US rejects comparison of Israel and Russia's brutal occupations
The US has refused to compare Russian and Israeli occupation and annexation of other countries' territories, declining to condemn the latter.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price rejected comparisons made by UN human rights expert Navi Pillay about Russia and Israel's abuses of civilians living under the occupation of the two countries' military forces.
Israel has illegally occupied the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem for more than 50 years, while Russia and its allied militias seized Crimea and parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk areas of Ukraine in 2014 and further Ukrainian territories this year.
"I think it is important to take a step back and to recognise the profound differences between those two situations," Price stated.
The UN's Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Israel concluded on Thursday that Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories was illegal, comparing it to de-facto annexation.
Palestinians there live under effective military law and are denied the rights given to Israeli settlers in the West Bank, including the right to build homes, vote, or move freely.
Leading NGOs including Amnesty International have described this as a system of apartheid.
The UN and most of the international community view Israel's occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which were seized from Jordianian control in 1967, as illegal.
Russia has annexed Ukrainian territories under its occupation following fake referendums. In addition to Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, Russia declared the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia to be part of its territory in 2022.
The UN General Assembly recently condemned the annexations of these four regions.
Pillay, who has reported on Israeli abuses of Palestinians for years, likewise noted the illegality of Israel's occupation and settlement activities.
"Recent statements by the Secretary-General and numerous member States have clearly indicated that any attempt at unilateral annexation of a State's territory by another State is a violation of international law and is null and void," Pillay said.
"[But] unless universally applied, including to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, this core principle of the United Nations Charter will become meaningless."
When questioned by a journalist, Price ruled out comparing the two situations.
"[We] categorically reject the blanket comparison between the actions" of Russia and Israel, Price said.
A journalist then responded whether the key difference is that Ukraine is a sovereign state and Palestine isn't.
"This is a key difference," Price said. "No country is or should be immune from criticism. That, of course, includes Israel. Some of the criticism that we’ve heard - and we’ve, of course, offered our own over the course of recent months – is justified. Much of it is not."
Israel has recently ramped up its attacks in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip with around 175 Palestinians killed in 2022 including 41 children.