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Why You Should Care About The Inhuman Violence And Massacres Of Civilians In Gaza

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By Uzair Belgami:

Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The story of Israel and Palestine is remarkable in many ways. To many of us in India, it is just another violence-torn region which is in a state of perpetual unrest. We sometimes see an obscure headline pop up on the bottom of our TV screens about a killing here, some terrorist group there and in general a whole lot of bloodshed and protests. Of late, there sometimes erupts a massive flurry of headlines which involve a lot of Palestinians being killed for who knows what reason — however, as Israel is doing the killing while world bodies like the UN watch, there must be some legitimate reason. In any case, it seems this is mostly some ‘Muslim vs. Jewish ’ issue and nothing to trouble us Indians!

gaza-israel

Yet, the fact is that the story runs much deeper and is of much more relevance to the Indian state and us Indians, than perhaps we may perceive. The violence which has erupted in Gaza in the last week is just the metaphorical ‘tip of the iceberg’, an understanding of it requires an introduction into the history of the region. Though presenting such a detailed history is crucial, it is unfortunately outside the scope of this piece. I would recommend watching the award-winning documentary — Occupation 101, or going through this brief article on the same (I am sure there are much better resources widely available!).

However, for the sake of those who still couldn’t care enough to follow the links, what can be garnered in short (while, unfortunately, being quite simplistic) is that historically the Israeli state was formed, at least in part, by ethnic cleansing and occupation of the lands and homes of native Palestinians. This was done with the active collusion of Western powers like Britain and America, where there are large and powerful Israeli lobbies[1]. Following this, in order to keep a hold over the land and to keep the native population and eventually neighbouring Arab nations at bay, Israel has embarked on a policy of military violence, ‘disproportionate response’ and ‘terrorism’. This is demonstrated by the fact that Israel has received more condemnations from the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council and other human rights organisations than any other nation in history — all of which it has utterly ignored[2]. A large factor in its acting with total impunity is the unconditional support it receives from the United States government which has vetoed UN Security Council resolutions against Israel on repeated occasions. Israel now controls both the Palestinian regions of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Gaza is kept in a literal inhuman ‘siege’ with even essential humanitarian supplies restricted by Israel and constant killings and arrests of the people of Gaza[3]. On the other hand, in the West Bank, despite repeated condemnations from the UN and EU, Israel adopts a policy of constant land grabbing by building illegal settlements all over the region and subjecting the local population to horrific apartheid-like conditions[4].

In 2007, a group called Hamas was elected to power in the Gaza Strip after democratic elections, defeating the Fatah party which is representative of Palestinians in the West Bank. The election of Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by America, EU, Israel and a few other governments (but not so by others such as Russia, China, Turkey, etc), resulted in further sanctions by Israel and increased military action. The Hamas also repeatedly fires rockets into Israeli territory, which though they claim is ‘resistance to occupation’, is nevertheless aimed at terrorizing Israeli civilians. With Israel’s policy of ‘disproportionate response’, it has on repeated occasions bombed structures including hospitals and schools all over the Gaza Strip — as is the case in the most recent episode, where in response to the kidnap and murder of three Israeli settlers which Israel blamed on Hamas (though Hamas has never accepted it), Israel has launched a military offensive on Gaza killing more than 200 people (an overwhelming majority of whom are civilians), injuring almost 1000 and destroying countless buildings; while Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, killing one Israeli person. Add the role of media which has historically been accused of biasness in its covering of the story, the role of foreign governments such as Britain, America and the Arab League and the implications of the fate of this ‘holy land’ to the emotions and sentiments of people all over the world — and it is quite plain that this is not just any conflict.

Israel has constantly maintained that these actions have been in ‘self-defence’ and it has been unconditionally supported by leaders of America, Britain and other Western governments. Meanwhile, there have been countless protests from civil societies in many different countries over the years. And Israel’s actions have been condemned by leaders such as Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Noam Chomsky and Desmond Tutu. Also boycotts of Israeli goods have been called for all over the world; recently Stephen Hawking too decided to participate in the academic boycott of Israel[5]. Of late, many soldiers from the Israeli Defence Forces themselves have sensationally begun to speak out in distraught and disgust at the state’s military actions[6]. Miko Peled, the son of the ex-Israeli-general and grandson of one of the founding fathers of Israel himself; many respected Jewish academics; Jewish rabbis; and even holocaust survivors all condemn the Israeli state’s actions in the strongest possible terms.

India for Gaza

And so, what have the good people of our own country got to say about the ongoing inhuman violence and massacres of civilians in the Gaza strip since the past ten days? While the Modi government has still declined to give any strong statement, there is another appalling and despicable aspect to this scenario that has  been on display of late: the reactions of many Indians (for example see the disgusting posts by Subramaniam Swamy in its support). The Zionist ideology is one which is characterised by strong fascist tendencies, hyper-militarisation, breeding fear, hate and using corporate strength for political ends; open racism and apartheid against minorities[7], manic nationalist, and ruthless suppression of dissent[8]. All this is very similar to another right-wing ideology which has recently come to the fore in our own country. Ring any bells yet? It is hence hardly surprising, and still deeply disturbing that there are many particular Indians standing in support of Israel and even praising their war crimes. It is thus no wonder that many hardcore Hindutva activists and ideologues in our country seem to find a strong partner and ally in Israel (just as they found with the ideology of Hitler and Nazi-ism).

This perhaps may be expected from right-wing cronies and ideologues. But alarmingly there seems to be a silent apathy, or worse, a slowly growing quiet endorsement of Israel’s crimes by many young Indians, who otherwise do not subscriber to hard-line Hindutva or fascist ideologies (for example). Their support is of course explained by the economic benefit that the Indian state may reap by maintaining strong ties with Israel, especially in the realms of military technology and furthering strengthening its fortress of arms. Also, they view Israel as sort of ‘model state’, praising its hardline and disproportionate responses to it’s ‘enemies’ which they, in a nationalistic frenzy, would like India to emulate. When one takes the time to think of the implications of what this means — it is damning on us as a nation and as human beings.

The trivialisation by Indians, of such unimaginable violence, gross oppression, blatant genocide and disregard of international law and human values committed by Israel – in the face of economic and military interests troubles me deeply. Wishing for India to emulate Israel is a horrifying ambition. Ignorance and apathy to the situation can be understood — but this tendency to actively support international war-mongers just because ‘our ideologies are similar’, or ‘we may derive mutual benefit’ is one which is reserved for the dark ages of opportunistic war and imperialism. They have no place in our civilised, progressive Indian state. Such unethical support and selfish endorsement of an apartheid state is no less than criminal and shall forever stand as a blot on the values of our freedom fighters, the values of the Constitution and the values of humanity.

This, when many countries all over the world have been voicing their disgust openly and effectively! Chile has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv, while Scotland has openly offered medical services to all injured. Perhaps surprisingly, a few days ago, a large number of MPs from Britain itself have publicly called for a condemnation of Israel’s war crimes and imposition of sanctions. India though, as it has in the recent past, has chosen to stand beside many similar selfish Arab nations and other countries who find it too risky to their ‘national interest’ to speak out in response to this unprecedented humanitarian crisis. It is sad that today we have been trained to believe that nationalism is more important than basic humanity. We have all heard the saying “to be neutral in times of injustice, is to take the side of the oppressor”.

I urge us Indians to think: what do we hold more dear — human values of justice, respect, peace and equality or a hyper-national urge to do anything we can to become ‘more prosperous and powerful’ as a state? Does our conscience allow us to support and endorse inhumanity just because we derive benefit out of it? Supporting Israel and not having the will or interest to condemn its oppression and destruction is not at all dissimilar to supporting the local gunda when he commits crimes in our locality — just because we may have more ‘power’ and ‘wealth’ with his backing. India may even be further propelled along the path to be a military super-power by maintaining silence over Israel’s crimes — but I’m sure I speak for many decent human beings when I say that I for one would be very uncomfortable to be in a super-power like this, devoid of values and integrity, when they conflict with our interests.

Unfortunately this issue has been distorted by many into a seemingly ‘Muslim issue’. The culprit for such a distortion among other agents, must first lie with Muslims and Arabs, who have infused religion into a humanitarian crisis for building support and public pressure. Yet a brief reading of the history and present situation of the conflict will without doubt lead one to the conclusion that this is firstly and above all — a humanitarian catastrophe.

