21 March 2014


This article is from Antony Loewenstein's blog dated 21 March 2014 and should be read by all those shouting about Russia's involvement in Crimea.

Western hypocrisy over Russia

Bril­liantly strong Gideon Levy in the Is­raeli news­pa­per Haaretz:
Sad­dam Hus­sein has al­ready been ex­e­cuted, and so has Osama bin Laden. But all is not lost for the en­light­ened West. There is a new devil, and his name is Vladimir Putin. He hates gay peo­ple, so the lead­ers of the en­light­en­ment did not go to Sochi. Now he is oc­cu­py­ing land, so sanc­tions and boy­cotts will be im­posed upon him. The West is scream­ing bloody mur­der from wall to wall: How dare he annex ter­ri­tory in Crimea?

The United States is the su­per­power re­spon­si­ble for the great­est amount of blood­shed since World War II, and the blood of its vic­tims cries out from the soil of Korea and Viet­nam, Cam­bo­dia and Laos, Iraq, Pak­istan and Afghanistan. For years, Wash­ing­ton med­dled in Latin Amer­ica’s in­ter­nal af­fairs as though those af­fairs were its own, in­stalling and over­throw­ing regimes willy-nilly.

More­over, the num­ber of peo­ple in Amer­i­can pris­ons, and their pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion, is the high­est in the world, and that in­cludes China and Rus­sia. Since 1977, 1,246 peo­ple, some of whom were in­no­cent of the charges against them, have been ex­e­cuted in the United States. Eight U.S. states limit speech against ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity in ways that are re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to the anti-gay law Putin en­acted. It is this su­per­power that, with its al­lies and vas­sal states, is rais­ing an out­cry against the new devil.

They cry out against the oc­cu­pa­tion of the Crimean penin­sula as if it were the most awful oc­cu­pa­tion on earth. They will pun­ish Rus­sia for it, per­haps even fight a world war for the lib­er­a­tion of Se­bastopol. Amer­ica can oc­cupy Iraq — the war on ter­ror and the weapons of mass de­struc­tion jus­tify that, as every­body knows — but Rus­sia may not in­vade Crimea. That is a vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law. Even a ref­er­en­dum is a vi­o­la­tion of that law — which the West ob­serves so metic­u­lously, as every­body knows.

But of course, the truth is as far from the world of this sanc­ti­mo­nious dou­ble stan­dard as east is from west. The an­nex­a­tion of Crimea may be prob­lem­atic, but it is less prob­lem­atic than the oc­cu­pa­tion of the Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries by Is­rael. It is more de­mo­c­ra­tic than For­eign Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man’s land-swap pro­posal; at least Rus­sia asked the in­hab­i­tants under which sov­er­eign power they wished to live, some­thing it has never oc­curred to Lieber­man to do.

Rus­sia’s rea­sons for the an­nex­a­tion of Crimea are also more con­vinc­ing than the de facto an­nex­a­tion of the Is­raeli oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries. The Rus­sians and the Is­raelis use the same ter­mi­nol­ogy of an­ces­tral rights and his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tion. The Is­raelis add rea­sons from the Bible, and mix in is­sues like sanc­tity and mes­sianic be­lief. “Crimea and Sev­astopol are re­turn­ing to … their home shores, to their home port, to Rus­sia!” said Putin; in Is­rael, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu talks about “the rock of our ex­is­tence.” But while most of the in­hab­i­tants of Crimea are Russ­ian, most in­hab­i­tants of the ter­ri­to­ries are Pales­tin­ian — such a minor, in­signif­i­cant dif­fer­ence.

Rus­sia is also more hon­est than Is­rael: It states its in­ten­tion of an­nex­ing the ter­ri­tory. Is­rael, which for all in­tents and pur­poses an­nexed its ter­ri­to­ries long ago, has never dared admit it.

The Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion does not cry out to the world — not for sanc­tions and cer­tainly not for threats of war — as the oc­cu­pa­tion of Crimea does. Ne­tanyahu is not the devil, ei­ther in the eyes of the Amer­i­cans or the Eu­ro­peans, and Is­rael’s vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional law are al­most never men­tioned. The Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion, which is more cruel than that of Crimea, is not rec­og­nized, and the West does not do a thing to truly bring it to a halt. The United States and Eu­rope even pro­vide it with fund­ing and arms.

This is not to say that Rus­sia does not de­serve to be crit­i­cized. The legacy of the So­viet Union is hor­rific, and democ­racy in Rus­sia is far from real, what with Putin de­clar­ing war on the media and on free ex­pres­sion and with the dis­grace­ful Pussy Riot af­fair; there is ris­ing cor­rup­tion and, with it, the rule of the oli­garchs. Putin does not speak as nobly as U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, but then Guan­tanamo is run by Amer­ica, not Rus­sia.

For all the pompous West­ern talk of jus­tice and in­ter­na­tional law, it’s ac­tu­ally the West­ern devil who wears Prada, all the while doing far more than Rus­sia to un­der­mine those vaunted val­ues.

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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm