Marriage made on earth

In the backdrop of the Israeli-Indian alliance are realities of occupation, suppression and misery.

Written by Rajmohan Gandhi | Published:July 11, 2017 12:09 am
modi in israel, modi israel visit, narendra modi, benjamin netanyahu, reuven rivlin. israel, india israel relations, india isreal ties, india israel agreements, india israel history, latest news, india news, indian express news Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu during his recent visit to Israel. (Source:PTI)

Two things I cannot banish easily from my mind: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remark that the marriage between Israel and India was made in heaven, and an article on Shylock in the latest New Yorker.

Stephen Greenblatt, the article’s author, teaches at Harvard but learnt his English literature at Yale, where in 1961 he was denied a research assistantship for being a Jew. Orally telling the 18-year-old that Yale’s Jewish students were genetically programmed to “wheedle” money out of the university, a financial-aid officer rejected his application.

Goaded by the slur-soaked rebuff, Greenblatt went on to become one of the world’s best-known literature scholars and a student also of ethnic and religious apartheid. His New Yorker article brings to life the segregated Venice of the period when Shakespeare was alive. It also touches on the cruelties that Europe’s Jews faced in preceding and succeeding centuries.

I must not steal from the article. Those who can access it will obtain a brilliant analysis of Shylock and of how Shakespeare’s immortal character found a life beyond what the playwright may have intended, and beyond what The Merchant of Venice plot required.

Pointing out, moreover, that some Christian writers in 17th century-Europe articulated the misery of victimised Jews, Greenblatt also acknowledges that today “other ethnic groups and religions have replaced Jews as the focus” of the sort of hostility he ran into in 1961.

The story of today’s Israel is wider than that of Netanyahu, but most in India are unaware of that width. Not many know that American as well as Israeli Jews are among the sharpest critics of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Or that Israel’s oldest newspaper, Haaretz, is relentless in its exposure of Arab hardships in Israel and in the “Palestinian territory”, where Israeli settlements have taken over the highest and best lands, in the process almost halving the Palestinian area.

A recent Haaretz issue underlines the inhumanity, illegality and difficulty in the Israeli attempt to convert Jerusalem, the eastern half of which was captured by Israel in 1967, into a homogeneous Jewish city. Despite new (and internationally unlawful) Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the decay of the city’s Arab sectors, nearly 30 per cent in Jerusalem are Arabs, who, however, are not permitted to vote for the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), unlike Arabs in other parts of Israel, who vote.

Given such realities, the notion of a heaven-made Israeli-Indian alliance sticks in one’s throat. A down-to-earth partnership between Indian and Israeli citizens loyal to human dignity would be better, if also more courageous. And one asks if drones and other purchases would require India’s silence on the question of Israel’s treatment of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who signed numerous MoUs in Israel and was the first Indian leader to give Palestine a miss while visiting the area, refrained from saying that India would recognise Jerusalem as an exclusively Israeli or Jewish city, or that India’s embassy in Israel would be shifted to Jerusalem, for centuries sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The world is not yet so “pragmatic” as to produce a musical of an Israeli-Indian romance where a screen of roses and an anti-terrorist wall combine to hide the realities of occupation, suppression and misery.

Tragically, terrorism is part of the real world that Jews and Arabs inhabit in Israel, Palestine and the neighbourhood, as it is part of real worlds elsewhere. But it was not wholly absent in other freedom movements that we honour. Historians can point to periods in the 20th century when “terrorism” was a nice word in the vocabulary of Hindu nationalists in India and Jewish nationalists in Israel.

Disharmony among Palestinian leaders is also another unhelpful reality. Still, some Arabs and Jews work together to seek nonviolent solutions for the Palestine/Israel question, even if their impact is not as loud as we might like. The security that walls, drones and missiles provide for Israel from one tense day to the next cannot match the security that can come if its Arab neighbours choose to become Israel’s friends.

A pipe dream? Even if it is, I wish Prime Minister Modi had given expression to something like it while he was there. Even within India, what future is there if we conclude that bitterness between divided neighbours is an unalterable and permanent reality? Doesn’t every family find out that putting hurtful incidents to one side is the only way to go forward?

