Last week, the All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation and Committee for Independent Foreign Policy issued a call for India to break its military ties with Israel, a call which was endorsed by Prakash Karat, general secretary CPI(M), D P Tripathi, general secretary NCP, Shahid Siddiqui, of SP in a press conference on March 5, 2008. This brings out clearly that India’s strategic ties with Israel is not only an issue with the Left but also the concern of a much larger section of political opinion in the country.
The underbelly of India-Israel relations also came out with the revelations in the Barak case. The Nandas are currently in jail for organising kick-backs on the multi billion dollar Barak deal with Israel. What is striking here is that while the Bofors deal had caused the black listing of Bofors AB, but Barak kick-backs have caused no such response. In fact, the Barak deal is being curently enlarged to include other missiles for reportedly an additional $2.5 billion.
The murky goings on in Defence deals is well known and has surfaced time and again. The Nandas are only the conduit of money that originates from Israeli arms companies. While George Fernandes is the accused of the earlier deal, who is responsible for the current expansion of a deal secured by such questionable means? Why is it that if Barak resulted in India’s sea borne missile program being scrapped, who is now responsible for scrapping the other parts of the missile program? The only missiles that have come out of the program is the Agni, all else seem destined to give away before the Barak and the Israeli ties.
However, the Barak scandal should not overshadow the events in Palestine. The strangulation of Gaza not only continues, there is an escalation of violence against its people. More ominously, now Israeli ministers are openly talking of “a bigger holocaust” that needs to be visited on Gaza. More than 120 people have died in the attacks on Gaza, in which around 25 are children. Shelling and missile attacks continue and Israeli Occupation Forces have entered Gaza in what they term as retaliatory raids. The Annapolis peace talks are now winding down to their predictable end of delivering nothing to the Palestinians while the Settler activities on West Bank continue.
Meanwhile, in an attack inside a Jewish “religious seminary” in Jerusalem, 8 persons were shot down. The western media, which found it difficult to report deaths of Palestinians in Gaza, immediately did their high voltage reporting of Israeli deaths. This is not to deny that all killings of civilians population – Israeli or Palestinians — is wrong and such killings will not settle any of the issues, but to point out that obviously in the western media, Israeli deaths seem to count much more than Palestinian ones.
ISSUES IN GAZA
What are the issues in Gaza? If Israel is believed, it is only one of Qassam rockets which are fired from Gaza and is landing in Sderot, a town near Gaza’s border. What Israel does not say is that in return, Israel will do nothing: they will continue carrying out military attacks on Gaza, will not stop targeted assassinations and will not lift sanctions on Gaza. What they are asking is that Palestinians in Gaza should surrender completely to the Israelis. This is what in 2002, Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon had declared, “the Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.” Professor Arnon Soffer, one of the architects, with former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, of the 2005 Gaza “disengagement” or turning Gaza into a vast, hermetically sealed prison for its 1.5 million people, elaborated this further. If Palestinians fire a single rocket over the fence into Israel, “we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed.” He further predicted that in a few years’ time, “when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. ..The pressure at the border will be awful. ..It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.” This is the Israeli project in Gaza.
The Gaza blockade has not been a one-time event. It started with sanctions on Gaza after the Hamas victory, was ratcheted up by declaring Gaza and enemy territory and strangling its supplies. Only 15 commodities were allowed in after September 17; from 900 trucks coming into Gaza daily, the figure came down to 15. And now we have a total strangulation of Gaza, in which even food and medicines are not allowed in.
Meanwhile, attacks on the population of Gaza have continued. Since February 27, more than 120 Palestinians have died in Israeli actions, including 25 children and five women. More than 300 are injured. On 1st March, Israeli Occupation Forces entered Gaza in and around the town of Jabaliya, one of the most densely populated places in the world. It has killed 55 people there, including 19 children and 11 other unarmed civilians. Four of these children were killed while playing soccer. Israeli attacks have completely destroyed the building of the Palestinian trade union sin Gaza, which again have nothing to do with Hamas.
The killings in the seminary in Jerusalem is not therefore an isolated incident but very much a part of this larger cycle of violence that Israel is imposing on the Palestinian population. The place attacked — Mercaz HaRav yeshiva – was the cradle of a violent and Jewish Supremacist settler movement in the West Bank known as Gush Emunim. The founder of the seminary and his son who took over from him — Abraham Isaac Kook and Zvi Yehuda Kook – have been known for their extreme hatred of the Arab population. They have propounded the doctrine that all the lands mentioned in the ancient texts belong to only Jews; Arabs have to be driven out from these lands. Kook senior believed, “The difference between a Jewish soul and souls of non-Jews – all of them in all different levels – is greater and deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle.” It is the Gush Emunim, which routinely attacks Palestinians, sprays “Arab to Gas Chambers” on walls and have led the Settler movement in taking over more and more of the West Bank. While Israeli government condemned the Hamas for praising “the killer of innocent students”, they forgot to mention that Gush Emunim and Mercaz HaRav yeshiva regards as a hero, Baruch Goldstein who murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron in February 1994.
