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.
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.”