Thought Box



by HUMRA QURAISHI October 17 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 6 mins, 24 secs

Humra  Quraishi recalls conversations she’s had with academics, envoys  over the years about the Palestinian issue and their prophetic words.

Are all the world’s top leaders going to remain mute spectators even as  scores of innocent men, women and children are getting killed around Palestine? Why can’t peace talks or dialogue start right now…lead to some kind of ceasefire?  Why can’t deaths and destruction be halted? Killings, whether of Israelis or of the Palestinians, must stop now, immediately, before the situation  escalates even further.

Where is the United Nations? Where are all the platforms of peace? Where are the politicians who speak day and night through loudspeakers about protecting people! This looks and seems like a farce.

If  only they had thought out a permanent solution to the Palestinian crisis, perhaps the lives and livelihoods of so many innocent masses would’ve been saved. It is alarming and a depressing situation. For decades there have been disasters taking place in the region. What, with human beings killed or uprooted, made refugees in their own territory. Tension had been mounting in the region from earlier this (2023), when even worshipers in the Al-Aqsa mosque were not spared by the Israeli forces, yet seemingly little efforts have been made by world leaders to contain targeted attacks.

I quote a New Delhi based academic-author, Professor VK Tripathi on this current disaster: “I am deeply pained by the escalation of the Palestine-Israel conflict. The surprise attack by Hamas forces into Israel and killing of 600 people was a matter of condemnation. So is the much fiercer counter offensive by Israel, that has already killed over two thousand people in the last two days and put Gaza on siege. However, passive condemnation of violence is not nonviolence or humanism. Look at the ground reality of the people indulged and affected by the conflict. Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank have been in a state of continued repression and occupation by the Israeli regime for years. The people of Israel have been living in suspicion of a surprise attack by Palestinian militants. The Israeli regime is immensely powerful and backed by the USA, hence, life for Israelis has been much better off than for Palestinians. Both the people have the right to live in peace and earn their livelihood with dignity. The Israeli regime has to understand this. Hamas must repent for its outburst. You can't play the game of occupiers, put lives of Israeli and Palestinian citizens in peril…I have been bothered by Israel-Palestinian question since1982 when Israel carried a war on Lebanon and killed 20 thousand Palestinians. I decided to leave the USA and returned to India in January 1982 as Professor of Physics at IIT Delhi, hoping that I will be able to inculcate nonviolent activism in India and Third World countries. However, I have not been able to do anything beyond superficial talking. I am pained that our PM can't see the folly of continued oppression.”

There ought to be a permanent and lasting solution of the Palestinian issue. It’s unfortunate that the earlier Peace accords failed even before they could be implemented. I recall a former Palestinian envoy to India, Osama Musa, telling me during the course on an interview, “I’ve served as Commander of my country’s Air Force and then when the Oslo Agreement was signed in 1994, I was appointed Chairman of the Regional Security Committee, which was meant to oversee the implementation of the Agreement on the Palestinian side, but that Agreement failed…today the situation in Palestine is so bad that it is Israel, which decides everything, including the mass killings of our children! Today America -backed Israel controls our lands, our lives! Can’t America see the disasters taking place! And I can tell you that without America’s support, Israel is zero. Israel cannot survive a single day if America didn’t support it!”

When I had  interviewed the well-known Arab academic, Clovis Maksoud, who was then Professor of International Relations and director of the Centre for Global South at the American University in Washington, and before that he had served as the Arab League ambassador to India from 1961- 66, later ambassador to the United Nations and the US – he dwelt on the significant fact that people of the Arab countries had come to realize that there was vested interests of “outsiders”, to destroy their lands.

During our conversations, Clovis detailed why the Arab world was not taking on foreign intrusions, “There is a broad strategic dependence of the Arab States on the US, based on the false assumption that the US is the only power that can make Israel respond to the Palestinian issue. This dependence is flawed because Israel has flouted all international norms. Israel is the  only country in the world that has never declared its boundaries since  1967. It has not acknowledged the fact that it’s an occupying power and given itself the license to expand its settlements. This has meant violating the U.N resolution of the 4th Geneva Convention that does not allow any occupying power to alter the boundaries of the country it occupies. At the same time the  US  has  chosen to make Israel its principal ally and this has  given Israel the license to defy the UN convention with impunity.”

I have attended Press Conferences of fiery Palestinian envoys to India and witnessed the emotions they generated among the Indian masses. I do recall rather vividly that warm hug that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat gave Indira Gandhi when she hosted an elaborate reception for him here in New Delhi. Indira Gandhi’s office had sent invites to even middle rung Muslim families besides the usual list of the who’s who. Of course, those were the days when there were no security phobias. No hyped statements. That was phase of Government of India’s close bonding with Palestine.

Today, of course, the political build-ups on every possible front stare in the face. Compounding the situation is the Indian government’s apparent slant towards Israel and Allies. This pro-Israel tilt is more than obvious right from  2014 onwards and peaking in July 2017, when the Indian Prime Minister made  a  trip to Israel, equipped with a long shopping list, to buy or order the latest military equipment.

What a contrast to India’s stand under Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. In fact, Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision and policies vis–a-vis West Asia made the entire region tilt towards India. He was clear and forthright about his firm stand on the Palestine territory and the genuine rights of the Palestinians. And, with that, had made the Palestinians and the Arabs strong allies of India. Today there’s no Nehru and there’s little  trace of that connection with the  Palestinian masses, which we once shared.

I’m ending this week’s column with this verse of SUCHITA PARIKH-MUNDUL, from Amity Peace Poems (Hawakal Publishers):

‘Political Speech/is full of historic syllables,/many of which are anchored/to the invisible sound/of violins. Familiar consonants/with the fullness of  vowels/are always promising/to soften the edges of conflict./Messages we’ve  heard (and those/we never will) have been gathering/discreetly like  footnotes,/filling eyes, touching lips/with deep lines./Ah, rhetoric. Its parenthetical/Smile must be liberated.’

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