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An ITV journalist covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine said: “Now the unthinkable has happened to them [Ukraine]. And this is not a developing, third world nation. This is Europe!”
Of course, this is a shock because Europe has always been the epitome of civilization and harmony, as confirmed by the Crusades, World War I and World War II. It is crucial to acknowledge their reluctance to engage in war and conflict, as opposed to “third world nations” naturally inclined towards violence.
So how did the West manifest as the beacon of civilization? Professor Edward Said created a framework, namely Orientalism, that strives to understand this phenomenon. His theory presents a viewpoint in which the East is portrayed as ‘unfamiliar and strange.’ Colonial powers actively reproduce misrepresentations about native populations in order to categorize and subjugate them. In their attempts to justify their exploitative conquests, these powers reinforce the idea that natives are uncultured, primitive and ‘in need of saving.’ In the case of pre-colonial India, the British tried to make sense of a new world through the lens of their own cultural norms and standards, consequently creating and imposing simplistic stereotypes on the local population. Today, we can observe numerous instances of this phenomenon. One particularly remarkable example is when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu posted a message on Twitter regarding Israel’s war on Gaza, which he later deleted due to backlash. His message read, “This is a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle.” We just love to dehumanize. It’s easier to kill that way, right?
As Palestine’s 75 year long struggle is shoved to the backseat while the West remains busy voicing support for what anyone with common sense would perceive as the onset of a genocide, the huge disparity in the level of media coverage and sympathy shown towards people from predominantly white countries compared to those from predominantly nonwhite countries has become increasingly evident. Truly, it’s more upsetting when “people with blue eyes and blond hair are being killed every day,” as Ukraine’s deputy chief prosecutor David Sakvarelidze explained during a BBC interview. I guess some lives have always mattered more than others?
In the ongoing struggle for independence and identity in Palestine, it’s crucial to recognize the impact of Western ideology on the existence of “nation-states” and “individualized homelands” and how these concepts continue to influence conflicts in the present world. The Western world relishes the idea of a nation-state: a region belonging to one particular community, i.e. Germany for the Germans, and as a result, societies that are a diverse mix of multiple ethnicities are essentialized and made ‘governable’ by Western self-proclaimed democratic constitutions. As evidenced in recent history, Western agents who promote ideas of individualized homelands destroy ties between communities that have lived together for thousands of years. For instance, the ‘British India’ that gained independence in 1947 was not a primordial entity, in fact, it was a space created and constituted through links between disparate regions: a result of decisions made by colonial authorities. Before ideas of nation-statehood came about, non-Western societies were characterized by multi-ethnic communities living together, as opposed to the largely homogenous groups that exist today. Historic Palestine was for Christians, Muslims and Jews, who identified as Arabs. Now, a significant portion of this land, which is controlled by the Israeli government, grants exclusive rights to its Jewish citizens. The Israeli Nation State Law specifies that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”
More than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7, and 40% of the casualties are children. With all due respect, I must inquire: who is the terrorist, or does this term strictly apply to brown people?