After Saturday’s surprise attack by the Palestinian group Hamas on Israel, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy took to the social media platform X to offer “condolences go out to everyone who lost relatives or close ones in the terrorist attack”.
He also stated, “Israel’s right to self-defence is unquestionable”.
Many world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, shared similar sentiments.
The world is seeing appalling images.
Thousands of rockets raining down on Israeli cities. Hamas terrorists killing not only Israeli soldiers, but civilians on the streets and in their homes.
It’s unconscionable. Israel has a right to defend itself – full stop.
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 7, 2023
The President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated, “Israel has the right to defend itself – today and in the days to come. The European Union stands with Israel”.
Accusations of western ‘double standards’
Some social media users have criticised these statements, saying they highlight a double standard.
Ukraine’s right to defend itself is praised by most international leaders while Russia’s invasion is condemned, but commentators said the same cannot be said about Israel’s 56-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
Aaron Bastani, a leftist British journalist, said on X that there’s a “clear double standard in endorsing terrorism against civilian targets in Ukraine … and condemning it by Palestinians”.
There’s clear double standard in endorsing terrorism against civilian targets by Ukraine (which one can obviously argue is justified – they face occupation) & condemning it by Palestinians.
Those fighting our enemies = war of liberation
Those fighting our allies = terrorism https://t.co/t1G3gQ7HnP
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) October 7, 2023
Many users said Western diplomats and media support the Ukrainians who defend their land, but label the Palestinians fighting against Israel as “terrorists”.
So, Ukrainian 🇺🇦 civilians defending their families are “freedom fighters”…
But Palestinians in Gaza 🇵🇸 doing the EXACT same thing are “terrorists”?
— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) October 7, 2023
An illustration of a woman’s face, in which one eye is closed beside a Palestinian flag, and one eye open beside a Ukrainian flag, has been regularly shared as a symbol of the West’s alleged double standards in how the two conflicts are viewed.
The international community’s double standards are evident as they rally for Ukraine’s conflict with Russia while turning a blind eye to the enduring suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli apartheid for decades.#AlAqsaFlood pic.twitter.com/tgdgOabuLC
— PALESTINE ONLINE 🇵🇸 (@OnlinePalEng) October 8, 2023
Clips also emerged on social media from a CNN interview with Mustafa Barghouti, the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, in which he posed the rhetorical question, “why the United States support Ukraine in fighting occupation? While here they support the occupier, who continues to occupy us”.
If this were Ukraine, US, EU and UK politicians would be falling over themselves in condemning a war crime. Which is exactly what this is. https://t.co/3057uOGVE2
— Mark Seddon (@MarkSeddon1962) October 9, 2023
The hypocrisy and double standards of western governments and media platforms dealing with situations in Ukraine-Russia and Palestine-Israel blow the mind. Absolute disgrace.
— Said Yacoubi (@AlyacoubiSaid) October 8, 2023
An existing debate re-ignited
It is not the first time Western nations have been accused of double standards in their stance on the Ukraine war.
Earlier in the year, Amnesty published a report highlighting the West’s “double standards” on global human rights.
Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s Amnesty secretary-general, told Al Jazeera at the time that the occupation of the Palestinians was a “particularly important one”.
“Without making any comparison between Russia’s aggression and Israel … it is clear the Palestinian people are under a regime of oppression. A regime of occupation and a regime of apartheid,” Callamard told Al Jazeera.
Over the last three days, X users recirculated earlier statements calling out what they called Western hypocrisy, sharing video by the Irish lawmaker Richard Boyd Barrett from March 2022 in which he berated the Irish government’s double standards regarding Ukraine and Palestine.
“You’re happy to use the most strong and robust language to describe the crimes against humanity of Vladimir Putin, but you will not use the same strength of language when it comes to describing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians”.
Barrett on Sunday again called out what he called “shocking double standards of Western leaders supporting Ukraine resistance but condemning Palestinian[s].”
Palestinians hostage in criminal siege of Gaza for 17 yrs.Since 1948 Palestinians victims of ethnic cleansing, murderous occupation & apartheid. They have every right to resist. Shocking double standards of western leaders supporting Ukraine resistance but condemning Palestinian. pic.twitter.com/eo8LpzG0gI
— Richard Boyd Barrett (@RBoydBarrett) October 8, 2023
Meanwhile, others warned against comparing conflicts.
Please please stop comparing wars, stop comparing reactions to atrocities. You can show solidarity and amplify compassion without centering. https://t.co/0LOUz0d8Rt
— Тетяна Denford (Бісик) tetyanadenford.bsky.social (@denfordauthor) October 8, 2023
And some cautioned that Hamas and Palestinians should not be seen as one and the same.
Just to clarify:
Palestine did not mount an attack on Israel. An Iranian proxy militia did. Palestinians are by and large huddled in their homes praying that an Israeli airstrike won’t kill them or theirs. Hamas is the culprit here. This isn’t a decentralized grassroots thing.
— Romeo Kokriatski (@RomeoKokriatski) October 9, 2023
Ukrainian footballer Oleksandr Zinchenko, who plays for Arsenal, posted on Instagram stating he “stands with Israel”.
Zinchenko has been a vocal supporter of his home country in its ongoing defence against Russia and participated in a Game4Ukraine charity match in London earlier this year to raise money for Ukraine.
After online backlash, with some questioning an alleged double standard in his support of Israel, the footballer removed the post and switched his social media account to private.
Several people claimed his football club, in not responding to Zinchenko’s comments, were guilty of hypocrisy after they had distanced themselves from former player Mesut Ozil’s comments in 2019 over alleged human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in China.