The Strange Disconnect Between Israel and Ukraine

The Ukrainian and Israeli wars are similar and yet also different conflicts—but in more ways than we can imagine.

Ukraine was invaded by a huge Russian state, with a population three-and-a-half times greater, a gross national product ten times larger, and an area thirty times its size.

Hamas, by contrast, is a terrorist clique of about 50,000-70,000 gunmen and terrorist kingpins who run Gaza. It is dwarfed by the Israeli population (20 times larger), economy (27 times greater), and area (60 times larger).

Both Russia and Hamas started the wars. Russia was convinced it would easily crush the smaller neighbor. Hamas hoped to spark a pan-Islamic jihad against the Jewish state.

Most of Europe, the United States, and the West understandably supported arming Ukraine to repel Vladimir Putin’s Russian aggression.

By contrast, such support for democratic Israel was strangely mixed.

In many elite, political, academic, and media circles, Israel is criticized for its massive retaliation after October 7, 2023.

The Western attitude toward the two wars grows even more inconsistent, if not incoherent.

There are constant calls for Israel to be “proportionate” in Gaza following the massacres of nearly 1,200 Jews, the vast majority civilians.

But Westerners understandably seek to give Ukraine more and better arms than Russia to ensure a disproportionate response necessary to win the war.

Israel is faulted for collateral damage from its efforts to destroy Hamas—even though terrorists are burrowed in and beneath hospitals, mosques, and schools.

Israeli hostages are used as human shields to protect Hamas gunmen.

No matter. Israel is expected to text or drop leaflets warning Gazan civilians to keep clear of impending air attacks, despite Hamas launching 7,000 rockets with no such warnings into civilian centers in Israel.

On October 7, Hamas, along with some Gazan civilians, tortured, decapitated, raped, and murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians to start the war.

By contrast, no one in the West asks the Ukrainians to warn surrounding civilian populations in occupied Ukraine or inside Russia to keep clear of their intended targets. To do so, apparently, would lessen the surprise effect of Ukrainian attacks.

The West has relentlessly hammered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his supposedly right-wing government and its “disproportionate” retaliation in Gaza.

He is closely watched by his American patrons for any sign of absolutist rule or failure to create an inclusive wartime cabinet representative of a wide diversity of Israeli political figures.

Yet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has not only suspended elections during the war but also declared martial law over his entire country.

Instead of facing Western censure, Zelensky remains a rock star in the West. Few seem bothered that he suspended most political parties, blurring the higher-ground difference between autocratic Russia and a supposedly democratic Ukraine.

Note that Israel, like the United States during World War II, has not declared martial law. Instead, it has formed a bipartisan coalition government with members of the opposition.

The U.S. keeps lecturing Israel to restrain its response to avoid a wider regional war in the Middle East. It fears Israeli retaliation for October 7 is apparently more incendiary than Hamas’ unprovoked invasions and murder of Israelis.

Yet, supplying a Ukrainian proxy to attack Russia, sometimes on the Black Sea or inside Russia, appears a far more dangerous gambit.

Hamas’ allies lack the 6,000 nuclear weapons of Russia and have no allies comparable to those now aligning with Moscow, such as China and North Korea.

Western media and politicians correctly discount Russian propaganda emanating from Moscow, especially its unsubstantiated claims of relative Russian and Ukrainian casualties or Ukrainian setbacks or atrocities.

Yet many of these same Westerners oddly take Hamas’ casualty totals at face value.

They have been gullible enough even to swallow Hamas lies that the Islamic jihad rocket that hit a Gazan hospital was an Israeli bomb.

By any fair standard, Hamas has proven to be no more honest, and perhaps far more inaccurate, than even Russian state-controlled media.

So what accounts for these strange disconnects in Western attitudes toward these two wars?

It certainly has nothing to do with consistently siding against those who started the war, or standing always with the more democratic power—or even logically against the side that is more likely to commit atrocities.

The answers seem as obvious as they are disturbing.

Many in the West have a bias against the Jewish state, as anti-Semitism rebounds in Europe and the U.S.

Popular Western culture often romanticizes Hamas killers as freedom fighters and demonizes collectively the Russian people as stereotyped Hollywood villains.

Middle-East oil money and massive immigration into Western countries dwarf the influence of an ailing Russia.

Left-wing politicians in Europe and the US court their growing Muslim constituents and have no worry about a commensurate Russian lobby.

And so the disconnect grows into absurdity.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

Notable Replies

  1. Israel has never been popular with the Kool Kids. The idea of a downtrodden people, the subject of targeted genocide, establishing a democratic state of their own was never seen as cool. And this is despite the fact the democratic state they established is the only one in the entire Middle East. Moreover, despite an early adoption of socialism----something the Kool Kids has always loved—nothing Israel did attracted the Kool Kids to its shores. So Israel abandoned socialism and moved towards free market capitalism with its little nation blossoming in the desert.

    Israel’s neighbors hated seeing the Israeli people prosper and on numerous occasions vented their hate by invading the little nation. One would think the Kool Kids would cheer Israel for giving the jealous bully a bloody nose each time the bully showed up, but no, instead they took the side of the bully by shutting down any advantages the little country gained in these fights. The Kool Kids are funny that way.

    Now, embracing and rejoicing when a corrupt former communist country is invaded by another corrupt former communist country is something the Kool Kids can grab on to. Somehow they feel it is much easier to determine the bully and his victim. Any of the Kool Kids could see that a Yellow and Blue flag was way cooler than a White and Blue flag. So much so, they put the Yellow and Blue flag everywhere----on their lapels, on their lunch boxes, in their emails and at the top of all their tweets. Yellow and Blue are so pretty together. Even cooler, they found the Black, White, Red and Green flag of the Palestinians just as cool as the Yellow and Blue flag of the Ukrainians. So much so they have also taken the opportunity to adorn all of their favorite things with it. Doing so, just oozes cool.

    There was a time when we all were dominated by the Kool Kids. After all, they ran Middle School, and then they ran the High School. But then we graduated. We went on with our lives and gave the Kool Kids little thought—even approaching the point of giving no thought to them at all. Gasp!

    Life has a way of directing the things of importance, and being a Kool Kid isn’t one of them.

  2. This entire article is propaganda of the worst sort, and in fact decades of this level of tripe is the reason for the question the author poses. From Hanson above- By any fair standard, Hamas has proven to be no more honest, and perhaps far more inaccurate, than even Russian state-controlled media.
    By any standard, fair or otherwise, American’s trust of their media on this subject (or any other), about as much as we trust Maxine Waters.
    Further, perhaps Ukraine funding finds more support in DC circles of the GOP elite, but among voters Israel probably has a slight advantage, which still isn’t very high. We are sick of war- period. No amount of ridiculous sword of Damocles, Putin nukes in space attempts to scare us into loving the bomb is going to change that. Yes, I’m downright angry, insulted and frankly astonished that the GOP would join with democrats in that attempt to force us into funding the senseless, un-winnable Ukraine war.

    Now, because of the support for Israel we are engaged with the Houthis in the Red Sea in a conflict that has all the potential as being as successful as our two decade long war in Afghanistan. Maybe our leaders haven’t learned much since 9/11, and the conservative press seems more than willing to continue to SELL WAR for them, but the American people have had enough. We really have had enough.

  3. That’s just a bit one sided, don’t you think? Do you believe the liberal press (which is a bit over 90% of all media) hasn’t had a hand in pushing for vast amounts of aid for Ukraine? And in regards to the conflict between Israel and Hamas/Palestine, they are actually calling for intervention on behalf of the Palestinians.

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