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Advancing US Imperialist Interests:

The Single Standard Behind US Policy in Ukraine and Palestine

Editors’ note: This article by Paul Street, historian and author, originally appeared on January 12 at The Paul Street Report.

Comparison chart: Gaza after 26 days of war, Ukraine after 500 days of war.

 

The world has been given another great opportunity to appreciate the transparent imperialist hypocrisy of United States (US) “foreign policy.” Recall the outrage with which US president Joe Biden, the US political class, and the US media responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022. Biden quickly held a press conference in which he inveighed as follows:

“The Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine without provocation, without justification, without necessity. This is a premeditated attack. Vladimir Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences… This aggression cannot go unanswered… We stand up for freedom. This is who we are…Putin’s actions betray his sinister vision for the future of our world—one where nations take what they want by force. But it is a vision that the United States and freedom-loving nations everywhere will oppose with every tool of our considerable power…. Liberty, democracy, human dignity—these are the forces far more powerful than fear and oppression. They cannot be extinguished by tyrants like Putin and his armies. They cannot be erased by people—from people’s hearts and hopes by any amount of violence and intimidation. They endure. And in the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake: Freedom will prevail.”

Then came big US and US-led Western economic sanctions on Russia, the bold US sabotage of two major pipelines that carried Russian natural gas to Western Europe, and massive US military support for Ukraine’s ongoing two-year war with Russia, an epic bloodbath sold to the world in the name of cherished Western ideals. Last February Biden took an undercover trip to “wartime Kyiv,” the capital of Ukraine. There he held a joint press conference with Ukraine’s comedian president in which he announced a new $500 million military aid package and proclaimed “Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”

Much of the world was unimpressed with the notion that white and European Ukraine was the main place where freedom and democracy needed to be championed while vast swaths of humanity in the global South and in places like the Gaza Strip had long suffered oppression and poverty far beyond the misery recently experienced by Ukrainians.

Yes, Gaza, an open-air concentration camp in which Israel had long penned up, blockaded, and tortured 2.3 million Palestinians, victims of brutal racist displacement and ethnic cleansing since Israel’s bloody founding in 1948.  

Twenty months after Russian’s US-provoked invasion of Ukraine, the US-backed occupation, and apartheid state of Israel made Putin’s crimes look small time by comparison. It used a predictable and in fact significantly predicted (by Israel’s own military intelligence), Israel-provoked terror attack conducted by the military wing of the radical Islamist group in nominal charge of Gaza—Hamas—to justify a genocidal war on the Gazan people. Consistent with its fascist prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to exact “mighty vengeance” like some mad Jewish king from the Old Testament, Israel has displaced more than 80 percent of the Gazans and killed at least 25,000 Palestinians over the last three months, most of them women and children. Israel has dropped 2000-pound bombs on dense urban areas. Its assault on Gaza is described by longtime humanitarian service providers as the worst and most rapidly unfolding “wartime” catastrophe they’ve ever witnessed. Gazan hospitals are attacked by the Israel Defense Forces. Gazans are told to move south to avoid annihilation and are then bombed in their new locations.

This savage assault is openly embraced by a number of Israeli politicians and public figures, some of whom call for an escalated liquidation of the Gazan population while the world sees one image after another of dead Palestinian children being pulled from smoking rubble.

The so-called Israel-Hamas War, really the US-Israel Crucifixion of Gaza, has killed more children in three months than all the children killed in all the world’s conflict zones (Ukraine included) in three years.

Many Gazans are already dying from hunger and mass famine and disease now hang over the displaced masses.

In response to the October 7 attack by Hamas, a group that Netanyahu has long sponsored, Israel has imposed collective punishment on a mass and criminal scale that has sickened all decent people. The attack is opposed by the preponderant majority of politically and morally sentient humanity and all but a small US-captive handful of nations.

South Africa has just taken Israel to the Court of International Justice on the charge of genocide. It has done so with the support of most of the world, including participants in a giant mass protest movement that has arisen in the West and even in the United States.

A man sits on the rubble as Palestinias search rubble in Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, after Israeli airstrike, November 1, 2023.

 

Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, after Israeli airstrike, November 1, 2023.    Photo: AP

What has been the US response to Israel’s escalated, shocking, and genocidal crimes against humanity in Palestine? Eleven days after the terror attack that the Netanyahu-backed terror group Hamas undertook in southern Israel, Biden flew to Israel’s capital Tel Aviv to stand next to the fascist Israeli prime minister and say this:

“Seventy-five years ago, just 11 minutes after its founding, President Harry S. Truman and the United States of America became the first nation to recognize Israel [after Israeli military and paramilitaries conducted a bloody campaign of ethnic cleansing that is known as “the Nakba,” Arabic for “the catastrophe”—P.S.] We have stood by your side ever since, and we’re going to stand by your side now. My administration has been in close touch with your leadership from the first moments of this attack, and we are going to make sure we have—you have what you need to protect your people, to defend your nation… For decades, we’ve ensured Israel’s qualitative military edge. And later this week, I’m going to ask the United States Congress for an unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense. We are going to keep Iron Dome fully supplied so it can continue standing sentinel over Israeli skies, saving Israeli lives. We have moved U.S. military assets to the region, including positioning the USS Ford carrier strike group in the Eastern Mediterranean, with the USS Eisenhower on the way, to deter—to defer further aggression against Israel and to prevent this conflict from spreading. The world will know that Israel is stronger than ever. And my message to any state or any other hostile actor thinking about attacking Israel remains the same as it was a week ago: Don’t. Don’t. Don’t… You know, Israel is a miracle—a triumph of faith and resolve and resilience over impossible pain and loss. We’re going to stand with you. As you say in Hebrew, ‘the people of Israel live.’ Israel will be a safe, secure, Jewish, and democratic state today, tomorrow, and forever.”

