WESTERN politicians and media pundits have been quick to express their outrage about the forced diversion of a passenger plane and the arrest of some of those on board by the Belarus authorities.
It brings to mind one of the few perceptive observations by the 19th-century imperialist politician and falsifier of history, Lord Macauley: “We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality.”
In this case, for “the British public” we should read “the ruling classes of Britain, the US and western Europe” — and throw in Nato and the European Union as well. They hope the public of what they like to call the “free world” will obediently follow.
Yet there must be many millions of viewers, readers and listeners across the world who are drawing a stark contrast between the outpouring of condemnation for Belarus President Alexander Luchashenko and the failure of those same politicians, editors and military figures to condemn Israel’s merciless bombing of Gaza.
Furthermore, the British government, the US State Department and the European Union were all talking about further action against Belarus within hours of the aerial diversion, while days of relentless bombing of Palestinian civilians went by without a squeak about sanctions against Israel.
Perhaps President Lukashenko should mend his ways in order to comply with what appears to be Western morality.
Instead of having dissident journalist Roman Protasevich arrested aboard the Ryanair aircraft at Minsk airport, he should send the Belarusian airforce to blow up broadcasting stations instead. After all, that is perfectly acceptable when done by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bombers.
For good measure, perhaps the Belarus airforce should massacre a few hundred civilians in that part of Lithuania housing some of Protasevich’s allies and supporters.
If he really is engaged in terrorist plotting against the Belarus regime, Lukashenko could claim the bombing raids as “self-defence.” That works for the Israeli government.
It should also be noted that a sovereign state has every right under the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Chicago Convention to require an overflying aircraft to land should there be a suspicion of its use for illicit activity. Military interception is permissible so as long as lives are not endangered.
No doubt the ICAO will take appropriate action should it find its rules have been breached.
More clear-cut was the diversion of a jet flying Bolivian president Evo Morales home from Russia in July 2013. Rumoured to be carrying US whistleblower Edward Snowden to asylum in Bolivia, the plane was denied airspace over Italy, France, Spain and Portugal and forced to land in Vienna for fuel, where it was searched by the Austrian authorities.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon ruled that a head of state and his or her aircraft must enjoy “immunity and inviolability.”
As for Protasevich, it is not all clear that he was or has engaged in any criminal actions beyond the perfectly legitimate activity of opposing and criticising Lukashenko and his policies. Journalist unions and their international organisations will doubtless take up a deserving case.
But calls to engage in drastic sanctions against Belarus should be resisted, including those to boycott the Russian Yamal gas pipeline which runs through Belarus and Poland to Germany.
This is a favourite target of the Western hawks who want to whip up the new cold war against Russia and China. They have long had Lukashenko in their sights. Why? Because he has not privatised most of their economy, turned against Russia and opened up his country to Western big business and Nato.
For that matter, Belarus has not made national heroes out of war criminals and collaborators who helped the Nazis exterminate almost a million of the country’s Jews in the Holocaust — unlike the historical revisionism rampant in our “free world” allies, Ukraine and Nato members Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
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