The military operations undertaken by the Ukrainian and Israeli governments in East Ukraine and Gaza, although frequently being represented as "anti-terror operations", in fact involve the mass killing of civilians on the ground, with US support, under the pretext of the state defending itself. As wars are being waged in both countries, the Ukrainian and Israeli militaries are heavily bombarding civilians as Human Rights Watch has confirmed. The civilian toll in Ukraine has been at least 1,129 so far and 1,650 people were killed in Gaza. The UN condemned the massive shelling of schools and seniors’ homes by the Ukrainian military as it condemned the bombing of a UN school by Israel, saying these violated international law. The similarities between the two conflicts and the ideology that produced them may be worth pointing out, as has been done before in different ways by a critic of these policies and also by the ambassador of Ukraine to Israel, though perhaps not by the way the latter had in mind.
The slaughter of civilians, be they ethnic Russian or Palestinian, cannot be divorced from the fact that both the Ukrainian and the Israeli Governments have no intention of granting autonomous rights to these respective populations under their control and may ultimately even see their lives as disposable. The unelected Ukrainian Government did not accept the referendum held in the Donbass in which over 90% of residents voted for self-rule, while in Israel, Netanyahu recently said that he would never support a sovereign Palestinian state. Indeed, both the Ukrainian and Israeli government share highly racist views of these targeted populations.
While the circumstances and histories of these two countries are far from being identical, one must take into account the history of the two regions and the prosecution faced by both ethnic Russians and Palestinians when seeking to understand the present crises. For example, the concern with which ethnic Russians regard the formation of a Ukrainian neo-Nazi military unit sent to fight Russian residents of East Ukraine, and the high suspicion with which many view the current unelected Ukrainian government that has significant far-right elements, can only be fully understood when one considers the fierce fighting that took place between Ukrainian Nazis and Russians during World War II in the very same areas where fighting is being waged today. Although not identical in the extend of historical atrocities, one cannot grasp fully the current predicament of Gaza, to which 1.7 million Palestinians are confined, without taking into account the fact that many of Gaza’s residents are originally from Jaffa from which they were expelled from or fled in 1948. Subsequent Israeli governments have indeed viewed Palestinians as a "demographic threat", and Gazans are accustomed to being attacked by Israeli forces since at least 1956.
The highly racist manner in which both Ukraine and Israel view residents under their control who do not fit into the image of the nation they claim to represent, cannot but disturb those who pay attention. The former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk termed Russians in East Ukraine "subhumans", therefore repeating the phrase "untermenschen" used by the Nazis towards Russians during World War II. Yatsenyuk made no secret of his intentions towards ethnic Russians in Ukraine by writing that "we will commemorate the heroes by wiping out those who killed them and then by cleaning our land from the evil", therefore suggesting that ethnic Russians citizens of Ukraine are contaminating the ‘pure’ Ukrainian nation. A leading Ukrainian politician, Julia Tymoshenko, expressed her wish to wipe out the 8 million Russians who reside in the Crimea.
Leading Israeli politicians also have a highly racist view towards Palestinians. Israeli Minister Naftali Bennet referred to Arabs as those "climbing on trees" in the past. The deputy minister of Religious Affairs, Eli Ben Dahan, said regarding Palestinians that "in my eyes they are human animals, not human". Israeli Member of Parliament Ayelet Shaked, perhaps the Israeli version of Julia Tymoshenko, condoned a mass killing of Palestinian civilians.
In both East Ukraine and Gaza, plans or suggestions have been laid out to repopulate the war-torn territories after a victory is achieved. The Ukrainian government openly said that land in Southeast Ukraine, where ethnic Russians and Russian speakers currently reside, will be given to Ukrainian soldiers for free, in return for their participation in the fighting against residents of these areas. In Israel, Member of Parliament Moshe Feiglin of the Likud Party, suggested that "subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews".
Needless to say, the Ukrainian and Israeli governments do not seek to represent and guard the rights of the populations over which they rule, a fact that may escape the notice of US State Department Spokesperson Jan Psaki. The first action taken by the Ukrainian parliament after the illegal coup in Kiev, was not to call for a multicultural democracy which would represent all ethnicities, but to revoke the right to use Russian as an official language in areas where a majority of residents were Russian. Although this action was later vetoed, many ethnic Russians who are citizens of Ukraine were quite alarmed by this hostile act taken by the new regime that was never received their vote and where outright neo-Nazi groups share power. In Israel, while a law proposal calling for the removal of the official status given to Arabic did not pass, over 50 laws discriminating against Israeli-Palestinians are in place, ranging from the right to purchase state land to the right to marry freely whom they please.
The massive killing of civilians in both Ukraine and Gaza, with full US support, therefore seems to occur not merely as an inevitable and unwanted consequence of war but due to the low regard that the two governments have towards the lives of ethnic Russians and Palestinians respectively. How else can one explain the massive shelling of residential areas in East Ukraine and the targeting of schools in Gaza in which no weapons were found? The Ukrainian ambassador to Israel noted that the two countries are united in "fighting terrorism" but failed to mention that they are also united in the racist view they hold of the civilians they are attacking. Israel does not see Palestinians nor does Ukraine see ethnic Russians as full citizens worthy of rights.
Joshua Tartakovsky is an Israeli-American independent journalist and a graduate of Brown University and LSE.