The selective morality of Western Powers: A critical examination of global hypocrisy

In a world that prides itself on the advancement of liberal values and human rights, the West's selective outrage and support have unveiled a disturbing pattern of hypocrisy that undermines the very ideals it seeks to promote. File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

In a world that prides itself on the advancement of liberal values and human rights, the West's selective outrage and support have unveiled a disturbing pattern of hypocrisy that undermines the very ideals it seeks to promote. File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 20, 2024


By Ismaeel El-khateeb

Anyone who has been paying attention for longer than the past four months may have noticed the glaring hypocrisy of Western ideals - how it is selectively applied across the globe depending on whether such issues serve or don’t serve Western agendas.

In the last four months, Israel has now killed more than 28,000 civilians in Gaza including 127 journalists; far surpassing the now two-year Ukraine war.

Western nations have remained largely silent, with many continuing to support Israel’s genocide.

The United States Senate has just passed a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine and Israel although it still needs approval in the house.

The ICJ (International Court of Justice) has warned of impending genocide and numerous humanitarian organisations around the world highlighting endless war crimes and humanitarian crises in Gaza.

Despite this. the Western world, which claims to be the beacon of liberalism, freedom, and morality, has been completely complicit in the genocide committed against Gaza.

This should come as no surprise, however, to anyone who’s been watching for a very long time.

We have seen this degree of hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance in the refugee crises of Syria and Ukraine. We also saw it when the West rallied behind the protesters in Iran, following the killing of Mahsa Amini in police custody, but remained silent when the headscarf was banned in certain states in India. And the list goes on and on.

On October 7, a deadly attack was launched against a defenceless civilian population, killing thousands.

Within 12 months, 20,000 people had already been killed. I’m referring to October 7, 2001 when the US invaded Afghanistan and by the end of the year left tens of thousands dead in the name of democracy. In the quest to liberate Afghans from the clutches of the Taliban, the country’s infrastructure was completely decimated, including schools and countless civilians killed in the 20 year war.

When the US-installed government collapsed, in just a matter of days the US and Western nations pushed for the isolation of Afghanistan. In the view of the West, Muslims and other people of colour only deserve freedom on their terms - otherwise bombing them is justified, as we’ve seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now in Gaza.

Israel has consistently stuck to the same narrative that civilians in Gaza would not be at risk of being killed if they only got rid of Hamas, who are the ones putting their lives and livelihood in danger’s way.

This ridiculous claim seems to be a sad attempt to justify bombing and destroying most of Gaza’s infrastructure and displacing 85% of its population.

Yet, prior to October 7, Gaza had one of the highest literacy rates in the world and most of the children in Gaza completed basic education, especially girls.

Gazans have been able to pursue education in spite of an ongoing blockade on the Gaza Strip. While Israel likes to believe it is a beacon of democracy and liberalism in the Middle East, its double standards and treatment of Palestinians - and its treatment of its own civilians that disagree with them - tells otherwise.

When the war in Syria broke out and led to the one of the largest refugee crises of our time, the West’s reaction was starkly different from how it responded to refugees from Ukraine.

While Türkiye took in the lion’s share of refugees, with almost four million, the EU took in a total of one million in a span of 10 years.

Pew Research polls conducted across Europe showed most Europeans having an unfavourable view of Syrian refugees, saying it would increase the likelihood of terrorism in their countries.

Almost immediately following the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in 2021, the EU took in 400,000 refugees from Ukraine with plans to accept many more.

On accepting Ukrainian refugees versus Syrian refugees, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said: "These are Europeans whose airport has just been bombed, who are under fire."

Just a year prior, Bulgaria had accepted less than half of 3,800 Syrians who had sought refuge.

Similarly, Poland had also accepted Ukrainian refugees while denying entry to Syrians before.

A reporter from CBS in the US referred to Ukrainian refugees as "relatively civilised, relatively European" in comparison to Syrians as a way to justify their entry into other European countries.

Many other examples of reporters and politicians drawing false comparisons such as referring to refugees as coming from Europe and not a war-torn third world country.

Oh, how quickly they forget the war zone that was Europe not so long ago - actually within our lifetime. Kelly Cobiella from NBC was even more brazen, referring to the difference being that Ukranians are white and Christian and, therefore, deserve more of our sympathy.

Once again we see a situation where Muslims, Arabs, and people of colour must earn the sympathy of Western governments whereas white, Christian refugees get that sympathy by default.

As Muslims and Arabs there is always a caveat. “Before I feel bad for you, can you tell me how you feel about Hamas/Taliban/ISIS/Hezbollah/Iran/(insert relevant entity of choice)?

How do you dress? What are your thoughts on conservative Islamic values?”

This selective morality has exposed the West for its true colours and they should no longer, and never should have been viewed as the bearers of the torch of morality.

Feminists in the West rightly stood by the protesters in Iran after Mahsa Amini was beaten to death by Iranian police over a dress violation.

That same year, the BJP-governed state of Karnataka issued and upheld a ruling banning the headscarf in classes, deeming it not necessary for religious purposes.

Activists in the West were completely silent on the matter, despite violence that followed the ruling against Muslims in the area. In the eyes of the West, liberalism is not the ability to choose for yourself, but rather the illusion of choice, with the correct answer only being the choice to conform to Western “ideals” and “values”.

It is with these examples and many more not mentioned here that those with a watchful eye would have seen this hypocrisy and double standard on Palestine not as a disappointment or a surprise, but rather an expectation.

Many pro-Palestinian activists have expressed their disappointment in Joe Biden.

Rather, I argue that disappointment is reserved for those whom you have higher expectations.

Biden has been an open Zionist for many decades and has never wavered on his support for Israel. He did not disappoint. He delivered on his promises - to Israel.

Perhaps the starkest evidence of institutionalised bias in the Western mindset was the omission by channels like BBC, of the coverage of South Africa’s presentation at the ICJ, while having live coverage of Israel’s presentation the very next day.

It is time we fall back on our tradition of morals and values that long supersedes the ever-changing, ever-compromising, and conditional morals and values of the West. President of Sharq Forum and former Director General of Al Jazeera, Wadah Khanfar lays it out clearly.

This war on Gaza has marked “a very low moment in the history of Western values.” He further argues that now is the time that the rest of the world begins to look beyond Western hegemony for clarity and morality.

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.

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