Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Yemen and Gaza: Why the Different Reactions?

by Elliott Abrams
March 31, 2015


The Washington Post reported this today:

An airstrike killed dozens of people Monday at a camp for displaced people in northern Yemen, in what appeared to be the single deadliest attack since a Saudi ­Arabia-led coalition sent warplanes to target Shiite insurgents advancing across the country.

As many as 40 people died and about 200 were wounded in the attack on the Mazraq camp in Hajjah province, said Joel Millman, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, which runs aid programs at the facility.

The Yemeni Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, accused the Saudi-led coalition of hitting the camp, located in an area under the control of the insurgents. Saudi officials did not confirm that. But, asked about the bombing, Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, a coalition spokesman, asserted that the rebels were setting up positions in civilian areas and said that coalition warplanes had taken fire Monday from a residential area, forcing a “decisive response,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency.


So, taking fire from a civilian area in which shooters were hiding, the Saudis struck back. When Israel does that in Gaza, where it is the common practice of Hamas to hide in and shoot from civilian areas, and to store weapons in schools and hospitals (including those run by the United Nations), what happens? Israel is universally condemned. UN investigation commissions are appointed, and reports such as the egregious “Goldstone Report” (officially, the “The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict”) are issued. The UN Security Council holds special sessions, and the UN Human Rights Council adds additional “hate Israel” meetings to its usual list.

I cannot recall an incident where Israel struck at a refugee camp and killed 40 people all at once, also injuring 200 others, but I am willing to bet on the world reaction to this Saudi attack: zero. No meetings, commissions, no reports.

What are the lessons to be drawn? That the Arab group and the Islamic nations have more votes in the UN than Israel, which of course has but one. That there is an indefensible double standard when it comes to evaluating Israel. And, that hiding behind civilians is a widespread crime. Nothing new here.

I suppose it’s too much to ask that if Israel and Hamas enter another round of fighting in Gaza, those countries who have joined together to suppress the Houthi rebels in Yemen might think twice before condemning Israel, and might even condemn Hamas for hiding behind civilians. But the almost certain silence in the United Nations about the attack on the refugee camp in Yemen is worth recalling the next time Israel is attacked for doing far less to protect itself. I don’t know the details about the Saudi attack, and perhaps it was carried out with care and precision. The point is, no one is going to bother to find out.

Post a Comment 12 Comments

  • Posted by moonglum

    Please do your maths again : Israel has only one vote at he UN, but, counting on the systematic US vote + its vassals (Australia, micro states of the Pacific) as a support is a better calculation.

    Then israel has maybe not killed 40 people at once, but its politics are slowly condemning palestinians to death through apartheid.

  • Posted by DK

    “‘Whoever is responsible, this is a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. This camp, as well as the hospitals that have also been hit, are under protected status and should not be hit,’ [UN Spokesman] Haq said”


    The very premise of this article is wrong, attacks on civilians in both Yemen and Gaza have been rightfully criticized.

  • Posted by JIMMY

    Let’s not forget that the world, especially the sanctimonious Western Europe, will continue to reward Saudi Arabia and help them fund their own Islamic terrorists, by buying their oil.

  • Posted by Gal

    Funny, moonglum, how the “palestinian” arabs have the best education, birth rates and longevity of almost all Arab countries. Also funny this type of apartheid where we have “palestinian” arabs in our parliament, high court. Actually, this is the only country where a “palestinian” arab can hold such position!

    so take your lies somewhere else. publish them as comments on al-jesira…

  • Posted by Joseph

    Hey sanctimonious moonglum, I apologize that Israel is too rascist to enjoy the prosperity and happiness supplied by isis, the taliban, assad and other similar organizations.

  • Posted by Asher B. Garber

    So what you’re saying, DK, is that the Times of Oman = NY Times.


    I’m still waiting for the Facebook war porn threads from Western led airstrikes against ISIS.

    Good times!

  • Posted by Asher B. Garber

    So Moonglum is concerned about Apartheid! Thank goodness.

    Tell me again how there is no Apartheid in Arab countries where Jews are routinely condemned for being, y’know, Jews.

    The moment Moonglum decides to be an honest broker about the Middle East, is the moment Moonglum decides to kill himself for being a “genocidal Zionist.”

    Pro-Palestinians really can’t accept reality. Israel’s existence is too much for them to bear. So you know what? All you get to do is whine and cry like the loser you are.

  • Posted by Matt

    Human rights, the US is the air force for Shiite death squads, the EU paid Qaddafi to turn refugees back into the Sahara without water.

  • Posted by Corey

    It’s not rocket science. Israel is a regional bully, US ally and is practising colonialism. It’s behaviour is ignored and allowed. Likewise, Saudi Arabia is a US ally and regional bully. It’s behaviour is ignored and allowed.

    There is no discrepency in the globe’s treatment of Saudi Araba and Israel. Both are doing bad things which indirectly affects the Western world in negative ways, and which affects Middle Easterners in worse ways, but which benefit elites in the West and Middle East. Both should be condemened and not supported.

  • Posted by Muna

    You are terribly misinformed my friend..

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    “what happens? Israel is universally condemned..”

    It is very clear, because the UN is an nasty organization based on hatred of Israel and America!

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    @ JIMMY
    The Saudi government does not support extremists, but probably lots of rich Saudis do so. The Saudi government itself suffers this evil.

    @ Corey
    Mr. Corey, What about the behavior of aggressive Iranian expansionist, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism? Saudi Arabia and Israel have a common enemy, is nuclear Iran, which is a chief patron of the terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Qaeda, Shiite terrorist entities in Iraq, and Ansar Allah aka Houthis.
    Indeed, neither Saudis nor Israelis pose a threat to international peace and security, nor both are seeking to annihilate the Iranians in order to take the leadership in the region, but the Mullahs regime do so. They seek to annihilate the Zionist and Saudi regime and their powerful ally the “Great Satan.” We remember the cowardly plot when they tried to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, and those target Israeli and Jewish and American interests around the world.
    They have the legitimate right to defend themselves against a common enemy, which is why Saudi Arabia and Israel should work together on all matters, especially strategy, in case of an Iranian’s attack on Riyadh or Jerusalem or on any other Arab Gulf state. In general, the Gulf states must provide Israel all the assistance she needs to deal militarily with Iran.

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