ARTICLES FROM THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN
Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2017.
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Discussion about Israel and its struggle for existence is generally economical with the truth, and gets clouded by historical amnesia. Whether in the media, or in serious political analysis, and even in Parliament, information regarding the present conflict going on between Hamas and Israel is given only in half-truths, non-truths, or even concealment.
First and foremost, I think it is important to make a clear distinction between Hamas and the unfortunate, misled Palestinians. Israel's fight is not with the Palestinians, but with the Hamas. Hamas is an acronym of Harakat al Mawqawama al Islamiyya, meaning "Islamic Resistance Movement." It has a "military" wing, which engages in terrorist acts and suicide bombings, and was the only party to oppose the Oslo Accords and the peace process. In January 2006, it defeated the traditional leadership of the Fatah and PLO, and was victorious in the Palestinian elections. In February 2007, Hamas, Fatah and other factions entered a national unity government in a deal sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But in June 2007, Hamas ousted Fatah forces from Gaza in a bloody coup, torturing and killing them with extreme cruelty. Israel had unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas currently rules Gaza as a de facto state government.
Hamas has been using Gaza for launching rocket attacks repeatedly against Israeli towns and cities over the past few years, which they know will provoke retaliation by Israel, as it would in any other country. Hamas jihadis fire their rockets from bunkers in crowded localities and buildings in which missiles and their operators are lodged, and leave their women and children unprotected. The Economist is perhaps right that by publicising civilian causalities, particularly women and children, Hamas expects international sympathy and pressure to compel Israel to abandon its tough retaliation and determination to destroy the Hamas lifeline of underground tunnels. If so, the heart-rending images of innocent children and civilians falling prey to Hamas design, can only be called the most inhuman form of a public relations exercise. It is reported that misguided rockets fired by Hamas are landing inside Gaza, wounding and killing Palestinian civilians, and also preventing food, medicine and humanitarian supplies from entering into Gaza. Hamas smuggles arms through tunnels beneath the Egyptian controlled Rafah crossing, which Egypt wisely closed down in disapproval of Hamas action in July-August 2014.
Hamas is guided by a charter, available in the public domain, with an unusually ghoulish preamble that includes, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." Apart from stating the usual demonisation of the Jewish people, it expresses Hamas' commitment to jihad for solving the Palestinian question. But the most ominous and genocidal is its injunction, which is too barbaric and revolting to even quote in this piece. Hamas has repeatedly refused international community demands to recognise Israel's right to exist, to abrogate its charter and abide by the previous commitments of the Palestinian Authority.
Clearly, the Hamas charter, which is dedicated to the genocide of a particular religion, is in complete violation of international law, and there is no way India, or any other civilised country or society can support it. It would have been extremely useful and informative if Ghulam Nabi Azad or Sushma Swaraj had touched upon these points, or Mani Shankar Aiyar not evaded these issues in his article, The Gaza Evasion (23 July, Indian Express). The Foreign Minister came out with the usual rhetoric, including some fallacies that all Arab states were for peace in the region, forgetting those with the avowed objective of wiping Israel off the map.
Every country should know who its true friends are and nurture them. I have often written and argued that in 1962, when we suffered our most humiliating military defeat at the hands of the Chinese, not one non-aligned country came to our rescue. Even the Russians stayed away, with the excuse "we cannot support a mere friend against a brother". The only two countries that came to our help within 48 hours were the United States and Israel. Israel has been a friend in need, and even though I would never advise a breach of our obligations under international law to favour a friend, I firmly believe that civilised diplomacy, international law, and our Constitution enjoined an obligation upon our Foreign Minister, to differentiate between the terrorist and the victim, and not treat them alike. And please note, when I say terrorist, I do not refer to the Palestinians, but to Hamas.
I expected our Foreign Minister to have proudly proclaimed strong friendship and support for Israel, as a token of our gratitude. Even today, Israel is the second largest military partner of India after Russia, a fact which even Mani Shankar Aiyar admits in his piece. We have critical military and strategic ties, and Israel has always provided India with crucial information whenever it was required. We also have several collaborations in the fields of agriculture, solar energy, water management and health. Article 51 of our Constitution mandates that our foreign policy must observe and foster respect for international law. International law does not permit the destruction of a fellow member of the United Nations, created by our own vote and to whom we owe an enormous debt of gratitude.
It would also be useful to reiterate advice to the Palestinians to accept the reality of Israel, and stop the language of jihad and genocide against it. It is the failure to follow this advice for which Hamas was shown the door during the last peace talks. The Foreign Minister should have informed the House that Hamas was suspended from the post 2006 election peace talks conducted by the United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union, because it refused to make a pledge of non violence, recognition of Israel and its right to exist, and acceptance of previous agreements. Even the Islamic state of Egypt has recognised Israel and expressly disapproved of Hamas. She should have reminded the House that an independent state of Palestine has never existed in the entire history of the world, except for a brief reference in the 1948 UN resolution, which was never honoured, but repudiated by the very Palestinians and their conspirators in their war for Israeli extermination. Lastly, she could have honoured Gandhiji, by advising the Palestinians to abandon their mirage of Israel's violent destruction, by recognising it in the comity of nations, and jointly working out peaceful solutions.
Our Foreign Minister informed Parliament something not too well known, that India had been pledging aid to Palestine right from 1995 onwards, for construction of libraries at the Palestinian Technical College in Deir-El-Balah and another library at the Al-Azhar University in Gaza, and technical training. The last pledges of US$20 million in October 2008, and US$10 million in September 2012, for reasons not known, were made by Manmohan Singh. It is difficult to fathom what national interest was served by these doles, or what diplomatic dividends were forthcoming. Palestinians have never supported us on Kashmir or our border dispute vis-à-vis China. Besides, investment of even a tiny fraction of the wealth of Palestine's patrons, Iran and Saudi Arabia, can transform it into a land of milk and honey. I can only see these doles as a Look West extension of vote bank politics by successive governments through international bribery.
Something now about the sycophantic article of Mani Shankar Aiyar, The Gaza Evasion. He also seems to believe that Israel has no right to exist, and no right to fight for its survival. Historical facts are not his concern. True to its title, the article is indeed steeped in evasion starting from the combined Arab onslaught of 1947-48, and their call for jihad, or the notorious Yom Kippur war of 1973, which ended again in a humiliating defeat for the Arab confederacy. Aiyar evades mentioning that even today Israel's right to exist as an independent state with secure borders is not recognised. His words denigrating the Prime Minister at the BRICS conference at Fortaleza, Brazil ring so hollow and irrational, and are completely divorced from historical reality. Perhaps, they may bring him some brownie points from his patrons, for whatever they are worth.
I am proud that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not preach ceasefire to Israel on Hamas' terms. Hamas is a jihadi organisation, which, as per its charter, believes that Israel needs to be obliterated by Islam, while Israel is a democracy, created through international law and a UN resolution. I am surprised that as a former diplomat, Aiyar does not realise the difference and continues to insult the civilised world.