Putin’s latest attacks on Ukraine and its current refugees have reminded the Middle East of the death of innocent civilians of Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine. The death of innocent and innocence itself is what combines the mentioned countries and Ukraine’s oppression. Civilians flee and become refugees. There is no choice left: either you leave everything behind and try to survive, or you stay and risk dying at any possible minute.
However, the current refugee wave has not only made Europe’s ongoing racist views visible, but also raised a fundamental question: how is the boycott of the Russian economy and products an international matter, but supporting the BDS movement labeled as anti-Semitic?
These are the words of the French journalist Phillipe Corbé that summarize the attitudes driving the racism towards Africans, Arabs, and any other non-white refugees during their attempts to escape the Ukrainian war. There are multiple problems with this statement; not only is this degrading towards people of color, here: the Syrian population, but also that the experiences of refugees are only taken seriously when the refugees are included in the construct of whiteness.
The voice of the victims plays only a significant role when they are needed for a magazine article or an interview. In short, when there is the potential to create an outrageous story; then the unheard minorities of society start to become visible. Lastly, Corbé’s comment highlights Europe’s pattern to see color over humanity in times of war has become more than clear.
The “Do Not Buy Russian Goods!” Campaign
There have been multiple calls for action against Putin and Russia itself. The world condemns Putin for his crimes against Ukraine, and therefore decided to withdraw from economical and political conventions. While the solidarity with all war victims should never be questioned, it is worth it to start listening to calls to action to support Palestine.
The Palestinian-Led Movement Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)
The so-called BDS movement is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice, and equality. Its main aims are equal human rights for the Palestinians, which are neglected daily. Palestine’s occupation is internationally acknowledged. Likewise, the violations against Palestinians’ human rights has been proven by international organizations, yet there are no consequences for the violations, and the oppression of the Palestinians continues.
Interestingly, whoever chooses to join the BDS Movement is labeled as anti-Semitic as the white supremacist conservative-driven discourse has chosen to interpret the boycott of Israeli products as an intended boycott of Jews. However, the stigmatization of the BDS Movement is a white and capitalistic interest. People, especially Muslim Palestinians, fear being labeled as “antisemitic.” A common consequence of supporting the BDS Movement or any public criticism of the Israeli government is the loss of employment or smear campaigns with accusations of supporting terrorism. Therefore, people who would love to support Palestine have become very cautious since their solidarity with Palestine is easily labeled as anti-Semitic. It should be noted that the Palestinian identity was never solely bound to Islam; Palestinian Christians and Jews all suffer under the occupation.
Silencing the BDS Movement by labeling it as anti-Semitic shows that white groups show unconditional solidarity with a state that is responsible for an ongoing genocide and colonialism with illegal settlements.
In historic Palestine, there have always been Jews and Christians. Today these minorities suffer as the world assumes that all Palestinians are Muslims, while their own cultural values and traditions get lost. Additionally, there are more than 20% of Palestinians live in the occupied territories with Israeli Citizenship. These Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens, and are not even considered by the white interpretation of the BDS Movement, since there are a multiple studies that show that they are discriminated against on different levels.
The influence of white supremacy on international solidarity becomes clear when one realizes how fast Ukrainian refugees were welcomed all over Europe, and concerns about them “taking jobs” or economic opportunities were not even mentioned. The racist comments on Syrian, Afghan, and Black refugees prove that Europe is not as open-minded as it likes to appear. Lastly, silencing the BDS Movement by labeling it as anti-Semitic shows that white groups show unconditional solidarity with a state that is responsible for an ongoing genocide and colonialism with illegal settlements.
White structures label and stigmatize anyone who tries to speak out or criticize the state of Israel, and yet they show no alternative to giving indigenous Palestinians human rights. Therefore, a question that remains open is why human rights even exist if they are only taken into consideration when it comes to the rights of white people.