Why the selective outrage between Gaza and Aleppo?

Fintan O’Toole makes a good point about why some atrocities spark huge protests, whilst others barely raise a whisper. The current bombing of Aleppo is at a pitch not seen even in the middle east for a couple of decades, yet there’s barely a whimper:

Why the selective outrage? There are, I suppose, two possible justifications. One is that the United States and Israel are in some sense “us”. We have very close ties to the US and Israel is a quasi-European country.

So there is arguably a greater moral obligation to stand up against the crimes of governments to which we are allied.

The other justification is that the US and Israel are relatively open societies and therefore susceptible to international opinion and public pressure in a way that Russia or the Assad regime are not.

Protest against the latter is therefore likely to be inconsequential. Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are probably not going to stop dropping cluster bombs, barrel bombs and phosphorous bombs and firing artillery at civilians even if millions of westerners take to the streets.

There may be something in both arguments, but it is not enough to justify the silence. Russia is a permanent member of the United Nations security council and therefore supposedly one of the pillars of international law.

And even though protests against Putin and Assad may be ineffective, they are necessary if protest itself is to remain valid. Human rights mean nothing if they are not granted to all humans and rage at the abuse of these rights is rendered illegitimate if it is conditional on the identity of the abuser.

You can’t hope to have any credibility if you shake your fist at the ugly American while ignoring the ugly Russian or react in entirely different ways to Israeli bombing of Gaza than to Saudi bombing of civilians in Yemen.

It should be said, that the admission from the Phillipines the other day that the country’s police are literally taking the law into their own hands and adopting a shoot to kill policy on drugs suspects that would put the SAS to shame.

  • Zorin001

    I think we could make the connection between direct Western involvement and heightened media interest. After all their is a vicious civil war going on in the Yemen right now, with the Saudis using Western arms to commit some particularly ghastly actions. There’s an ongoing civil conflict in South Sudan and never mind the atrocities ISIS commit on the Muslim population under its control. Yet you would never know as they barely make the news, never mind the lead item.

  • john millar

    Elegently and accurately put

  • ted hagan

    There was a massive outcry against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. There was also widespread scepticism about Hamas using innocent civilians as cannon fodder and abusing humanitarian funds for military purposes. This has been well documented.

  • AntrimGael

    The rabidly, right wing Western political and media Establishments dictate the narrative that is pushed out to us and sadly most people are like lemmings, accept what is being told to them and don’t think for themselves. The current message is that Russia, Syria, the Palestinians etc are the bad guys and that the rebels, Yanks, Israel and West are the good chaps. A good example of the power of the media is the story told by some of the surviving British soldiers of the 1982 Hyde Park bombs. They said that virtually ALL the media attention went on Sefton and the horses that were injured and that the soldiers were an afterthought. The horses got more Get Well cards from the public and media coverage than the soldiers. Says it all really.

  • notimetoshine

    Oh please, most politicians and political movements in the west don’t really cares about humanitarian crises across the world except when convenient. Syria and Gaza: it’s because the middle East is geopolitically important, and the various Palestinian, Israeli, Syrian sides are useful in domestic politics.

    Every time I hear SF or the DUP for instance, pontificate about Israel and Palestine I cringe. They are convenient flags (quite literally) to wave. It’s not humanitarianism it just suits the narrative of their political goals. Same goes elsewhere.

    If they really cared about humanitarian crises we would be hearing about Eritrea, renewed violence and ethnic cleansing in south Sudan, severe drought in Somalia, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in the central African republic along with worsening ethnic violence everyday, continued ethnic violence and low grade conflict in the DRC, the continued persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in Myanmar… That’s just a sample.

    Just take the crisis in Burundi. In a couple of months a quarter of a million people have become refugees, with many more to come as a result of drought, conflict and civil unrest. They are fleeing into countries that are hardly equipped to even try and help them, living in conditions that would make the west bank and Syrian refugee camps look like paradise. But I have never heard an utterance from politicians or on the news even in passing.