The choice which India has to make – of tacitly supporting Israel by maintaining a ‘tactical silence’ or showing solidarity to oppressed Palestinians by condemning the war-crimes and demanding an end on the inhuman siege — is above all, a choice of values, a choice of the ideals we wish to embody and the vision we have for our country. I believe that India, despite its flaws and gaping problems, is firmly on the path to development and making a better life for us Indians — yet do we want a country which is all-too-ready to take up the ensemble of present-day military ‘super-powers’ – of being an international bully, looking out primarily only for its own self-interests and further propelling the arms race by being a military giant? Or can we dare imagine a developed nation which stands for human values and co-operation above all, even when its selfish economic interests seem to be at stake? Such a vision may be termed ‘impractical’ by the short-sighted and the power-hungry ‘true nationalists’ — and it may well be in the present global context! Meanwhile, the world’s 4th largest military power is occupying and terrorizing people who have been kept under siege and denied basic amenities, let alone a military defence. It has recently started a ground invasion and reports are coming in that it has deployed nerve gas on Gazan streets, as usual with no international consequences. If Indians really do care about turning one of the particular visions of India mentioned above into ‘practicality’, we may well start with solidarity with Palestine.

References:

[1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]

You must be to comment.
  1. RISHI

    Auther explained the situation nicely, well written & strong arguments.
    But where is the reason for me to give a shit ?!
    Sounds like Israel is cleaning d gutter of the world and intellectuals complaining-
    the acid was too strong !!!
    India needs Israel, period.
    And the Palestinians ?… Well, we’ll talk about that when the author loses his loved ones in another 26/11.
    The Hamas ARE terrorists (like Taliban in 1990’s Afganistan) & the war is against them, even if we consider it with a discount, Israel claims a large % of the casualties are linked with Hamas.
    There have definitely been colaterals, but atleast Israel isn’t comitting genocide like the ISIS.
    And, USA made ONCE the mistake of supporting Afgans against USSR, it’s paying the price even today…. Its not gonna make the same blunder ever again, mark my words!!!
    It’s definitely fashionable to support gaza, AS LONG AS ISRAELIS TAKE THE HEAT OF HAMAS!

    PS: Fuck Hindutwa.

    1. vishalbheeroo

      Please refrain from speaking about things you don’t understand anything about. Your opinion sucks and who is the human being that can condone the killing of innocent children and women. Only beasts can. If this is not genocide, what is it? I see no difference between Hindutva terrorists and Israel..yeah, the poor people are not terrorists. So stop speaking like a bloody fucktard ignorant.

  2. Anirudh

    Well written…. Indeed sad that India refuses to officially voice its disgust at Israel’s actions …. India will be better served in the long and very long term if they publicly stand for peace and humanity

  3. Dave Nirens

    This author seems to be confused why Hamas is deemed by much of the Democratic Western world. But indeed the answer to his confusion is very simple. What defines a terrorist. By definition terrorists is an armed militia that target civilians in their struggle. Can this definition even be contested?
    For one Hamas does not accept the Sovereign state of a Israel, voted into existence by the UN. They call for the destruction in complete of the Jewish State. Israel faces an existential threat.
    Secondly it has been exactly 20 years since Hamas and other extreme elements had started their policy of suicide bombing.
    Men, women (even pregnant women). Young children and even animals have been used as carriers of these bombs.
    Thirdly Gaza was left to the Palestinians in 2005 and the people there voted in Hamas knowing their radical ideology. Since missiles have come into Israel indiscriminately aimed at population centers.
    And you honestly believe sir, this is not the act of terrorists.
    True civilians are being killed in Gaza but only because they are out there as targets by their own people. The Israeli Army does not indiscriminately target civilians.
    Personally I support a Palestinian State but not one run by these murderers of Jews and in particular of their own people.
    Shame on you.

  4. Shoaib Mohammed

    A well written article. Remaining silent on many important global issues has been a practice of India in the past as well. But when oppression, tyranny and injustice are clearly visible on the face of it, maintaining silence is a clear sign of hypocrisy or even low. Mere claiming ourselves to be the future super power of the world will not be of any use until we take firm stand against oppression.

  5. Nikhil nair

    I must confess that as a layman, I am more inclined to.the views ofof Dave Nirens. Israel must immediately declare a ceasefire but I think there is another side to this issue.

