When will the West uphold human rights?

Azza Radwan Sedky
Tuesday 20 Feb 2024

International outrage over human rights abuses in the war on Gaza has not yet turned into concrete action against Israel.


The Israeli war on Gaza has now entered its fifth month, and the world has finally grasped the true intentions behind it. Countries and ordinary people alike have realised that the lies that have shrouded Israel in an aura of sympathy as a result of the events of 7 October last year were just that and that the sympathy was unwarranted. 

But not enough outrage has materialised as a result of Israel’s actions to cause the Western world to act humanely and decisively to end the war on Gaza. There has been no effective political pressure on Israel, and no mechanism has been put in place to ensure that Israel does not continue its genocidal slaughter of Gazans. No sanctions have been introduced against Israel.

The West considers itself to be the promoter of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the liberal international order. This is the façade that the West wants to project, but the truth is that it is protecting its own allies and interests not only in the Middle East but elsewhere in the world as well. The Western world, if not instigating conflicts, has interfered in one conflict after another over the years, and it has always pretended to the role of impartial mediator while in fact imposing its interests that ultimately end in disaster.  

The role that the US plays has been crystal clear. Outraged at certain leaders or countries that do not comply with its wishes, it pretends to protect the innocent and promote democracy when in fact acting against them. Sooner or later, these countries are destroyed in the process. 

There have been many examples of this procedure. The US and UK considered former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to be the incarnation of evil, and so they went to war against Iraq in order to get rid of him. The same thing occurred in the case of former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and has gone some way to happening in that of Syrian President Bashar Al-Asaad.

The US aided Southern Sudan so it could secede from Sudan and form an independent state, even as the fighting and bickering in Sudan is still on going. Afghanistan was left in the lurch to handle the Taliban, which the US said it would defeat. The West interfered in all these countries’ affairs and ultimately caused their downfall. 

There has been no similar indignation at the actions of the Israeli army, which has so far killed almost 30,000 Gazans in the war on the Gaza Strip. The West looks on and takes no measures against Israel or its leader Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The double standards are all too apparent. 

The West can impose sanctions if events not to its liking occur. These target the countries concerned in their entirety and affect the livelihood of innocent citizens. Massive sanctions were imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine. Iraq faced harsh sanctions in 1990 after it invaded Kuwait. Sanctions against Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria are still in place today. However, the thought that the West could sanction Israel is impossible: I doubt that any action could deem Israel guilty of crimes warranting Western sanctions, and Israel, as arrogant as it is, knows that. 

The US’ unwavering support of Israel has been evident in the current war on Gaza as elsewhere, and the alliance between them is iron clad. The US has just signed a bill that provides Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan with $95 billion in aid, of which $14.1 billion will go to supporting Israel’s war against Hamas. In addition, the US is still sending an apparently endless supply of weapons to Israel, with no conditions as to how these are used. As Israel continues to level Gaza, we must ask why the West knowingly provides weapons that will be used to kill civilians, children included. 

On 11 February, Super Bowl Sunday in the US provided pro-Israel supporters with a huge platform to justify Israel’s ongoing genocidal war on Gaza. An advertisement on US television during this event, one worth $7 million, was seen by over 100 million viewers and was designed “to stop anti-Jewish hate.” It was part of a concocted propaganda campaign in support of Israel. No pro-Palestinian advertisement, however small, would ever be allowed to run on television in the US or any other Western country.

Since no actions are being undertaken to halt the Israeli campaigns in Gaza, the West becomes complicit in the massacres that Israel is carrying out. The US can pay lip service to the two-state solution until the cows come home, all the while aware that Israel has no intention of budging from its murderous route.

The only action that has been taken against Israel is the sanctioning of four Israeli extremists from entering France, the UK, and the US for attacking and harassing Palestinian villagers and beating them in the West Bank. These countries apparently do not see what the Israeli army is doing as it butchers innocent civilians in Gaza, destroys homes, schools, and hospitals, and parades its bloody actions in footage posted by Israeli soldiers. None of this is considered deserving of sanctions. 

Are the Western powers blind or unable to see these horrors? And if they see them, why are they not outraged and don’t act as they do in other circumstances? Do they fear that the Israeli lobby has total control over their lawmakers?  Has the grip of the Israeli lobby blinded them from acting honourably? 

Israel does not care what the US and the rest of the world wants, which is proof that Israel is stronger than the Western world itself. With the world in the hands of Israel’s allies, nothing that Israel does will be brought to account.

In all fairness, the US does not have the power to enforce restrictions on Israel since the Israeli lobby, among the most powerful political lobbies in the US, is always there to act in its defence by curtailing or promoting presidential votes, supporting or opposing political figures in their pursuit of positions, or posting high-priced advertisements in favour of one or other candidate’s appointment.

* The writer is a former professor of communication based in Vancouver, Canada.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 22 February 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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