When Hamas terrorists launched their nauseating attacks on Israel, we in the West responded instantly—and instinctively. We condemned those terrorists for the fundamental barbarism of their aims and methods; and we condemn them today, in spite of all those who would muddy the waters.
We condemn them because we see the difference between those who are trying to kill and terrify civilians, and those who are trying to save civilian life. We see the difference between democracy and autocracy, between tyranny and the rule of law.
We know that those Hamas terrorists who attacked Israeli families are now part of a growing global coalition for evil—a coalition of anti-democratic and illiberal forces that have no concern for human rights, no concern for civilized values, and who are now determined to advance their agenda around the world, and to take advantage of Western weakness wherever they can.
So it is all the more troubling to hear voices raised today—especially among U.S. lawmakers—who assert that in this intensifying global struggle we must now make a choice. There are some on Capitol Hill who claim that if we are to do more to help Israel against that country’s many foes, then we must now reconsider or cut back on our support for Ukraine.
That would be a tragic mistake. It would be a failure to recognize the heroism of the Ukrainians, who are fighting not merely for their country, but for the very cause of freedom around the world. It would be a failure to grasp that the appalling conflict taking place in Israel in the last 10 days is essentially the same fight that has been taking place in Ukraine for the last 10 years.
There can be no binary, zero-sum choice here—between helping the Ukrainians to fight Putin, and helping Israel to fight off the terrorists of Hamas. When we look at Putin’s thugs in Adviika, or jihadi thugs in Gaza, we are looking at different heads of the same hydra.
It is no surprise that Russia has failed to condemn the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7, or that the Russian media draw comparisons between the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the Nazi siege of Leningrad in WWII.
It is hardly accidental that the Russian government maintains such good relations with the two most important global sponsors of Hamas—Iran and Syria. That is because Putin’s Russia shares with Hamas a blatant disregard for the laws of war.
We have seen in the war against Ukraine how Putin’s armies have wittingly and deliberately trained their fire on crowded train stations, on theaters, churches, restaurants. They even attacked the Babyn Yar memorial, in Kyiv, to the victims of the Holocaust—as if to symbolize the new barbarism of their approach, their cold indifference to the loss of innocent human life.
Putin’s thugs and Hamas terrorists are morally identical in making no distinction between civilian and military targets; and that is no wonder, because their objectives are really the same—to destroy liberal democracy. The children killed or deported from Mariupol are victims of the same brand of barbarism as the children killed in the kibbutz of Kfar Aza.
This is not the time to give priority to one set of victims. They both deserve the protection of the West. We are now fighting on two fronts, for the same values and the same ideals, against the same anti-democratic and terroristic forces.
To our American friends we say: We must help protect Israel, and help save Ukraine. To choose one would be a betrayal of both.
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Boris Johnson is president of Conservative friends of Ukraine. Bernard-Henri Lévy is a philosopher and filmmaker.