The risks for peace must replace the threats of war

Palestine Update 221
Opinion

The risks for peace must replace the threats of war
India-Israel relations have moved forward with gigantic strides. The two countries have an extensive economic, military, and strategic relationship. Among the many bilateral cooperation issues are defence, technology, agriculture, cyber-security, water management and trade. “It’s all about the money,” said Akiva Eldar, a Tel Aviv-based Israeli analyst and writer for Al Monitor. “The Israeli arms industry is thirsty and hungry for new markets, and India is a very good market for it. They do not care about what Pakistan is going to say, neither about Kashmir. It is good money and the industry is a very strong lobby in Israel.” India is currently the biggest buyer of Israeli weaponry, spending an average $1bn annually on military equipment in recent years.

It is the coming together of two fascist regimes united by a common distaste for the Muslim. They are also united by what many in the world view as the last two occupying powers. They feed off each other in ways that are often superficial. It is common sense that India does not need to learn irrigation or water management from Israel. Objectively speaking, India is self-sufficient in these spheres. Nor does India need armaments from Israel in India. Rather than indulge in the arms race with Pakistan, India should forge peace, not war.

The article “When it comes to Palestine and Kashmir, India and Israel are oppressors-in-arms” comes at a time when there are heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over a terrorist attack on Indian Territory. India has rejected a proposal for a joint investigation as a precursor to peace talks. It is suspected that India is holding on to an aggressive and unyielding posture only because there are national elections soon to be held. The fortunes of the ruling dispensation were weak. War (or at least skirmish) was seen as something that would revive its failing fortunes.

Both Israel and India will need to put an end to their warring inclinations and, instead, engage in serious conflict transformation through sincere and genuine dialogue which can quite easily bring an end to conflict and the resultant suffering. All they need is the political will to understand that unless you take the risks for peace, the threats and risks of war will destroy us.

Ranjan Solomon


When it comes to Palestine and Kashmir, India and Israel are oppressors-in-arms
By Azad Essa
The hue of ‘democracy’ has given India and Israel special gravitas and legitimacy, while human rights violations continue unchecked

Hundreds march in Kashmir in May 2018 to support the Palestinian struggle (MEE/Fahad Shah)

In a back alley in downtown Srinagar, the capital of India-controlled Kashmir, a string of words splashed on a wall reads: “Long Live Palestine”. Nearby, “Free Gaza” screams from a shutter on a store. Across a tiny gulley, graffiti on a sidewall has been scratched off. If you stare hard enough, the words “Free Kashmir” rise like an apparition.

For many Muslims around the world, Palestine holds a special place in their political consciousness. Al-Aqsa Mosque, after all, is one of the most important sites in Islam. Those on the left – whether millennial radicals or grey-bearded Marxists – have also supported the Palestinian cause over the zealous imperialism of Zionist settler-colonialism, ethnic cleansing, displacement and war-mongering.

A personal matter
Israel’s invasions of Gaza over the past decade have repeatedly fuelled protests in countries as diverse as South Africa, the UK and Malaysia. But in Muslim-majority, India-controlled Kashmir, the subjugation of Palestinians is a personal matter – a reminder of their own condition.  Kashmiris emerge on the streets with banners, and seeing no difference between their overlords and Israeli soldiers, they throw stones at Indian troops. While the Indian state tries to remove all graffiti that references Kashmiri liberation from the walls and steel shutters, there is little attempt to remove the spray paint that spells “Free Gaza”. The state apparently thinks that pro-Palestinian slogans are inconsequential and uninspiring.

Kashmiris have been among the first to organize and demonstrate. They emerge on the streets with banners, and seeing no difference between their overlords and Israeli soldiers, they throw stones at Indian troops. When the last Gaza offensive began in July 2014, Kashmiris took to the streets daily to protest against the Israeli bombardment. In one incident, Indian armed forces fired live ammunition at protesters in a district 60km from Srinagar, killing ninth-grader Suhail Ahmed.

Historical meditation
For decades, Kashmiris in Indian-controlled Kashmir have been demanding freedom, or at least the right to self-determination as promised by the 1948 UN Security Council Resolution 47. Kashmir has been claimed in full by both India and Pakistan since 1947. A de facto border separates the Indian-controlled from the Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. Three out of the four wars fought between the two countries have been over the dispute.

Since the armed resistance began in 1988, more than 70,000 people have been killed, and thousands more are unaccounted for through enforced disappearances. Today, with around 700,000 troops amid a population of 14 million, Kashmir is the most militarized place on earth.

While the Indian state tries to remove all graffiti that references Kashmiri liberation from the walls, there is little attempt to remove the spray paint that spells “Free Gaza”(MEE)

This is a society harassed by checkpoints and army convoys, terrorized by troops able to operate with impunity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and mired in a legal malaise called the Public Safety Act that allows young boys to be picked up and held indefinitely without charge. This is not dissimilar to the Israeli policy of “administrative detention” that has seen thousands of Palestinians held indefinitely. For years, Indian forces have used lead-plated pellets as a method of “crowd control”. These have blinded 1,000 people and wounded 10,000 others, with injuries ranging from torn tissue to internal organ damage. As if violence was not enough, the Indian state regularly disconnects the internet and telephone services to discourage grassroots organizing and the dissemination of information, and to cut off Kashmiri people from the rest of the world.

