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Someone else's war no longer exists in the modern world

Published on Nov 9, 2023

Ukrainian article of the week published in the 6th edition of the "What about Ukraine" newsletter on November 9th, 2023. The article was written by Vitalii Portnykov for Zbruch and was translated for n-ost by Olesia Storozhuk.

Check out the complete edition of this week's newsletter

You can access the original article in Ukrainian under this link. It was first published on October 15, 2023.

An opinion piece on parallels and links between the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel

“The more countries that join the Anti-Putin coalition today, the more effective assistance to Ukraine and Ukrainians will be, the more likely we won’t see Metula on fire or a bombed-out Kiryat Shmona, and we won’t have to tell stories of the residents of Katzrin blocking the streets of their city with anti-tank hedgehogs.”

This quotation stems from the article “The Fire of War”, which I wrote for one of Israel’s Hebrew media two months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

I shall be honest — back then, Israeli society regarded such opinions as the voice of someone crying in the wilderness. Yes, the Israelis did sympathise with Ukraine for they had no reasons to support Russia, which has threatened to destroy the Jewish state several times in the 20th century. And yet, they perceived Russia’s war against Ukraine as a very distant conflict and definitely did not associate it with Israeli safety. In that text, I argued that the resurgence of the Russian Empire, which Ukraine fights against, would jeopardise Israel’s interests, as the Kremlin aims to restore the Soviet Union’s policies in the Near East. I was mistaken as to when this would occur, and thought it would happen at a later time, for which there is not much left for Putin. He is willing to be an emperor — in the form of a Communist-era Secretary General, which is more intuitive for him — here and now. That’s why he is not fiddling around with loyalty to Israel and not even trying to express condolences towards the innocent victims. He doesn’t need to pretend any more to be someone he’s never been.

All in all, “Hamas’s blitzkrieg” is astonishingly similar to “Russia’s blitzkrieg”. Russia, which is allegedly considered a state, behaves on the occupied territory as a classic terrorist organisation, with its soldiers killing and raping civilians with an incomprehensible, to a modern person, hatred. Then Moscow denies both the extermination of civilians and their own losses resulting from the aggression. Hamas, being a classic terrorist organisation that is all about killing and torturing civilians, will put into action (apparently, with the help of terrorist states) a successful military operation by breaking through the border and dispatching motorised paragliders. Of course, brutal murders start instantly, as well as the denial of crimes and the scale of losses among the militants. Yes, we live in a dangerous era when states act like terrorist organisations and terrorist organisations master the capabilities of real states. Surviving in such a world is a bit of a quest.

In fact, there are even more analogies between Hamas and Russia. Both aggressors primarily appeal to history, and their own interpretation of past events. Putin denies the Ukrainian people’s right to existence. For him Ukraine is “historically Russia” and the fact that a state with the capital in Kyiv existed long before the emergence of Moscow and even [a capital on Russian territory before Moscow] Suzdal does not persuade him, on the contrary, it is an additional evidence of “succession”. Such a view of history is common in the Russian society; moreover — there is currently no other view. The watershed lies between those who consider war an immoral way of “restoring Russia” and those who believe that this restoration is possible only by means of force. That is why those who have a different view to these proponents of war are denied the right by Russia not only to live on the “ancestral” territory of the “historical Russia”, but to life itself. This is what Russian soldiers wanted to tell their victims in Bucha.

And from Hamas leaders’ and their adherents’ perspective, the Jews have no right to live in Israel — that is on the territory invented by the defiant Roman emperor Adrian “Palestine” — as they are “European occupiers” of the ancestral Arabic lands. The fact that Jews have a national and state legacy on that land — which is confirmed not only on the pages of the Bible, but also in numerous archaeological remains — does not matter for neither the Hamas fighters nor the Palestinian Arabic society in general. Such a view of history is widespread in this society — and there has never been any other. The watershed has always been between those believing to reach the goal with political measures and those believing that the “occupiers” can be expelled only by force. Those who think differently, from the point of the proponents of forced expulsion of occupiers, have not only no right to live on the territory of the “Arabic Palestine”, but to life itself. This is what the Hamas militants wanted to say to their victims in Kfar Aza and other desecrated places.

Both armies — or gangs — of invaders confidently commandeer the World War II legacy. In the first weeks of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, news about the death of 96-year-old Borys Romanchenko, former prisoner of several Hitler’s concentration camps, from Kharkiv due to Russian shelling was widely spread. Well, Hamas militants did brutally murder a 90-year-old resident of the Kisufim kibbutz, Gina Smyatich, who had survived the Holocaust in Europe. But this is not just an attempt to finish what the predecessors of the current evil failed to do.
This is also a revision of benevolence.

Borys Romanchenko lived in a city whose residents never had any negative emotions towards Russians — even the developments of 2014 did not change, as they tended to hold Putin responsible for the war rather than their acquaintances and relatives over the border. And now Russia is coldly destroying Kharkiv and other cities and towns in the east and south of our country, demonstrating that they kill not because of opinions or language, but simply because of the desire to kill — as well as to clear the territory.

The kibbutzim on the border to Gaza — in one of which Gina Smyatich lived — have always been shelters for people with liberal views who believed in the necessity to seek understanding with Arabs and voted for left-wing and centrist parties. But Hamas fighters don’t care about such nuances, moreover — Jews standing for peace and compromises are dangerous for them. So, they cut off their heads with delight. Both Hamas and Russia are not unaware of the consequences of these actions. They are well aware. Nevertheless, as true murderers, they strive for nothing but our death.

That is why there will be no such thing as “someone else’s war” in the modern world, and that is why every new conflict will become existential overnight. Because this is not a war for territories and not just a war for the freedom of one’s country.

This is a matter of life or death in the very, very literal sense. We either force them to stop or defeat them — or they will kill all of us.

Kill all of us.