THE Obama administra-tion's quick humanitarian response to the plight of the members of the Yazidi sect is remarkable. After the fall of Sinjar town in northern Iraq to the advancing jihadist fighters belonging to the IS (Islamic State), formerly called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), about a week back, the Yazidi population that lived there fled for their lives to the nearby inhospitable Mount Sinjar. Given their (IS fighters') past record of cruelty towards people of other faiths, including sects within the broader Muslim community that they do not consider as Muslims, the mass exodus of the Yazidis from their ancestral homes is understandable.
Since it was beyond the capacity of the UN to send emergency relief to these helpless human beings -- some 50,000 Yazidi men, women and children -- the US came forward to save them with the help of both military might and humanitarian aid. Alongside dropping food and water to the Yazidis stranded in the desolate mountain, the US military aircraft till Sunday made at least three bombing sorties on IS's troops and military hardware. Other Western powers have also promised similar humanitarian aid for those victims of IS committed atrocities. Such spontaneous show of sympathy for the suffering humanity in Iraq is undoubtedly praiseworthy on the Western powers' part. The question is are they equally spontaneous in their demonstration of fellow feeling to all people similarly subjected to manmade catastrophe, for example in Gaza?
Before going to Gaza, let us see who is primarily responsible for the situation now facing the Yazidis, the minority Christians and other Iraqi minorities. Needless to say, the Western powers, the US in particular, are largely to blame for the ongoing spiral of violence and chaos leading to Iraq's gradual disintegration. It is all traceable to the ill-conceived misadventure of Iraq in 2003 by the then US president George W. Bush to get rid of dictator Saddam Hussein. The corollary of this invasion has been the ever-widening sectarian divisions in Iraqi society, a natural offshoot of which is the creation of fertile ground for the rise and spread of the extreme and intolerant variety of jihadists that the IS represents. The 2003 Iraq invasion by the US, if anything, has successfully destroyed the foundation on which the former state of secular Iraq stood. So, it's hardly surprising that Obama has finally been compelled to re-engage his military in Iraq even though, as part of his policy to extricate his country from the mess of Iraq war, it's not long ago (in late 2011) that he withdrew the US army stationed in Iraq. But however much Obama may try to disengage, the bloody legacy of the past won't allow him to do so. So, he is there again, though on a limited scale and scope, as Obama would like to stress.
The sad legacy of Western intervention is not limited to Iraq alone. The Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank are victims of similar interference in the affairs of the Middle East by the Western powers. Their creation, the state of Israel, after dislodging Palestinians from their ancestral homes, has long been (over the past six and a half decades) in hot pursuit of the Palestinians. Wherever they take refuge, Israel will be there with its tanks, missiles and planes to kill Palestinians in hundreds in their homes and work places, destroy their homes and communications infrastructure, giving rise to humanitarian crisis on a horrific scale. Sad to say, the US and other Western powers could not so far show the same sympathy to the humanitarian crisis being suffered by the Palestinians.
The recent situation in Gaza is a glaring example. During the last one month Israel has been indiscriminately pounding Gaza with planes, tanks and warships, killing hundreds of men, women and children in the name of chastising Hamas. The Israeli atrocities in Gaza dwarf the situation in Sinjar. And during last one month some 1,900 people, 98% of them civilians, have been killed, thousands injured, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes destroyed by Israeli bombardment to UN shelters. But they have no safety even in those shelters as Israeli planes target them, too. But president Obama has not sent any fighter planes to stop the aggression of the barbaric, marauding Israeli army and save defenseless Palestinians in Gaza. Neither has the US, nor any other Western power, thought of sending emergency relief to the endangered population of Gaza. Why is there this strange difference in the Western powers' attitude and outlook towards Palestinian people's sufferings? Are the Palestinians in Gaza less human than the Yazidis, or other minorities in Iraq?
The Yazidis being an ancient religious group, long persecuted and marginalised, deserve to be protected from the onslaught of IS force. But have not the Palestinians in Gaza as elsewhere been facing similar threats of marginalisation and extinction, and deserve sympathy and protection? Sadly, we have not heard any word of sympathy for these helpless people from the world powers. Why this double-standard?
The writer is Editor Science and Life, The Daily Star.