The Western media coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine evoked sharp criticism in the Arab press, which claimed that the West employs a double standard when it comes to wars and human rights. Many journalists wondered why the West, which is outraged by Russia's invasion of a sovereign country, did not mobilize in the same manner when the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq, Libya and Syria. They also contrasted the Western sympathy towards the Ukrainian refugees with the cold reception given to the Arab refugees who reached Europe in the past few years fleeing wars in their countries.
The writers presented examples – which also sparked intense criticism in the West itself – in which Western media figures admitted to feeling great sympathy for the Ukrainian refugees because they are white Europeans with blue eyes and blond hair. These blatant expressions of racism, said the Arab journalists, which appeared in no few prominent media outlets, including even Al-Jazeera's English-language channel, reflect the arrogant an inhuman attitude of the West towards Arabs.
Especially harsh criticism was voiced by figures in the Syrian opposition. They accused the West of hypocrisy and of employing a double standard, because it has mobilized to defend Ukraine and imposed painful sanctions on Russia, but did not lift a finger when Russia committed the same crimes on Syrian soil. This, they said, shows that Syrian blood is cheaper than Ukrainian blood in the eyes of the West. The writers hoped that the West will now understand that the Russian presence must be removed from Syria as well.
Europe welcomes white refugees, but keeps out brown ones (Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, London, March 1, 2022)
This report presents excerpts from these articles in the Arab press.
The Media Coverage Of The Ukraine Crisis Betrays Western Hypocrisy
Kuwaiti Journalist: The Western Media Thinks Blond, Blue-Eyed People Do Not Deserve To Suffer The Hardships Of War
In an article titled "Blue-Eyed Racism" in the daily Al-'Arabi Al-Jadid, Kuwaiti poet and journalist Sa'adiah Mufarreh presented several conspicuous examples of racism in the Western coverage of the Ukraine war. She wrote: "The racism displayed by prominent Western media outlets in their coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine was open and blatant, which surprised many of those who follow this media and this war… Many reporters fell into this trap of racism that favors blond and blue-eyed people who look like 'pure' Europeans. Most of them stuck to this racist [attitude], while some later apologized in an attempt to quell the public outrage [sparked by their statements].
"In only five days of war, there were many conspicuous examples [of this racist coverage] in prominent media outlets. For example, reporting on the fear, alarm and misery of the Ukrainians who were forced to stay in crowded shelters, CBS correspondent Charlie D’Agata said tearfully, 'This is a cultured European country, this is not Iraq or Afghanistan.' On the BBC, a man [David Sakvarelidze, a former deputy general prosecutor of Ukraine], stated, in the same tone and with the same sentiment, that the events [in Ukraine] are very emotional for him because those being killed by Putin's missiles are 'European people with blue eyes and blond hair.' It was repeatedly stated that blue-eyed and blond people do not deserve to find themselves in the midst of a war, because they are Europeans who look like the European or American reporters and like their families and friends. This was explicitly acknowledged by [Daniel Hannan], a reporter for the British Telegraph, who said: 'What makes it so shocking is that Ukraine is a European country, with European people who watch Netflix and have Instagram accounts.' More and more statements like these appeared, betraying a hidden racism that can [no longer] be concealed…"
Western media's double standard regarding refugees: The reporter welcomes Ukrainian refugees with flowers, while tripping up a Middle Eastern refugee (Al-Arab, London, March 8, 2022)
Qatari Reporter: The West's Coverage Of Ukraine War Reveals Its Racist Attitude: Our Blood Is Like Water For Them
Qatari journalist Jaber Mohammed Al-Marri also decried the different Western attitude to the wars in the Middle East and in Ukraine, and especially to the war refugees, calling it arrogant and racist. He wrote in the Qatari daily Al-Sharq: "If you are a Muslim or someone from the Middle East or Africa, and you wonder why the world treats our spilled blood as though it was water… then you can find the answer to your question, whether you [actually] asked it or not, by following the coverage of and statements about the Russian invasion of Ukraine… [Peter Dobbie,] a host on Al-Jazeera's English-language channel, responded to the sight of Ukrainians trying to crowd into a train in order to flee the war by saying: 'What's compelling is just looking at them, the way they’re dressed. These are not refugees trying to get away from their countries in the Middle East or Africa. They look like any European family.' That is what really interests these [reporters], that [the refugees] are European! [Kelly Cobiella], a reporter on the American NBC, said about the Ukrainian refugees crossing into Poland: 'These are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from neighboring Ukraine... That, quite frankly, it is part of it. These are Christians, they’re white, they're similar to the people that live in Poland'… As for politicians, Bulgarian Prime Minister [Kiril Petkov] said: "The Ukrainian refugees are not the refugees we are used to, so we will welcome them. These people are intelligent and educated Europeans. They are not people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists.'
