It’s high time the West ends its stomach-churning doublespeak on Palestine

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No, Israel does not have the ‘right’ to ‘defend itself’ against a population living under its occupation.

heavily damaged buildings following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza Cit
Putting Israel’s real and imagined “rights” at the centre of any discussion and action on Israel-Palestine, even when Israel is actively massacring Palestinian women and children in their thousands, is part and parcel of the US and the wider West’s strategy for “handling” the century-old conflict, writes Mhaka [Belal al Sabbagh/AFP]

On November 15, after long negotiations and four failed attempts to reach a consensus, the United Nations Security Council finally adopted a resolution on what it calls the “Israel-Palestine crisis”.

Resolution 2712, adopted with 12 votes in favour, zero against and three abstentions (from Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), however, did not achieve much other than give Israel the green light, yet again, to continue with its genocidal war on Gaza.

The resolution called for the implementation of “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors” in Gaza for “a sufficient number of days” to facilitate “full, rapid, safe and unhindered access for UN agencies and partners”. It demanded “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups, especially children, as well as ensuring immediate humanitarian access”. And ostensibly to protect Palestinian civilians, who are bearing the brunt of Israel’s offensive, it further called on “all parties to refrain from depriving the civilian population in Gaza of basic services and aid indispensable to their survival, consistent with international humanitarian law”.

Ambassador Vanessa Frazier of Malta, who drafted the text, went as far as to say the votes for the resolution would translate “into real human lives. The lives of thousands of children, civilians and heroic humanitarian workers.”

It is, of course, impossible to say whether the resolution helped save any “real human lives” at all as it did not explicitly require Israel to stop killing Palestinians or condemn its indiscriminate bombing of and lawless siege on Gaza.

Indeed, the very call for “humanitarian pauses and corridors” was nothing but an admission that the UN Security Council is more than willing to allow Israel to continue with its ethnic cleansing project in Gaza as long as it agrees to occasionally stop its bombing and give safe passage to a few aid trucks, presumably to improve optics.

This is unacceptable.

Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza out in the open. Thousands of Palestinians, overwhelmingly women and children, have been killed in Gaza since October 7. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres himself has warned that in Gaza civilians are being killed at a rate “unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict” he’s seen since he took office in 2017. The Israeli bombardment has reduced most civilian infrastructure – including hospitals, schools and a majority of homes – to rubble in the north of the besieged enclave, and the south is not faring much better. More people could die from disease in Gaza than from bombings if the health system is not urgently repaired, the World Health Organization said.

And yet, the mighty UN Security Council appears unable to offer the long suffering Palestinians in Gaza nothing more than a few aid trucks and an empty demand that Israel occasionally take a short break from indiscriminately killing them.

Even this watered-down and useless resolution, however, was a step too far for Israel’s imperial patron, the United States, who did not outright reject it yet still refused to vote for it

In the aftermath of the vote, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, explained in an official statement that her country did not vote yes because the text “did not condemn Hamas or reaffirm the right of all Member States to protect their citizens from terrorist attacks” – meaning it did not explicitly reaffirm Israel’s “right” to kill Palestinians with impunity.

This attitude, which puts Israel’s real and imagined “rights” at the centre of any discussion and action on Israel-Palestine, even when Israel is actively massacring Palestinian women and children in their thousands, is part and parcel of the US and the wider West’s strategy for “handling” the century-old conflict.

In fact, Thomas-Greenfield‘s statement on Resolution 2712 is a textbook example of how the US responds to any attempt, by anyone, to rebuke or censure its favourite settler colony: undermine the truth, defend the indefensible, and protect Israel at any cost.

In her statement, Thomas-Greenfield talked about Hamas’s October 7 attacks on southern Israel and called on Security Council members to condemn the Palestinian armed group that “gunned down civilians, burned families alive, and executed children”. Despite demanding condemnation of Hamas’s “barbaric” attack, however, she made no mention of Israel’s undoubtedly equally barbaric – or perhaps more so given its scale – shelling and siege of Gaza, which so far has killed more than 15,000 people, including a record number of children.

She, for example, did not mention how the Israeli decision to cut off fuel, water and medical supplies to Gaza’s 2.3 million people in clear violation of international law has resulted in the deaths of many patients, including premature babies, at al-Shifa and other Gaza hospitals.

She also refrained from talking about Israel’s targeted strikes on residential buildings in crowded refugee camps, on ambulance convoys or UN schools sheltering displaced civilians. She did not describe any of these acts, which made a mockery of international law and killed thousands of innocents, as “barbaric acts of terror”.

“Let’s be crystal clear,” she said, “Hamas set this conflict in motion.”

Of course, this sentence conveniently ignores Israel’s long and bloody history of colonial theft and illegal occupation that birthed Hamas in the first place.

Not content with just muddying the waters enough to shield Israel from any meaningful criticism or sanction, Thomas-Greenfield went on to do something equally sinister within her statement: She suggested that the Palestinians and the Israelis are equally suffering and that the US cares about Palestinians as much as it cares for the Israelis.

“The loss of every single innocent life is devastating,” she said without a hint of irony. “And we grieve for all those who have been killed – Israelis and Palestinians, men, women, children, and elderly people. People of all nationalities and faiths.”

This statement, from the beginning to the end, is a perfect example of the West’s default reaction to Israel’s undeniable and unjustifiable crimes against Palestinians: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Thomas-Greenfield’s statement is undoubtedly a fine example of well calculated and expertly executed political deception, but it is hardly unique or extraordinary.

Indeed, President Joe Biden, his top diplomat, Antony Blinken, and their allies across Europe have been following the same playbook as Thomas-Greenfield and engaging in fury-inducing doublespeak on Palestine since the beginning of this latest war on Gaza.

Western leaders and diplomats have been hiding, impugning and distorting facts they have deemed unfit for public consumption to influence media narratives and deceive unsuspecting audiences as well as soothe the West’s collective conscience and enable Israel’s murderous agenda.

For example, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, who claims Europeans are “defenders of the free world”, routinely indulges in stomach-churning doublespeak about Palestine.

After a massive explosion at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City killed hundreds of displaced civilians and maimed nearly as many, von der Leyen declared: “In this tragic hour, we must all redouble our efforts to protect civilians from the fury of this war.”

After she was done dispensing with the performative empathy, she turned the speech on its head and started talking about Israel’s “right to self-defence, in line with international law”.

Undoubtedly conscious of how wrong, incongruous and hypocritical that sounded, she added: “There is no contradiction in standing in solidarity with Israel and acting on the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.”

There is, unfortunately – and refusing to acknowledge that obvious contradiction is plain evil.

For decades, countless Western leaders have backed Israel’s “right” to unleash unimaginable terror on Gaza (and the occupied West Bank) in clear contravention of the Geneva Conventions.

This time the situation is so bad that UN experts have sounded the alarm over the “support of certain governments for Israel’s strategy of warfare against the besieged population of Gaza, and the failure of the international system to mobilise to prevent genocide”.

Enough is enough.

The West must respect the rules-based order and work with the international community to stop Israel’s illegal conduct in Gaza.

This is the fifth time Israel has launched a military offensive in Gaza since 2007, and each campaign has been filled with war crimes and shameless attempts in the West to undermine, justify and eventually normalise Palestinians deaths.

There’s no telling how many more lives must be lost in Gaza and the occupied West Bank before Thomas-Greenfield, Biden, von der Leyen and other Western actors make a humane and conscious effort to stop spreading lies and bolstering Israeli propaganda.

It’s time for the US and Europe to drop the atrocious pretence and condemn the genocide under way in Palestine.

In case it needs repeating: Israel does not have an indelible right to kill Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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