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Ukraine To Palestine: The West's Isolation Keeps Getting Deeper — And More Dangerous

The West has largely been united in clear condemnation of Hamas and support of Israel. For the rest of the international community, even if Hamas has very little backing, most countries have preferred an ambiguous neutrality. It's part of a deeper shift in geopolitics where the so-called Global South, and elsewhere, no longer tolerate what they see as Western "double standards."

Photograph of a  Palestinian woman walks through the rubble of the Karama neighborhood following an Israeli bombing.

11 October, Gaza City: A Palestinian woman walks through the rubble of the Karama neighborhood following an Israeli bombing.

Mohammed Talatene/ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — Among the revelations after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine was a refusal throughout much of the Global South to follow the Western demand to condemn Russia's actions. The October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas reinforces this reality, and highlights the opposing world views that will continue to drive this divide.

A map of the world's reactions to the tragic events that began at dawn on Saturday, published by the website Le Grand Continent, roughly divides the world into three groups: countries that condemn the attack and support Israel (basically the West and a few others such as India and Kenya), countries that defend Hamas (a small minority, including Iran) and the vast majority of nation-states that have displayed an ambiguous neutrality, calling on both sides for de-escalation.

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The West finds itself relatively isolated in what it sees as a logical moral stance, given the blatant inhumanity of terrorists targeting civilians. Yet the eyes of many parts of the world, this stance is not so obvious, and even hypocritical.

It's a debate that's already taken place over Ukraine — the West points to the violation of international law, and the response is, "yes, but Iraq, Palestine..."

But if there's one subject on which the reproach of "double standards" leveled at the West has long made sense, it's the Palestinian question.

Emotions running high

The first UN resolution on the Palestinian territories dates back to November 22, 1967, the famous Resolution 242, which demanded the "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the occupied territories." Now, 55 years on, not only has this resolution remained a dead letter, but the United States has vetoed it 42 times in favor of Israel.

Saying today that Hamas must be condemned for its abominable crimes is not enough to turn the heads of those States that consider that the world has turned a blind eye to the plight of the Palestinians for too long. They also consider – and this captures a deeper spirit of the times – that Westerners have lost the privilege to declare what's right and wrong.

This gap is hard to bridge, at a time when emotions are running high over the flood of images from both Israel and Gaza.

As we can see, Western countries are finding it very hard to say at this moment that we can both condemn the terrorist acts of Hamas, and call for a political solution to the Palestinian question.

09 October 2023, Bavaria, Munich: Numerous participants hold their signs with inscriptions such as ''Never again'' or ''We love Israel'' as well as Israeli flags at a solidarity rally for Israel on Odeonsplatz.

09 October 2023, Munich: People participate in a solidarity rally for Israel in Munich.

Matthias Balk/ZUMA

Aid questions

Even within the European Union, there's a tendency towards overstating one's position, which makes us forget how to do politics.

We saw this in the waltz of hesitation concerning aid to the Palestinians. The suspension of aid had first been announced by a European Commissioner, who apparently was not in a position to make such a decision. Then the EU states set the record straight, confirming that aid would continue.

In the case of France, President Emmanuel Macron confirmed yesterday that French aid – 96 million euros in total – would also continue, as it goes directly to the populations concerned, and not to Hamas.

Depriving the population of health and education aid can only play into the hands of extremists, as some in Europe fail to understand. And in the process, the West is widening the gap with the rest of the world – one of the most worrying signs of the times.

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Photo of a drone on the tarmac during a military exercise near Vícenice, in the Czech Republic

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