Thursday, 7 August 2014


    It is a cruel irony of history that the Jewish government in Israel is doing to the Muslim residents of Gaza exactly what the Nazis did to them 70 years ago. In his epic of civil resistance against a barbarous oppressor, MILA-18, Leon Uris exhaustively documents how the Jews of Warsaw were herded into a ghetto by the Nazis, denied the basics of human existence, treated and exterminated like rats: more than 50% of the original residents of MILA-18( the name the Germans gave to this tiny ghetto) had died by the end of the siege. But the Jews rose against the Germans in an uprising of such heroic proportions that reading the book even today makes one's spine tingle. And they triumphed!
   Is anyone in Israel, or their sympathizers in America and the western world, reading this book today? Do they have a feeling of deja vu? They should, because history is repeating itself, not as farce but as another tragedy. Has the time come for Israel to pay back in blood and maimed corpses the injustices heaped on the Jews for centuries? Of course, they are products of the Old Testament, but should they take this treatise so literally- " an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth"? Has Mr. Netanyahu learnt nothing from 70 years of blood soaked history and millions of deaths? Or will he, like another Old Testament figure from Gaza, in his suicidal anger, use his undoubted strength to bring down the whole edifice in an act of mutually assured destruction? At least the protagonist from the Bible had an excuse: he was blind. Mr. Netanyahu is not-but he still cannot see.
   Let us cut through Israel's pathetic smoke screen: this is not a war it is "fighting" in Gaza. A war is between two reasonably matched opponents: what we have here is the world's fifth mightiest  army shelling and bombarding from sea, air and land 3 million civilian residents imprisoned in a 250 area from which they are not even allowed to escape. This is pure and simple genocide, the massacre of a peoples based on their religious identity. The Israelis have butchered 1875 Palestinians so far, of whom 974% are civilians according to impartial observers; 400 hundred are children. Kill the mites so there will be fewer lice later, as one American had said in the context of their own genocide against the "redskins". 9065 have been injured, a large number of them maimed for life. One thousand of them are children. Israel has not even spared the UN- 11 of their officials have been killed. 450000 people have been displaced-40% of the population of Gaza. 275000 of them have taken shelter in 93 UN schools which are also being regularly bombed and shelled. Every international law, every canon of humanitarian obligation has been violated by Israel. Even the United Nations-its Secretary General, its Deputy Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, its High Commissioner for Refugees- has condemned Israel, even calling its action a war crime that must have accountability. Israel, however, remains brazenly defiant, saying it is defending itself against Hamas.
    Yes, Israel has every right -even a responsibility to its citizens- to defend itself, against Hamas or any other similar group. But even the limits of defense have to be respected, and the use of force has to be proportionate to the provocation, and carefully targeted. There has to be a distinction between military and civilian targets, between combatant and non combatant. Israel will concede none of this.
   Hamas has no artillery, no tanks, no planes, no warships, no missiles; just some rockets of unproven efficacy and power. Though hundreds of these have been fired into Israel( according to the Israelis) they have so far resulted in only three civilian deaths, of whom one is a foreigner! In retaliation the Israelis have slaughtered almost two thousand Palestinians in three weeks! How can this degree of force be justified? They have bombed and shelled dozens of schools, hospitals and UN shelters, claiming they harboured terrorists. These claims have been denied by the UN and international observers. In fact the UN has stated on record that they have repeatedly given the Israelis the GPS coordinates of all their schools and shelters-and yet they have been repeatedly targetted.
     This raises another pertinent question which is being asked now: even if these places had some terrorists or arms, is it permissible to target them when you know that hundreds of women and children are taking shelter there? Does "collateral damage" have no limits? Should the collateral damage not be proportionate to the potential harm that the terrorist can cause? The casualty figures speak for themselves. Furthermore, which international law gives Israel the right to invade Gaza with its troops, or shell its territory, just because some terrorists are located there? " Hot pursuit" across international borders is not sanctioned by law: if this were permissible, then Cuba would have had the right to fire into the USA in 1961 when the CIA was training and equipping Cuban exiles to invade Cuba to topple its govt. ( that attempt, we all know, ended in the Bay of Pigs fiasco).                                                                                                                                     