When it comes to the Muslim Arab world, Western nations have often been accused of maintaining a double standard about the value of human life, holding one set of rules for the West and Israel and another for Arabs.
Some voices in the Middle East have gone as far as suggesting that, were it not for its oil wealth, the West would not give a second thought to what happens in turmoil-wracked Arab countries.
These days, as evidence, they point to Washington’s decision to go to war with Iraq to liberate oil-rich Kuwait, but its seeming passivity as Israel invades and bombards the Gaza Strip because three of its citizens were murdered in the West Bank. True, the West was much more dependent on Middle East oil back in the 1980s and 90s. And of course, there is a great difference in the type of U.S. foreign policy advanced by two separate Bush presidents and current President Barak Obama, who even some hardcore party Democrats have said lacks a coherent foreign policy.
It is not Israel’s right to defend itself that is questioned - no one will ever say that Israel, or any country in the world, does not have the right to defend itself. When Hamas launches rockets at Israel, it should expect Israel to reciprocate. However, targeting civilians is what terrorists do. It must not be accepted when it becomes normal behavior for a supposedly democratic nation.
Despite the double standards practiced in Israel -- where one set of rules applies to Israelis and Jews, and another for Palestinians -- Israel is seen as a democratic country surrounded by Arab and Muslim nations incapable of following democratic principles.
Critics of the Arab world say that the Arabs have forever been fighting among themselves and are incapable of living in harmony or practicing democracy.
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So how true are these accusations? Does the West really maintain a double standard?
Judge for yourself. Close to 300 people died in the terrible crash of Malaysia Airways Flight 17, and much anger was voiced the world over. The British tabloid press was just about calling for a war on Russia, and in Washington, D.C., a senior member of Congress warned that if it were proven that Russia was responsible for the downing of Flight 17, “there would be hell to pay.”
The indignation was generalized and justified, and many were those who were ready to launch World War III without waiting for confirmation that Russia was responsible or not.
Meanwhile in Gaza, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed and many more wounded, thousands rendered homeless, and many children orphaned, and there is hardly a voice in the West rising up to scream in their name.
This seeming indifference to Muslim suffering is a perfect example of the kind of double standard that is devastating relations between the West and the Muslim world and planting the seeds of future conflicts.
When Osama bin Laden was interviewed after al-Qaeda’s attacks on New York City and the Pentagon in 2001, he said he had been influenced by Israeli attacks on the Palestinians in Lebanon.
Even former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak admitted that the Palestinian cause was often used as an excuse by leaders in the Arab world to control a situation, to impose martial law and to keep their countries in a state of war with Israel. (As has been the case in Syria, for example.)
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The Palestinians’ plight has long been the leitmotif behind much of the violence and terrorism originating in the Middle East over the past several decades. More often that not, the Palestinian cause is merely used as an excuse. But whether the anger it generates is real or not, there is always the reality that it remains a powerful magnet capable of attracting disenfranchised Muslim youth, who are often searching for a cause. The Palestinian cause also remains one of the reasons Iran remains involved in Middle Eastern affairs.
During the Cold War, Moscow financed and helped arm the left wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization. But with the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, so too disappeared groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), secularist groups led respectively by
Christian Arabs, George Habbashand Nayef Hawatmeh.
The Internet has given people in the Middle East a window onto what the rest of the world thinks and says about their situation. When they compare the international anger over the deaths of some 300 people accidentally shot down in a plane to the near total silence over the deaths of more than 1,000 Palestinians deliberately targeted by a government, it should come as no great surprise to Westerners when groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria rise to prominence.
By Claude Salhani of Oilprice.com