    1. Dave

      Nick hill, there seems to be many laymen on this issue. But at least you are open to hear a new perspective.
      I used to live in Israel on a kibbutz where we had many on our volunteer program coming from India. These people would have first hand experience of the nature of the people of Israel. There dreams and aspirations to live within secure borders in harmony with the people of there surroundings.
      There are many on this blog who will not listen to me because they been too far manipulated by a very cynical media.
      Let me list 10 points to state many untruths.
      1/Israel has no conflict with the Palestinian people but with Hamas a terrorist organisation.
      2/ Hamas does not seek peace but calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and to death all it’s Jewish inhabitants. This can be verified by looking at their charter.
      3/ many people talk about the occupation of Israel as being at fault to thus current crisis. But people are getting confused with the West Bank. Israel pulled out in 2005, all their military and the Jewish settlers( some had to be removed by force putting for the first time Jew against Jew).
      4/ this was a pathway to peace, first autonomy leading to eventual statehood. As an act of good faith Israel left all the houses and infrastructure, greenhouses. Israel was prepared to invest in the Palestinian people and train them with best Israeli technology had to offer. In return the Palestinians when given a choice they voted in Hamas, they burnt to the ground all that was left to them and started firing missiles .
      5/ Israels detractors say the Palestinians are suffering under air and naval siege. This was not always the case but only after Hamas came into power and declared their devil intentions. What would any country do when forced to defend their citizens.
      6/ The claims that people of Gaza do not have the most basic of living conditions. Much of their basic services such as electricity comes from Israel. Gaza gets more money from the UN Refugee fund than any other place on earth in total disproportion to the number of refugees around the world, including Palestinian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. This money has been redirected to make their leadership filthy rich. They used the money to build tunnels to smuggle in weapons. How else could there be so many missiles fired at Israel.
      7) they say people of Gaza have no access to basic medical facilities. Daily now and even before this latest crisis dozens of trucks of humanitarian aid is allowed through the Gaza border. Hundred of Palestinians from Gaza, the West Bank and now Syrian refugees are hospitalised in Israeli hospitals. I have a good friend in Jerusalem who treats Jews and Palestinians with cancer, He serves all people equally.
      8)many say that Israelis do not want peace. In a survey taken in January 64% of Israelis and 53% of Palestinians support two states living side by side. I do not have the specific figures for Gazan Palestinians. Palestinians were offered a state on several occasions and have refused any form of compromise. Most notable was in 1948 with the portion plan to give a Jewish State and an Arab State. Then there was no Palestinian state but Arabs and Jews living ion the land (like India) under a British Mandate.
      8) Israel is called an apartheid state. What is apartheid? State sponsored discrimination. Whether the territories are disputed or occupied is irrelevant there cannot be apartheid by definition. Concerning the Arabs of Israel they participant in the most vibrant democracy of the Middle East.. They have equal votes, they have members of parliament, they sit In the courts. They go to universities. The women are free to take part in society in ways they cannot in most Arab States.
      9/Israel is blamed for being disproportionate. In a every situation where there is a trained military machine such as Israel fighting against an inferior force numbers will be disproportionate.
      Hundreds of thousands of Americans were killed in WW2 compared to millions of Germans. Does this give the GermNs the moral high ground.
      But with the case here it is even more difficult as you have a terrorist group who seek to maximise civilian casualties. They went into this knowing they can’t win militarily. But it was always about the PR and they are winning that. The media had played right into Hamas hands. They will win more sympathy, get more money, bring more missiles in and this will be repeated in a few more years.
      10) Israel should take more care not to harm civilians is another claim.
      The growing death toll amongst Palestinian civilians is truly a tragedy.
      However not all the photos shown have been verified and many are coming from the Syrian crisis. One particular BBC reporter even admitted his error. The video went viral on Utube and the damage had already been done.
      Also never before in the history of modern warfare has an army taken so many measures to warn them to evacuate the places where terrorists and weapons were found to be hiding, in houses, schools, mosques and even hospitals. In many cases terrorists were allowed to go free when it became obvious civilians were inside.
      There have been accidents. Israeli is not perfect. But ask yourself what you would expect your govt to do if fired upon by your neighbours?

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