    There is selective outrage, but only outrage at conflicts and situations that suit. I’d wait for some outrage over Burundi for instance, but I can’t hold my breath that long.

    So next time you hear some politician (or journo for that matter) locally harping on about the Israelis or the Palestinians, and the humanitarian outrages there, ask them about Burundi. Or Sudan. Or Chad. Or The CAR. See if their commitment to international solidarity with the oppressed and those in danger is as strong as they would make out.

  • Jollyraj

    I was always mystified that a small minority of the more extreme brand of Irish Republicanism could be so anguished at Palestinian children being killed by Israeli attacks, but indifferent to Israeli children being blown up in rocket attacks from the Palestinian side. Or indeed children from either side of the NI community being maimed by IRA bombs during their heyday.

  • Gopher

    Its barely a whimper basically because no one outside Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and their backer the USA see Assad as a problem. Secular Syria was not facilitating jehadi’s to blow us up. He might torture the life out of sections of his own people but judging by the way they administer their “liberated zones” I don’t really mind a bit of secular dictatorship.
    As for the methods, the West has given primitive people advanced guided munitions making obsolete whole swathes of Assads inventory so Syria and Russia have to evolve tactics to combat that in which increased area attacks before advancing is a no brainer.
    The west want to do something about Aleppo they have to cut out a portion of Syria, protect it and administer it which will involve troops until they can arm Syrians that arnt religiously insane to do it for them. There is a ready pool, immigrants of military age from Syria arriving in Europe that can be armed and trained while we look after their families and put in that safe area to form a new state.

    “a shoot to kill policy on drugs suspects that would put the SAS to shame.”

    What an absurd comment to put in a thread on Gaza, Aleppo and Phillipines

  • Reader

    AntrilGael: The horses got more Get Well cards from the public and media coverage than the soldiers. Says it all really.
    Sentimentality. I have always distrusted sentimentality. Meat eaters weeping over dead horses; people distraught over celebrities they have never met; idiot mobs waiting at the courts to howl at the arriving prison vans; a political leader weeping at the plight of the children of the rural poor, promising them lebensraum in the east. All part of a continuum.
    Ahem. Anyway, as for the horses, there may also have been a sense that they ought to be viewed as non-combatants these days.

  • woodkerne

    But the actions of the Israeli state against the citizenry of the occupied territories, as against pin-prick provocations and reprisals of Hamas and others are hardly proportionate. The danger inherent in the argument you’re putting forward is an all too familiar species of relativism that reduces an enormously asymmetrical conflict to a spurious equivalence that justifies a decontextualising campaign of ‘blaming the victims’. At present in Syria, Russia and the US both happen to want to defeat the jihadists. However, the US alliance with the Saudis complicates their preferred endgame because while the US wishes to be rid of both Assad and the Islamic State, Assad has become a pivotally important ally in the region for a resurgent Russia, especially since they lost the support of their erstwhile clients in Lebanon and Iran and Egypt (in the soviet era). It’s worth remembering’ however, in the bigger picture and longer term, that it is the US and their NATO allies who are primarily responsible for creating the current mess and at the deep root of this cataclysmic geopolitical turmoil is the USA’s (and before them, Britain’s) uncritical clientist relationship with Israel and the forced exile of millions of Palestinians from their country and region of birth. The latest casualities of this post-colonial conflict are no less deserving of humanitarian sympathy and support than the many, many who have perished as a consequence of the originary imperial and neo-imperial interventions of the US, Britain and to a lesser extent France since Suez, the Balfour agreement and before.

  • Jollyraj

    Sorry, but your claim that what I said is “a spurious equivalence that justifies a decontextualising campaign of ‘blaming the victims'” is absolute nonsense. Your response is well-written and wordy, but has nothing to do with what I wrote. It seems almost as if you were trying so hard to be interesting that you forgot to read my comment before replying. In what way am I ‘blaming the victims’?

