputed territories into murderous attacks, in the giddy belief that the Islamic world is now on the verge of finally annihilating Israel.

Will anyone care if Israelis find themselves once again under sustained onslaught? Only if Israel retaliates with military force. Then what the West will care about—deeply—is that the Jews have the gall to fight back.

The Ukrainians are allowed to do so. The Jews are not.

Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for “The Times of London,” her personal and political memoir, “Guardian Angel,” has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, “The Legacy.” Go to to access her work.

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