Lessons for Israel From Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine

The pictures and stories coming out of Ukraine are horrible. The suffering of the people of Ukraine and the hands of Russian forces is hard to fathom – or is it?

Neighboring countries go to war all of the time. Before the invention of the airplane, it was basically the only way to wage war. Iran-Iraq was the typical format, not U.S.-Afghanistan. When Russia and the United States engaged in the “Cold War,” they mostly used adjacent proxy states.

Today, vulnerable countries at the edge of war are watching the Russian invasion in horror for the suffering of Ukrainian civilians, as well as for important lessons to be gleaned about their own situations.

Ethno-nationalism surpasses borders. Vladimir Putin of Russia claimed that Ukraine is not a valid country, as its people are actually Russian by identity, language and culture. Palestinian Arabs believe the same, as outlined in the opening of the Palestinian National Charter, “Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral pa

rt of the Arab nation.” Russia does not believe it is invading a distinct foreign entity but bringing its own people back into the fold, much as the Arab countries surrounding Israel thought (and think) nothing of invading the sovereign State of Israel. Everyone should only use the term ‘Israeli Arabs’ and not ‘Palestinian Citizens of Israel’, as the latter serves the aim of invasion.

The pretext of preventing ‘genocide’ convinces hordes of morons to back warfare. Putin claimed that Russian-speakers in Ukraine were being slaughtered in a “genocide” and was therefore coming to their aid. Arabs – and increasingly “human rights organizations”, the liberal media and the United Nations – are falsely alleging that Israel is committing a “genocide” of Palestinian Arabs and engaging in “ethnic cleansing,” despite the plain facts that the number of Arabs in Israel has grown at a faster pace than Israeli Jews and Arabs in surrounding countries. The Russian propaganda to rally its people against Ukraine is much the same as the insidious jihad of anti-Zionists who are preparing to wage economic, psychological and military warfare against the Jewish State. The vile libel must be fought aggressively.

Concession of a small amount of land is an invitation for more. When Russia invaded Crimea and took over part of Ukraine, the world barely uttered a protest, pleased that the bloodshed was minimal. The larger problem was that a dangerous lesson had been taught that even Ukraine did not believe in the sanctity of its borders and Russia could claim more on the same grounds. While Israel handed over lands in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority during the late 1990’s and then Gaza in 2005, as opposed to losing them in battle, the Palestinian Authority believes much like Russia that it should have more – whether the entirety of the West Bank or all of Israel.

A country cannot overly rely on security agreements and guarantees. In 1994, Ukraine signed the Budapest Moratorium – also executed by Russia, Britain, and the U.S. – in which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for assurances of its territorial integrity. Not only did Russia not abide by the agreement in its invasion of Crimea, the U.S. and Britain did not come to the aid of Ukraine. Today, Israel may appreciate the statements from the United States that its commitments to the Jewish State’s security is “enduring and ironclad“, but Israel must fully plan and operate under the assumption it must be able to defend itself by itself.

Don’t have a capital city on the border. The Russian forces quickly penetrated deep into Ukrainian land early in the war. As the capital city of Kyiv is far from the border with Russia, the country has managed to survive the initial onslaught and continues to defend itself. Israel, a very small country surrounded by Arab Muslim countries, cannot allow its capital city of Jerusalem to sit on a border as well. Not only should the city never be divided again as it was for eighteen years 1949 to 1967, but Israel must secure many miles around the city as well.

Beware the Alter of Large Players. Russia’s size and clout are enabling it to get away with murder. As an enormous military and economic force, many countries are refusing to hold Russia to account. Israel is similarly surrounded by the vast Muslim Arab world, with much of it refusing to recognize its existence and some openly demanding Israel’s destruction. In that backdrop, Israel’s primary sponsor, the United States, is working with the Islamic Republic of Iran to maintain a semblance of a nuclear weapons program, even as Iran has threatened to destroy Israel. The situation threatens Israel existentially on one side and economically and psychologically on the other.

