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How the Russia-Ukraine war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict differ

By Amb. Alan Baker
web posted April 18, 2022

The tragic Russia-Ukraine conflict, with the broad panoply of  humanitarian, political, and legal issues that have arisen and continue  to arise, has given vent to several not-unexpected phenomena in  manipulative propaganda principally aimed at vilifying Israel.

Many political groups, organizations, politicians, and columnists  seeking to further their own political agenda or to adapt the facts of  the situation to such an agenda appear to be bending over backward to  seek, invent, or generate similarities between the ongoing  Russia-Ukraine war, on the one hand, and the Israel-Palestinian  conflict, on the other.

There appear to be several factors driving this phenomenon.

First and foremost is the fear that the Russia-Ukraine war, with the  daily footage of vast, mass violations of international humanitarian law  and war crimes, might be overshadowing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict  and removing it from the forefront of international attention,  relegating it to a lesser status.

Secondly, there is the concomitant fear that the international  community, witnessing in real-time the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine,  might indeed come to realize the utter transparency and hollowness of  its long and tedious preoccupation with Israel. Such obsession has been  stoked artificially and ceaselessly by a well-polished propaganda  campaign and by manipulating international organizations led by the UN  and its specialized agencies. Moreover, they have left a legacy of  hundreds of politically generated resolutions aimed at singling out and  delegitimizing Israel. Recently, prominent human rights groups, like  Amnesty International, have published scathing reports alleging that  Israel has an apartheid regime.

Thirdly, it is likely that the high-intensity Russia-Ukraine armed  conflict will sooner or later come to some form of termination or  hiatus, while the Israeli-Palestinian low-intensity battle will almost  certainly continue to simmer with renewed and periodic outbreaks of  violence and terror.

To prepare the international arena for such an eventuality, those  same propagandists are seeking to utilize the shock, indignation, and  sensitivity of the international community in the face of the massive  Russian violations of international law to establish a convenient  platform from which to generate and direct comparisons with Israel’s  treatment of Palestinian terror and violence.

While one might hope that the international community would not be so  easily duped by false attempts to equate the Israeli-Palestinian  conflict with the war in Ukraine, such an assumption cannot be made when  it comes to Israel.

Therefore, those regular purveyors of anti-Israel propaganda will  exploit the present wave of international indignation in the context of  the Ukraine war to rejuvenate and revitalize their campaign to  delegitimize Israel whatever the means.

Clearly, attempts to equate Israel’s actions in the territories in  response to Palestinian terror and violence with Russia’s massive  international-law violations in Ukraine would be unrealistic,  presumptuous, and manipulative.

However, such attempts have already begun and must be rejected outright.

The differentiation between the Russia-Ukraine situation and the  Israeli-Palestinian issue is clear and unmistakable. It must be  impressed upon the international community and media in such a manner as  to prevent false manipulations directed against Israel.

  • Russia is conducting an open, high-level war of aggression, with an  indiscriminate and massive bombardment of civilian population centers,  schools, hospitals, and railway stations, as well as religious and  cultural centers and monuments, in violation of the basic and widely  accepted norms and principles of international humanitarian law.

  • Russia is employing cluster bombs and other forms of weaponry in  violation of international conventions and protocols prohibiting such  weaponry.

  • Russia has caused masses of refugees, consisting of a significant  percentage of Ukraine’s civilian population, to leave their homes,  towns, and villages.

  • Russia’s violations of international law are the subject of litigation against it by Ukraine in the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Similarly, violations of international humanitarian law by the Russian leadership and military commanders are documented in numerous complaints submitted to the International Criminal Court by state members of the international community.

Absolutely No Comparison between Russia and Israel’s Conduct

Ongoing and future attempts to compare or equate the Russian mode of operation and massive violations of international law in Ukraine with Israel’s actions to defend its population from Palestinian terror attacks are patently lacking bona fides and the most basic sense of fairness and proportion.

