Gaza the Graveyard for Children

Irrespective of your political beliefs, the reality is that the worst wars of this century have a common thread: Western intervention, instigation, or historical entanglement.

Today’s two significant wars – Ukraine and Israel-Palestine – are no different. The West, led by the US, has not been involved in the capacity of its self-proclaimed role as a global peacemaker. Instead, it has played a role that the majority of the world views as self-serving, instigating, enabling, and deepening these conflicts.

As the horrors of the three-week assault on the civilian population in Gaza stuns and numbs people globally, onlookers around the world are left wondering why and how Western powers have stood in the way of calls for a ceasefire, i.e., so that a civilized world can simply put a stop to the daily vengeful killing to save the lives of innocent people–mainly children.

In fact, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has warned that the Gaza Strip is fast becoming “a graveyard for children.” He, too, called again for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. For his remarks, he has been attacked by Israel and told to resign.

The blocking of a ceasefire option by Western powers has brought to the fore a recurrent question: what are the reasons for the moral bankruptcy within Western societies, and especially its political leaders? This is being asked across the world, including by some of the leading public intellectuals in the West.

European and American friends of mine from various institutions have posed the same question in social media chat groups but feel unable to publicly voice their concerns at home. Despite all the grandstanding about freedom of speech in the West, there is a clear obstacle presenting itself here: the fear of being accused as an anti-Semite runs deep, even if one is simply asking for the bloodshed to stop.

The abuse of the charge of anti-Semitism leveled against anyone questioning Israel’s crimes against Palestinians needs to be challenged so that it is not normalized across the world. It is what has silenced many in the West and allowed its politicians to lose their moral compass. It is not anti-Semitic to criticize war crimes by a government that has overseen the murder of thousands of children in the space of a few weeks. In a similar vein, condemnation of the actions of Hamas should not be seen as anti-Islam.

To label critics of Israel as anti-Semitic simply for opposing a brutal occupation and genocide is to dishonor the millions of Jews who paid the highest price in fascist Europe. The crimes committed against the Jewish people were inflicted by Europeans, not Arabs, Asians, or Africans. They have no historical or socio-political connection to the perverse hatred which is anti-Semitism.

The reality is that there is an accelerating decline in the quality of the political discourse in the West due to a complex schizophrenia linked to confronting its past (chickens coming home to roost like the Palestinian issue); discomfort in its changing role in a rapidly shifting world order; and a post-industrial society that has become so individualistic; all while draped in its sense of superiority. This has manifested in the shaping of a political class that is simultaneously at odds with and out-of-touch-with the changing world, meaning it is incapable of taking on the coveted role of global leadership. This is accompanied by a wider societal abdication of the responsibility that comes with this role, resulting in a dearth of leaders of any global stature. The likes of Merkel and Chirac, who understood the responsibility of Western leadership and diplomacy, seem to be part of a dying breed.

This void has endangered peace all over the world, not because the rest of the world is looking to the West for leadership, but because weak Western leaders – still steeped in the belief that the West must maintain its hegemony and believe in their superiority over others – have no hesitation in using intervention and superior military strength to impose their will on the world. As with Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Ukraine and Israel-Palestine, the so-called “responsibility to protect” is apparently a choice to enable atrocities that align with the Western need to maintain its position in the global pecking order.

Even if one ignores the collective amnesia of the West and Israel when it comes to the history of the Palestinian struggle, the monstrous scale of the retribution on a captive population – hostages for decades – is shocking the world, maybe because it is being so easily recorded and that so many children are being killed – doctors in Palestine have even coined an acronym to describe survivors: WCNSF, meaning “wounded child no surviving family.”

Despite this, Western leaders have from the deep recesses of an absurd geopolitical domain – which they have created for themselves – developed narratives to justify the unjustifiable and the immoral. The world needs to reject this too.

This might explain why for many in the non-Western world the following rationale explains a great deal:

Terrorism is the war waged by the weak and oppressed against the might of the strong and powerful. War is the terror unleashed by the strong and powerful against the weak and oppressed. Both resort to terror in an asymmetrical fashion to further their goals.

It is worth remembering that in the early days of its creation, many in Israel waged a war of terror against the power of the day – the British government – and many of its former leaders were labeled as terrorists.

