The US and UK Have Shown They Will Only Call Out Genocide When It Suits Them
The laws of the world are our weapons, not our protectors.
Hypocrisy is a funny thing. It’s the tell-tale sign of deceit, cheating, misrule and self-serving agendas. As such, digging a little deeper past the surface-level hypocrisy is akin to pulling a thread on a knitted jumper, unravelling and revealing some underlying truth. This is valid for your double-standard friends and entire governments alike. So, the US and UK’s hypocrisy over Israel’s possible genocide in Gaza, when compared to their actions against the genocide taking place in Myanmar, is one worth investigating.
You may have forgotten what’s happening in Myanmar, so let’s quickly recap. Myanmar, a primarily Buddhist country, started persecuting a Muslim minority called the Rohingya back in 2016 after tensions spanning the ethnic and religious divide, along with landownership disputes between the two groups in the country, mounted. Since then, at least 1.2 million of the 2 million + Rohingya population have been displaced by military conflict and severe restrictions on food and water by the Myanmar state. As such, over a million Rohingya refugees fled and crossed to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they live in inhumane refugee camps, causing rampant disease and death. These refugees’ status is complicated by the fact that Myanmar has refused for decades to grant the Rohingya people citizenship, despite being an ethnic group of the country since its founding. Being stateless means they have nowhere else to go but these dreadful camps. By 2022, 10,000 Rohingya men, women, children and newborns were killed, and more than 300 villages were burnt to the ground. This persecution is far from over, even despite a military coup in 2021, as the new junta is happy to continue the terrible acts against the Rohingya.
Now, does this count as a genocide? Well, the UN defines genocide as “a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part.” There is also Ethnic cleansing, which isn’t a crime in of its own, but often folded into genocide. It is defined by the UN as “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnic or religious group.”
As such, it is no surprise that in 2017, the UN called this persecution a genocide, as it fits the criteria for both genocide and ethnic cleansing. In other words, the acts of the Myanmar military were enacted specifically to cause genocide. This viewpoint has many backers, including the US, UK and many EU countries. But more on that in a minute.
Now, let’s look at the Israel-Gaza conflict. This conflict originated decades ago and is driven by land ownership, statehood disputes, and religious, ethnic and ideological differences. That is way oversimplifying it, and it’s worth doing your own research here, but note how similar this is to the Rohingya situation.
Since Hamas’s (terrorist leaders of the Gaza Strip) October 7th attack on Israel, which did constitute a heinous war crime, Israel has unleashed a horrific attack on the entirety of the Gaza Strip. In just a few months, the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) has displaced 1.87 million of the 2.2 million Gazan population, destroyed 60% of the homes in the Gaza Strip and killed well over 20,000 Gazans, of which only 10% are linked to Hamas, and well over half are women and children. Unlike the Rohingya, Gazans can’t seek asylum in another country, as all the borders are closed and guarded. As such, these displaced 1.87 million people are still at serious risk from the IDF’s attacks. In fact, the IDF has even bombed refugee camps within Gaza housing displaced people. There is also a vast amount of genocidal rhetoric from the Israeli state and ruling party. Members have said that once Israeli settlers can replace Gazans, they will “make the desert bloom.” Even Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, has likened Gaza to the biblical people of Amalek, who God ordered the Israelites to kill every man, woman and child.
Israel justifies this attack by saying they are defending themselves from a genocidal terrorist group, as Hamas seeks to destroy Israel. This is an oversimplified and arguably reductive point. Israel has illegally occupied and aggressively oppressed large parts of Palestine, including Gaza, for decades. Hamas started as an antisemitic movement to completely overthrow Israel. But since 2017, it has conceded and now, explicitly only has a problem with Zionism, not Judaism, and wants to reinstate Palestine to its 1967 borders. Coincidently, numerous courts and investigations have found that Israel’s occupation of Palestine and Gaza past its 1967 borders is illegal under international law. But, Hamas has also said that even if this land is returned, it still won’t recognise Israeli statehood as it has a goal of “liberating all of Palestine”, which 100% can be interpreted as calling for the end of Israel.
Does Hamas have genocidal intentions against Israel? Potentially. Genocide scholars seem to be split here.
But you can’t use the threat of potential genocide as a justification for genocide (especially from a group physically unable to commit genocide, such as Hamas). Not morally or in international law. Particularly when Israel has one of the most advanced militaries in the world, combined with massive levels of surveillance, meaning they have the ability to target only Hamas. Yet, they are instead targeting civilians in an act of collective punishment in both actions and rhetoric.