Democracies are vulnerable to war when abutting dictatorships. For many years, the western world convinced itself that wars were only for authoritarian regimes. Wars in Africa and the Middle East were considered alien matters between tribal warlords. Intellectuals convinced themselves that a free people with a functioning democracy would simply vote out corrupt or ineffectual leaders and would embrace peace as has existed in Europe since World War II. Lost in that arithmetic is when a democracy abuts a dictatorship, as is the case with Ukraine and Russia. As it is for Israel and all of its neighbors.

There are unfortunately many similarities between the Ukrainians suffering at the hands of its Russian neighbor since 1994 on the one hand, and Israel’s treatment by its Muslim and Arabs neighbors since the reestablishment of the Jewish State, on the other.

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Israel Stands Out Regarding Equality for Women

March 8, 2020 was celebrated as the International Day of Women. To mark the occasion, the United Nations produced a study which tracked how women are doing regarding equality around the world. It was called “The 2019 Human Development Reportand it was produced by The Human Development Report Office (HDRO) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The study took into account a number of factors including violence against women, economic power, ability to obtain an education and political power. It tracked the results by country and region and tried to assess why certain “social norms” existed in certain societies. It did this focusing strictly on the statistical data for most of the report, but the introductory comments spoke generally about how certain societies viewed women:

Social norms cover several aspects of an individual’s identity—age, gender, ability, ethnicity, religion and so on—that are heterogeneous and multidimensional. Discriminatory social norms and stereotypes reinforce gendered identities and determine power relations that constrain women’s and men’s behaviour in ways that lead to inequality. Norms influence expectations for masculine and feminine behaviour considered socially acceptable or looked down on. So they directly affect individuals’ choices, freedoms and capabilities.

Social norms also reflect regularities among groups of individuals. Rules of behaviour are set according to standards of behaviour or ideals attached to a group’s sense of identity. Individuals have multiple social identities and behave according to identity-related ideals; they also expect others sharing a common identity to behave according to these ideals. Norms of behaviour related to these ideals affect people’s perception of themselves and others, thus engendering a sense of belonging to particular identity groups. The beliefs people hold about appropriate behaviour often determine the range of choices and preferences that they exercise—in that context norms can determine autonomy and freedom, and beliefs about social censure and reproach create barriers for individuals who transgress. For gender roles these beliefs can be particularly important in determining the freedoms and power relations with other identities—compounded when overlapping and intersecting with those of age, race and class hierarchies.”

The study states that societies have certain normative behaviors and gender is very integral to that configuration. A break from accepted patterns risks a rupture in the community to which one belongs. As such, a seemingly small break from community norms like young Pakistani woman Malala Yousafzai insisting on going to school, got her shot.

Reviewing the study from a country and regional standpoint highlights certain trends in what are considered “societal norms.”

The leading countries in gender equality are from western Europe, North America and Australia. The worst performing countries are from sub-Saharan Africa. The Arab States and South Asia were right behind sub-Saharan Africa.

It was a curious label to see “Arab States” as a category under “Region,” (Table 1) as it is not a region the way “South Asia” and “Latin America” are. One would have expected the report to call the region “Middle East and North Africa (MENA)” the way the United Nations usually refers to that part of the world.

But it could not because of an anomaly in the MENA region in its treatment of women which broke statistically from all of the Arab and Muslim countries: Israel.

As seen in the chart above, Israel is statistically much more like the leading western countries in the world in its treatment of women and not like its neighbors in the Arab world. The western countries in the chart above include Norway; Germany; Australia; Netherlands; Canada; United Kingdom the United States… and Israel. The Arab states include The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Qatar; Iran (not actually Arab but Muslim), Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Palestinian Authority, Iraq and Syria.