The motivation behind such attempts is insincere, superficial, false, and deceitful. Those who attempt to manipulate international awareness by equating Russian aggression and war crimes with Israel’s actions to defend its population are driven by an overriding and irresponsible penchant to vilify, defame, and delegitimize Israel.

They come to the international community with unclean hands.

  • Israel does not conduct any high-level war of aggression against its  Palestinian and other neighbors, nor does it employ prohibited and  inhumane weaponry. Furthermore, Israel does not willfully and  deliberately target civilians or civilian concentrations or attack  religious, cultural, educational, and medical sites.

  • Israel faces ongoing terror that includes periodic, massive rocket  attacks against its civilian population and continuous excavation of  offensive tunnels under its sovereign territory to conduct attacks  within its towns and villages.

  • Israel is faced with attacks by incited Palestinian individuals in  its towns and villages inspired by terror organizations whose purpose of  existence is to terrorize Israel’s population.

    Hamas parade of rockets in Gaza, May 2021.
    Hamas parade of rockets in Gaza, May 2021.

  • Israel legitimately responds in self-defense by selectively and  proportionately targeting only those specific military targets, tactical  terror headquarters and facilities, rocket emplacements, and  ammunition-storage facilities that serve the military aim of the terror  organizations.

  • As part of their tactical operating procedure, Palestinian terror  organizations, commanders, and operatives conceal themselves within and  under civilian homes, medical facilities, schools, commercial buildings,  office blocks, and mosques. They use and abuse the civilian population  as human shields in violation of all humanitarian norms and principles.



  • The Palestinian mode of operation includes using civilian  facilities ??? schools, hospitals, clinics, mosques, and private homes ???  as weapons storage facilities and rocket emplacements. In addition, they  use high-rise commercial buildings as tactical, operational, and  communications headquarters, all to shield their facilities from Israeli  targeting procedures. Such cynical abuse of humanitarian norms is  perhaps seen most starkly in the vast web of tactical tunnels that the  Palestinian terror organizations have constructed underneath Palestinian  towns, civilian roads, and significant facilities.

  • Israel is obliged by its military doctrine to avoid civilian  casualties despite such Palestinian tactics. Before any military action  and often while prejudicing its own tactical advantage, Israel provides  early warning to civilians so that they may distance themselves.

  • The Palestinian terror groups regularly and openly engage in  environmental and agricultural terror in violation of international  humanitarian and ecological conventions and norms by using illegal  weaponry, launching exploding kites and incendiary balloons, and  releasing toxic smoke and fumes at Israel’s civilian population and  agricultural areas. Despite such Palestinian abuse, Israel goes to  considerable lengths to strictly observe all relevant international  norms, principles, and conventions in coping with such Palestinian  violations.

  • Unlike the situation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Israel does not  target Palestinian public utility facilities, power plants, or  locations and monuments of religious, cultural, or historical  significance.

  • Israel enables a constant flow into Palestinian areas of thousands  of trucks carrying supplies, food, provisions, medicines, and materials  through the various border passage points.

  • Palestinian political tactics include manipulating and abusing the  International Criminal Court by openly attempting to turn it into an  international political organization devoted to delegitimizing Israel in  violation of its Statute. They do this by referring hundreds of  trumped-up complaints to the Court despite the questionable legal status  of such complaints as well as legal doubts over the Palestinians’ own  status before the Court.

It is clear from the above that attempts to draw a comparison between  the massive and brutal actions of the Russian military in Ukraine and  the international reactions thereto and Israel’s response in defending  its civilian population from ongoing Palestinian terror are artificial  and contrived, to the extent of being inherently willful and malicious.

All self-respecting national parliamentary institutions and leaders  and responsible media organizations are urged to reject out of hand such  fake attempts to delegitimize Israel. ESR

Amb. Alan Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at  the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He  participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with  the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt,  Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy  director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s  ambassador to Canada.

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