Then again, Israel has completely obliterated the line between defense and aggression: it has occupied thousands of square kilometers of Palestinian lands, including Gaza, claiming it needs to do so in order to secure its safety!This is the behaviour of a rogue state, rabid in its arrogance, contemptuous of all international norms and opinion. By this logic India should have occupied huge swathes of Pakistan and erstwhile East Pakistan- we have had the opportunity to do so in the past- but as a responsible state we have always observed international covenants and boundaries, no matter what the success of the moment yielded, and have withdrawn to our own borders. By insisting on continuing to occupy Gaza and other Palestinian territory, Mr. Netanyahu is ensuring that there will never be a solution to this dispute.
   He is able to do so only because of the unstinted support he gets from the USA which, having unsettled the whole middle-east with its myopic and avaricious policies, sees Israel as its proxy in the region. If there is one country which could force Israel to rethink its blundering strategies it is the USA. But the latter is a comrade in arms of Israel , an unscrupulous practitioner of the same policies. The USA has always interpreted laws and facts to suit its own interests and has never been guided by what is legal, humanitarian or internationally accepted. It has a long history of doing exactly what Israel is doing today, invading the territories of other sovereign nations and using force to bolster its own interests, not that of the peoples of the country invaded or attacked. It is a long list of infamy and I shall mention just a few: annexation of Hawaii( 1893), occupation of Guam( 1898 and continuing), forcible occupation of the Dominican Republic for eight years(1916-1924), CIA's complete involvement in crushing the people's HUK rebellion( 1948-54) in the Phillipines, overthrow of the democratic govt. in Iran in order to install the Shah as dictator( 1953), the Bay of Pigs operation against Cuba by the CIA( 1961), the CIA organised coup in Iraq in 1963 that killed its President and brought the B'aath party and a man called Saddam Hussain to power, the CIA engineered coup by the Army in Indonesia in 1965 that killed millions, the sustained bombing of civilians in Cambodia between 1969-1975 that led to millions of deaths and the emergence of the brutal Khmer Rouge, the invasion of Panama in 1989, the unending interventions in the middle-east that have left it a volatile cauldron of fundamentalism, terrorism and instability- Lebanon( 1982-84),Libya( 1906),Iran( 1987-88),Iraq( 199-1991), Kuwait( 1991), Afghanistan( 2001 and continuing), Yemen( 2009), Libya( 2011), Syria( 2008).
         Wherever the USA has intervened militarily, rarely has it been in defence of democracy, humanitarian values or for the welfare of the local populations: it has almost always been either to prop up dictators or undemocratic regimes in furtherance of its own strategic interests. And when it has exited it has inevitably left behind a bigger mess than when it entered.
      Therefore, to expect the USA to rein in Israel is an opium dream. In fact, just last week the USA has approved financial assistance of another $225 million for Israel for purchase of mortars, grenades and other weapons! President Obama always votes with his money. And this blatant defiance of world opinion is in the face of the strongest criticism of Israel yet from the UN and the mild mannered Mr. Ban Ki Moon. At the special meeting of the UN General Assembly on 6th August EVERY UN Divisional head was unsparing in his or her condemnation of Israel. Mr. Moon described Israel's behaviour as " outrageous, unacceptable and unjustified", adding that it must be subject to " accountability and justice". The head of UNRA emphasised that the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel and " the illegal blockade of Gaza must end". The UN's Human Rights chief, Ms. Pillai told the delegates in no uncertain terms that " Israeli actions amount to war crimes" and that " life in Gaza has become unsustainable".
    A 72 hour " humanitarian" cease fire is holding as I write this, and negotiations have begun in Cairo. I see little hope for a lasting peace in the region unless Israel lifts the wholly illegal blockade of Gaza. It has already refused to do so and instead wants the Gaza strip to be " demilitarized" ! In other words it is okay for Israel to arm itself to the teeth but its neighbours cannot be permitted to do so!
   In just three weeks Israel has forever destroyed the international goodwill and respect it had built up over the decades as a resilient disciplined, industrious nation. It is now the face of a reinvented Nazism, an oppressor of the weak and helpless. But if Mr. Netanyahu can spare the time from choosing other helpless targets to bomb he should go back to the Old Testament and read another inspiring story- the one about David and Goliath............