"These are their natural positions and reactions… This is how they regard the Arabs, the Muslims, the Middle Easterners, the Africans and the Asians, of all sects, religions and [ethnic] origins. There is no place in their hearts for humanity or compassion. Such are the European elites, in politics, in the media and on the level of [the man on] the street. They regard us from a racist and arrogant perspective…"
Europe's selective refugee policy (Al-Sharq, Qatar, March 5, 2022)
The West Helps Victims Of Russia's Aggression, Yet Ignores Victims Of Its Own Aggression
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Egyptian Journalist: The West Thinks "Humanity" Applies Only To Westerners, While Middle Eastern Peoples Deserve To Live In Misery
Egyptian journalist Hussein Al-Zinati wrote in the state daily Al-Ahram that the Western world's instant mobilization against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, as opposed to its indifference to wars and conflicts in the Middle East betrays a double standard and an unequal application of the notion of "humanity." He wrote: "The war between Russia and Ukraine has sharpened [our awareness of] the West's attitude towards humanity – and especially towards Arabs – and underscored its double standard. The International Criminal Court immediately launched an investigation into Russian war crimes and the U.N. condemned the Russian attack… while expressing a principled opposition to attacks on unarmed civilians.
"The question that naturally arises is… Where was the West when the U.S. invaded Iraq? Where was it when the U.S. invaded Syria? Where was it when Libya was being torn apart, and even before that, when Israel occupied Arab lands and persisted in its periodic acts of aggression against innocent people in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria?! Where was this excessive human [compassion] when millions of Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, became displaced or refugees?!
"This type of human [compassion] is steeped in racism and greed, and divides mankind into two groups: the masters of humanity, and its servants. The former are entitled to live in dignity and grace, whereas the latter are doomed to live in wretchedness and humiliation. The former have the right to defend their existence, their identity and their prosperity, whereas the latter are required to provide [the former] with what they need to attain this prosperity, even at the cost of their lives, their blood and their land! The Western reaction against Russia for the war in Ukraine proves that, [as far as the West is concerned], 'humanity' applies only to its own people, whereas our people are less than human…"
"Refugees and Racism": Europe's unequal reception of Syrian and Ukrainian refugees (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, March 4, 2022)
Iraqi Journalist: The West Has Forgotten Its Responsibility For The Death And Displacement Of Millions In Arab Countries It Invaded
In his column in the London-based daily Al-Arab, Iraqi writer and poet Farouq Yousuf likewise called out the West for welcoming the Ukrainian refugees yet disregarding the millions of Arab refugees and casualties caused by its own invasion of their countries: "War is not an opportunity to flaunt a racist discourse. The victims of wars [should all be met with] the same human sympathy… Discriminating among them is reprehensible… 'They are not Syrians, they are Ukrainian,' 'This is Ukraine, not Iraq.' These disgraceful two sentences outrage our conscience. Does conscience even exist, given this unjust and inexplicable arrogance[?] What is the difference between two human beings who were subjected to the same oppression? Or is oppression against one person not the same as oppression against another[?] Now we obviously understand why [the West] allowed the American invaders to be cruel to the Iraqis and why it allowed Turkey to use the Syrians. [Turkey] formed some of them into an army within Syria and others into an army of mercenaries [that was sent to fight] in Libya, while the majority of Syrian [refugees] was used to blackmail Europe by loading them on ships [and sending them to Europe], causing many of them to die…
"Twenty years after [the war in Iraq], the West has forgotten the Iraqis and remembers only Saddam Hussein, the monster that reminded [everyone] of Hitler… The Europeans have forgotten their own [actions], lost their wits and failed to notice that they contributed to the destruction of Iraq and Syria and to the flight of their people… Millions of people have become transparent. People left their homes And never returned; they were regarded as superfluous. They were not regarded as victims, and if they were, they were regarded as victims of their [own Arab] leaders. There are always images of Saddam Hussein and Bashar Al-Assad, but no trace of the U.S. or the terror organizations it sponsored…
"The Ukrainians, on the other hand, are dear [to the West], because it is not the U.S. and its allies who expelled them from their homes, but rather Putin… For the West, discriminating between victims is a [legitimate] political outlook. The Syrians and Iraqis are not victims [as far as it is concerned] because it is the one that destroyed their countries and turned them into refugees, and [it considers them] too inferior to be considered a moral responsibility or to be regarded as human beings who deserve to get their previous lives back. The Ukrainians, [on the other hand], are honored guests, every one of whom will soon return to his home, and therefore must be treated nicely until the war is over…"
Syrian Oppositionists: When Russia Committed The Same Crimes In Syria, The World Was Silent
Many Syrian oppositionists decried the difference between the Western response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its response to the Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Syrian Human Rights Activist: Syrian Blood Is Cheaper In The Eyes Of The West
