Hamas’s shocking terrorist attack against Israel galvanized bipartisan support for Israel’s cause in the United States. But many conservative Republicans support Israel at once Oppose continued support For Ukraine in its fight against a similar attack by Russia. Republican Senator Josh Hawley He says “[a]Funding for Ukraine must be redirected to Israel immediately.” This pro-Israel, anti-Ukraine position is incoherent. The moral and strategic justifications for supporting Israel also apply to Ukraine, and in some cases with greater force. Both countries are liberal democracies. The atrocities committed by Russia are strikingly similar To consider those perpetrated by Hamas, only on a much broader scale. There is no good moral justification for supporting Israel’s cause that does not also apply to the Ukraine case. Supporting Israel also applies to Ukraine, with at least equal force.
I am fully aware that pro-Israel, anti-Ukraine, and support for both are not the only possible combination of views on these issues. Some Western leftists are pro-Ukraine and anti-Israel. And some people (such as right-wing anti-Semites, anti-American far-lefts, and persistently dovish/isolationist liberals) oppose aid to both Ukraine and Israel. But, at least in the United States, these last two positions are relatively marginal. From President Biden on down, the mainstream of Ukraine’s liberal democrats It supports Israel overwhelmingly against HamasAnd also with rare exceptions such as As members of the “band”. Those who oppose aid to both Israel and Ukraine are more marginal.
Thus, in this article, I focus on criticizing the pro-Israel and anti-Ukraine position. It is the most politically important alternative to support both.
The atrocities committed by Hamas are now known to everyone who has followed this conflict, or just watched the news. They slaughtered innocent civilians, including many women and children Even children. Hamas terrorists also took numerous hostages, including kidnapping young children for this purpose. They are likely to have participated widely Rape and sexual assault.
Russian forces in Ukraine have committed the same kinds of atrocities, on a much larger scale. Like Hamas, the Russian army did this deliberately Targeted and slaughtered civilians. They have gone so far Bombing of maternity wardsAnd Leveling entire cities. Just as happened with Hamas terrorists, so did Russian forces Involved in gang rape and torture Of civilians. Like Hamas, the Russians have kidnapped civilians, including many children. The International Criminal Court had issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin, due to his involvement in kidnapping children. The number of Ukrainian children seized is It’s likely in the tens of thousands or higher.
Russia also resembles Hamas in holding civilian hostages – including Americans – in exchange for its criminal agents. For example, they eventually detained American basketball player Brittany Griner I replaced her with Victor Bout, a Russian intelligence asset and arms supplier to terrorists. The latest Russian hostage operation is a detention Wall Street Journal Reporter Ivan Gershkovich. Russia’s hostage-taking operations have a greater veneer of legitimacy than those carried out by Hamas, and usually involve fabricated accusations of one kind or another. But this should not mislead us about its true nature.
Just as Hamas seeks to completely destroy Israel and impose brutal tyranny on the occupied territories, Putin also seeks to establish Russian rule over all of Ukraine (which It denies any right to exist as a separate nation), imposing the same kind of authoritarian regime he had established in Russia itself, and the previously occupied Ukrainian territories. Neither of them has ambitions limited to marginal regional amendments.
Although the atrocities committed by Russia are similar to those committed by Hamas, there is a huge difference in scale. The latest Hamas attack killed more than 1,000 Israeli civilians (a number that is likely to rise as casualties are fully counted). Innocent civilian victims of Putin’s war The number is in the tens of thousands. The Russian army also raped and tortured far more people and kidnapped far more children than Hamas.
This difference is not because Hamas is more moral than Putin. If they could kill as many Israeli civilians as Russia did to the Ukrainians, they certainly would. But the difference in magnitude matters when it comes to assessing the moral urgency of a situation. Other things being equal, large-scale atrocities deserve higher priority. They certainly can’t be set at a lower level.
The extremist Islamic ideology espoused by Hamas is not only inconsistent with Israel, but also with Western liberal democratic values more generally. They seek to establish a brutal medieval tyranny, suppressing dissent, religious minorities, and LGBT people, among other victims. Putin’s Russia is a similarly brutal authoritarian state. It also suppresses dissent, persecutes minorities, and Persecutes gays and lesbians. Like radical Islamists, Putin has done this repeatedly Explain he An enemy of Western liberal democracyAnd not only Ukraine. His anti-liberal campaign long predates the current war in Ukraine. Putin’s regime, like Hamas, is our enemy, not just its direct opponent on the battlefield.
