U.S. Sanctions Russia for its Invasion of Ukraine; Now Sanction Israel for its Occupation of Palestine

21 March, 2022,
Polit­i­cal car­toon com­par­ing Ukraine-Pales­tine by artist-writer Eli Val­ley.


Opin­ions pub­lished in The Markaz Review reflect the per­spec­tive of their authors and do not nec­es­sar­i­ly rep­re­sent TMR. 


Jeff Warner and Yossi Khen


Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin claims that Ukraine has no right of sov­er­eign­ty, and used that to jus­ti­fy Russia’s occu­pa­tion of the Crimea and the Don­bas regions, and uses it to jus­ti­fy Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine, now in its fourth week. In his Feb. 21, 2022 “Ukraine is not even a state” speech, Putin said that “Ukraine was nev­er a true nation” and has no claim to inde­pen­dence. He claimed that, “the very idea of Ukrain­ian state­hood was a fic­tion,” and “the result of a his­tor­i­cal error.” Putin reject­ed Ukrain­ian peo­ple­hood by assert­ing the Ukraine peo­ple are as an inte­gral part of Rus­sia with its “peo­ple con­nect­ed with us [Rus­sia] by blood, fam­i­ly ties.” 

Israel uses par­al­lel log­ic when it claims that Pales­tine has no right of sov­er­eign­ty, and Pales­tini­ans have no peo­ple­hood, to jus­ti­fy its con­tin­ued occu­pa­tion of the West Bank and siege of the Gaza Strip. This claim was most famous­ly stat­ed by Prime Min­is­ter Gol­da Meir in 1969 when she said, “there is no such thing as Pales­tini­ans,” a fic­tion that has been repeat­ed numer­ous times since by many Israeli officials.

Despite the sim­i­lar­i­ty in the two claims, Pres­i­dent Biden, the main­stream cor­po­rate media, and almost the entire Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy elite treat each quite dif­fer­ent­ly. The Russ­ian claim is reject­ed. But the Israeli claim is not only accept­ed but sup­port­ed by an annu­al $4 bil­lion gift in mil­i­tary aid, which Israel uses to enforce its claims.

The Israeli claims under­lie Israel’s refusal to nego­ti­ate a two-state solu­tion with Pales­tini­ans as fore­seen in the 1993 Oslo Accords. Russia’s claim is used to expand its ille­gal mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion of parts of the Donet­sk Peo­ple’s Repub­lic and the Luhan­sk Peo­ple’s Repub­lic in the Don­bas region of Ukraine, and to jus­ti­fy its mil­i­tary inva­sion of all of Ukraine. 

The Russ­ian and Israeli claims go far beyond the asser­tion that nei­ther Ukraini­ans nor Pales­tini­ans are a peo­ple with sov­er­eign­ty in their land.

  • Rus­sia and Israel claim they are threat­ened by Ukraine and Pales­tine respectively.
  • Rus­sia and Israel deny nation­al rights for the Ukrain­ian and Pales­tin­ian peo­ple respectively.
  • Rus­sia and Israel claim ances­tral rights to the Ukrain­ian and Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ry, respec­tive­ly, and use those rights to claim sov­er­eign­ty over Ukrain­ian and Pales­tin­ian lands.
  • Putin demo­nizes Ukraini­ans as “Nazis” and Israel demo­nizes Pales­tini­ans as “ter­ror­ists.”
  • Rus­sia and Israel inflict human right abus­es on the Ukrain­ian and Pales­tin­ian peo­ple, respectively.

Both Russ­ian and Israeli claims are his­tor­i­cal­ly wrong. Ukraine and Pales­tine are cul­tur­al­ly, lin­guis­ti­cal­ly, eco­nom­i­cal­ly, and reli­gious­ly dis­tinct from Rus­sia and Israel respec­tive­ly, and also dis­tinct from sur­round­ing states.

The claims are lies and propaganda.

Car­toon by Car­los Latuff (cour­tesy Mondoweiss).

The dif­fer­ence between Rus­sia and Israel is that Rus­sia is uni­ver­sal­ly crit­i­cized for its inva­sion of Ukraine, where­as Israel’s occu­pa­tion of Pales­tine is ignored or even accept­ed by the U.S. and West­ern states. 

Even though the inva­sion is less than a month old, and Rus­sia was already being pun­ished for its mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion of Crimea and Don­bas, the Unit­ed States, UK, Euro­pean Union, Japan, and oth­er allies have imposed tough finan­cial sanc­tions on Rus­sia and its lead­ers; Rus­sia is becom­ing pari­ah state. 

In con­trast, Israel has nev­er been pun­ished for its 55-year occu­pa­tion of Pales­tini­ans (to speak only of the 1967 con­quer­ing of the ter­ri­to­ries), even though dozens of Unit­ed Nations res­o­lu­tions, most recent­ly UNSC-2334, Decem­ber 23, 2016, have con­demned Israeli’s occu­pa­tion and demand­ed its reversal.