So how, then, does a civilized world sit back and watch a massacre taking place as planned and broadcast worldwide? Should it remain silent as terror is unleashed daily on civilians by state actors? Why do Western powers not stop their ally, Israel, from committing what many see as genocide and a breach of all international rules of war? The world wants to know and is not going to forget the decisions made by Western leaders to not call a halt to the slaughter.

True diplomacy requires de-escalating even the most fraught situations to prevent widespread suffering; not enabling it. In the face of such a catastrophic situation, taking sides is not an option.

Instead, duplicity and deception on international matters have become the norm, and in recent decades, the West has set new standards. Just look at the narratives surrounding the conflict, which Western leaders use to justify the killing while allowing them to retain the moral high ground.

For example: given Europe’s guilt about centuries of persecution of Jews, its leaders are seemingly willing to launder their collective guilt with the lives of Palestinians – even children – and permit the massacre to continue, even refusing to call for a ceasefire. European media plays a key role by getting in line and trumpeting the message worldwide, an effort that is increasingly seen by many outside the West as shameful and sheer propaganda.

Or, in the case of the US, how the Biden Administration claims to denounce the continued violence while continuing to pump billions in funding and weapons into Israel. Even the US’ own diplomats are enraged, as a leaked memo reveals: “When Israel supports settler violence and illegal land seizures or employs excessive use of force against Palestinians, we must communicate publicly that this goes against our American values so that Israel does not act with impunity.”

There are hardly words to describe this behavior in our lexicon. We perhaps need terms like “morality psychosis” or “bigotry psychosis” to correctly frame the Western response to the conflict (if holding captive an entire people can even be fairly termed a “conflict”).

It is the same psychosis that rabidly gripped the response to the war in Ukraine, reducing the conflict to a battle of good versus evil, accompanied by a collective amnesia of the complex history between Russia and Ukraine and the years of goading by NATO.

In the case of Ukraine, widespread outrage led to the marshalling of resources to fight Russia and intensify the war, rather than suing for peace talks, on the grounds that an invasion had broken the all-sacred sovereignty rule. Yet when it comes to the Palestinians and Gaza, the support is for occupation, restriction of human rights, and a license to kill, with racist undertones so clear they may as well be overtones.

The Western response to these two conflicts has fully revealed the West’s appreciation of its own exceptionalism, stemming from centuries of dominance over the world. Never before in the post-colonial era has the global majority been exposed to the true nature of this exceptionalism and the dangerous consequences it has for the rest of the world.

The West’s inability to share power with a rising global majority in the rising multipolar world order has made it deeply insecure and aggressive. It is regressing to what it has historically been very good at: the use of violence to keep power.

To quote the late Samuel P. Huntington: “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion […] but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.”

This has resulted in the most undesirable people rising to power and influence, driven by the desire to retain hegemony and relive past glories. From Bush to Trump and even Biden in the US, to Blair, Boris Johnson, and a list of other unsavory European leaders like Josep Borell, who infamously said that “Europe is a garden” but “most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden.”

Meanwhile, the “good citizens” of the West have been seduced into silence by a tyranny of woke liberalism, believing their democracies will self-correct. In doing so, they play loose with the lives of millions across the world as their democratically elected but weak leaders wreak havoc on the global stage. They are not putting up a good fight at home to fix their broken system and instead seek to preach to the rest of the world from a largely non-existent moral high ground.

To onlookers from the global majority, the callous response of Western powers to the killing in Palestine is now inflicting a gaping wound onto the credibility of Western international leadership, as well as to the vaunted values of Western liberal democracy. Its political leaders and morally paralyzed citizens appear justified in committing horrors around the world, all under the banner of that same democracy.

For the people of Palestine, they are having to pay the ultimate price. For the people of Israel, their friends in the West are letting them down by not speaking the truth and stopping them from committing more crimes which will make a long-lasting peace extremely difficult.

Chandran Nair is the CEO of Asia’s leading independent think tank The Global Institute for Tomorrow based in Hong Kong. He is the author of several books including the acclaimed, Dismantling Global White Privilege: Equity for a Post- Western World.