Washington, the enemy of Russian brutality in Ukraine, has fully backed Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza. It has granted Tel Aviv massive military and diplomatic support and protection, combining the provision of weapons with the deployment of a US Navy armada to stop anyone in the region from interfering with Israel’s “mighty vengeance.” The US has blocked ceasefire resolutions in the United Nations Security Council. It continues to fund, equip, and protect the neo-Hitlerian Crucifixion of Gaza even while it pretends to be working behind the scenes to temper the disgraceful butchery that is taking place in plain global sight. As The New York Times reported (we might say “admitted”) four days ago:

“The Biden administration has broadly supported Israel—both in word and in the supplying of weaponry—in its invasion and bombardment of Gaza after Hamas terrorists killed about 1,200 people in an attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Israel’s military campaign has killed more than 22,000 people in Gaza in the three months since, according to the Gaza Health Ministry… As the civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza have mounted, Mr. Biden has urged Israel to scale back its campaign and take greater precautions to prevent civilian casualties. But he has continued to support military aid and has not called for a cease-fire, and the United States vetoed a United Nations resolution calling for one.”

It’s true that Biden early on warned Israel not to be consumed by vengeful rage and that the Biden administration has made a great show of claiming that it is privately pushing Netanyahu for Israel to conduct its war on Gaza with less indiscriminate civilian slaughter. But basic US support continues unabated for Tel Aviv’s sadism. It’s a campaign that is clearly meant to “transfer” (remove) nearly all of Gaza’s Palestinian population from the Gaza Strip.

There is a glaring contrast between Biden and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s mumblings about Israel’s need to conduct itself with respect for humanitarian concerns and what Biden said out loud about Russia’s conduct in Ukraine. Biden marked the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by saying this in Poland: “They have committed depravity, crimes against humanity, without shame or compunction. They’ve targeted civilians with death and destruction. Used rape as a weapon of war. Stolen Ukrainian children in an attempt to steal Ukraine’s future. Bombed train stations, maternity hospitals, schools, and orphanages.”

All true, but neither Biden nor anyone else in his administration has come close to describing Israel’s far more egregious crimes against Gaza in remotely equivalent terms. And, as The Guardian’s diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour noted two weeks ago in an article on “US Double Standards On Israel and Russia,” there is a glaring contrast between the United States’ effort to punish Russia for war crimes and its lack of any US effort to do so when it comes to Israel’s far more egregious transgressions in Gaza:

The US as a member of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group for Ukraine [quickly] started furnishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) with its evidence of war crimes, deploying a team of investigators and prosecutors to assist the Ukrainian prosecutor, general Andriy Kostin, ‘in documenting, preserving and preparing war crimes cases’… By contrast, after two months of destruction in Gaza, the US state department has said it sees no need to begin any formal internal examination of whether Israel has committed war crimes, even though the weapons it has been using were supplied by the US, and by some counts more civilians were killed in Gaza in two months than were killed in Ukraine more than two years. Even the news that unguided dumb bombs had been used in almost half of the Israeli strikes, or that the president himself said he feared the bombing was indiscriminate, has not led the State Department to say it felt the need to conduct a formal investigation into breaches of humanitarian law… A cursory journey round the world reveals the impact this has had. The US, whether it likes it or not, risks becoming synonymous with double standards. Udo Jude Ilo, the Nigerian born executive director of Civilians in Conflict, is only one of countless African figures to give a warning. He said: ‘We are now in a situation where the identity of the aggressor or the identity of the victim determines how the world responds, and you cannot maintain an international framework of protection if it is available a la carte.’”

(That’s very well said by Mr. Ilo except for his words “now in a situation.” This situation is longstanding. It is nothing remotely new.) 

How explain this seeming “double standard”: deep outwardly expressed official US concern for criminally attacked Ukrainians versus official US support for Israel’s far more criminal and indeed genocidal attack on the Palestinians/Gazans? Racial and religious bias certainly play key roles. The Ukrainians are white, European, and “Christian” and thus racially and religiously aligned with the majority white and objectively white-supremacist United States and West while the Palestinian are brown-skinned, Arab/“oriental” and Muslim, not on the ruling Western race and culture team. This helps position the Ukrainians as “worthy victims” and the Palestinians as “unworthy victims” in dominant US and Western eyes. The Israelis, by contrast, are predominantly white and seen largely as an extension of Western culture in the Middle East. Their dominant religion shares core scriptures with Christianity. And the Jewish state of Israel has long cultivated deep Western solicitude resulting from Holocaust guilt: remorse over the near total elimination of European Jewry between 1939 and 1945. It has also joined with US Zionists to create an influential “Israel Lobby,” with enormous influence inside US electoral politics and intellectual culture.

