Palestine: Loving resistance calls us to dare more than words
Mahatma Gandhi said no to forced settlement of Israelis in Palestine"The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs."(Mahatma Gandhi) India and Israel established full diplomatic ties on January 29, 1992 and in the first ever prime ministerial visit to the nation, Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Tel Aviv from July 4 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the diplomatic ties. In these 25 years, Israel has emerged as India's most reliable defence partner and India as Israel's largest defence market, accounting for 41 per cent of its arms export.But it was not like this always. In fact, if it took 45 years after the independence for India to allow Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, it was because of India's principled solidarity with the Palestinian cause that was against the forced settlement of Israelis in the Palestinian territory. And the origin behind this principled stand can be traced back to Mahatma Gandhi, our Father of the Nation, who believed that Israelis could settle in Palestine only with the permission from Arabs and it was wrong for them to enter with the might of the British gun.
Writing on November 26, 1938, Mahatma Gandhi says that his sympathies are with the Jews some of whom have been his friends since his days in South Africa. Thus, he knows about the age-long persecution of the Jews. But, he draws a line here saying his sympathy for the Jews cannot blind him to the requirements of justice. "The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me." He says that Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French and it is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs."
International support for Palestine may, in fact, be slipping through their fingers given the nature of geo-politics and the influence of economic factors in international relations. Many Arab States, as well as hitherto reliable supporters of Palestinian liberations, are resorting to opportunism and making deals with Israel. This is usually, or always, under western pressure as happened to India in 1992, when India conceded their principled and ethical anti-Israel stance and chose, in lieu, lucrative economic prospects. Not to say that Israel is an economically developed country as such. It is, perhaps, one of the most dependent economies – living off aid often obtained by imposing the guilt factor on those nations which once virtually exterminated the Jews. But you cannot live on guilt for 70 years and more. Israel has been accused of doing to Palestinians just what the Nazis did to them. Gandhi’s words ring a razor-sharp tone “if they (the Jews) must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British (western) gun. Progressive people around the world today recollect the adverse effects from the infamous Balfour declaration which opened up the space for the Zionist Movement to lay claims to Israel after the British Mandate in those areas came to an end. Those who support justice for Palestinians also recall 1948 when 750,000 Palestinian refugees created between 1947 and 1948, as many as 300,000 had already been expelled by Zionist terror groups before the Arab armies intervened belatedly in an attempt to stop the massacres. Those among them who are alive still claim their ‘right to return’. International law supports their claim and Israel makes-believe that such a law is untenable. In just the last few days, reports of Israeli atrocities beating the “drums of a religious war by inciting religious sentiments of one and a half billion Muslims around the world “were sounded. Israel last week closed Al-Aqsa Mosque to worshipers which led to the Palestinian Authority warning that “the Israeli spatiotemporal divisional plan could lead to a religious war”. Israeli authorities incite without limits to implement restrictive policies on Palestinians as part of collective punishment. This time it was ostensibly to revenge Palestinians for the stabbing of an Israeli girl a year ago. The plight of the Bedouins is one of perpetual uncertainty. More than 7,000 Palestinian Bedouins are still at risk of forcible transfer from their villages. Yet, there is a built-in resilience and hope that keeps them going. Their agony, however, cannot be underestimated. For how long can they be asked to cope without Israel feeling the compulsion of international retaliation of isolation? When a country likes Spain virtually enlists people in all its geographic regions around the BDS campaign, it sends shivers down the spines of Israeli authorities. It is this brand of courage that more countries are asked to indulge in. Not the kind of opportunism that India is now absorbed in - empty words of support to Palestine and massive trade and cultural-academic ties with Israel. Gone are the days when Indians proudly displayed passports which prohibited them from visiting South Africa and Israel for the same reason- apartheid. In, what seems to be a broader challenge, the recent debate about whether Hebron is culturally Arab has sent shivers down Israeli leaders and anxiety with Palestinians. The Holy Land is historically the place where the three monotheistic religions have their roots. Any settlement must take this vision of coexistence into account. It cannot be one over the other but an equitable arrangement based on mutuality. Neither the barrel of the gun, nor the anger of the street can bring peace. Power is not usually disposed to giving up its privileged position voluntary. It does so under some kind of force. The Palestinian call to ‘loving resistance’ is an apt one to recall in this case. They said: “We hold a clear position that non-violent resistance to this injustice is a right and duty for all Palestinians, including Christians”. There is a slogan that gazes at me in the face every time I am at my desk to work. It says quite profoundly; yet simply: “Once the power of love overcomes the love of power, there will be peace”. Will the world dare more than words at a time when Palestinians face their darkest nights? “…the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.” (Thomas Fuller) The author is Editor, Palestine Updates