In any case, India becoming a major power will not excite the world unless India’s voice is raised in favour of reconciliation and justice, which are two sides of a single coin.

Utopian? Perhaps. On the other hand, what would you call an Indo-Israeli honeymoon on a magic carpet that floats above dispossessed and ordered-about Palestinians? To me that would be a disgraceful betrayal of those in whose laps we were raised. Even worse, it would be a slamming down of our consciences.

The writer is a historian. His latest work is ‘Why Gandhi still matters’

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  1. S
    Sunny Cal
    Jul 12, 2017 at 2:45 am
    Israel and Palestine lands have been Jewish home land for over 5000 years. The Muslim invaders who drove out the original Jewish inhabitants are the real occupiers.
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    1. H
      hihihi
      Jul 12, 2017 at 2:06 am
      What else can you expect from a couple of vile murderers?
      Reply
      1. L
        loveisreal
        Jul 12, 2017 at 12:55 am
        I am more happy (perhaps Hindus,my brother's shikhs ,Jains and Buddhist s) isrealis s and kicks the radical , inhuman character Muslims from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, syrea or almost Arabs and occupies Jews god promised land.i like there way of treating and keeping these radical Muslim VB people under their footwear.
        Reply
        1. E
          Ehsan Habib
          Jul 12, 2017 at 12:25 am
          If you want to dig history of sub continent, then perhaps we can start with the arrival of Aryans and their brutal occupation of the land where they became the children born from the head of Bhagwan and the original people were down cast from feet of him. Occupation is the one word that finds common ground for the Indian and Israel's mind set and the resistance to that occupation, just like the British called the freedom fighters of Sub continent, are terrorists. With sweet coated words of development and ill carving from the history both occupation try to find reason for the inhuman atrocity.
          Reply
          1. S
            Sunny Cal
            Jul 12, 2017 at 2:48 am
            There is no proof or evidence of any Aryan invasion. It is a cooked up lie by the leftists to divide Indians.
            Reply
          2. R
            Rohit Chopra
            Jul 12, 2017 at 12:07 am
            A absolutely useless article written by someone who is assured of security of life and property, and livelihood, unmindful of how many peace loving ancient civilizations and cultures have been exterminated by a totalitarian and militaristic Islam in the world, and how the Abdalis, Ghaznavis and Gauris, Aurungzebs have destroyed India itself, this shameless tribe will continue to seek personal glory. Why don't you wander into areas held by ISIS, Boko Haram, Daesh or Kashmir and preach peace to Muslims?
            Reply
            1. I
              Idrees
              Jul 12, 2017 at 1:58 am
              Boko haram , Daesh and IsIs are ingenuine stoog organizations set up by secret services of Israel , US. Ordinary hard working Muslims hate terrorism and condemn any act of terrorism on innocent civilians.
              Reply
            2. L
              l k
              Jul 11, 2017 at 11:42 pm
              Rajmohan Gandhi murdabad. Leftism murdabad,Gandhis murdabad, Congress murdabad, reservation murdabad, subsidies freebies murdabad, farm loan waivers murdabad.
              Reply
              1. L
                l k
                Jul 11, 2017 at 11:37 pm
                The leftists illeberal had their time romancing the Palestinians. Now make way for us on the right to show our love and respect for the Israelis. If this socialist Gandhi becomes the vice president this is what he will do- wear a secular cap, say yes to reservations, freebies, subsidies, attend leftists parties, condemn BJP governments, love minorities.
                Reply
                1. R
                  rishi
                  Jul 11, 2017 at 11:35 pm
                  India has never ignored Palestinian concerns......neither did Modi's visit to Israel conflict in any way with that stance..... fact, with Modi's personal proximity to the Israei leadership, India stands a better chance of negotiating Palestine-Israel Peace Process....also India now has an increased stake in bilateral trade with Israel which only means greater reason for India to ensure there is peace in the disputed region. BJP-haters will continue to rant....it is unfortunate that small-minded people are carrying themselves as 'intellectuals worthy of commenting on Govt.'s functioning just because one is a g.a.n. d .h .i.....how silly can that be.
                  Reply
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