  • woodkerne

    The indifference that you speak of is normally justified by ideological preference (over historical fact, that is). I wasn’t and am not accusing you of anything. The ‘danger’ I was highlighting is an all too common discursive tendency towards relativizing the terms of a lopsided conflict. There is precious little virtue in play in the current conflicts in the near and middle east. But to be clear, if it is useful for blame/outrage, etc to be apportioned (although this is the language of moral economy rather than realpolitik driving the wholebloody mess), the original sin was British and later US colonial interventions.

  • Skibo

    Mick the simplest answer to the different attitude to the two conflicts is to comment about Israeli treatment of Gaza can be taken as anti-Semitic and for that reason most people are too scared to raise it at all for fear of being taken as such.

  • woodkerne

    Ps – the reason for republican filiation with the cause of Gaza is surely fairly obvious, offering as it does, a further, aggrandizing analogue on the world stage, to be compared with their own heroic suffering towards the historic goal of achieving national salvation. The coincidence of British guilt is useful too as is the common origin in the period of the war of independence up to and including the formation of the (false as they see it) Republic of Ireland in 1948.

  • Oggins

    Wondered how long it would take to make comparisons to our own issues. Some really good posts, then a few about the muns

  • Mac an Aistrigh

    For all we actually learn about anything, we might as well stop watching the news altogether.

  • Skibo

    JR that could be turned around also to say that there are Loyalists out there who show no sympathy for Nationalist and Republican children who were killed by Loyalist gangs.
    Is there any significance to the fact that you describe Palestinian children as killed yet Israeli children as blown up. Do you see any difference in the blowing up of a child or the fact that one is done by a top of the range fighter jet and the other by a low technology rocket?

  • Jollyraj

    “JR that could be turned around also to say that there are Loyalists out there who show no sympathy for Nationalist and Republican children who were killed by Loyalist gangs.”

    Yes, it could very much so. And the fact that it could in no way alters the truth in what I said.

    “Is there any significance to the fact that you describe Palestinian children as killed yet Israeli children as blown up.”

    Zero significance. I might just as well have said it the other way. They would be no more or less dead. If you want to suggest I feel that Israeli children are more dead than Palestinian kids then you are clutching at straws.

    ” Do you see any difference in the blowing up of a child or the fact that one is done by a top of the range fighter jet and the other by a low technology rocket?”

    None. If, God forbid, it was my child or yours I don’t see any case where we’d console ourselves that it was just a low tech rocket.

    There are, sadly, apologists on these very pages for groups like the IRA who do seem to subscribe to the kind of thinking you’re talking about. Shouldn’t take a lot of looking to see which of the chaps I have in mind.

  • Jollyraj

    This the new Godwin’s law, is it?

    Once somebody mentions the IRA they’ve lost the argument?

    And wouldn’t that suit the 21st century Shinners….

  • npbinni

    ‘there is arguably a greater moral obligation to stand up against the crimes of governments to which we are allied.’

    There’s a certain arrogance in that statement which says that we (of Europe, I presume) are better than the US or Israel. As if!

    There is also a racist tinge to it. The Saudis and other Arab states are also our allies. Are they to be held to the same moral standards. Apparently not. The subtle racism of low expectation is clear.

    And using the word ‘crimes’ is being judgmental and partisan. Self-defence is the basic doctrine of Israeli military dogma. The IDF is named as such for good reason. Israel’s enemies test it at their own risk. And the Palestinians are awfully slow learners.

    If the Palestinian Arabs and Arabs in general were to genuinely and unilaterally pursue peace and put away their weapons, there would be a fair peace for all. If Israel were to pursue peace in the same manner and put away their weapons, there would be no Israel. Self preservation is a very strong instinct, and Israel has every right to defend itself. And it will.

