Eyeless in Gaza, clueless in India

August 3, 2014

the following text was edited somewhat (and as usual with copywriters, garbled a bit), and a wholly inappropriate subclause (“why we shouldn’t care”) was added to the title by firstpost, who published that version on july 24th, 2014, at http://www.firstpost.com/world/eyeless-gaza-clueless-india-shouldnt-care-1632867.html

here’s my original copy:

Eyeless in Gaza, clueless in India


Rajeev Srinivasan on why India’s astonishing vote in the UN HRC against Israel was wrong


After the robust (and in my opinion, correct) refusal to discuss the Gaza issue in Parliament, it was shocking that the Indian government voted for a Pakistani-drafted resolution in the UN Human Rights Commission condemning Israel (alone). Among other things, by calling on some old UN resolutions against Israel, it damages India’s case regarding the spurious (Pakistani-inspired and Arab-supported) resolutions on Kashmir.


Maybe it was a result of the Old Guard in the Indian Foreign Service sabotaging the NDA government’s positions: for, after all, as a former diplomat told me, “Israel is used to India voting against them, and don’t mind; they are aware of the compulsions India faces”. Nevertheless, abstention would have been much wiser.


It is true that Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from the Israeli bombardment of their territory. Nevertheless, India voting against Israel, or Indian politicians wasting taxpayer money by disrupting Parliament over Gaza, are nonsensical for several reasons. It is evident that the Congress, in particular, is doing the shouting in Parliament just as an excuse to disrupt it yet again and to get some brownie points with militant Muslims as a fringe-benefit.


First, the current Palestinian troubles are self-inflicted, as there is no point in provoking Israel and then complaining about their reaction. Second, the refugee status and grievances of Palestinians can easily be solved by wealthy Arabs themselves if only they were willing to resettle them in their vast territories. Third, there is the specious argument that Indians have in the past supported Palestine, and therefore they must do so now.


Fourth, the prevailing mythology about Palestinians suggest that they are somehow uniquely downtrodden and worthy of support. Fifth, by implying that the Palestinian cause is supported ipso facto by all Muslim Indians, the latter are stereotyped and ghettoized. Sixth, there are no major Indian interests at play in the Israel-Gaza conflict, and therefore India should only give it the attention it deserves.


At its root, the problem is the Arab refusal to grant Israel the very right to exist, and their insistence that Israel and Jews must vacate the land. This stand does not allow for any compromise, and causes all the bloodshed and violence. Clearly, Israel is the aggrieved party on this front.


It is also easy to forget what caused the current round of bloodletting. It was the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by the militant Palestinian group Hamas. They could have anticipated that this would lead to harsh Israeli reprisals (that is Israel’s habit); and in fact they  probably did. They wanted large civilian casualties in Gaza as a stick to beat Israel with, and presumably a means to generate more jihadis against Israel.


Moreover, it is evident that Hamas intended to cause as many civilian casualties as possible. To this end, they hid rocket batteries in civilian areas, using civilians as a human shield and daring the Israelis to shoot back; which the Israelis did, in the interest of protecting Israeli civilians. Furthermore, a large number of the rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza fell inside Gaza itself, and one of them knocked out power lines supplying Gaza.


So it’s fair to say that Hamas, if its goal was to protect the lives and property of Palestinian civilians, actually shot itself in the foot. Of course, that likely was not its goal, and it may well have intended to create a cause célèbre and the usual outrage among the thinly-veiled anti-Jew types, especially in parts of Europe: we have seen the usual anti-Jew riots in Paris.


In a way, the incident is reminiscent of the Godhra train outrage: the intent was to create riots that would hurt Muslims, preferably all over India. And just as then, the habitual rage-boys have forgotten the root cause (the burning alive of 59 pilgrims then or the murder of three teens now), and all that remains is the ritualistic chant of “Muslims being victimized”, which of course they milked dry for 12 years in Gujarat.


The entire issue of Palestinian victimhood is a travesty in that Palestinians, traditionally the best-educated of the Arabs, could easily have been absorbed into the empty and rich oil kingdoms of West Asia without much trouble. Indeed, much of the original Palestine is now in the kingdom of Jordan (which admittedly doesn’t have any oil, but is fairly peaceful, as the Alawite monarchs keep a leash on Palestinians). If the Saudis, Qataris, Kuwaitis, et al had wanted to emancipate the Palestinians, they could have re-settled them in their own countries and helped them to prosper.


Incidentally, that is exactly what has been expected of Kashmiri Pundits ethnically cleansed from Jammu and Kashmir. It is assumed that over time they will get absorbed into Indian territory where they are living in refugee camps – despite noises being made about sending them back, Muslim militants and even the government of J&K suggest that there is no right to return for the Pundits. So why is there some sacrosanct right to return for Palestinians?


