Government of India must stand up for Palestine
New Delhi, 17 July 2014: The murderous attack of Israel on Gaza that began on 3 July is like all Israel’s attacks on Palestine without justification and lacking in proportion. There is no evidence that the three Israeli teenagers who went missing on 12 June and whose bodies were found on 30 June were killed by Hamas. In the 18 intervening days the Israel Security Agency rounded up several hundred Hamas members as persons responsible for the disappearance and even razed the houses of some of them to the ground. On 1 July, when the Hamas retaliated with rocket fire in response to which the Israel Defence Force aerially bombed 34 locations in the Gaza strip razing parts of northern Gaza to the ground.
In the last 14 years, of 8,166 conflict-related deaths recorded by an Israeli Human Rights Organisation, 7,065 have been of Palestinians and 1,101 of Israelis – which means for every 15 people killed in the conflict, 13 are Palestinian and 2 are Israeli. Of these, since January 2005, of 4,006 people killed, 168 have been Israeli and 3,838 Palestinian – which means that, since January 2005, only 4 percent of those killed have been Israeli, and 96 percent Palestinian. The dramatic fall in Israeli deaths in this period is because of Israel’s decision to increase the size and number of walls separating Israeli and Palestinian territory. This separation was of course, despite UN efforts, accompanied by aggressive expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory and then protecting these settlements with walls.
In the present crisis, according to Gaza medical officials 195 Palestinians, including at least 150 civilians, among them 31 children, have been killed on the other hand 1 Israeli has been killed. Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system has intercepted 20 Hamas projectiles, with no casualty, while Israel has mobilised troops and threatened a ground invasion of Gaza that is home to 1.8 million Palestinians. The conflict impacts Palestinians and Israelis far beyond just conflict deaths, but even these official statistics show how extremely disproportionate the impact of the conflict is.
The statement of Ms Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs, in the Rajya Sabha, that India has “diplomatic ties with both nations. Any discourteous reference to any friendly country can impact our relations with them” is in complete negation of the disproportionately tilted balance of power between Israel and Palestine. This reflects the BJP government’s position on Indo-Israel relations. It is however not surprising from a government led by the architects of the Gujarat genocide.
The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, was one of the first to telephone Mr. Narendra Modi to congratulate him on the victory of the BJP. Mr. Netanyahu is reported to have told a cabinet meeting that there was a “clear expression of the desire to deepen and develop economic ties with the State of Israel” from Mr. Modi in the course of the telephone conversation.
Israel’s support to India in the Kargil conflict during the last NDA government’s term had built a relationship which has seen defence cooperation between the two countries registering a significant high. India constitutes the largest market for the Israeli defence industry, and Israel is the second largest supplier of arms to India, after Russia. According to 2014 estimates, India accounts for $1 to $1.5 billion of Israel’s $7 billion total defence exports. The two countries have also been negotiating a Free Trade Agreement for the last several years which is likely to be concluded in this government’s term.
The Modi government in Gujarat continued this relation and furthered it. Israeli agriculture, pharmaceutical, alternative energy and information technology companies have flourished in Gujarat. This isn’t incidental: Mr. Modi’s campaign was based on replicating his economic success in Gujarat on a national scale which includes the successful tie-up with Israel. The Indo-Israel relation is more than economic and defence cooperation but entrenched in advancing the ideology of Hindutva that is articulated in direct opposition to Islam and hence in opposition to the nationhood of Palestine and the inalienable right of Palestinian peoples to the right to self determination. The last NDA government’s national security advisor, Brajesh Mishra in an address in 2003 in the US called for a “viable alliance” against international terrorism and the development of “multi-lateral mechanisms” to counter it. Israel in response had said that an “unwritten and abstract axis” between the U.S., India and Israel to combat terrorism. This is a foreign policy of the core politics for a society driven by religious majoritarianism and bigotry that labels everyone outside it or opposed to it as a terrorist.
We call upon the Government of India to:
- Respect the right to nationhood and the right to self determination of the Palestinian peoples and towards this end issue a strong condemnation of the illegal actions of the Israel government and defence forces and to work for an immediate ceasefire by the Israel Defence Force,
- Respect and work towards the realisation of the Fortelaza Declaration which it has just signed at the Sixth Brics Summit with regard to rights of the peoples’ of Palestine and in all other matters,
- Respect the democratic spirit of this country and accede to the request of various parties in parliament to an open debate on the Palestinian question and the present attack by Israel, and
- Respect the wishes of the vast majority of Indians for a plural and democratic country and world by ensuring that it does not promote one religion, faith or belief over others at home and is not party in any way to promoting it abroad too.