If anything, the Israeli invasion of Gaza has long ceased to be about the victor and loser between the two. As is now becoming clear with every passing day that the war lingers, Its implications are far greater and global in scale. Rather than directly challenging the existing US-led liberal geopolitical structure, its impact lies in the erosion of the foundational principles that support that structure. So much so, that the west has been forced to brazen it out, and stoop to supporting Israel in the language of brute power. The moral argument in which the west would make its case for war or support for any country is no longer available. The people are transparently seeing through the hypocrisy and calling it out.
The US president Joe Biden’s conduct through the hostilities so far stands out for its blatantly partisan support to Israel in the face of the unconscionable death toll in Gaza, with most of the dead being children and women. He bought the Israeli babies beheading story even when the Israeli government denied this happened. He blamed Hamas for the missile attack at the Ahli Arab hospital which killed around 500 Palestinians even when most of the media coverage pointed towards Israeli involvement.
True, every conflict has its intrinsic moral issues above and beyond the literal “good” and “bad” party, fashioned by the states through their narratives and propaganda – with the major power invariably ensuring a consensus around its own framing of the issue.But the questions posed by the ongoing conflict in Gaza extend beyond conventional moral considerations or competing narratives; they strike at the fundamental tenets of the Western liberal order, encompassing a rules-based system, human rights, political rights and civil liberties. The west has always championed these tenets against the closed, authoritarian systems of China and Russia. In the words of Fukuyama, the west has sought “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
Hardly anyone in the world would argue with the basic principles of the western order. Democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, equality of rights are ideal means to build a just world and to transfer power to common people. But as the war in Gaza has made it clear, the west uses them more as stratagems to perpetuate its power than practice them in good faith. The glaringly differential approach to the wars in Ukraine and Gaza has only further detracted from the credibility of the western-led order. In a sense, the sharply contradictory positions towards the two wars has made the west’s position ludicrous. What they stand for in Ukraine, they go against the very same position in Gaza: For example, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine becomes Israel’s right to self-defense in Israel. Killings of civilians in Ukraine is a crime against humanity, but those in Gaza are collateral damage.
In a sense, this creates a deep philosophical crisis for the west. They are finding it hard to straddle Ukraine-Gaza moral divide without contradicting their professed principles. And in the process, they have not only lost the moral high ground that underpinned their geopolitical aims but also the credibility of their liberal discourse. It is not that the west didn’t practice double standards in the past, or just plain hypocrisy when it came to applying or interpreting its own values under different geo-political contexts. It always did. But it got away with it as the limited means of information dissemination meant that a majority of people in the world didn’t see through this. The internet and 24×7 social media has changed this. The world unfolds right before us, much like a live performance on a grand stage. We are witness to a blow by blow progression of events in real time. So, people can spot the ironies, contradictions, and hypocrisies of geopolitics play out in front of them. They see the world in its full grayish glory unmediated by the illusion of the pursuit of lofty ideals. They see a world stripped down to what makes it go around: the power, which some would argue is the only absolute reality. And power, in turn, creates an elaborate narrative, phraseology and sets salutary goals for its legitimacy and perpetuation. This explains the conduct of the US-led western powers. Not that they are not serious in pursuit of their high ideals, they are, but only as long as it doesn’t conflict with their pre-eminent position in the world. This explains the West’s all out support for Ukraine against Russia and for Israel against Palestinians.
The US and Europe see the defeat in Ukraine and Israel as an existential threat to them. And it could very well be. A retreat from Ukraine would be a loss to the China-Russia axis, now effectively a credible counter to the US power. This, in turn, could make Europe more vulnerable to Russian threat and influence, weakening the US hegemony over the continent.
Israel’s loss to Hamas and Arabs would similarly be a massive setback to US power and influence in the Middle East. Israel is a sort of western outpost in the Middle East, an extension and symbol of the US empire. So, the US will go to any extent to defend it. And the country has demonstrated it by rushing a nuclear submarine to the region in light of threats from Iran and Hezbollah. So, the allegiance to a rules-based order, and human rights can, meanwhile, wait.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- The author is the Political Editor of Kashmir Observer
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