How is Israel-Palestine conflict different from Russia-Ukraine war?

19 Oct 2023  Read 1884 Views

The "Ukraine is Palestine" comparison has been all over the internet, with people comparing Putin to Hitler, which is problematic. Since the Russia-Ukraine crisis started, many nations faced tough challenges, like energy market instability, food security threats, refugees, and even nuclear concerns. Most Western democracies backed Ukraine, but Israel had to weigh its options. These democracies though wanted to support their Western pals but they also worried about upsetting Russia, which could empower the anti-Israel coalition led by Iran in their neighbourhood.

This isn't just about the war; it's part of Israel's complex relationship with Russia. In a world where geopolitical tensions often hinge on questions of national identity, it's crucial to grasp the nuances of these complex issues.

So, we'll delve into two contentious situations: Ukraine's struggle for independence and the debate over the West Bank's sovereignty. Both highlight the importance of recognizing national character and self-determination.

Comparing Russians in Ukraine with Jews in the West Bank

Russian President Vladimir Putin has, at times, contested Ukraine's right to self-governance. However, history reveals a different perspective. Ukraine's modern identity was shaped within the Soviet system, where it emerged as an independent republic, much like nations in the Middle East such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Gulf states or Africa. Ukraine's diverse heritage doesn't diminish its claim to nationhood. It's important to note that historical complexities, including periods of Polish, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian influence, don't negate Ukraine's right to exist as a sovereign state.

  • Putin's argument for Russia's cultural and historical ties to Ukraine, particularly his claim on cities like Kyiv and Odessa, sounds very similar to the claims made by some right-wing Israelis on the West Bank. They assert a religious and historical connection to the land and advocate for its inclusion within a Greater Israel. However, the assertion of such cultural ties should not overshadow the rights of the indigenous population. 
  • Putin often talks about Russia's historical ties to Ukraine, pointing to shared history and Slavic roots. He uses this to justify actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, saying it's about protecting Russian-speaking people and preserving cultural connections. So, as per Putin, Russia's presence in Ukraine seems legitimate.
  • Just as Russians should be allowed to visit Kyiv and Odessa, Jews should also be allowed to access religious sites in the West Bank; however, these visits don't inherently grant sovereignty over these regions. In both cases, the challenge is to respect cultural connections without undermining the rights of those who call these places home.
  • Also, Putin's push to dismantle the post-WW II "rules-based system" and let nations do as they please threatens the global order. It's like a "rule of the jungle" with no respect for smaller countries. This challenge also goes against the democratic values many countries aim for. In a way, the Russia-Ukraine showdown is a battle between democracy and authoritarianism.

We are comparing this with the West Bank because the West Bank is a critical focal point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because it holds deep historical, religious, and political significance for both sides. It's a territory Israel occupied after the 1967 Six-Day War and is sought by the Palestinians as the heart of a future independent state. The struggle over its control, settlements, borders, and access to holy sites fuels tensions and represents a core dispute in the ongoing conflict.

So, the right to national self-determination remains a fundamental principle. Ukraine's journey towards independence and the West Bank's ongoing debate are reminders that understanding these issues requires us to balance cultural connections with the rights of indigenous people living there.

How Israeli Jews related to Ukrainian Jews?

As we are discussing Israel's relationship with the Russia- Ukraine war, how can we skip on this? Israeli Jews looking at Ukraine can’t totally ignore the historical context. Ukrainians were among the most anti-Semitic people in Eastern Europe (Anti-Semitism is hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group). Ukraine's got a difficult past, with some of the people there not being too friendly to Jewish people. Many Jewish families moved to North America to escape the anti-Semitism and Nazi collaboration during World War II.

But let's be clear (just an opinion), that messy history doesn't give Putin a free pass to claim he's saving Ukraine from a fascist regime today. Sure, Ukraine has its difficulties, but they've also got a democracy, even electing a Jewish President.

American actions also played a role in the conflict. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, some wise voices cautioned against countries like Ukraine becoming a member of NATO, which Russia saw as a threat to its sovereignty due to a history of foreign interference.  Israeli Jews and Ukrainian Jews are related through historical migration and shared Jewish heritage:

  1. Migration from Ukraine: Many Jewish families, historically known as Ashkenazi Jews, originated from Eastern Europe, including Ukraine. They settled in various regions, and some eventually migrated to Israel, particularly during and after World War II. This migration was influenced by factors such as anti-Semitism, economic hardship, and the desire to establish a Jewish homeland.