Oppressors-in-arms
Though the strengthening of ties between India and Israel is a fairly recent phenomenon, they have rapidly developed an effective partnership based on strategic interests. India has repeatedly sent its police and Special Forces to Israel for training. Between 2013 and 2017, India was the largest importer of Israeli arms. Israeli Rafael’s Spice 2000 missiles as well as Heron drones reportedly played a significant role in India’s recent “surgical strike” in Pakistan on 26 February. Just days before the strike, India ordered 50 more drones in a deal worth $500m.

Modi is sacrificing India’s interests at the altar of Israeli apartheid

Crucially, Israel continues to collaborate with India to ensure that Kashmiris remain a subjugated people. And while the occupations of Palestine and Kashmir are not identical – there are certainly differences – Israeli and Indian ambitions are not dissimilar. In some ways, they feed off each other.

Israel has systematically ethnically cleansed Palestinians, taking over their homes, buying off resistance, quelling dissent, and appropriating elements of their culture – even cuisine – as part of a larger bid to remove the Palestinian footprint from these lands. As a result, Palestinians are essentially second-class non-citizens. In comparison, India, through a policy of “domestication” – or to use BJP leader Ram Madhav’s words, “instilling India” into Kashmiri Muslims – seeks to make Kashmiri Muslims relinquish their political identities and submit to the larger Indian project. They would then become “Indian Muslims”, who, by all measures of success and equity in Indian society, are second-class citizens. The endgame is to facilitate a demographic shift in Kashmir itself, bringing in more Hindus from India to settle into Kashmir.

Manufacturing consent
Then, there is the matter of language and manufacturing consent. Both Israel and India employ a sophisticated, securitized, statist language – parroted by their jingoistic media – that helps to legitimize the occupation, along with related human rights violations and crackdowns.

India seeks to make Kashmiri Muslims relinquish their political identities and submit to the larger Indian project

The quick resort to Islamophobia is an easy sell to justify their actions. Just as Israel describes its invasions of Gaza as a “defence” against “radical Islamist” Hamas members, Indians are still able to invoke their international brands of “Gandhi” and “yoga” while unleashing ammunition into protests by Kashmiri youth, saying that they are Pakistan-sponsored terrorists or radical jihadists. Israelis famously picnicked on hilltops to watch as the bombs rained down on Gaza in 2014. This week, as Indian jets flew over Pakistani territory to kickstart war, Indian celebrities cheered them on Twitter. It is a willful use of language, the blind loyalty of an elite, and the disconnection of local and international media that allows both Palestinians and Kashmiris to be vilified at any given opportunity.

Just as Israelis or Zionists intimidate academics, journalists and intellectuals who question Israeli policies, so too do the strong, often nationalistic Indian diaspora in media houses and schools around the planet attempt to suppress any discussion of Kashmir. Like Palestinians, many young Kashmiris, powerless in the face of state machinery, have resorted to stone-pelting. The fact that Indian authorities use disproportionate force – including burning down villages, homes and crops of those loosely acquainted with rebel fighters – is also conveniently ignored.

Public sentiment
Both Palestine and Kashmir have neighbours operating primarily on self-interest. If Palestine has Jordan and Egypt undermining its cause, Kashmir has Pakistan, which seeks little more than allegiance and a worthy alibi in India to deflect from the real and legitimate concerns of Kashmiris.

For decades, Kashmiris have been demanding the right to self-determination as promised by the 1948 UN Resolution 47 (MEE)

 

Finally, it’s a matter of public sentiment. When it comes to the larger Israeli and Indian publics, the vulgarity of the occupation has stripped them of their humanity to the point that they cheer for death and war. Israelis famously picnicked on hilltops to watch as the bombs rain down on Gaza in 2014. This week, as Indian jets flew over Pakistani territory to kick start war, Indian celebrities – including writers, actors, cricket stars, a former undersecretary at the UN, and a current UNICEF ambassador – cheered them on Twitter.

*Azad Essa is a reporter for the Middle East Eye based in New York City. He worked for Al Jazeera English between 2010-2018 covering southern and central Africa for the network. In 2018, he was a visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He is the author of The Moslems are Coming (Harper Collins India) and Zuma’s Bastard (Two Dogs Books).

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Don’t befriend me for a day, and leave me a month. Don’t get close to me if you’re going to leave. Don’t say what you don’t do. Be close or get away.

 لا تصاحبني يوماً .. لتهجرني شهراً ولا تقربني .. لتبعدني .. لا تقل ما لا تفعل كُن قريباً .. أو ابتعد.

Mahmoud Darwish.