    But, of course, there will not be peace for a very long time, if ever, because one of the basic objectives of modern-day Islam and the growing anti-Israel movement among Western left-wing liberals is the destruction of Israel. And with that comes the isolation and renewed persecution of the Jews. Anti-Zionism has become the new excuse for anti-Semitism. And we all know where that will end. But not if the Israelis can help it.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4wk5ib

  • Oggins

    Far from it, and as I have told you a dozen times, not a shinner.

    I think bringing our own history into another conflict is wrong. Its first for a start disrespectful to those who are suffering in the middle east.

    The cheap point scoring and flag erection, is tacky. I would say those caught in the conflict would not be warmes that in a Belfast interface, a Palestinian or Israeli flag is hanging from a lamp post, or a discussion forum is comparing their problems to our own.

    I think people who constantly bring in our history to a posting on an international problem, have issues they need to resolve.

    All I am saying this discussion brings no valve by mentioning the ‘ira, brits’ antics of the past. All it does is creates side arguments that take away from the orginal posting

  • npbinni

    This video by Colonel Richard Kemp is most illuminating:

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Not so much looking as much as projecting in your case.

  • john millar

    “If the Palestinian Arabs and Arabs in general were to genuinely and unilaterally pursue peace and put away their weapons, there would be a fair peace for all. If Israel were to pursue peace in the same manner and put away their weapons, there would be no Israel. Self preservation is a very strong instinct, and Israel has every right to defend itself. And it will.”

    Israel has stolen Arab property and murdered Arab children- largely with impunity (and USA support) since 1947 and can clearly be identified as the “bad guy”

    According to The Balfour Declaration
    “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
    And how have non-jewish communities fared?
    A sample of the facts
    http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21577111-jewish-settlements-expand-palestinians-are-being-driven-away-squeeze-them

    The REAL situation — Just two of thousands of illustrations of the real Israel

    Moshe Dyan
    “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist.”
    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/moshe_dayan.html#DzRgGBE1bkay0jd5.99

    Ben Gurion: “We Must Expel the Arabs and Take Their Place”
    http://mycatbirdseat.com/2013/08/41119-ben-gurion-we-must-expel-the-arabs-and-take-their-place/

    Will Israel “allow” a Palestinian State with its own defence forces ports and international frontiers ?

    Israel is a nation of liars, child murderers and land thieves depending on the USA to arm and support them-and who whinge when their victims fight back.

  • Skibo

    JR I notice you put your child in to part of the Israeli child. Do you hold no sympathy for the Palestinian child killed by state of the art fighter planes financed by USA.
    I believe it is a disgrace for the way the Israelis have treated the Palestinians. Gaza is in effect a concentration camp where Israel controls what enters and what doesn’t. It has a coastline that is fully controlled by the Israeli navy.
    Gaza is an area around the size of Fermanagh with a head count somewhere near that of NI.
    For a people who went through what they did in WW2 under the Nazis, it is unforgivable for them to treat people in a similar manner.

  • Skibo

    Not everything is as black and white as is depicted here. Israel considers herself under constant attack and believes even a proactive strike is one of defence.
    It is a bit like how the British explained the execution of three unarmed Irish people in Gibraltar as an act of defence.

  • Jollyraj

    “JR I notice you put your child in to part of the Israeli child.”

    You really are clutching at straws then.

    I also referred to Israeli ‘children’ but the Palestinians as merely ‘kids’. Clearly an attempt on my part to dehunanize the Palestinians.

    Did you notice that, too?

    Much like you noticed I said that Israeli children were ‘blown up’ but Palestinians (merely) ‘killed’.

    Seems you were to busy noticing things that weren’t there and failed to notice what I actually said.

