In linking two very different wars, Biden undermines Ukraine’s moral and legal case for sovereignty, writes ‘The Nation’.
In his speech from the Oval Office on October 20, President Biden drew a direct parallel between two ongoing wars in which the United States is intimately involved: the Russia-Ukraine war that has raged since February 2022, and Israel’s rapidly expanding war in the Palestinian territories following the October 7 Hamas attacks.
It is Israel that militarily dominates the Palestinians, not the other way around. It’s Israel that occupies the West Bank and colonizes it with settlers in violation of international law; Israel that maintains the suffocating blockade that keeps more than 2 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza and dependent on Israel for food, water, and electricity; Israel that has international legal recognition, a high-tech army, and, like Russia, nuclear weapons.
And yet in Biden’s framing, Israel is the underdog, which is how he morally justifies his proposal to grant Israel billions of dollars in new military aid (part of a $105 billion package that also includes additional aid to Ukraine and money for US border security). Biden’s comparison of Putin, the leader of a major world power with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, to Hamas, a militant faction officially recognized by no government on earth, is laughable; it is also a succinct encapsulation of US policy.
Ukraine as a “Big Israel” almost makes sense. Both countries present themselves as being on the front lines of a global struggle between the developed West and the proverbial ‘barbarians at the gates’.
Ukraine’s long-term geopolitical goal is membership in the European Union and NATO, confirming its status as an integral part of Europe. Its support has come primarily from the major Western countries, led by the United States; in the rest of the world, there has been an almost uniform refusal to accept Washington’s framing of the conflict, while Putin, who has attempted to position himself as a leader of the resistance to Western global hegemony, was one of the first world leaders to call for a diplomatic resolution to the current crisis, as opposed to backing Israel’s military response. Israel likewise relies heavily on Western — above all US — support and has often struggled diplomatically in the Global South, where public opinion typically regards the Palestinians as fighting an anti-colonial struggle…
The US media has overwhelmingly accepted this framing, which helps explain why Americans tend to sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians — especially in the wake of the October 7 attacks, a rare and viscerally upsetting example of mass violence against Israeli civilians.
In general, US progressives have tended to support Ukraine while being far more critical of Israel and increasingly vocal about the basic justice of the Palestinian cause.
Biden’s conflation of these two very different wars undermines any argument that the US supports Ukraine out of a principled defense of the right to self-determination. Instead, he’s sent a message to the World that these principles only apply to Western-coded client states fighting America’s geopolitical and civilizational rivals.
Given Biden’s sagging approval rating, it could even create an opening for the Trump-led Republicans to push to withdraw aid to Ukraine and to find more cross-partisan support for that position than they might have.
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