Israel ignores deci­sions of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty with impuni­ty; Israel pays no price.

This hypocrisy and dou­ble stan­dard of inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics must not stand. Sanc­tions with con­se­quences for Israel and its elite can start to break that conundrum. 

Sanc­tions are designed to inflict on a coun­try and its lead­ers finan­cial pain to coerce them into chang­ing the exist­ing polit­i­cal sys­tem. The harsh sanc­tions against Rus­sia and its lead­ers intend to coerce Rus­sia into end­ing and revers­ing its inva­sion of Ukraine, and to rec­og­nize Ukrain­ian sov­er­eign­ty and Ukrain­ian nation­hood. Sanc­tions on Israel would be to coerce Israel to rec­og­nize Pales­tin­ian nation­hood, and to make peace by end­ing its occu­pa­tion of Pales­tin­ian territory. 

In a 2021 arti­cle, one of us point­ed out that the essen­tial ele­ment to end­ing apartheid in South Africa was the elite recog­ni­tion of the finan­cial cost of apartheid, which opened the elite to seek polit­i­cal change. 

But Israel pays no finan­cial price for its decades of aggres­sion towards Pales­tine and Pales­tini­ans, with a regime that human rights groups char­ac­ter­ize as apartheid. Since it suf­fers no pain, Israel refus­es to change its Pales­tin­ian poli­cies. Until the Israeli elite feel the finan­cial cost of the occupation/apartheid, there will be no change.

Harsh sanc­tions will help the Israeli elite to see a finan­cial cost of occupation/apartheid, and that it is time for Pales­tine to be free. 

The Unit­ed States must impose sanc­tions against Israel and its lead­ers for the over 50-year occu­pa­tion that has been char­ac­ter­ized as apartheid, most recent­ly by Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al. Two good first steps would be for the Unit­ed States to: (1) stop its annu­al $4 bil­lion gift of mil­i­tary aid to Israel because it vio­lates U.S. law, and (2) remove the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt sta­tus of Amer­i­can-based “char­i­ties” that sup­port ille­gal Israeli set­tle­ment enter­pris­es in the occu­pied West Bank, includ­ing East Jerusalem.

The annu­al U.S. gift of mil­i­tary assis­tance to Israel vio­lates two U.S. laws: (1) The For­eign Assis­tance Act (FAA) (P.L. 87–195), and (2) The Arms Export Con­trol Act (AECA) (P.L. 90–629), both enhanced by the Leahy Law.

The FAA pro­motes human rights, say­ing “no secu­ri­ty assis­tance may be pro­vid­ed to any coun­try the gov­ern­ment of which engages in a con­sis­tent pat­tern of gross vio­la­tions of inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized human rights.” Israeli gross vio­la­tions of human rights are well known and sure­ly include, among oth­ers, impris­on­ing Pales­tini­ans with­out tri­al under Admin­is­tra­tive Deten­tion with­out even stat­ing the charges, and the tor­ture of Pales­tin­ian chil­dren under interrogation.

The AECA lim­its the use of U.S. weapons “sole­ly for inter­nal secu­ri­ty, for legit­i­mate self-defense.” Here again, Israeli vio­la­tions of these pro­vi­sions are well known and sure­ly include, among oth­ers, bom­bard­ment of Gaza aimed at civil­ians and civil­ian infra­struc­ture, and Israeli bom­bard­ment of Iran­ian forces and bases in Syr­ia that take place on a week­ly basis.

By grant­i­ng 501(c)(3) sta­tus to a “char­i­ty,” the Trea­sury Depart­ment makes dona­tions tax-deductible, mean­ing that those “char­i­ties” are effec­tive­ly receiv­ing a sub­sidy from the U.S. Gov­ern­ment. But sev­er­al “char­i­ties” with 501(c)(3) sta­tus direct­ly con­tribute to Jew­ish-only, Israeli set­tle­ments in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that are ille­gal under inter­na­tion­al law, accord­ing to the 2004 Advi­so­ry Opin­ion of the Inter­na­tion­al Court of Jus­tice and U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Res. 2334 (2016).  As point­ed out in a July 22, 2021 Con­gres­sion­al let­ter to Sec­re­tary of Trea­sury Janet Yellen, “Grant­i­ng and sus­tain­ing 501(c)(3) sta­tus rec­og­nizes and sup­ports this unlaw­ful con­duct that is con­trary to exist­ing U.S. oblig­a­tions under inter­na­tion­al law and estab­lished U.S. pub­lic policy.”


apartheidGazaIsraelOccupationPalestineUkraineWest Bank

Yossi Khen is an Israeli-American and a former Israeli soldier. He served time in military jail in the 1970s for refusing to serve in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Khen is a retired software engineer.

Jeff Warner is Action Coordinator of LA Jews for Peace. He has worked for peace in Israel-Palestine for 15 years including participating in two humanitarian missions to the West Bank and one to Gaza. Warner is a retired geologist.


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