Russia is a much bigger and more powerful enemy than Hamas ever could be — even in conjunction with its Iranian sponsors. It is worth noting that these are Iranian shepherds And the return of Russia as well. All of this strengthens the purely strategic case for helping Ukraine against Russia, even apart from moral considerations. This argument is no less strong than the strategic rationale for supporting Israel against Hamas.
The Israeli and Ukrainian governments are not paragons of virtue. There are real flaws in Israeli policy dealing with Palestinians, including civil liberties violations and unfair seizures of private property (partially curbed by the Israeli Supreme Court). The efforts of the current right-wing government to neutralize the judiciary (which has been suspended as a result of the war) threaten to create a dangerous tyranny of the majority, if passed. The Ukrainian government’s policy also has illiberal aspects, which I condemned.
But despite the real flaws, there is a wide moral gap between Ukraine and Israel on the one hand, and their enemies on the other. The former are functioning liberal democracies, albeit greatly imperfect ones. The latter are horrific tyrants. In every conflict, one side systematically targets civilians, rapes and tortures innocents, kidnaps children, and takes hostages, while the other side does not.
As always, there is a danger that even liberal states with a just cause will engage in unjust policies in wartime. America’s own history has many examples, e.g Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. We should not give Israel or Ukraine a blank check in this regard. But there is a huge difference between a country that adopts liberal values, but sometimes fails to live up to these values, and a country that categorically rejects these values, as Russia and Hamas do.
Just as we should not overlook Israeli and Ukrainian shortcomings, we must also be careful to avoid distorting the image of Russians and Palestinians in an undifferentiated manner. In my previous writings on the Russian-Ukrainian war, I criticized the collectivist accusations of the Russians Make the case To open the Western doors to Russians fleeing the Putin regime. Most of this logic easily applies to Palestinians as well. But recognizing that Putin’s dictatorship and Hamas do not represent all Russians and Palestinians is entirely consistent with recognizing the need to support efforts to defeat these two evil regimes. If defeat leads to the collapse of one or both of them, so much the better! Recognizing the humanity of the Russians and the Palestinians of Gaza requires recognizing that they deserve freedom from the tyrants who currently rule them.
In light of all these moral dimensions, there is little reason to support Israel, but not Ukraine. They both have flaws, but are vastly better than their opponents.
A final possible reason for supporting Israel, but not Ukraine, is resource constraints. Maybe we don’t have enough money to help both. But US aid provided to Ukraine since February 2022 (About 77 billion dollars), it is hardly a rounding error in the federal budget (about 0.01% of the total federal budget). $6.27 trillion in federal expenditures in fiscal year 2022). The resulting massive damage to the Russian military – one of our main adversaries – could save us more money in the future. The Pentagon expects that Ukraine will need a similar modest amount over the next year (About 60 billion dollars). Israel, facing a much weaker enemy than Ukraine, will likely be able to make do with much smaller amounts of US aid. If necessary, aid to Ukraine and Israel could easily be offset by other aid. There is no shortage of wasteful and harmful federal expenditures! If we really want to deal with our looming financial crisis, we have to focus on it Huge spending on entitlements This is the main reason for it.
However, if there is a resource trade-off, the ally facing a more powerful adversary—Ukraine—deserves priority. Israel can, if necessary, defeat Hamas with little or no assistance from the United States, apart from diplomatic support and intelligence sharing. Israeli forces are vastly superior to Hamas forces in terms of quantity and quality. This will remain true even if it is the Lebanese terrorist group Hizb allah He enters the war. Ukraine’s position with respect to Russia is much more difficult. From the perspective of American geopolitical interests, Russia is a far more important enemy than Hamas, precisely because of its greater power. To say the least, there’s no good reason to hire him minimum priority.
In this article, I did not seek to define anything resembling a comprehensive American strategy in dealing with these two conflicts. Each presents a variety of tactical and strategic issues that I cannot hope to cover here. But the points mentioned serve the more limited purpose of showing that there is no good rationale for the position of supporting Israel against Hamas, but not Ukraine against Russia. The moral and strategic justifications for the former apply with equal or even greater force to the latter.