  • Skibo

    JR it is the little thinks that give an insight on the soul. The descriptive words that supply evidence to the fact that a person gives more importance to the lives on one group of people more than the other.
    We are all guilty of it. We show our disgust for dastardly deeds done but through the use of such words ,while the disgust is as given, there is an acceptance that such acts are necessary, can be read between the lines

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Gazza is popular with the looney left. The ones with values back to front.
    They rush to defend the criminal so that his feelings do not get hurt, or ‘human rights’ infringed by having to go to jail for a crime. But totally ignore the victim. That sort of person.
    Add to that their anti Semitic tendencies. I recall a Jewish Labor lady MP recently had to leave a meeting due to a colleague’s anti Semitic out burst. I believe these tendencies fit into the left emotional based views of ‘the poor oppressed guy needing support from oppression by the big bad government’ or such and such. In Gazza they totally ignore the indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilians, and just oppose the big bad Jewish state that might respond militarily.
    I’m sure that if we got enough information on the other conflicts around the world, the left would soon pick a side based in who they perceive as ‘the oppressed little guy’, and not on events and facts.

  • Jollyraj

    “The descriptive words that supply evidence to the fact that…while the disgust is as given, there is an acceptance that such acts are necessary, can be read between the lines”

    Sorry, you may have a point that this sort of thing does indeed go on all the time – the twisting of language to justify atrocities. Hell we see it used here in relation to the horrific crimes of the IRA and their Loyalist equivalents. But I have to say I have only one clear, unambiguous word to describe your contrived attempt to contort what I actually said into me somehow being in favour of Palestinian, or any other, children being killed:

    Bullshit.

  • Skibo

    SIR Ranty, well that post definitely lives up to your name. It ignores the very fact that pre 1947 there was no Israel only Palestine.
    http://tour.khujbo.com/a-timeline-of-israel-palestines-claim-to-the-land/ While the post has been written by a very pro Palestine poster, the maps do not lie. The major aggressor here has been Israel.
    Why is it if you defend the Palestinian you are anti Semitic?

  • Skibo

    Perhaps what I have tried to show has been lost in translation. While I accept you condemn the murdering of children on all sides, do you accept the right of the Israeli Government to bomb Palestine with F18 jets?
    The very action of doing so cannot be described as defensive. A defensive act would be to use a missile system that was gifted to Israel for their defence during the Iraq war against the rockets fired into Israel.
    Is the very fact of the world allowing Israel to act in such a way,an act of acceptance of the collateral damage that the murder of Palestinian children is?

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Why did you say I had ignored pre 1947? I didn’t mention the formation of the state or anything like that. You could just have made a point about the formation of the state without making a false claim about me ignoring it. I’m pretty sure you will find most states are formed out of violence and war. The country directly to our south is one example 🙂 Also the good ol U S of A. Violent state formation is the norm.

    google this “anti semitism in british labour party”
    Quite a lot of articles about it. Also, when I read pro Palestine comments on the web, a lot of the time its clear that the person also hates Jews. Its very common in my opinion. Its not a case of “if you defend the Palestinian you are anti Semitic?” its why do you also ignore Palestinian atrocities?

  • Skibo

    Point one, “They rush to defend the criminal” gives the impression that to defend the Palestinian is defending the criminal and totally ignores the fact that pre 1947 the whole area was Palestine, so who really is the criminal?
    Point two. ” The country directly to our south is one example 🙂 ” smiley face of sarcasm. The fact that violence was used in conquering the whole country of Ireland and assimilation of the Irish is totally ignored. One does wonder did Star Trek base the Borg on the English!
    Point three, I did google antisemitism in the labour party and look what came up! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36672022. Seems all is not as black and white as the opponents of the socialist philosophy would have us imagine.
    You can have your views on whether those who defend the Palestinians are Jew haters or not but your views do not make it fact. I can condemn both sides.
    Isn’t it interesting that to view the two conflicts, Palestine and Ireland, you always assume the IRA are the terrorists as they have killed more people than anyone else but when Israel kills not twice as many or ten times as many or a hundred times as many but nearer 300 times as many, you consider them the ones under threat!