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MH17 and Gaza: Two different elite reactions

Neil Clark is a journalist, writer and broadcaster. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter

Published time: July 23, 2014 10:37
Malaysian air crash investigators take photos of the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 22, 2014. (Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev)

298 people killed in the MH17 disaster. Over 600 killed in Gaza. The elite western reaction to these two different tragedies – one still ongoing – tells us so much about the world we live in.

Even though no conclusive evidence has yet been produced that rebels in the east of Ukraine did shoot down the Malaysian airliner, Western elites, neocon and faux-left commentators have gone on a foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Russian frenzy holding President Putin personally responsible for the deaths and hurling abuse at those of us who don’t join in the “It’s all Russia’s fault” blame game.

Although we don't have conclusive proof that Russia did supply the rebels with the equipment that would enable them to shoot down an aircraft travelling at such a high altitude (Russia has issued firm denials), we are told that “the world is watching Putin” and that Russia must be punished with yet more sanctions.

Yet in Gaza, we know for sure who is doing the killing or at least the vast majority of it. However, there is no elite condemnation of Israel here – just silence, or else repeated platitudes about how Israel is justified in launching a military operation on grounds of “self defense” and how Hamas must stop its rocket attacks. Whatever Israel does, even if it’s killing children who were playing football on the beach, there are excuses made for its behavior.

Anyone watching the events of the past week from another planet would find it all rather bewildering.

Russia is already judged ‘guilty’ for a tragic incident, despite us having no hard evidence that Russia was involved and before a proper independent investigation has even begun, while Israel is judged ‘innocent’ for the deaths of around 600 people which they have directly caused.

It’s revealing to reverse the positions of Russia and Israel, in relation to the MH17 crash and the hostilities in Gaza.

Just imagine for a moment if the Malaysian airplane had come down while flying over an area of a country bordering Israel in which pro-Israeli rebels were operating and that these rebels were coming under attack by the forces of the central government. We can be sure that within minutes of the disaster the central government, and not the rebels, would have been blamed by Western leaders and media pundits for shooting the plane down. The rebels would not be betrayed as “wild-eyed” trigger-happy “terrorists”, as the rebels in Ukraine are, but principled “freedom fighters” (and they doubtless would have received several visits from Senator John McCain, pledging his support for their cause).

There would certainly be no talk of blame being attached to Israel. Claims that Israel had been secretly supplying the rebels with powerful surface-to-air missiles would have been haughtily dismissed by establishment gatekeepers as “conspiracy theories,” and those making the claims would have been labeled “cranks”. We can also be 100% sure that the headline in Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, on the day after the plane disaster would not have been “Bibi’s Missile”. If later it was conclusively proved that the pro-Israel rebels had shot the plane down, then it would have been brushed off by Western elites as “a terrible mistake” and Israel most certainly would not be threatened with sanctions.

Palestinian firefighters extinguish a fire following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike on a house, in Gaza City July 23, 2014. (Reuters)

Carte blanche for Israel

In fact we don’t need hypothetical examples to highlight the hypocrisy surrounding the elite “outrage” over MH17. In 1973 the Israeli air force shot down a Libyan Airlines plane, killing 108 people. No sanctions were imposed on it for doing so, no talk of war crimes probes were launched as there is now with MH17. “The only international condemnation came from the International Civil Aviation Organization,” the Jerusalem Post records.

Fifteen years later, Israel’s sponsor, the US, shot down an Iranian passenger plane, killing all 290 people on board, which included 66 children. The New York Times editorial a few days later declared that “while horrifying, it was nonetheless an accident”. US Vice President George Bush stated defiantly: “I will never apologize for the United States – I don't care what the facts are…”

It’s also revealing to consider what would be happening now if Russia, and not Israel, was bombing Gaza – or another territory which it would have laid siege to for years. Imagine what David Cameron would say, for instance, if Russia bombed a hospital, killing four people. Or if Russian forces had killed four children playing football on the beach. We could take it for granted there would be bellicose calls from neocons and faux-left pundits for a “humanitarian” military intervention to halt the Russian operation, for punitive sanctions to be imposed on Moscow and for President Putin to be sent to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes.

For an example of how Israel is given a “free pass” compared to other countries, think back to 1999 when Yugoslav authorities were carrying out what they called an “anti-terrorist” operation in Kosovo. Western leaders accused Yugoslavia of committing “genocide” against Kosovan Albanians and NATO forces launched a “humanitarian” intervention which involved a 78-day bombing campaign. The Yugoslav leader President Milosevic was indicted for war crimes and later sent to The Hague, where he died in imprisonment having been denied the proper medical treatment.

