[Column] The world after the slaughter of Gaza

Posted on : 2023-10-27 16:52 KST Modified on : 2023-10-27 16:52 KST
The US has an obligation to stop the massacre of Palestinians
A man injured in an Israeli air strike on Gaza holds a child as they are treated at Nasser Medical Center in the southern part of the strip on Oct. 24. (AFP/Yonhap
A man injured in an Israeli air strike on Gaza holds a child as they are treated at Nasser Medical Center in the southern part of the strip on Oct. 24. (AFP/Yonhap
By Park Min-hee, editorial writer

Oct. 18, 2023, will forever be remembered as a key date in the decline of the US-led international order.

On that day, US President Joe Biden traveled to Israel, hugged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and threw his weight behind the Israeli military’s assault on Palestinians in Gaza. The same day, the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for “humanitarian pauses” to allow for the delivery of aid to Gaza.

The US was the only one of 14 countries to veto the resolution, which was submitted by Brazil.

The next day, on Oct. 19, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state during a meeting with Egypt’s prime minister.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, criticized Israel’s response, saying that Israel’s actions have gone “beyond the scope of self-defense.”

It is not surprising to see the US siding with Israel when it comes to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, as that is a decades-old “tradition,” but the combination of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the hegemonic rivalry between the US and China is causing long and powerful aftershocks.

First, the US’ differing stances towards the situation in Ukraine and Israel epitomize the double standards it upholds, making it lose any legitimacy on issues related to both conflicts.

It was bizarre that Biden, returning from a trip to Israel, stated that both Ukraine and Israel were threatened by powers that “want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy” and pledged massive military support in an Oval Office speech on Oct. 19.

Ukraine is being invaded by Russia. Israel has stolen Palestinian land and has brutally colonized the Palestinians. The US has condemned and sanctioned Russia’s attacks and massacres of civilians as violations of international law. For 20 days now, Israel has cut off water, food, electricity and medicine to 2.3 million people in Gaza and killed more than 6,500 civilians in indiscriminate air strikes.

How can anyone who was angered by Hamas’ killings and kidnapping of civilians not be affected by the continuous killings in Gaza? As Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti has asked, “Why does the United States support Ukraine in fighting what they call occupation, while here they are supporting the occupier who continues to occupy us?”

If these questions are left unanswered, the foundation of US diplomacy, which rallied allies to defend the “rules-based international order” against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, will crumble.

Second, China’s influence is growing in the “Global South,” made up of developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

After Xi’s call for an immediate ceasefire, China’s special envoy for the Middle East issue, Zhai Jun, traveled to the Middle East to act as a mediator, saying that China “condemns any act that harms civilians,” and “opposes any move that violates international law.”

China, which has been criticized as a backer of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is attempting to project an image as a “peacemaker” and broaden pro-China public opinion in the Middle East.

The contradictions are obvious, given China’s repression of the Muslim minority in its own Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. While China wields hefty economic influence in the Middle East, its ability and diplomacy to address the security concerns of Middle Eastern countries is limited. Despite these limitations, the greater the anger at US hypocrisy in the Global South, the more likely it is that China will be embraced as an alternative.

Third, it has become clear that US foreign policy is increasingly limited by domestic politics.

Biden’s trip to Israel was designed to emphasize his image as a battlefield diplomat in the run-up to the US presidential election, and to win the support of pro-Israel forces that have a strong influence in US politics.

Internationally, Biden and US diplomatic and security officials are well aware that siding wholeheartedly with Israel would backfire badly and be a serious detriment to US foreign policy. UN Secretary-General António Guterres and European Union leaders have repeatedly criticized Israel’s harsh actions and called for a humanitarian ceasefire.

Nevertheless, no one expects the Biden administration to stop Israel’s invasion of Gaza and offer an alternative path to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. The powerful influence of pro-Israeli forces and Zionist lobby in the US, as well as domestic political interests, will take precedence. The US provides Israel with US$3.3 billion in military aid annually and immediately began supplying Israel with offensive weapons without restriction after the Hamas attack.

Eventually, Israel will send ground troops into Gaza. Under the guise of “eradicating Hamas,” it intends to drive out as many Palestinians as possible and take over the strip of land.

But all while the world focused on “when” the ground assault would start, too many children and civilians have already been lost. The US, which has said that stopping Russia from taking land in Ukraine is part of upholding international order, has an obligation to stop this slaughter.

How can the noble “international order” be upheld when a blind eye is turned to the cries of the children of Gaza, weapons and money are provided to create a horrific hellhole of pain, and fuel is continuously supplied to anger?

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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