Dr Nor Aishah Hanifa
Department of International Relations, Law and Security
Faculty of Defense and Management Studies
National Defense University of Malaysia
The Russian-Ukrainian war that erupted on 24 February has shaken the stability of the Eurasia. It looks like Russia focuses to achieve the end of the war, even the road toward easy and swift winning in real war is difficult than the war on paper. Ukraine’s President Zelensky determined to end the war by promising that Ukraine would not enter NATO. Russia’s main argument to start the war is Russia’s national security concern when Ukraine decided to join NATO. This war has left serious implications to Eurasia, Europe and international politics. No one ever thought how far this war causes severe implications to Palestinians.
Ukraine is a nation with diaspora Jewish community. Ukraine has the fifth largest Jewish community in Europe and the 12th in the world. Most of the Ukrainian Jewish community resides in 4 large cities namely Kiev, Dnipro, Kharkiv, and Odessa. Ukraine is also the birthplace of some important Jewish doctrines and ideologies. The "Hasidic" movement (no change) appeared in Ukraine and Ukraine also had a cultural legacy of "Yiddish" (a mixture of Hebrew, German and, Slavic). Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky was a post-Soviet Jew. The total population of the Jewish community in Ukraine is estimated at 49,000 – 400,000 people. When Ukraine was attacked by Russia, Zelensky called on the World's Jewish community to act on neo-Nazism in the Russian outlook.
Since the outbreak of this war, Israel has invited the Ukrainian Jewish community to emigrate to Israel and has removed all bureaucratic obstacles to ease the effort. The Israeli government said that as many as 10,000 Ukrainian Jews are expected to arrive in Israel. The World Zionist Organization (WZO) of the settlement branch announced construction of 1,000-unit homes for the Ukrainian Jews in Israel and in the Israeli Occupied Territories (OTs). According to Professor Lana Tatour from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Israel sees the crisis in Ukraine as a great opportunity to bring in Jewish migrants to change the demography in Israel.
Configuring the demography is one of Israel’s strong strategies in the war against Palestinians. Increasing the Jewish population vis-à-vis Palestinian population has been Israel’s continuous domestic policy since its formation in 1948. This is the main reason why Israel rejects Palestinians' right of return, fearing disruption of balance in Jewish population. One of the pillars of the nation-state is its population. The ethnic majority in population determines the political power in the domestic structure. Israel’s demographic strategy ensures Israel's statism and survival in the Middle East.
In this regard, six immigration processing centers for Jewish refugees have been opened along the Ukrainian border, namely Poland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary. Refugees were given food supplies and temporary accommodation facilities before being flown to Israel. Tatour notes that Israel founded a Jewish demographic advantage over the demography of Palestinians. Human rights organizations condemn Israel's demographic strategy as the Apartheid system.
Since 1948, Israel began land domination strategy to displace Palestinians from their land. The "Nakba" (catastrophe) that took place in 1948 caused around 750,000 Palestinians to be displaced as political refugees by force. They are now in diaspora in the Middle East and other western countries. The right of return of Palestinians is denied by Israel. But Israeli law allows the return of Jews from any country in the world, and they are eligible to obtain Israel’s citizenship. The same law was used to prevent the entry of 6 million Palestinian refugees. This is the most complicated refugee crisis in the world. For the past 74 years, they have been entangled in refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. The highly educated and professional Palestinians managed to start a new life in the western countries.
Since 1967, Israel has been increasing the number of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the East Jerusalem. These settlements are built to meet the needs of Jewish settler groups. In the process the Palestinians’ land being confiscated, same goes to their residences. Horrible events of Palestinians’ expulsion from their homes and their land are rampant. Their olive groves were burned or destroyed by the Jewish settlers. Olive trees are usually cut down, uprooted, and watered with chemicals. The Palestinian farmers are being beaten and harmed are not abnormal in Nablus, Salfit, and West Bank.
In addition, water systems in the Palestinian settlements also deliberately disrupted and damaged. The Jewish settler groups also stole olive harvests, drove out Palestinian peasants, threatened them and flooded a portion of their land with water sewage. Usually, this group of settlers accompanied by IDF forces. Often, they perform all antagonistic acts against Palestinians cooperatively. All these strategies are used by Israel to drive the Palestinians out of their land without a real war. Israel's war on the conquered territories (Occupied Territories) is now taking place without a real armed war. Clearly Israel is waging a real war with Hamas in Gaza with the use of force. As Sun Tzu says in "The Art of War", the war took place without military battles to subdue the enemy (Palestinians) in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The Palestinian lands used by Israel to develop settlements to all Jewish migrants (Olims) who entered Israel. The Ukrainian Jews will join other groups of settlers in a stiff ownership competition over the Palestinian land. The world community is deeply sympathetic to the fate of the unfortunate Ukrainians. The western nations are readily providing humanitarian assistance and immigration without any prejudice. They imposed sanctions and other restrictions over Russia. Ukrainians and their suffering have the same story line as the Palestinians.
For the sake of state survival, Israel often refuses humanity and breaches international law. The migration of Jews from Ukraine is feared to further boost seizure of Palestinian lands to meet construction of the Jewish settlements. Undeniably Jews of Ukraine deserve sympathy and help as the war victims, but Israel and Zionism should not manipulate the war condition to configure Israel’s demography by increasingly deny Palestinians’ rights over the land. The western world should not be blind in providing justice. Palestinians need equal justice of international law like the Ukrainians. For 74 years, the Palestinians have been swallowing the western injustice of double standards in foreign policy. Time is ripe to serve the justice.