Israel, by contrast, is given carte blanche to carry out its own “counter-terrorist operation” in Gaza and despite the large and growing death toll; the liberal-left hawks who screeched so loudly for “intervention” against Yugoslavia fifteen years ago are strangely silent. At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that no matter how many people his forces kill, there’s little chance of him ending his days at The Hague, like Milosevic. He simply has too many friends in high places.

The war party

The demonization of Russia and indeed Russian allies by Western elites and the defense of Israel are interconnected. By and large, the same people who have been exploiting the MH17 tragedy to try and get tougher sanctions imposed on Moscow, are the same ones whitewashing/defending Israeli actions in Gaza.

It is important to understand that being anti-Russian, but also pro-Israel, and pro-US are “required” positions for anyone wanting to hold high office in the West. The Russia test, the Israel test, and the US test can be seen as “three hoops” which any ambitious politician needs to jump through in order to make it to the top. British Labour leader Ed Miliband knows this and has been hard at work.

After Prince Charles had reportedly compared President Putin to Hitler, Miliband said the Prince “has got a point”. He has declared himself a Zionist, and at time of writing he is jumping through the last of the hoops – he is in the US meeting President Obama.

Miliband knows that if he takes the “right” positions on Russia, Israel and the US he will be “allowed” by the establishment to become British Prime Minister next year. The system is set up to make sure that no one who doesn’t hold the “right” views on foreign policy is able to hold power regardless of what the public thinks.

The pressure to conform, whether the individual concerned is in politics or the media, is enormous. As I explained on OpEdge here, gatekeepers play a key role in trying to silence those with alternative views and making sure they’re not given the opportunity to express those views in the “mainstream” media.

A Palestinian medic carries a girl, who medics said was wounded by Israeli shelling, at a hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 23, 2014. (Reuters)

Since the MH17 tragedy, truly obnoxious Russophobic gatekeepers have been working 24/7 to enforce the War Party “Russia is guilty” Line on MH17 and abuse those who refuse to join in.

I was labeled “bat-sxxx crazy” by a “political risk and security analyst” based in Jerusalem for saying in a live interview, shortly after news of the disaster broke, that it was “hard to say” if the crash was connected to events in Ukraine. “Contemptible Stalinist” and “repulsive”’ have been other insults hurled at me since I went on RT and on radio in New Zealand to say we should wait for the results of an independent inquiry before we accuse people of shooting down the airliner. Tweets were sent to the Guardian, a newspaper I first wrote for in 2003, asking if they were still going to commission a “Putin apologist.”

Those who don’t toe the rabidly Russophobic War Party line have even been accused of supporting MH17 being shot down. I received a tweet which said: “We see how anti-war Putinists are really in defense of the murder of 80 kids”.
You don’t even have to be a regular RT pundit to come under attack. Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens has become the latest Western journalist to receive a “knock on the door” from the neocon Twitter Thought Police for daring to say that the US/EU created the current crisis in Ukraine. Senator Joe McCarthy would be proud at the lengths his modern disciples are going to snuff out free speech and harass dissenters.

Where the wind blows

The start of this current wave of Russophobia can be traced back to last summer, when Russia helped block US plans to bomb Syria. The Western elites wanted and still want President Assad toppled because of Syria’s alliance with Hezbollah and Iran and they were determined to pay Russia back for thwarting their plans. A “regime change” in Ukraine was the way that would be achieved.

Shamefully, the tragic deaths of 298 people on MH17 are now being exploited in pursuance of this fiercely anti-Russian political agenda. The aim of the War Party is very transparent: it's to try and get the general public in Western countries to hate Russia and President Putin as much as they do, and for the EU to impose even tougher sanctions on Russia before the results of any independent inquiry are published. It‘s all rather reminiscent of Iraq in 2003, when the US and UK could not wait for the weapons inspectors to finish their job, before they went to war.

The gap between the Russophobic obsessions of the elite, and the real concerns of ordinary people is however huge, and was starkly demonstrated again by last weekend’s massive anti-war marches. Media Lens, the media monitoring organization, captured this “disconnect”’ perfectly in a single tweet:

The British Government’s response to Israel killing children, bombing a hospital and a center for the disabled, is to push the EU to impose more sanctions on… Russia. You really couldn’t make it up, could you? Two tragedies, but two very different reactions. Reactions which tell us everything.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.