The differences in every category are striking:

  • Maternal Mortality. The West is 7.4 and Arabs 35.4, while Israel is 5 deaths per 100,000 births
  • Adolescent Birth Rate. The West is 10.0 and Arabs 35.0, while Israel is 9.6 births among women 15-19 years old per 1,000
  • Per cent Seats in Parliament. The West is 31.6% and Arabs 13.2%, while Israel is 27.5%
  • Per cent of Women with Secondary Education. The West is 91.9% and Arabs 60.1%. Israel is 87.8%
  • Per cent of Women in Labor Force. The West is 58.3% and Arabs 22.5%. Israel is 59.2%

Israel is not only an outlier in the Middle East in being the only Jewish state in the middle of Muslim states, it is an outlier in its progressive treatment of women as well.

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The Fourth ‘No’ of the Khartoum Resolution: No Return of Palestinian Refugees

In the aftermath of the Arabs humiliating defeat in the June 1967 war with Israel, the leaders of eight Arab countries assembled in Khartoum, Sudan to proclaim their unity with each other and the cause against Israel which had just taken the Sinai from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. They published the Khartoum Resolution which, among other matters, proclaimed the infamous ‘three No’s’ regarding Israel:

“3. The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June 5. This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.”

The comedy of classic clowns might be lost on the listeners of later generations, but the Arab heads of state made the subject of Palestinians having their “own country” a new priority, after 18 years of occupying the West Bank and Gaza between 1949 and 1967, and making no effort whatsoever to create an independent Palestinian state.

What’s more, the no peace/ recognition/ negotiations with Israel not only prevented any pathway to peace for all the Arab actors with Israel, it slammed the door shut on Palestinian refugees having any chance of returning to homes in Israel.

As stated in the 1948 UN General Assembly Resolution 194, item 11, “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property.” The 1967 Khartoum Resolution made clear that there would be no peace with Israel, and consequently, no return for any refugees.

This was not a new or novel issue for the Arab world.

In October 1950, not long after the end of Israel’s War of Independence, the United Nations sought a method of handling the displaced Arabs who had left Israel. The UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine noted the opinion of Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion about the status of the Arab refugees:

“Mr. Ben Gurion’s view this passage [Resolution 194] made the possibility of a return of the refugees to their homes contingent, so to speak, on the establishment of peace: so long as the Arab States refused to make peace with the State of Israel, it was evident that Israel could not fully rely upon the declaration that Arab refugees might make concerning their intention to live at peace with their neighbours. Mr. Ben Gurion did not exclude the possibility of acceptance for repatriation of a limited number of Arab refugees, but he made it clear that the Government of Israel considered that a real solution of the major part of the refugee question lay in the resettlement of the refugees in Arab States. On the other hand, Mr. Ben Gurion fully recognized the humanitarian aspect of the problem and on several occasions declared that, when the time came, the Government of Israel would be ready to take part in the efforts necessary for its solution and that it would do this in a sincere spirit of co-operation. Mr. Ben Gurion told the Commission, however, that the Government of Israel considered the refugee question as one of those which should be examined and solved during the general negotiations for the establishment of peace in Palestine.”

Arab states rejected the existence of the Jewish State at its founding in 1948 and dug in deeper after the loss of territory that belonged to THEM (as opposed to local Palestinians) in 1967. While Egypt and Jordan did sign peace agreements with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively, the remainder of the Arab world still has not. Thirty Arab and Muslim states still refuse to acknowledge the basic existence of Israel.

So while the number of Palestinian “refugees” stood at roughly 1 million in 1967, that number ballooned to over 5.5 million in 2019. Bringing that many Arabs into Israel would completely alter the demographic composition and character of Israel, a point which the United Nations abhors when it comes to Jews living in the West Bank as it stated in the 2016 UNSC Resolution 2334: “Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.” If the desired Arab state cannot handle a 5% Jewish population, how can anyone possibly consider that the Jewish State, which already has a 20% Arab population, take in an additional 5 million Arabs?

Arab women entering the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem, Israel
(photo: First.One.Through)

The Arab world declared three No’s to Israel in 1967, and also effectively sealed the fate of Palestinian refugees, that they would never move to houses in Israel.

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