  2. Holocaust and Displacement: During the Holocaust, Ukraine was one of the areas where Jewish communities suffered greatly, with mass killings at sites like Babi Yar. Many survivors of the Holocaust from Ukraine and nearby regions sought refuge in Israel after World War II, contributing to the growth of the Israeli Jewish population.

  3. Cultural and Religious Ties: Ukrainian Jews and Israeli Jews share a common cultural and religious heritage, including language, traditions, and religious practices. Yiddish, a language historically spoken by Ashkenazi Jews, has connections to Ukraine and continues to be an important part of Jewish culture.

  4. Contributions to Israeli Society: Ukrainian Jews, like Jews from various backgrounds, have made significant contributions to Israeli society, whether in the fields of politics, arts, science, or technology. Prominent individuals of Ukrainian Jewish descent have played a role in shaping Israel's development.

Israelis Position on Russia- Ukraine Conflict

Israel's stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict is personal, with many Israelis having ties to both Ukraine and Russia. Prime Minister Bennett balances diplomacy, engaging with both Putin and Zelensky. Israel's cautious approach reflects its reliance on U.S. support and efforts not to upset Russia, but it also faces criticism for not taking a stronger stance. Refusals to admit non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees and tensions around Russian Jewish oligarchs add to the complexity. President Zelensky's Knesset address, comparing the invasion to the Holocaust, drew mixed reactions. Israel's reluctance to join the Western sanctions on these oligarchs received criticism from the U.S. administration.

Palestinians rightly see a double standard in how the West acts swiftly with sanctions against Russia but are cautious about whether they can apply similar pressure to end Israel's occupation. However, it's important to consider significant differences between the two situations, such as the role of American politics.

Role in American politics- The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a significant issue due to its historical and emotional importance for many people worldwide. It got a lot of attention in the news because the U.S. government and American Jewish philanthropists invested a lot in it, and it played a big role in American politics. In our opinion, people have the right to choose which side or causes they support. Even if they care about all human suffering, they don't have to give the same amount of time, money, or effort to every issue. 

Russia’s Position in Israel- Hamas War

Russia's stance in the Israel-Hamas conflict is a bit of a puzzle. Historically, they've been friendly with Israel, and Israel, in return, has been low-key about criticizing Russia's actions in Ukraine. But things got tricky because Russia is getting cozier with Iran, which likely supplies Hamas with military gear and tactics to challenge Israel's defences (P.S.: Israel is against Iran). Russia's diplomatic game involves keeping good relations with rival countries, even when they're at odds. This strategy isn't likely to hurt Russia in this situation.

The Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Palestine situations differ, with Israel's occupation coming after a war triggered by neighbours, while Russia initiated the Ukraine conflict with territorial ambitions. Both sides in Israel-Palestine have used force, making it complex, and Ukraine aims for democracy and European ties, unlike Russia. Israel is valued as a strong ally, but racial bias plays a role. Still, the Russia-Ukraine crisis might spark international efforts to finally establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The Israel-Hamas conflict’s impact on the price of oil could also boost Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. The price of oil edged lower on October 10, after fears that the conflict could embroil major energy producers in the region, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, had earlier propelled US crude futures above $87 a barrel. “As oil prices go up, this enables them to continue spending on arms production, and it also helps them cover some budget deficits,” said Ann Marie Dailey, a policy researcher at Rand Corporation. “Russia absolutely gains an advantage from this in the short-term.”


In general, we cannot absolutely compare Russia and Israel’s Conduct. Comparing Russia's actions in Ukraine to Israel's actions in response to Palestinian violence is like mixing apples and oranges. Russia's aggressive invasion, with attacks on civilians and war crimes, doesn't equate to Israel's efforts to protect its people. Some may try this comparison, but it's unrealistic and manipulative. The international community should see the clear difference and not be misled. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine shouldn't distract from addressing the Israeli-Palestinian situation fairly and based on its unique circumstances.

Hence, those who attempt to manipulate international awareness by equating Russian aggression and war crimes with Israel’s actions to defend its population are driven by an overriding and irresponsible attempt to defame, and delegitimize Israel.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 269 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Manager at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course). She is a patent analyst & had also done advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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