The international community has, for the most part, supported Ukrainian efforts to resist Russian military aggression; supported the steps to receive refugees and provide for their needs; imposed targeted sanctions against Russia, its commercial outlets, its banks, and its leaders; and implemented commercial and cultural boycotts of Russian products, as well as companies that operate in Russia. Many Russians have also courageously opposed this military action. And, the international community must avoid demonizing the Russian people, even as it strongly opposes the actions of the Russian government.
All of these efforts to hold Russia accountable and oppose the invasion remind us of how the US and the international community opposed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, for example.
But not every previous, similar military activity has been met with such a flurry of actions to oppose the devastation wrought by countries when they have violated international law.
In some situations in the Middle East, such aggression has been and continues to be abetted and not opposed:
- According to the World Food Program, the ongoing war in Yemen has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Instigated by Saudi Arabia and the UAE and supported by the US, Canada, and others, the war has led to more than 16 million Yemenis on the verge of starvation.
- Almost 7 million Syrians have become refugees in neighboring countries, and more than half the Syrian population has been displaced overall in the 11-year war there – supported by various outside powers. Many, but not all by far, are still in refugee camps waiting to learn their fate, not having been received and assisted with nearly the same enthusiasm as those fleeing Ukraine have.
- Israel’s decades-long illegal acquisition, occupation, and annexation of Palestinian land have resulted in more than 5 million refugees whose rights remain disrespected or ignored. In this instance, boycotts and sanctions to hold Israel accountable have been deemed illegitimate or even made illegal. Palestinian non-violent resistance, unlike that in Ukraine, has been ridiculed and delegitimized.
Contact your elected officials and urge them to apply principles of international law and human rights consistently so that every person—especially victims of war, violence, and oppression—are treated with equal dignity and respect. Urge them to apply international law so that perpetrators are corrected in instances where such rights and dignity have been violated and are further punished when such violations are ignored or abetted.