Saving our sympathy for those who really deserve it

Today we hear that America, Britain and France have all joined to send humanitarian relief supplies to the 40,000 Yazidis in Iraq who are stranded on a mountaintop besieged by forces of the Islamic State.

President Barack Obama … said strikes against Islamic militants who he called “barbaric terrorists” would continue if necessary, in order to protect Americans and “prevent an act of genocide”. Obama said he could not say how long military and humanitarian operations would continue, but said: “We feel confident that we can prevent [Isis] from going up a mountain and slaughtering the people who are there.” Obama called for an international effort to set up “some sort of mechanism or safe corridor so that these people can move”.

And lo and behold! It’s not only those three countries that are doing something about it but Australia too – that most reactionary of countries when it comes to helping those seeking refuge. Will wonders never cease?

But substitute the words “Palestinians” for “Yazidis”, and “Israel” for “Islamic terrorists”, and what do you have? Complete silence and inaction. And worse than that: active support for those on the attack. After weeks of Israeli merciless and indiscriminate attacks on a population under siege in their homes with no safe place to shelter and no way of escaping, what’s the American (and Australian) response? A big yawn, while we look the other way.

As long as the ones under threat are not Palestinians, President Obama and Australia’s Tony Abbott have no problem coming out in strong support for the victims, and in fact actually doing something about it, and pretty damn quick, too. Airdrops have already been dispatched to send urgently needed supplies of food, water and medical supplies to the Yazidis. But when it comes to the slaughter in Palestine, which has now been going on not for a few days but for 5 weeks, all Obama can do is wring his hands and say how “heartbreaking” it is, as though he’s referring to a flood or other natural disaster over which he has no control. Tony Abbott can’t even bring himself to do that much. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues unabated.

With power and water supplies shut off to most of Gaza, and medical supplies in critically short supply – not to mention the fact that hospitals, clinics, ambulances and even UN shelters have been targeted by the Israelis – who’s talking of airlifts and coordinating “an international effort to set up some sort of mechanism or safe corridor so that these people can move”? Not Obama. Not Cameron. Not Abbott. They reserve their sympathy for the 40,000 and have nothing whatever to say about the 1.8 million. Their heartfelt sympathy, after all, is precious, and reserved only for those who are truly deserving of it, by not being Palestinian. Quite understandable, too. We can’t just run around lavishing our sympathies willy nilly on just any old population which is surrounded by superior hostile forces bent on eradicating them. Who knows where that may lead?

So no pleas from the US for assistance to the Palestinians, and certainly not a peep from Australia, where only the lunatic fringe dare even to express sympathy for the Palestinians, since that would somehow suggest that Israel was doing something wrong, and that would never do.


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