So, the situations and levels of destruction against the Rohingya and the population of the Gaza Strip are incredibly similar. Though, arguably, the situation in Gaza is worse. It took just four months for the people of Gaza to suffer the same level of displacement and loss as the Rohingya did in six years.
This is where the hypocrisy comes in.
You see, last year, the US government formally determined that the Myanmar military committed the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity against ethnic Rohingya Muslims. And just six weeks ago, the UK formally submitted legal arguments to the ICJ (International Court of Justice) to support claims that Myanmar committed genocide against the Rohingya ethnic group through its mass mistreatment of children and systematically depriving people of their homes and food. In other words, to them, what has happened in Myanmar is a genocide they are willing to hold to account in international courts.
Yet, the US has vetoed a landslide UN ceasefire vote that would force Israel to stop its military actions against Gaza. It has even denounced South Africa’s recent genocide case against Israel at the ICJ as “baseless” despite its rock-solid evidence and wide support. Similarly, the UK has refused to back South Africa’s case and has even refused to classify Israeli actions since Oct 7th as a genocide. There are even allegations that the state-owned British media has suppressed stories that call Israel’s actions a genocide. In other words, the US and UK don’t recognise the Israeli state’s actions since Oct 7th as genocide, even though Israel uses the same tactics to persecute Gazans as Myanmar does the Rohingya, just at a far greater scale and rate.
This inconsistency and hypocrisy have been noted and decried by many legal professionals. Tayab Ali, the head of international law at Bindmans, said about the UK’s Myanmar submission that “the UK took a wide, and not a narrow, definition of acts of genocide, and the intent to commit genocide. It also made clear that the court should take into account risks to life after a ceasefire caused by disabilities, inability to reside in their homes and wider injustices.” He continued, “It would be wholly disingenuous if the UK, six weeks after advancing such a significant and broad definition of genocide in the case of Myanmar, now adopts a narrow one in the case of Israel.”
In other words, you can’t have it both ways. Either both Myanmar and Israel are committing genocide, or neither of them are.
So why this hypocrisy?
Well, the UK and the US arm Israel to the teeth to “defend their interests in the region [Middle East]”, as Joe Biden has stated. Basically, they support Israel, give them a massively powerful military, and then they can use Israel to put pressure on countries in the Middle East to ensure the West has access to their “special interests”, also known as oil. There are even British oil companies with licences to drill for over $520 billion worth of natural gas in occupied Palestine, and many media owners and UK politicians are shareholders of these companies.
It’s not hyperbole when I say we gave them a powerful military. The UK is a huge part of Israel’s arms supply chain, giving them over £474 million in licence arms per year. This pales in comparison with the US, though, as they provide Israel over $3 billion in military aid each year, as well as supplying them with the vast majority of their arms and military systems.
The US and UK could stop the genocide in Gaza by simply ceasing their supply of arms and military aid to Israel. But they haven’t. Yet, to add to the hypocrisy, they have both placed sanctions on Myanmar for its genocide.
So, why have the UK and US raised cases of genocide against Myanmar? Surely, this undermines their stance that Israel is only defending itself (especially for the UK, as they have supported such claims after Oct 7th)? Well, Myanmar had a military coup in 2021 that overthrew its relatively pro-Western democratic government. This new junta government is far more cosy with China and cooperates with them. Myanmar sits in a very strategic location between China and India; as such, it is an ideal place to resist China’s expansionist push. Myanmar’s distancing itself from the West and moving toward China significantly threatens the West’s influence in the region. As such, it should be no surprise that both the US and the UK didn’t press genocide charges against Myanmar until the stance of its government changed, rather than back in 2017 when its actions were formally declared a genocide.
You see, the US and UK don’t use the 1948 Genocide Convention (which set out the international laws around genocide) as humanitarian law to ensure the betterment of humanity. They use it as a tool to get what they want. They can levy it against those who stand in their way and turn a blind eye when the persecuted are the ones in their way. There isn’t really a double standard or hypocrisy with our actions towards Myanmar and Israel; the West is just being consistent with its foreign policy.
Thanks for reading! Content like this doesn’t happen without your support. So, if you want to see more like this, don’t forget to Subscribe and follow me on BlueSky or X and help get the word out by hitting the share button below.
Sources: Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Human Rights Watch, Declassified UK, Human Rights Watch, MSF, UN, Crisis Group, UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UN, UN, UK Gov, AA, Human Rights Watch, Geographical