Overlooking Palestine, Embracing Israel

Overlooking Palestine editorial

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a master of a rare form of messaging that entails either doing things that befit his ideology without stating as much in words or using words where he consciously stops short of political incorrectness. Examples of the second kind include referring to a former chief election commissioner as James Michael Lyngdoh without uttering the word “Christian” and calling the then dictator of Pakistan “Miyan” Musharraf — to stress the point that the general is a Muslim — without naming the community of the latter. When it comes to action, ignoring Palestine, and breaking the Indian diplomatic convention of siding with it in the West Asia conflict, during his recently concluded visit to Israel — the first by an Indian prime minister — is the latest demonstration of Modi’s messaging style. Here, he did not say in Parliament or on other platforms that this was a paradigm shift he was about to bring to India’s West Asia Policy; he just did it. While communalism cannot be condoned, even when it was the adversary that initiated communalism in the discourse, it was time India decisively brought an end to the Nehruvian legacy of joining forces with the losing party in any dispute and issuing sermons from atop a pulpit with the visualisation of an ideal world. More so when the party we befriended, bending over backward, has had a history of unreliability, if not downright treachery. For all the goodwill the Indian political leadership assumed it enjoyed with Palestine, the latter always threw its weight behind the comity of Islamic nations in resolutions passed against India on the issue of Kashmir.

Even while judging the scenario from a neutral standpoint, one cannot justify the terrorist means by which Palestinians (also Jordanians, Egyptians and the whole Arab world) by and large seek to win back the Strip and West Bank from Israeli control. Leaders from the Congress and communist stables in India, who cried foul even as the prime minister royally overlooked Palestine last week, should be reminded that the Palestinian or Muslim is not restricted to a few plots of the land where Israel’s writ runs. Muslims across the world believe that the very existence of Israel is immoral or illegal or both — owing to its political creation in 1948 rather than a natural evolution from a nation to a country. They wantonly out the part of history that would explain how the Jews migrated or got scattered across the West while the geography of Jerusalem and surrounding areas are indeed the place of their origin, whether or not one subscribes to the Torah where God promised the land to 3 patriarchs of Judaism. The Indian left supports, in effect, the blood thirst of Muslims in wishing Israel away — notwithstanding the severe drubbing they receive whenever they fight the country of Jews united or disunited — to humour the Muslim vote-bank at home with the knowledge that this is one community where even the rank illiterate, who have no idea whatsoever as to where Israel is located on the world map, get agitated over the question.

Appreciating the new Indian leadership that dares to break the sick and silly convention, the Benjamin Netanyahu administration and local media alike rolled out the red carpet for the Indian prime minister. Diplomatic protocols of invitations gave way to the personal warmth of reception that translated to a bouquet of deals for India. When the opposition realised its pitch for Palestine was leaving nobody impressed, it quickly moved the goalpost, now calling the Israelis “wily Baniyas” rather than friends. They missed the target again; India gets from Israel technology of American standards at a fraction of the American price. India-Israel relations suit the philosophy of political science too. Netanyahu rightly remarked that when he looked eastward, India was the first democracy he saw (all the intervening states being monarchies, tinpot dictatorships or unstable political formations). The inability of the opposition to latch on to one right reason even in the matter of India’s foreign policy is yet another cause for its increasing irrelevance in the polity. The people of the country have welcomed and embraced the change; they had, in fact, asked for it in 2014.

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