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Libyan triumph exposes the west’s double standard for Palestine

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This is a joyful night. The liberation of Tripoli and Libya is one of those events we never could have predicted at the beginning of the year, I’ve been glued to the screen, sharing the triumph of the hopeful people in the streets in north Africa.

And all through the Libyan events, there are parallels to the situation in Palestine. How long can Palestine be the west’s exception when it comes to a people’s right to self-determination? 

–International law. Again and again on Al Jazeera and CNN we hear talk about international law, and the indictments by the Hague last spring of Moammar Gadafhi and his son Saif. On Al Jazeera, commentators are deprecating “rough justice” and saying that the Libyans must turn the Gadafhi’s (if the rebels should catch both of them) over to the International Criminal Court. Good.

But what does international law mean for Gazans, who were slaughtered in mass numbers barely 2 years ago, and who were the subject of an exhaustive report by the U.N. Human Rights Council? It has to mean something, if Libya means anything for international law….

–The western coalition. Of course, the west shares in this triumph.

NATO was the air force of the Transitional National Council, Jacky Rowland said on Al Jazeera. Alright– well what do other western overtures and promises to the Arab world mean? If UN 1973 had such force, what about UN 194 and UN 242, which concretize the rights of Palestinians? When do those Arabs count? When does their loneliness end? When do their long-trampled rights warrant international intervention?

–When Al Jazeera was broadcasting from Benghazi tonight, I heard a man cry out “Obama” in the street celebration. This is a good night for Barack Obama. USC law professor Josh Lockman says the president’s decision last March to participate in the air assault has been largely “vindicated.”

But the month before he went into Libya on a human-rights pretext, Obama vetoed the UN Security Council resolution against Israeli colonization. And next month, the Obama administration has indicated, it will oppose the Palestinian statehood initiative at the U.N.

When Obama called on the Libyan transitional council to pursue  a peaceful “transition to democracy that is just and inclusive for all of the people of Libya” –my emphasis– how do those words sound to more than 4 million Palestinians who cannot vote for the leaders who rule their lives? 

This is a great night for the self-determination of the Libyan people. Yes, and what about the self-determination of their neighbors in Palestine? How long can the west maintain this cruel double standard?

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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