Current events are often dark. But nefarious actors in the world can bring a ray of sunshine to terrible affairs with their ability to make public statements with authoritative disregard for their own behaviors and policies. Two members of the United Nations’ permanent Security Council – the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China – have been less than supportive of Israel as it works to permanently neutralize the terrorist elements in Gaza which murdered and kidnapped more than 1000 Israelis and a smaller number of foreign nationals in the area.
That Russia and China have not jumped to Israel’s defense is not a surprise. Post-Soviet Russia under long-time President Vladimir Putin has had a far better relationship with Israel than did Soviet Russia – for example recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital before the United States formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital in any sense (albeit the United States recognized Jerusalem without the qualification as Israel’s capital) – but Russia’s current interests lay in its relationships with Iran and OPEC. For its part, I doubt the Chinese Communist Party cares much about the status of Israel-Palestinian affairs – but it does very much care about cultivating ties with Middle Eastern countries that have large amounts of oil and natural gas.
But while Russia and China have different histories in the Middle East, they share in common the ability to say the darndest things without flinching. Let us start with Russia.
I quote from an October 13, 2023 article on Forbes:
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said civilian casualties from an Israeli ground assault in Gaza would be ‘absolutely unacceptable,’ according to Reuters, after Israel’s military ordered more than a million people to evacuate within the next 24 hours and as Moscow continues fighting in Ukraine, where its forces have been accused of torturing and executing civilians.
Well that is something. Now I imagine that many people will read this and first think of the fact that Russia is currently waging an aggressive war against its neighbor, Ukraine, and is currently holding about one-fifth of Ukraine’s recognized territory. That is enough, without more, to question Mr. Putin’s sincerity here – especially since Israel makes an effort to reduce civilian casualties (this is difficult because Hamas is intent on using civilians as shields, the Arab world appears to want nothing less than the presence in their own countries of human beings from Gaza, and the United Nations works to do everything it can to delay or prevent Israel’s ground invasion short of suggesting that Hamas consider releasing its hostages and following the example of the remnants of Nazi Germany in May 1945 by surrendering unconditionally). For its part, Russia tends to skip the step of providing evacuation warnings before clobbering cities with heavy artillery.
But let us assume arguendo that Russia insists that the two scenarios are just not the same. Wars in Eastern Europe are traditionally brutal affairs – so much so that Russian authorities look unfavorably upon questioning the Soviet Union’s World War II tactics. But even if one were to grant this very good faith argument, he or she would still be left to explain how precisely the Russian Air Force prevailed in its Syria adventure. Hint: It was not by dropping leaflets warning Syrian civilians about impending airstrikes.
(In a note about shifting alliances – Hamas opposed the Syrian government that Russia ultimately saved in the Syrian Civil War, which caused a brief rift between Hamas and Iran.)
I quote from an October 13, 2023 article in Nikkei Asia:
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has blamed the rapidly worsening conflict in the Middle East on a lack of justice for the Palestinian people, days after the militant group Hamas carried out a deadly assault on Israeli territory.
I dare say that the Chinese Communist Party position sounds eerily similar to the position of a certain HuffPost journalist that I reviewed a few days ago, but that is neither here nor there. What is here is that I think it is possible that at least some people in East Turkestan would agree with China’s assigning blame to Israel for Hamas’ massacre of Israeli civilians. However, there is no East Turkestan. It is just a region of China with a significant population of mostly Muslim Uyghurs and Kazakhs. Because many of these Uyghurs and Kazakhs are interned in Chinese concentration camps, I imagine that they have about as much time to devote to Middle Eastern affairs as they do to run their non-existent country. The Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East that either actually care or pretend to care about the Palestinians are about as inclined to think about their fellow Muslims in China as they are to open their doors to Gazan civilians. The people of East Turkestan, unlike the people of Gaza, cannot even count on visits from paragliding European Union diplomats.
I would say that the statements of the Russian and Chinese governments on the ongoing war between Israel and the terrorist government in Gaza are ironic but for the fact that this sort of awe-inspiring active denial of self-awareness is to be expected.