And let us also note that this is not theoretical. Just when the Gaza outrage was reaching its crescendo in India, the Amarnath Yatra was attacked, 300 tents set on fire, and a number of people killed. How come there is no outrage about this in either the Indian media or in Parliament? Do Hindu pilgrims have any rights in Jammu and Kashmir?


I was amused by the notion, attributed by the Hindustan Times to Shashi Tharoor, that since India had, from the time of Nehru, always supported the Palestinians, it should continue to do so (and presumably strongly condemn the Israelis). Apart from the dubious value of an Indian resolution condemning anybody – no one outside India pays the slightest attention to whatever the Indian Parliament says – I find this line of reasoning hilarious.


This is like saying, “We’ve been defecating in public since Nehru’s days, and therefore we must continue to do so, QED”. Really? Most people in the world have discovered sanitation, and the question to ask would be why we haven’t, the answer to which is uncomfortable for the Congress. To digress for a moment, Indians are far and away the world’s greatest public defecators, according to a grim chart in The Economist. Not to say that The Economist is the last word, but still, this is a record that we don’t need.


The notion that the Palestinians are the only, or even the most, oppressed people in the world, is downright ridiculous. The total number of Palestininans is only a few millions, not much more than the 400,000 terrorized, ethnically cleansed Kashmiri Pundits rotting away in refugee camps for 25 years. But from the oceans of ink spilled on the Palestinians, you’d think they were uniquely subject to oppression.


Think of the Tibetans, for that matter: victims of genocide by forced sterilization and abortions, and the systematic destruction of their civilization. Or, if you want something current, Iraq’s Assyrian Christians, given an ultimatum a few days ago by ISIS: convert, flee or die. Their houses are marked with a curlicued Arabic “N” for “Nazarene”. Why is there no debate in Parliament about this, or the mayhem in Libya, or the virtual partition of Syria? Yes, that’s right, it’s none of our business. Well, similarly, Gaza isn’t, either.


It is convenient for some in India to make noise about Palestine. I found it amusing when the local Communists once came to my dad’s doorstep in Kerala demanding donations for the Palestinians. On the one hand, I knew, and they knew I knew, that any money I gave them would flow not to some Arabs, but to the local tavern. On the other hand, I asked them, when exactly the Palestinians did stand with India, for instance in our disputes with Pakistan, so that we were morally obligated to reciprocate? The comrades didn’t have a convincing answer.


The Congress are using the Palestinians as a proxy to demonstrate to Muslim Indians how much they care about Muslims. This should be exposed as hogwash by Muslim Indians. Far more than the emancipation of Arabs, it is their own progess that Muslim Indians should be worried about: if we are to believe the Sachar Commission (which is by the way dubious), Muslim Indians are in bad shape. So when the Congress cries about Palestinians, the Muslim Indian should remind them that charity begins at home: what has the Congress done for Muslims in India?


In fact, more Indians of all religions probably die avoidable deaths from disease, malnutrition, lack of sanitation, and poverty every year than all those who have died in all wars in West Asia in fifty years. This is what the Congress and Communists (their partners in UPA-1) should be embarrassed about, not Gaza.


But the clinching argument about Gaza is that no large Indian interests are at stake. Whether or not the Israelis and Gazans are nasty to each other, life goes on pretty much the same for most Indians. India could issue some nice bromides about how in the global interests of peace and goodwill and the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, we would be delighted if both parties came to the negotiating table and settled their differences amicably.


That sort of a resolution would be unexceptionable. Nothing more: No condemnation, no moralistic rhetoric. We ain’t got no dog in this fight, as my colorful friends from the American South would say. Thus, the UNHRC vote, by an avowedly nationalist government, suggests either cluelessness, or sabotage by bureaucrats with ancien regime connections.


Anything other than platitudes and abstention by India makes no sense. Aldous Huxley in Eyeless in Gaza referred to John Milton’s poem about the biblical myth of the giant Samson being blinded by Philistines (Palestinians?) and yoked to an oil mill. Today the smug philistines of India want to blind India and yoke it to some pointless mill of Third-World indignation. They are, of course, hostile to the very idea of India.


The vote appeared to be a throwback to the bad old days of India as the chief cheerleader of the banana republics of the Non-Aligned Movement, and of V K Krishna Menon filibustering at the United Nations with a marathon speech. We were the moralizing laughing-stock of the world. We just didn’t know it then. In 2014, we ought to know better.


1750 words, 20 July 2014

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