US ENGINEERED HAMAS-FATAH CLASHES
Meanwhile, it has also become clear that the Fatah – Hamas clash in Gaza, which led to Hamas taking over Gaza, was engineered by the US intelligence services, with, of course, Israeli help. David Rose, (April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair), using confidential US government documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials has identified “how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza”. This corroborates the accounts found in Dahlan’s office after the Gaza takeover, which Hamas had released. It has been suspected for quite some time that Dahlan, the former Gaza Fatah strongman, was close to the US and was collaborating with them in their war against Hamas. The plot was simple – a coup against the Hamas in Gaza using arms smuggled in with Israel’s help. It is this threat of coup that finally forced the Hamas to take pre-emptive action and precipitated the bloody clash. While Vanity Fair assumes that the strategy of a coup against Hamas has failed, one could read in this that the larger strategy of creating a split between Fatah and Hamas has succeeded. Even though the US failed to take out Hamas from Gaza, they have effectively broken the Palestinian Authority government of Hamas and eroded the credibility of Fatah. If Israel’s task is not to solve the Palestinian issue but create conditions that are such that Palestinians finally are forced to leave Gaza and the West Bank, then the split in the Palestinian ranks will only help in this strategy. The Vanity Fair article does make clear that Fatah needs to take a serious look at what their leadership is doing, particularly when Dahlan still remains important in their set-up.
It is interesting that Elliot Abraham, convicted (and later pardoned) for withholding information from Congress during the original Iran-contra scandal under president Reagan, is the architect of this plan too. Also, the US was clear that if elections throw up forces they do not like, democracy can be dispensed with. The US agenda was to promote a presidential coup against the Hamas government. This is what the Eliot Plan also delivered.
The larger question here is what are the aims that Israel has in Palestine and what is it that the US is pushing for. It is clear that the US will underwrite the Israeli state and its current policy of bantustans in the West Bank and apartheid within Israel. Ilan Pappe, the well-known Israeli historian writes in The Electronic Intifada, March 5, 2008 “The mega prison of Palestine” as follows:
“Israel is pursuing a genocidal policy against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, while continuing the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. I asserted that the genocidal policies are a result of a lack of strategy. The argument was that since the Israeli political and military elites do not know how to deal with the Gaza Strip, they opted for a knee-jerk reaction in the form of massive killing of citizens whenever the Palestinians in the Strip dared to protest by force their strangulation and imprisonment. The end result so far is the escalation of the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians — more than one hundred in the first days of March 2008, unfortunately validating the adjective “genocidal” I and others attached to these policies. But it was not yet a strategy.
“However, in recent weeks a clearer Israeli strategy towards the Gaza Strip’s future has emerged and it is part of the overall new thinking about the fate of the occupied territories in general. It is in essence, a refinement of the unilateralism adopted by Israel ever since the collapse of the Camp David “peace talks” in the summer of 2000. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, his party Kadima, and his successor Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, delineated very clearly what unilateralism entailed: Israel would annex about 50 percent of the West Bank, not as a homogeneous chunk of it, but as the total space of the settlement blocs, the apartheid roads, the military bases and the “national park reserves” (which are no-go areas for Palestinians). This was more or less implemented in the last eight years. These purely Jewish entities cut the West Bank into 11 small cantons and sub-cantons. They are all separated from each other by this complex colonial Jewish presence. The most important part of this encroachment is the greater Jerusalem wedge that divides the West Bank into two discrete regions with no land connection for the Palestinians.
“The wall thus is stretched and reincarnated in various forms all over the West Bank, encircling at times individual villages, neighborhoods or towns. The cartographic picture of this new edifice gives a clue to the new strategy both towards the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The 21st century Jewish state is about to complete the construction of two mega prisons, the largest of their kind in human history.
“They are different in shape: the West Bank is made of small ghettos and the one in Gaza is a huge mega ghetto of its own. There is another difference: the Gaza Strip is now, in the twisted perception of the Israelis, the ward where the “most dangerous inmates” are kept. The West Bank, on the other hand, is still run as a huge complex of open air prisons in the form of normal human habitations such as a village or a town interconnected and supervised by a prison authority of immense military and violent power.”
BRUTAL COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT
The Gaza siege is nothing but a brutal act of collective punishment. The deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai speaking to the Israel Army Radio on February 29, threatened Gaza with a “bigger holocaust”. Dov Weissglas, advisor to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, crowed about the blockade as if Israel is doing Palestinians a favour: “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die.” The sheer callousness of Israel’s leadership makes clear the deeply racist nature of their views of Palestinians and why they are comfortable with the brutal occupation and the apartheid regime that today exists in West Bank, Gaza and Israel.
The Gaza and the West Bank today are mega prisons run by racist prison guards. The idea that the Palestinian population will pack up and leave if they are brutalised enough in these prisons has failed. It is clear that the Palestinian people will not surrender to the attacks and the barbaric conditions they are being forced to live under. For them to exist is to resist and this is the call that we need to listen to.
For the government of India, the alternatives are clear. We can either return to our path of independent foreign policy and support the Palestinian cause. Or march with the Israelis in their continued occupation of Palestine providing them material help. The Indian people will not accept that India tacitly supports the Israeli occupation by subsidising it with arms purchases. And Barak deals shows the danger of subversion within if we continue with our military ties with Israel. The time has come to heed the voice of the Indian and the Palestinian people and break our dangerous military and security ties with Israel.