Does any country buy Israel’s self-righteousness – it doesn’t recognise the annexation of the four provinces – at a time when Israel is trying to persuade world leaders to recognise its own annexations.
Irony is hanging its head in shame; hypocrisy is embarrassed. Israel is giving them a bad name. The Foreign Ministry announced Friday that “Israel supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We will not recognise the annexation of the four provinces by Russia.”
Where to begin? With an occupying state preaching to a different occupying state? With an annexing state announcing that it won’t recognise a different annexation? Or perhaps with the gap that has finally opened up between the governments of Lapid and of Netanyahu: Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel was silent, Yair Lapid’s Israel preaches morality. One is bad and the other is even worse.
The questions arise on their own: Which is better, hypocrisy or telling the shameful truth? Whataboutism, or closing your eyes to what is happening around you? Apparently, any move Israel takes regarding the war in Ukraine is reprehensible. If it is silent, its silence is disgraceful; if it speaks, its speech is hypocritical. That’s how it is when you go around with a hump. And yet, one cannot remain silent when an annexing state preaches morality to another annexing state.
The disgrace of silence and inaction was ascribed to fear of Russia, but what about the hypocrisy? What purpose does it serve? Does any country buy Israel’s self-righteousness – it doesn’t recognise the annexation of the four provinces – at a time when Israel is trying to persuade world leaders to recognise its own annexations and even to expand them again and again, if only it were allowed?
There is no fundamental difference between tearing Ukraine into shreds and tearing Palestine into shreds. Tearing apart Palestine is even less moral. The Ukrainians have a state, districts of which have been ripped away; the Palestinians do not have a state, and tearing away the remnants of their land means that they never will have a state. A prime minister who supports this, in his actions or omissions, cannot preach morality to another country. It would be better for him to stay silent, out of shame.
It’s amazing to see how not one muscle twitches on the faces of Israel’s decision makers and ordinary citizens when talking about the Russia occupation. How sanctimonious: the Russian occupation is so cruel and so brutal, so ugly; it violates international law and the resolutions of the international community. And the Russian soldiers? Did you see how cruel they are? They kill children and bomb homes. So many innocent victims in Ukraine that you could just cry. What about the Israeli occupation? Is it prettier? More legal? Is it not violent and brutal? Has it not killed thousands of innocent people, including hundreds of children? The Israeli occupation is simply older and more rooted. It is permanent, and presumably eternal.
How can Lapid be amazed by his British counterpart, Prime Minister Liz Truss, mumbling in his ear something about moving her country’s embassy to Jerusalem, a step that is absolutely a recognition of annexation, and in the same breath declare that his government does not recognise the Russian annexation? How can Israel oppose the reopening of the American consulate in East Jerusalem, a patently anti-annexation move, and not recognise the Russian annexation? In what world can Israel even speak without any shame about other occupations and annexations?
Israel is something different. It is always exceptional. It is always allowed that which is forbidden to others, including Russia. This land belongs to the Jews, only to them, for the same reasons and explanations that Ukraine is the land of the Russians. The Ukrainians and the Palestinians are not peoples, after all, and they obviously don’t have national rights as the Jews do in the Land of Israel. We are brothers, Israelis and Russians: We and they are unbridled conquerors.
If Russia continues on its path, Israel will have to join the international sanctions it has evaded so far. That will be the day: IsraeIi boycott, divestment and sanctions against Russia, much less moral than the original. It won’t keep it from screaming that BDS is antisemitic and seeks to destroy Israel. Sanctions are appropriate, then, as long as they’re imposed on Iran and Russia, not on Israel. Save us!
Gideon Levy is an Israeli journalist and author. Levy writes opinion pieces and a weekly column for the newspaper Haaretz that often focus on the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Levy has won prizes for his articles on human rights in the Israeli-occupied territories.
First published in Haaretz.com, the online English edition of Haaretz Newspaper in Israel on Oct 2, 2022