Middle East

Troubling double standard: Outcry over Gaza deaths but near silence over Iraq, Syria

Doug McKelway reports from Pentagon


After a few weeks of Israel-bashing, we are back to the regular indifference. It seems that with Israel’s war in Gaza on the wane, so too are the world’s humanitarian concerns. The streets of Europe are getting quieter. 

Protests outside Israeli and American embassies and on the steps of houses of worship are thinning. 

International committees are drafting fewer resolutions and college students are demonstrating on fewer campuses. With the violence in Gaza subsiding, the world seems ready to move from bleating outrage over Israel’s actions to indicting it, in the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, for a “criminal act.”


For the world’s oppressed and tyrannized, it’s an inopportune time for the outrage to run dry. From Iraq comes news that 40,000 Yazidis, a religious minority chased from their homes by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are dying from lack of food and water. These stranded refugees are in danger of joining, in harrowing numbers, the 6,000 other Iraqi civilians butchered this year by ISIS. 

More On This...

No less victimized at the moment are the Kurds, gruesome photos of whom were paraded by ISIS on Twitter, and Iraq’s Christian communities, decimated in the recent blitz of Mosul. Renounced even by Al Qaeda for its brutality, ISIS is making life unlivable in Iraq and beyond.

Of course, it’s not just the region’s religious minorities facing expulsion and massacre. The Syrian civil war’s death toll, now reported with more monotony than CBO statistics, has exceeded 160,000. 

Conservative estimates count civilians a third of the total dead, including 15,000 women and children; others have reported a much higher percentage of innocents. Further east, a number of residents equal to the entire population of Boston were recently cleared from North Waziristan so Pakistan’s military could battle the Taliban. Children are still the primary victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria and in South Sudan, and if anyone thinks that innocent civilians are being spared daily horror in Libya, Mali, Eastern Ukraine and North Korea, they haven’t been reading the news.

The protestors, commentators, NGO workers, human rights activists, and others, who spent the last month vilifying Israel’s campaign in Gaza more than Arab regimes did, are not ignorant of these non-Gaza tragedies. 

Many of those who found themselves more outraged by Israel than by ISIS are, in fact, educated, globally-engaged westerners who sincerely believe that Israel’s war against Hamas violated morality and international law to a degree unsurpassed the world over.

How is that possible? Consider three reasons:

First, part of the reason that Gaza’s dead got much more publicity than the victims of ISIS may be that, prior to the Gaza war, most of the news coming from the Middle East was doing significant damage to the White House. From metastasizing jihadi threats in Libya and the Levant to failed peace talks and foundering nuclear talks with Iran, the big story from the region was the Obama administration’s comprehensive failure. The mainstream press was glad to relentlessly pursue the Gaza story, to the exclusion of many others, to give a momentary reprieve to the smoldering ruin of President Obama’s foreign policy.

The second reason is simple but unpardonable ignorance. Many western elites are outraged by Israel’s actions in Gaza far more than, say, China’s oppression of Tibet, because they find western ‘aggression’ more objectionable than non-western. Why for instance, does Egypt’s blockade of Gaza draw very little ire compared with Israel’s? Besides being morally questionable, this belief betrays a profound ignorance of facts: Israel’s targets in Gaza, unlike China’s in Tibet, are mortal threats; and Israel, though democratic, is not ‘western,’ but is in fact made up of mostly persecuted Arab and Soviet refugees.

The third reason is plain old anti-Semitism, masquerading as anti-Zionism. Observing mass protests, where Europeans hurl firebombs at local synagogues to protest decisions being made 2,000 miles away by a government in Jerusalem, one can see the world’s oldest hatred at work.

This combination of advocacy, ignorance and bigotry combines to produce one of the most bizarre spectacles in the western world: a significant cohort of well-educated, well-intentioned people working to convict Israel of ‘war crimes’ in Gaza, while ignoring thousands of innocent children being killed just a few miles away. This selective outrage must end.

Jeremy Stern is a research analyst with Capitol Media Partners and is based in Los Angeles.

Richard Grenell is a  Fox News Contributor. He served as the spokesman for four U.S. Ambassadors to the U.N. including John Negroponte, John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad.