On Watching Ukraine Through Palestinian Eyes

credit: Global News

After refusing to delist Israeli wines produced illegally in the occupied Palestinian Territories, LCBO now has decided to delist Russian vodka because of the ongoing Russian occupation of Ukraine. The rightful outpouring of support for Ukraine teaches us that boycotts and sanctions CAN be applied against illegal occupations.. IF THE WILL IS THERE. More…

Yousef Munayeer, a Palestinian American political analyst reflects on lessons watching the Russian attack on Ukraine and the swift Western response to it. Here is an abridged version of an article he recently wrote in The Nation Magazine comparing the Western response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine with its response to Israeli attacks against Palestinians.  (The Nation Magazine is powered by donors. Subtitles added by CTIP)

Tanks rolling through city streets. Bombs dropping from fighter jets onto apartment buildings. Military checkpoints. Cities under siege. Families separated, fleeing to seek refuge and not knowing when they will see each other or their homes again.

My first thoughts as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine commenced last week was for the civilian population in Ukraine, who will face the heaviest burden as a much more powerful force seeks to impose its will on them. How many must die? How many civilians will be killed by “precision bombs” that are anything but precise? How soon will freedom come for them? Will they see it in their lifetime? Or will they, like us Palestinians, see the struggle last for generations? I hope, for their sake, that it is the former.

All of a sudden… international law seemed to matter again

(…) Overnight, international law seemed to matter again. The idea that territory could not be taken by force was suddenly an international norm worth defending. Western countries sought to advance a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s actions despite knowing full well that Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, would veto it. “Russia can veto this resolution, but cannot veto our voices,” said the US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “Russia cannot veto the UN Charter. And Russia will not veto accountability.”

When the inevitable Russian veto came down, Western diplomats emphasized how it highlighted Russia’s isolation. Indeed, Russia was Isolated. Just as the United States has been each time it cast the lone UNSC veto on over 40 resolutions condemning Israel’s violations of international law and abuses against Palestinians.

Meanwhile, countries have called on the International Criminal Court to act on Russia’s invasion—the same court the United States opposed investigating war crimes committed in Palestine.

All of a sudden… boycotts and sanctions now a good idea

Even boycott and divestment efforts are being heralded by the West. Liquor stores in Canada and states in the US are deshelving Russian vodka. The Metropolitan Opera said it would no longer engage with performers that support Putin. Within two days of the invasion, Russia was kicked out of Eurovision. It has also been suspended from premier international soccer leagues like FIFA and UEFA. Russian ballets are being canceled.

All of this after just five days. Not five weeks or months, let alone decades. Five. days.

Remarkably, boycotts, divestment, and sanctions are not controversial when used to hold certain violators accountable, but when it comes to the rights of Palestinians, we are repeatedly told that nonviolent economic measures like boycotts are wrong. In fact, several US states that have taken action to ban using boycotts for Palestinians rights are now passing boycott and divestment resolutions targeting Russia! 

The double standards don’t stop at nonviolent efforts. In Ukraine, the West is actively supporting armed resistance by both shipping weapons and glorifying their use. In Palestine, the West is sending weapons too— but to an Israel government practicing apartheid.


What could possibly explain these gobsmacking double standards that have been so brazenly on display this week?

As Russian soldiers entered Ukraine, a photo of a young, blond Ukrainian girl standing up courageously to a Russian soldier went viral on social media. It was going viral, that is, until it was revealed that the girl wasn’t Ukrainian but Palestinian and the soldier was Israeli, not Russian.

Well, some western news reporters have offered us clues. The Ukrainians, we are told, are not like Iraqis or Afghans, because Ukraine is “relatively civilized, relatively European.”

International law cannot be applied selectively

To be clear, the international community should hold human rights abusers and law violators to account, and the swift action against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrates unequivocally that such action is possible when governments have the political courage to do so.

But when international law is enforced only when it suits powerful nations to enforce it, and ignored when it suits powerful nations to ignore it, then international law does not exist as anything other than an instrument of power.

If we want there to be an international norm against aggression, colonization, and the acquisition of land by force, we can’t keep making exceptions for our friends when they violate it. When we do such things—and we have done so consistently when it comes to Israel, for example—we make it clear that there is no rules-based international order; there is only the rule of power. Might makes right.

A world based on might makes right is ultimately a threat to all—blue- and brown-eyed humans alike—and anyone who doubts this should just look at Ukraine.

Dr. Munayyer was the guest speaker at a webinar organized by the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine in February 2021.

Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org


  1. This tells me Canada definitely can bring boycotts or sanctions against any nation it feels is deserving of the punishment. Unfortunately, many of our politicians are handicapped against using our capability due to their ties to domestic individuals with greater allegiances to foreign countries than to Canada.

  2. How true, and such a wall of resistance to the occupation and colonization of Palestine. The mental silos between Ukraine and Palestine need to be dissolved. I fear it will not happen soon, but we should keep up with information and perseverance.

  3. It is not only the incredible blatant double standards between Ukraine/Russia and Palestine/Israel, it’s the amount and ingrained racism against all Arab/Muslim countries.

    1. I’m not going to express this well but here goes …while so happy to see global efforts taken for Ukranians, I can’t help but think about how angry…or perhaps it’s more like…how doubly painful it must be, for those going/gone through wars (eg Syria) to not only have lived their war with limited western and/or world intervention, but to now have to watch as Ukranians (in what might be argued as being in a ‘less awful’ situation), get supports at a level they (eg Syrians) never experienced.

      To those peoples, for what little I know it’s worth, I am so sorry.

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