  1. To repeat our exchanges in emails as to why these Nazi analogies and Jewish resistance in no way resembles Israeli action in Gaza, consider:
    a) The Jewish resistance did not kidnap civilian German teens and murder them like Hamas did - the cause of the latest escalation of hostilities. Nor did they deliberately target German civilians like Gaza militants do in Israel.
    b) The Jewish resistance was not committed to the extinction of Germany as a country or refuse to recognize its existence.
    c) The 1940s Jews didn't launch their attacks from their children's schools or hospitals to use as human shields and for propaganda value in case of resultant return fire.
    d) Israel for its part is at least trying to avoid Gaza civilian casualties (leaflets, cell phone calls, warning explosions), not rounding up civilians for mass extermination.
    e) Their blockade of Gaza is to prevent the flow of arms to militants who don't hesitate to use them against Israeli civilians. They are willing to let in humanitarian supplies after inspection, a condition that Hamas largely rejects.

    It's remarkable when we portray tiny Israel with under half a percent of India's population situated on a small patch of land with few natural resources as a powerful and invulnerable oppressor. That is, without acknowledging that it is one fanatical Islamic nuclear bomb away from extinction. In Netanyahu's words Israel is surrounded by enemies whom "Israel has (largely) the means to destroy but not the will, while they have the will to destroy Israel but not the means (yet)."

    Here's the link to actor Jon Voight's rejoinder to some fashionable recent Israel bashing:

    I wonder if Indians who support Gazans and Hamas view the same way the Kashmiris wanting their right to self-determination (separate from India, may be join Pakistan) through plebiscite as required by a 1948 UN resolution. Or condone militant civilian bombings and attacks against India including the 26/11 attacks by L-e-T. After all, you could argue they don't have the might and the weaponry of the Indian army, just like the parallels being drawn between Gazan militants and Israel....

  2. Sandip, the analogy with Kashmir is erroneous: Kashmir is very much a part of India, has fair elections every five years, democratically chooses its own govt., and has even been accorded a special status under the Indian constitution. The separatists there are a minuscule minority who command only a nuisance value and no popular support, otherwise the Kashmiris would not be voting at every election in such large numbers inspite of the formers' calls for boycotting elections every time.There is no blockade of Kashmir or restrictions on anyone's movement in or out of it. Foodstuff flows in freely and is not doled out to the Kashmiris after counting the minimum number of calories needed to keep a person just about alive( as was being done for Gaza, according to testimony in the US itself. Palestinian areas( including Gaza) have been illegally occupied by Israel for the last 40 years and its residents rationed food, medicines, employment etc. Nobody can go in or out without Israeli permission. It is a ghetto, just like MILA-18 was. The protests by the latter( not violence) therefore are justified and even permitted under the UN charter.
    The issue here is not Hamas, as Israel has been continuously trying to portray: the issue is disproportionate violence against civilians. By all means Israel should do whatever it takes to suppress Hamas and erode its capacity for waging war against Israel. But to deliberately kill 40 civilians for every Hamas operative is just not acceptable in any civilised society. The talk about "human shields" has been rubbished by the UN itself and most of the media reporting on the fighting. Please listen to the proceedings of the UN General Assembly meeting on 6th. August. If no other agency please believe the UN itself, an organisation which has condemned Israel in unprecedented language in spite of its general pro-US/ western bias.
    Killing 2000 civilians is not " mass extermination"? What figure would you have in mind to qualify for this description? And I'm sure the residents of Gaza( those who are still alive) are eternally grateful for Israeli warnings to vacate their houses before they were obliterated. After all, three minutes is surely enough to pack up your life and rush to a UN school or shelter which would then be bombed out of existence the next minute too. Surely this collateral fodder should have had the sense to go to a safer place,no?
    No, Sandip, no matter how you try to justify the Israeli violence, the world is appalled by it. And the Islamic terrorists are overjoyed-Israel has just handed them, on a platter, many more years of sustenance and thousands of more recruits. In the short and long term Israel is the loser by this latest display of indiscriminate militarism.