But beneath and beyond all this are the priorities of US capitalism-imperialism in its desire to project power and defeat and deter rivals, rebels, and revolutionaries across the entire planet. Israel has long been a leading outpost of the American Empire. The “Israel Lobby” card is often overplayed on “the left,” whatever that is anymore. As the left academic critic of US “foreign policy” (a nice euphemism for imperialism) Stephen Zunes recently commented in response to a social media post claiming that Israel “owned” the US Congress: “That’s ridiculous! The United States has supported repressive rightwing governments for decades. Do you think Congress sold themselves to those governments as well? You don’t think it might have something to do with advancing US imperialist objectives?” As Zunes elaborated, “AIPAC [the leading financial arm of the “Israel Lobby”] certainly makes it more difficult to challenge US policy, but the overall policy would be essentially the same,”

Washington has sponsored—equipped, protected, funded—Third World Fascist and other horrific regimes across the planet for as long as I’ve been alive. Does anyone seriously believe that Congress and the two ruling US political parties peddled themselves to those governments too?

US backing of Israel has long been and remains about “advancing US imperialist objectives” both within and beyond the super-strategic because oil-rich Middle East. As the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) noted in a 2014 report on “Israel’s Worldwide Role in Repression,” Israel has for long turned its expertise in repression, developed through the displacement and oppression of the Palestinians, into a global industry linked to US-backed Third World Fascism across the planet:  

“Israel’s unique skills in crowd control, forced displacement, surveillance and military occupation have resulted in placing it at the forefront of a global industry of repression: it develops, manufactures, and markets technologies that are used by armies and police around the world for purposes of repression. Israel’s role in this industry began with the Israeli military, which first used its weapons of war against Palestinian people in historic Palestine, and against neighboring countries. In recent years, as interest in surveillance and policing technologies and techniques has grown among governments around the world, an Israeli ‘homeland security’ private service industry built on these field-tested instruments has emerged to exploit and export this interest… Israel has provided arms, trained militia and military and civilian police, developed and provided surveillance technology and repression strategies, and supplied the means for a broad array of other control techniques from ‘non-lethal’ weapons to border technology. Israel has played a role in arming and training the apartheid regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia, colonial regimes in the Middle East and North Africa (otherwise known as Southwest Asia and North Africa, or SWANA), and dictators in Central and South America and Asia. The Israeli government has assumed a major, worldwide role in enforcing limitations on the freedom of movement, policing of communities, and undermining people’s struggles for justice….. Israel sells its weapons, technologies, training, and techniques of violence to those it considers allies and even to those whom it considers enemies. Israel sells or has sold to Islamist, communist, capitalist, dictatorial, and social democratic states. The driving force behind Israeli arms exports, in addition to the profit motive, is the need for a close and strong alliance with major imperialist powers that provide it with continuous military and diplomatic support, economic markets and access to power. Therefore, Israel has prioritized selling weapons to the allies and agents of these powers.”

And, of course, no major imperialist power has provided Israel with remotely more and more relevant military and diplomatic support and market and power access than the United States of America, the top imperialist power that accounts for 40 percent of all world military spending and maintains more than 1,000 military installations across more than 80 countries.   

(The market for Israel’s tools and techniques of repression, tested on the Palestinians, includes US police forces, who are entrusted with the enforcement of domestic America de facto race-class apartheid and the feeding of the world’s largest mass incarceration system—the giant racist US prison regime.)

Biden’s Ukraine policy is also all about “advancing US imperialist objectives” The main cause of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was clearly the United States’ longstanding efforts to turn Ukraine into a de facto US/NATO military outpost on the long western border of Washington’s longtime geopolitical rival Russia. (Russia’s invasion was not “unprovoked” and neither was Hamas’s October 7th attack on Israel.) Imagine Russia or China toppling a government and trying to set up a militarily allied regime in Canada or Mexico. Would the United States invade? Do bears shit in the woods?

Along the way, US imperial ambitions vis-a-vis Ukraine and Russia include America’s hope to replace Russia as the leading supplier of natural gas to Europe (critical background for the US destruction of Nordstrom Pipelines 1 and 2) and the desire to send China a key message: “try to expand your power in your own regional sphere of influence (East Asia) by invading Taiwan and the US will invest heavily in war there too.”

Are we really talking about “double standards” here? As the great American anti-imperial intellectual Noam Chomsky wrote in his book Failed States, “Reigning doctrines are often called a ‘double standard.’ The term is misleading. It is more accurate to describe them as a single standard, clear and unmistakable, the standard that Adam Smith called the ‘vile maxim of the masters of mankind: ...All for ourselves, and nothing for other people.’ Much has changed since his day, but the vile maxim flourishes.”

Ukrainians are worthy victims for Washington while Palestinians are not, Russia’s crimes are denounced by Washington while Israel’s crimes are not thanks to the single standard behind US “foreign policy”—“the advance of US imperialist objectives.”

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