To see the extent of David Cameron's hypocrisy, contrast his call for action on the plane shot down in Ukraine to his government's complicity in Israel's brutal assault on Gaza
The fear Channel 4 journalist Jon Snow's expressed on Twitter has turned out to be all too prophetic: "Awful danger that the shooting down of flight MH17 will provide cover for an intensification of Israel's ground war in Gaza", wrote Channel 4 journalist Jon Snow in a tweet.
Yet the coverage of both events in the western media shows a quite shocking disproportion of standards between the two. While new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond argued the case for more sanctions on Russia as a result of the shooting, David Cameron, writing in the Sunday Times, went even further:
"This is a direct result of Russia destabilising a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them. We must turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action."
The wording is uncannily reminiscent of Tony Blair's call for action after 9/11, which has created much of the horror we are now seeing in the world.
The media refer to Putin as a 'terrorist', there are calls to brand the Ukrainian separatist organisations as terrorist, and there are demands from the Dutch and other governments to take even stronger strong action against Russia.
It is hardly worth recording that attitudes to Israeli bombing and ground invasion are completely different in tone, let alone in trying to apply serious sanctions to a government which has repeatedly attacked Palestinians and who used the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish students on the West Bank to launch another attack on Gaza.
When Philip Hammond was asked, by the BBC's Andrew Marr, whether Israel was acting disproportionately in Gaza, he three times refused to answer, but blamed Hamas.
So far, over 300 have been killed by Israel in the first eight days of its attack on Gaza, around the same figure as those who died on the plane shot down over the Ukraine. We should grieve the loss of every one of those lives. But the coverage of those killed in flight MH17 to Malaysi - with personal photos, reminiscences of families and neighbours, and all the other moving and terrible reminders of what sudden and violent death means - stands in stark contrast to the coverage of Gaza, where we rarely see such personal testimonials. (The death toll in Gaza has now risen to over 400.)
As again Channel 4's Jon Snow commented, "Were any other country on Earth doing what is being done in Gaza, there would be worldwide uproar."
And what of the politics? The shooting down of the plane is a terrible act, but as far as I can see no one is saying that the shooting down of a passenger airline was carried out deliberately. It was flying over a war zone, where incidentally according to the UN hundreds have died and another 100,000 fled to Russia as refugees, and where the Ukrainian government is bombing towns held by the rebels in the eastern region. There are surely questions as to whether the plane should have taken this route in the first place.
Those who demand an escalation of international sanctions and possibly war should also remember that this is not the first civilian plane shot down. In 1988 an Iranian passenger plane was shot down in the Gulf by a missile from an American aircraft carrier, the USS Vincennes. There is considerably more likelihood that this was a deliberate act, taking place near the end of the Iran-Iraq war when the US was increasingly supporting Saddam Hussein. But no action was taken against the US which refused to apologise to Iran, and which eventually had to pay compensation to the victims but still refused to admit liability.
More recently, in 2001 the Ukraine military shot down a Russian passenger jet carrying 78 people from Tel Aviv in Israel to Russia. Again there was no international sanction on Ukraine as a result.
Why is it different this time? Because David Cameron's government, along with its EU partners and backed by the US, is up to its neck in the region. Nato expansion into eastern Europe has been a key policy since the end of the Cold War. This summer there are exercises by land, sea and air by Nato forces across eastern Europe including in the Baltic states. Nato expansion is about the EU and US hegemonising the whole area, to the detriment of the ordinary people there. Which is why they gave the Ukrainian government the green light to continue waging its war in the east of the country and to its refusal to negotiate a ceasefire. This followed Ukraine's signing of the association agreement with the EU last month.
Putin and Russia have to be cast in the role of aggressors in the region, but Nato expansion itself was an act of aggression. There is much to dislike about Putin and Russia's policies, particularly its murderous aggression against Chechnya (although this was tacitly backed by the west at the time). But responsibility for the war in Ukraine cannot be placed at Russia's door without acknowledging the immense level of western arms and interference in the region.
We still do not know the full truth of what happened to the Malaysian plane on Thursday. It is frightening enough that such missiles are fired at all, and that so many regions of the word are awash with such military hardware. But whatever happened, it cannot be the justification for more war or sanctions, which will engulf much of Europe in conflict
Cameron's 'moment of action' can only worsen the situation. And, compared with his government's complicity with Israel's continued oppression of the Palestinians, it would demonstrate the extent of his hypocrisy.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
More articles from this author
- Marxism, the family and women's oppression - video
- Marxism and feminism - Marxism and Women's Liberation extract
- Tiers of a clown – weekly briefing
- Engels: giant of the socialist movement - video
- Engels: a working class hero
- No money for school meals but Johnson found £16.5bn extra for the military
- The left’s Trump card – weekly briefing