  3. Despite my general proclivity for strong reaction to any act of violence leading to death of civilians whether by terrorists (definition means differently depending upon which side you are – ALL the Indian Freedom Fighters were ‘terrorists’ in the eyes of occupying British administration/judiciary at that time) or by retaliating forces, what Israel is doing in Gaza is downright butchering. If Israelis want to really fight (as has rightly been put in the Blog) the Palestinians should allow them some space to have some arms even for the shams’ sake at least, lest world ends up finding no WMD (weapons of mass destruction) a la Saddam Hussein. God forbid, if we have to live in such an area or the area where we live is converted to such a zone of genocide.
    Remember, good warriors/soldiers never attack the unarmed, even a non-civilian. Israel’s army is no longer worth being called an ‘army’, for an army does not attack unarmed civilians. The entire episode made one think were Nazis really wrong or what they did to Jews (seeing what the Jewish Israel are capable of and actually doing to others) really inhuman? Should Fuehrer not have been allowed to finish his agenda instead of intervention by the rest of the world? Then there would never have been a World War-II and we would never have to deal with an Israel and a Palestine! To resolve the issue the way Israel wants (and some Indians supports it) is to let them finish the entire Palestinian population, Hamas or sans Hamas; then also we will have Peace!!! And an everlasting one!!! What a solution, Sir ji!!! And then India (and all other countries) should adopt same model to deal with all the terror attacks that are afflicted on it/them?
    No amount of argument can justify this genocide by Israel in Gaza. It is condemnable in the strongest possible words and justifies intervention by the rest of the world exactly it (the rest of the world) did to stop Hitler, and if inevitable, let there be a World War-III; after all, weapon manufacturers {read the Developed (?) World} too need customers to bolster their sagging economies. That explains their complicity.

  4. Avay,here's a 3.5 min interview excerpt of Israel PM Netanyahu talking on July 20 about failed ceasefires and regretting Gaza civilian deaths:
    A week later he faces much tougher questions in this 11 min interview:
    He is a hardliner and has condoned expansion of Israeli settlements on West Bank (which I oppose) but I believe he is sincere at least in regretting Gaza civilian deaths. He agrees with you that civilian deaths hand Hamas a PR victory.

    On Kashmir, if public sentiment has now changed and separatists no longer enjoy broad support, that's a welcome development. I of course want Kashmir to always remain an integral part of India but in earlier years there were strong doubts about the locals feeling the same way.

    1. The political and emotional landscape in Kashmir has perceptively changed over the years( by the way, when one refers to Kashmir here it is actually to the Valley- the Srinagar, Pahalgam, Gulmarg parts, as it were which is 99% Muslim. The other two regions of Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu which are Buddhist and Hindu dominated are not part of this problem). All major political figures in the Valley belong to the two regional political parties- National Conference( the Abdullahs) and the PDP( the Muftis). They contest all elections, form governments and work with the Center on most issues. They inevitably make some discordant noises at times but this is simply posturing for their Muslim constituents! The important thing is that they are now part of the political mainstream. There are a few " separatists" who can still draw out a few thousand people on emotive issues but it is my feeling that their influence is on the wane. Two developments can see a further decline. One, if Kashmir has a few unbroken years of good tourism: people now recognise the economic benefits of peace- the peace dividend. Two, if Modi can achieve a break-through with Nawaz Sharif: this will definitely turn off the Pakistani tap which nurtures the separatists. The next twelve months will be crucial. The BJP Govt. has announced that it will start examining the withdrawal of Article 370 which confers a special status on Kashmir. Second, the Govt. proposes to resettle 400000 ousted Kashmiri Pundits back in the Valley in special townships, with full police protection etc. Some rumblings have already started in Kashmir. My assessment is the govt's announcements are trial balloons: push will turn to shove IF the BJP wins the Assembly elections in Kashmir in OCT/NOV this year. Watch this space, Sandip!