The director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, Fadel 'Abd Al-Ghani, told the opposition-affiliated website Syria.tv: "The West employs a double standard, in that Ukraine interests it far more than Syria… The political interests of the Western states take precedence to human rights and international law… Imposing sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine is a standard move, anchored in international law… [But] this did not happen in Syria. The West did not impose any sanctions on Russia for the crimes it committed and is still committing in Syria, which shows that Syrian blood is unfortunately cheap… The West must act in Syria just as it acts in Ukraine, and Syrian civilians must be protected from Russia's barbaric conduct and airstrikes, which have erased entire Syrian cities…"
Official In Syrian Opposition: The West Keeps Silent About The Genocide Taking Place in Syria, But Defends Ukraine
Anas Al-Abdah, chair of the High Negotiations Committee, which represents the Syrian opposition in the intra-Syrian political process, made similar comments in an interview with the Turkish news agency Anadolu: "In Syria, a genocide is being committed in front of the entire world as part of an international conspiracy, yet [when Ukraine is invaded,] the entire Western world steps up to defend it and its people… We support defending the Ukrainians against the weapons of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but we are against the blunt and obvious double standard employed by the Western countries… Killing must not be met with silence, no matter what the nationality or religion of the victims… It is no secret that the American and Western position on Ukraine is much firmer than their position on Syria. This reflects an asymmetry in the strategy of these countries, which were feeble when it came to Syria…"
Official In Syrian Opposition: Crimes In Syria Are Met With Silence, While The Invasion Of Ukraine Evokes Global Outcry
Yahya Al-'Aridi, a member of the High Negotiations Committee, wrote on the Syria.tv website that Russia's war crimes must be met with the same response, whether they take place in Ukraine or in Syria: "Suddenly and all at once, the entire international community, which is quite hypocritical, set out to record [all of] Russia's ugly crimes in its operation in Ukraine. The atmosphere in the world is now more tense and alarming than it was in the lead-up to the two world wars, which completely redrew [the global maps]. This surprising mobilization against Russia, the almost complete consensus on the need to isolate it, suffocate it and underscore its dangerous 'Hitlerism,' may [even] lead to a decision to expel it from the planet…
"All these blatant and ugly Russian crimes have been openly committed for years against Syria and its people. The same international community witnessed their devastating consequences, while Russian officials [even] bragged about trying out hundreds of kinds of weapons on the Syrians and training thousands of Russian fighters and experts on Syrian [soil] – yet the Syrians did not witness such a global mobilization. [In their case,] it was as though the international community was on vacation. In fact, powerful and influential elements advised the Syrians to take their complaints to the Russians [themselves]…
"A suspicious silence prevailed in the world when Putin excused [his actions in Syria by saying that] regimes must not be replaced by force and that no-one must harm the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of any country – [and all this] in order to keep anyone from harming the criminal [Syrian] regime, which was murdering its own people, expelling them and even using chemical weapons against them. Yet the same Putin is doing in Ukraine exactly what he said must not be done in Syria… He is violating its territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty and wants to depose its regime, which, unlike Assad's tyrannical regime, was [democratically] elected. Yet the suspicious silence that prevailed in the case of Syria became a global outcry in the case of Ukraine…
"The world didn't have to be so hypocritical and depraved as to send the Syrians [to complain] to the Russians, on the grounds that they have the upper hand in Syria… At the very least, [the world] could have bragged a bit less about [defending] human rights and respecting the law and people's freedom. Today we see the entire system of powerful [global forces] mobilizing [to help Ukraine], while displaying all the ugly images of Russia's [actions] and claiming that human rights and freedom are supreme values and that the sovereignty and independence of countries are sacred! We hope this 'international awakening' will not apply only to Ukraine, but also to Syria… Finally, [let me also note that,] if the international community wants to put an end to Putin's sick ambitions and defeat him in Ukraine, it must first defeat him in Syria and expel him from there."
 See e.g., washingtonpost.com, February 28, 2022; theguardian.com, March 2, 2022;cnn.com, March 4, 2022.
 D’Agata's full statement was: “This isn't a place, with all due respect, you know, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully, too – a city where you wouldn't expect that or hope that it was going to happen.” See www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXYrbCCErSo, February 25, 2022.
 Hannan's exact words were: “They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. Ukraine is a European country. Its people watch Netflix and have Instagram accounts, vote in free elections, and read uncensored newspapers. War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations” (Telegraph.co.uk, February 26, 2022).
 Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), March 3, 2022.
 The full quote is: "What's compelling is just looking at them, the way they’re dressed. These are prosperous – I'm loath to use the expression – These are prosperous, middle-class people. These are not, obviously, refugees trying to get away from areas in the Middle East, that are still in a big state of war. These are not people trying to get away from areas in North Africa. They look like any European family that you would live next door to” (Media-diversity.org/, March 2, 2022).
 Al-Sharq (Qatar), March 3, 2022.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 7, 2022.
 Al-Arab (London), March 5, 2022.
 Syria.tv, March 2, 2022.
 Aa.com.tr/ar, March 3, 2022.
 Syria.tv, March 7, 2022.