“Any (hu)man`s death diminishes me, because I am involved in (Hu)mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”- No man is an island by John Donne
When Martin Luther King referenced John Donne’s words in 1968 in the context of the Vietnam war, he brought home a global issue, and tied it to the fight for Black Liberation and equality. His understanding of Western imperialism, and the pernicious propaganda that made it possible, illuminated for him the interconnections between the Vietnam war, the plight of Black America and the endemic violence and injustices inflicted by the powerful the world over. Despite the efforts of Mr. King and countless others since then, the representation of America and its allies as benevolent actors doing their best to maintain peace and security in a complicated world of competing interests, has for the most part persisted. The manufacturing of consent, also known as the management of public opinion, has been crucial to maintaining the illusion of a western moral superiority, despite the leading role they have played in the death and destruction of people and planet.
Two recent events, observed in the contrasting responses afforded to each, highlight a systemic Western bias in favour of Israel. The first, a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world’s leading judicial authority on international law, that it is plausible Israel is carrying out a genocide (something many leading experts have already warned of), barely registered.
The ICJ’s ruling received little attention in the media and has yet to illicit a response from Justin Trudeau or Prime Minister in waiting, Pierre Poilievre, a fervent defender of Israeli aggression. Canada, with very few exceptions, has remained silent and has taken no stance on the courts findings (one can only imagine the response should Russia be sitting in the dock). The enormity of what is unfolding in Gaza, witnessed by the displacement of two million people, and the death of 25000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, (including 152 UNRWA staff and 83 journalists) is truly staggering. A looming famine which according to the world food program sees “half a million people in Gaza facing catastrophic food insecurity levels” and the “immediate possibility” of starvation, recent evidence collected by Human Rights Watch that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war (a war crime) along with the ICJ’s ruling, should be more than enough to prompt an across the board condemnation of Israel’s actions equitable to the one we observed after the attacks perpetrated by Hamas on Oct 7.
The second event, Israel’s allegation’s that a dozen UN Relief and Works agency (UNRWA) employees, were involved in the Oct 7th attacks, continues to dominate headlines and resulted in swift condemnation and the immediate freezing of funding to the UNRWA by several member states including Canada. The allegations follow recent comments by former Israeli official Noga Arbell on Jan 6th in the Israeli Knesset calling for the immediate destruction of the UNRWA, an organisation that regularly advocates for Palestinian rights. The significant loss in revenue to the UNRWA, the largest aid organisation in the region, will have devastating effects on an already devastated population and comes immediately after the ICJ’s call for Israel to “take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
The funding cuts have been criticized by 20 NGO’s, including OXFAM, in an open letter warning “The suspension of funding by donor states will impact life-saving assistance for over two million civilians, over half of whom are children, who rely on UNRWA aid in Gaza. The population faces starvation, looming famine and an outbreak of disease under Israel’s continued indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate deprivation of aid in Gaza.”
Our response to the allegations of a country which operates a racist and oppressive apartheid regime and has a decades long history of widespread and legally sanctioned torture (as documented by Amnesty International), versus our reaction to the ICJ’s findings is telling and exposes the façade of a civilised West standing up for an international rules based order. Israel’s ongoing onslaught and criminality is enabled by the blitz of western propaganda and media bias that ensures a mostly passive public response in the face of humanitarian catastrophe and possible genocide.
Finally, as a significant exporter of arms to Israel it is disingenuous to suggest the conflict has no relevance to the live of Canadians. We all have a responsibility to act to end the suffering of Palestinians. As Mr. King eloquently observed, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
The recent discussions on the Wakefield News forum, precipitated by the admin decision to censor (on an uncensored bulletin board) certain topics that lacked a “direct local connection”, offers us an important opportunity to explore the interconnectedness of the many issues we face and where our responsibilities lie as members of a global community perpetually at war and on the brink of climate collapse.
To donate to the UNRWA visit https://donate.unrwa.org/-landing-page/en_EN