FROM INDIA TO PALESTINE
Essays in Solidarity
Edited by Githa Hariharan
210 pages; Rs 350
This anthology of 14 chapters, which consist of contributions by extremely knowledgeable academic activists, has focused attention on the sufferings of Palestinians and the aggressive policies that Israel pursues against Palestine. The fact that a section of Indian academic activists continues to show concern for the cause of Palestinians in territories occupied by the Jewish state of Israel is worth underlining. This is especially noteworthy since the plight of the Palestinians has been completely abandoned by the international community, including neighbouring Arab states. If Palestinians are suffering under Israeli occupation, it is because the Israeli state's aggressive militarist activities, which are in thrall to rich and powerful Jewish lobbies, are fully supported by the West.
The continuing interest in the Palestinian cause from Indian academics should not come as a surprise, since the Gandhi-Nehru-led Indian national movement had on its agenda active support for the anti-colonial struggle of other colonies, including the Palestinians and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.
As A K Ramakrishnan points out in his essay, "Gandhi on Zionism and the Palestine question", Gandhi "consistently rejected the cultural and religious nationalism of the Zionists". Further, a "uni-religious justification for claiming a nation state as in the case of Zionism did not appeal" to Gandhi. He "...rejected the idea of Jewish state in the "Promised land" by pointing out that the "Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract".
Each of the 14 contributors builds on this Gandhian legacy and highlights how orphaned the Palestinians have become in the 21st century. Githa Hariharan, who has edited this series, informs us that during a 50-hour visit by US President Barack Obama to Israel and occupied Palestinian territories, Mr Obama's real purpose was to "connect with the Israeli people" and he told Israeli youth in Jerusalem, "I believe your future is bound to ours".
Israel is well protected and militarily fully supported by the western countries. Israel's victory in the war of 1967 against Arabs led to the occupation by Israelis of Palestinian territories of West Bank and the entire Gaza strip. Israel's position against Palestinians and the occupied territories was strengthened in 1979 at the Camp David accords, when Americans managed to broker successfully the Israel-Egypt peace treaty with the Egyptian dictator Anwar Sadat. This so-called western project of ensuring peace between Israel and Palestine - without addressing the basic question of the illegality of Israel and its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories - was followed by the Oslo peace accords in 1995.
Thus, as Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam point out in their powerful essay, "Everyday occupation and post-Zionist futures", Jews humiliate Palestinians every day with impunity. They write that whenever Palestinians enter their country from abroad, they have to get a visa. They write of "[t]he street in the Old City of the Jerusalem that is believed to be the path Jesus walked, carrying his cross on the way to his crucifixion. The Palestinians walked that tortuous path each time they come back home". Further, "even inside the country, Palestinians always require special permits issued by Israel to enter Jerusalem". In a very important contribution titled "Where is Indians' Palestine?", Sunaina Maira talks about the real situation from "below" when a young Israeli asks her, "You are Indian right. So you are not Muslim", and Palestinians face racism and interrogation as a daily routine at the hands of the Israeli occupiers.
It is not surprising that, unlike the Gandhi-Nehru legacy of non-alignment, anti-racism and anti-apartheid, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-led Hindu fundamentalist Sangh Parivar, which follows a policy of religion-based politics, has always championed the Israeli theocratic state in secular India. But the beginning of 1990s witnessed a sea change both globally and within India. That was around the time when President George H W Bush declared the end of the Cold War and the birth of a New World Order led by America, the sole military and economic global superpower. India jumped on the bandwagon of the America-led uni-polar world order and recognised the Israeli Jewish state and announced that India was willing to do business with Israel. The Indian revolution, thus, was betrayed by its own children.
Prabir Purkayastha, in his chapter titled "The military fulcrum of strategic relations: India and Israel-Palestine", makes the well-known point that India has become the largest importer of arms of the most sophisticated nature from Israel - it has even replaced Russia, which was traditionally the number one supplier of arms to India.
Political changes in India and at the international level have "orphaned" the Palestinians. Their greatest tragedy is that the Palestinians' national liberation movement is characterised by the oppressors as a "terrorist activity". If India can abandon its own great tradition of standing firmly for the cause of oppressed nationalities, it is too much to expect progressive ideas from Arab rulers, who are authoritarian militarists and rule their own societies in the name of - and on behalf of - Allah and America. The clear message of this edited volume is that Indians in 2014 have completely given up value-based policies, such as standing in support of Palestinian nationalism, and are all the poorer for it.