March 05, 2023

Our Solidarity with Palestine

R Arun Kumar

A FORMER dictator of El Salvador, Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, stated: “Killing an ant is a greater crime than killing a man”. Though stated in a different context and well before the formation of the State of Israel on Palestinian land, it captures the mindset of the rulers of the present Israeli State. As the current PD editorial notes, more than one Palestinian is killed everyday by the Israeli government in these past two months. And this is done with impunity. This should not be allowed to go unchallenged.

Immediately after taking oath once again as the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu had clearly stated the agenda of his new extreme right-wing government. “These are the basic lines of the national government headed by me: The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel – in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, Judea and Samaria”. This is literally cocking a snook at the UN and world public opinion.

Incidentally, the State of Israel was formed on November 29, 1947, through Resolution 181(II) adopted in the UN General Assembly that recommended the plan to partition Palestine into an Arab State, a Jewish State and the City of Jerusalem. This proposal was resented by the Palestinians even at that time, while the Zionists welcomed the decision as they were allotted 58 per cent of the land. Despite this favourable allocation, Israel did not rest and started its expansionist policies since day one. It fought many wars and occupied territories. In order to control Israeli expansionism, the UN General Assembly adopted another Resolution (194), directing Israel to withdraw from all the territories it had occupied since 1967. It also called upon the Israel government to accept the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian State with pre-June 4, 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital. It needs to be understood here that even this Resolution is very liberal towards Israel, as it allowed Israel to retain 78 per cent of the historic Palestine land it had occupied by that time. Not satisfied with this huge concession, Israel is continuing its occupation policies and today it occupies more than 90 per cent of the historic Palestine. Netanyahu’s statement shows that it does not want to stop even here, but wants to occupy the entire Palestine and flush out all the Palestinians living in their homeland from generations.

Debunking the myth that Israel was founded on lands that historically belonged to Jews, Prof C.Z'e'zv Herog of Tel Aviv University, who reviewed the archaeological findings of the entire last century and half, wrote: “This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the twelve tribes of Israel. Even harder to swallow is the fact that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described in the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom”. In spite of such conclusive evidence, he says Israeli State is cold to these facts because, “Any attempt to question the reliability of the Biblical descriptions is perceived as an attempt to undermine 'our historical right to the land' and is shattering the myth of the nation that is renewing the ancient kingdom of Israel...The blow to the mythical foundations of the Israeli identity is apparently too threatening and it is more convenient to turn a blind eye”.

Explaining the political purpose behind this, Israeli geographer Oren Yiftachel writes: “The territorial restructuring of the land has centred around all-encompassing and expansionist Judaisation (de-Arabisation) program adopted by the nascent Israeli State...The Judaisation program was premised on a hegemonic myth cultivated since the rise of Zionism that the land belongs solely to the Jewish people”.

The present Israeli government led by Netanyahu and his governing coalition that includes the Religious Zionism (RZ) and Jewish Powerbloc wants to take this Zionist project of expansion to its culmination, which involves territorial consolidation over the whole of the promised land, by further dispossession of Palestinians from their native lands. The objective is to drive away the Palestinians from the region by taking away all their best land and resources, such as water. Around 70 per cent of all Palestinians are refugees as they are pushed out of their houses and lands by the Israeli military. One out of every three refugees in the world is a Palestinian. Israel is denying these refugees their basic right to return to their homeland.

Since 1967, Israel completely controls Palestinian water resources and deprives them of access to their rightful share of water. Israel allocates more than 90 per cent of available shared water resources to itself, leaving the Palestinian people less than 10 per cent. Some of the best agricultural land belonging to the Palestinians is seized by the Israeli State and converted into residential blocs for its occupants. Israel constructed an unethical and illegal wall, which further pushed Palestinians to small disconnected cantons. This wall was constructed in contravention of all the international treaties and the promise it had made during the Oslo negotiations. With this construction, Israel annexed practically more than 60 per cent of the West Bank land, 60 per cent of its water resources and even the 40 per cent of land is left dissected and cantoned. Israel strictly controls and monitors the movement of Palestinians within these territories. Various permissions are to be taken from Israeli military authorities for the Palestinians to go to their work and return to their homes.

The situation in Gaza is even more terrible. Gaza is a small strip of land where nearly 1.5 million Palestinians live. Surrounded on three sides by Israel and the Mediterranean on the other side (with a small tiny border with Egypt in the south) it is virtually a prison. Nothing can pass in or out of Gaza without the permission of the Israeli authorities. Israel is strangling Gaza and its intensity increased after the victory of Hamas in the elections held in Palestine in 2006. Former UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk states that Israel maintains its “Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease”. Quite remorselessly, Dov Weisglass an adviser to former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, said: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger”.

On top of this forceful occupation and strangulation, Israel had passed a new law called the 14th Basic Law, which is also termed as the ‘Jewish Nation State Law’. This law declares Israel as a Jewish State. The law invites Jews from anywhere in the world to come and settle in Israel, promising them with land. On the other hand, it drives away Palestinians from their homeland and denies their rightful return. The law downgrades Arabs as second class citizens. A prominent Israeli daily Haaretz published an editorial, highlighting the plight of Arabs: “No minority in Israel suffers as much discrimination as the Arab minority, which is also Israel’s largest minority. It is frequently the target of normalised, institutionalised racism...” This law officially refuses to accept either the 1967 borders or East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestinian State. This is a denial of the right for the existence of the Palestinian State.

In 2021 for the first time an Israeli human rights organisation had called Israeli State for what it is – an apartheid regime. A reputed human rights organisation from Israel – B’Tselem – published a detailed report reasoning its arguments. “Although Israel never formally annexed the West Bank, it treats the territory as its own. More than 2.6 million Palestinian subjects live in the West Bank, in dozens of disconnected enclaves, under rigid military rule and without political rights. In about 40 per cent of the territory, Israel has transferred some civilian powers to the Palestinian Authority (PA). However, the PA is still subordinate to Israel and can only exercise its limited powers with Israel’s consent”.

In 2020, UN called the Israeli occupation in Palestine, which is more than 52 years old as ‘the longest belligerent occupation in the modern world’. This is the reality confronting us today. Israeli unilateral expansionism challenges the UN, Palestinian Authority and the governments around the world. With open support from the US government it is moving with renewed aggression. The extreme right-wing government in Israel is showing no signs of adherence to UN Resolutions.

Instead of playing a lead role in mobilising world public opinion against Israel, the BJP government is deepening its ties with a 'thug' in West Asia, who blatantly violates all the UN resolutions. India has now become the largest purchaser of Israeli armaments and thus, the largest financier of Israeli military attacks on the Palestinians! RSS and BJP have openly and enthusiastically embraced the Jewish State, as it suits their own ideological project. If the BJP government really recognises and accepts that the entire world is one family, it should work towards breaking all the divisive walls – particularly those that Israel is building – both physically and conceptually.

Accepting and categorising Israel as an apartheid State, is a first step that should lead us to diplomatically isolate Israel and force it to respect UN Resolutions, Palestinians and accept the two-State solution. As people who believe in the unity and equality of all human beings, we should express our solidarity with the people of Palestine who are demanding their just rights. For this, we have to force the current BJP government to forego its pro-Israeli foreign policy and revert back to the traditions we have inherited from our freedom struggle. Celebrating 75 years of our independence, we have to remind the BJP (as it was never part of that struggle) that our struggle for freedom from colonial rule included our support to all such countries fighting for their own freedom from colonial rule. As Gandhiji stated, ‘Palestine belongs to Palestinians, as much as France belongs to the French and India to Indians’.