Perhaps at the outset, I should make it clear that I am a quarter Jewish. As such, I feel I owe it to my Jewish grandmother to uphold the highest ethical standards when it comes to Israel or any other country including my motherland, India. If you see that as an act of a turncoat, then you will also have to condemn some of the finest rabbis in the US and all over the world for being loyal to moral values and not to nationalism or my-country-right-or-wrong as many of the Indian political leaders have been insisting on.
Over the last few decades, along with some others, I too have occasionally wondered why the Palestinians didn’t try out Gandhiji’s non-violent civil disobedience tactics the way Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela did to bring the moral pressure of world opinion on earlier Israeli leaders and thus attempt to secure separate statehood and freedom for Palestine. I used the word “earlier” advisedly because however intransigent Yitzhak Rabin or Menachem Begin may have been, they were not immune to the notion of mutual self-benefit.
In the last week, the Palestinians have suddenly changed their strategy and adopted Gandhian methods and created what can only be called a non-violent resistance movement in the Gaza strip. One shadowy but central question in the background still remains unanswered: To what do we owe this radical change in strategy? Is this change due to Fatah and Hamas having genuinely reconciled? Whatever the answer, how long they will be able to sustain this pacifist stance is a fraught question, but they are already paying an appalling price for it. In retaliation for these peaceful demonstrations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government have ordered the Israeli military to hit back with naked bullets and killed 29 people and severely wounded over a thousand.
As is the new trend, the most favoured targets of the oppressor are journalists. Yasser Murtaza was wearing a vest with “PRESS” written in large capital letters. That should have ensured his safety but it only made him an easy target.
The lady officer in-charge of the army’s PR department has been vociferously claiming that the Gazans have launched violent attack after attack despite the fact that every single one of the bloody confrontations is on camera, cellphone or otherwise, and none of the Palestinians is carrying any weapons. The carnage continues uninhibited regardless of the fact that the hospitals and doctors have run into acute shortages of drugs and medical equipment. Which means that the death toll will rise exponentially in the next few weeks.
For a couple of days now, I have been wondering who Netanyahu reminds one of till finally this morning the coin dropped. He is blood brother, perhaps the unrecognised identical twin, of Hitler. At least in one respect, they shared the same objective: Come what may, get rid of an entire people. If one reads Vaibhav Purandare on Hitler and India, one realises that Gandhiji was totally out of his depth when it came to understanding Hitler. He failed to grasp the sheer depth and magnitude of the evil that Hitler stood for. The same must be said about most folks who have been watching the Israeli prime minister.
He has been converting the thin, highly-compacted strip called Gaza into a deadly battlefield. Water has always been a premium item in Israel. In the best of times, Palestinians barely got enough to survive. It’s infinitely worse in Gaza. Yiftah Shapir, head of the Military Balance Project at Tel Aviv University’s National Security Studies department said that Israeli planes bombed the Gaza strip 4,900 times — that’s about 150 times a day — in response to Hamas’s 100 rockets in all on Israeli territory in 2014. After pulverising Gaza, Netanyahu has not permitted almost any rebuilding.
Nobody can enter or leave Gaza even for work without the okay of the Israeli authorities. In truth, no Gazan can do a damn thing without the express permission of the government. There are hardly any industries left and consequently very, very few jobs. The Gazans live perpetually on a semi-starvation diet. The fishermen are not allowed to fish beyond a limit of three miles, which means that their daily catch is a joke. The medical facilities are at rock bottom. Education is an endangered species. Welcome to Gaza. Oops, sorry you will have to first seek the permission of the ruling bosses.
While the Führer promoted the bogus doctrine of the Aryan super-race, Netanyahu has never had any qualms insisting that the Jews have been the sole inhabitants of the land called Israel for the last 3,000 years and that Palestinians are the illegitimate occupiers. The only difference between the two unlikely twins is that while the Führer planned the Holocaust on the quiet at the Wannsee Conference and executed it in various concentration camps with such finesse over several years that few Germans and outsiders knew about it; the Israeli PM does it in the full glare of the media machine, claiming that he and his people are the victims of non-stop, violent Palestinian attacks.
It is incomprehensible how a people who had suffered a holocaust, which included horrendous starvation, degradation and displacement and took the lives of six million Jews, have been so relentlessly wiping out the very people who should have been their fellow-citizens and partners. Let’s not forget that it was the British who gifted the land originally belonging to the Ottoman Empire during World War I to the Jews. It might come as a shock to most Israelis and the rest of the world that the gifted land had only 3 per cent Jews.
It took a while for the world to digest the enormity of the genocide and for Israelis to say “never again”. It, however, fell to one of the most insightful Jewish scholars to ask an astoundingly simple question: Never again for whom? The Israelis alone or for the whole world? Obviously as far as most Israelis are concerned, “never again” applies only to themselves.
While the European community has been critical of Netanyahu and the head of the UN has been outspoken about Israeli duplicity and culpability, the International Criminal Court has been tracking the violence on the Gaza border. As expected, the response of the Arab nations to the terrible fate and suffering of the Palestinian has been less than tepid. As to the recently anointed Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, he has for the first time announced support for an Israeli state.
And what about our own country? The Palestinian freedom struggle has so many common features with the one that Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad fought along with over 1,000,00 Indians, it would be but natural for us to see Palestinians as our brothers and raise our voices in support of them. But when PM Netanyahu visited India just a few weeks ago, both he and our PM went overboard to declare an undying friendship.
The one and only country in the world which can snub Netanyahu and not just stop this current murderous campaign, but ensure that the two-state idea is boldly and fairly imagined and executed is, of course, America. But the Jewish lobby in the US is so strong that both Bush Jr and Obama played it safe and both Bush Jr and Obama looked on while new settlements were built on land blatantly appropriated from the Palestinians. But at least there was still the patently tenuous talk of the two-state proposition whose precondition was that Jerusalem would never be a political hub.
Then Donald Trump was elected President. If this twitter president-ship was not calamitous enough, Trump appointed his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner Chief Advisor to the President, especially regarding Israel. Well, before the world could take its next breath, the President declared that the US would move its embassy to Jerusalem, the holiest of cities for the three communities of Israel — Jews, Muslims and Christians. Amen. That was the end of the two-state solution.
In truth, it looks as if for the Palestinians, and the Gazans in particular, there might be sympathy in a few quarters but zero concrete help. Perhaps God alone can help the desperately beleaguered Palestinians. Or am I underestimating Netanyahu and his rabid supporters?
Nagarkar’s most recent novel is Jasoda