Following the sudden October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas we are now witnessing nothing short of a genocidal Israeli campaign against Gaza. The combination of relentless carpet-bombing and a total embargo on all essential supplies including food, water, fuel, electricity and medicines is pushing up the death toll every hour. More than 4,000 Palestinians with approximately 3,420 civilians including 1,413 children and 806 women have reportedly been killed in the first twelve days of the Israeli offensive. The people of north Gaza have all been told to flee and homes and schools are being systematically destroyed. Even hospitals are not being spared. While Israel now refuses to own responsibility for the horrific killing of around five hundred people including patients, doctors, nurses and other hospital workers in the airstrike on Al-Ahili hospital, statements made by Israeli leaders and officials in power make it pretty clear that Israel is out to annex Gaza and believes that genocide is an acceptable way to achieve this military goal.
The Israeli aggression has the fullest backing of the Biden administration and America’s European allies. The NATO bloc which backs Ukraine to the hilt in defence of Ukraine’s right to self-determination has a totally different standard for Palestine. For the US and NATO, it is Israel’s right to self-defence which is the issue and Israel openly says that Palestine does not exist and has no right to exist. Israel employs the same language in relation to Palestine and Palestinians that Nazi Germany used before killing six million Jews in the Holocaust. When Israel does not use terms like ‘human animals’ or ‘children of darkness’ for Palestinians, it calls them terrorists or ‘human shields’. The US has used its veto power to block UN Security Council calls for an urgent cease-fire or even a humanitarian pause to save Palestinian lives. Clearly both Israel and US are interested in prolonging and intensifying the present conflict – Israel wants to annex Gaza and crush the Palestinian quest for a sovereign homeland while the US wants to reinforce its waning global hegemony.
The most significant shift in support of Israel has come from the Modi regime. The Indian Prime Minister who has hardly bothered to speak about the continuing ethnic violence in Manipur for months together, let alone visit the trouble-torn province even once, was quick to extend India’s full support to Israel completely obliterating the historicity of the Palestine question and abandoning the legitimate cause of Palestinian self-defence and self-determination in the name of combating terrorism. With the whole world now waking up to the genocidal scale and pattern of the Israeli aggression in Gaza, the Modi government too has had to attempt some balancing act, but the act is too insincere and weak to make any difference. A belated phone call to the Palestinian President to condole the loss of Palestinian lives or a reiteration of India’s support for a two-state solution makes little sense when unarmed Palestinians are daily being killed and the government refuses to identify Israel as the aggressor or call for an urgent ceasefire at the very least.
The shift that has taken place in India is much more than just a policy shift. The dominant Indian media has become an overenthusiastic jingoistic partner of Israel with several television anchors rushing to Israel to join the Israeli propaganda campaign. Gaza has been rendered almost completely invisible and any expression of concern for the common people of Gaza or any solidarity with the Palestinian cause is being portrayed as an advocacy of, or even an act of terror and sedition. In UP, AMU students have been booked for taking out a march in solidarity with Palestine, and in Delhi citizens have been detained for joining a meeting to demand peace in Gaza even as pro-Israel public meetings and marches are being facilitated and sponsored by the police. India has also become notorious as a foremost consumer, dispenser and even producer of a lot of fake news on the current situation in Israel and Gaza.
The Modi government and the Sangh-BJP brigade see the Hamas attack on Israel and its unfolding aftermath as a great opportunity to deepen communal polarisation and whip up an ultranationalist frenzy in India in the run-up to the forthcoming assembly elections in five states and the all-important 2024 Lok Sabha elections. It is one of those weird ironies of history that the RSS which started its journey with Hitler and Mussolini as role-models and the Nazi hatred and violence against Jews as a ‘profitable’ template for Hindutva has now developed such deep ideological affinity and strategic political convergence with Israel on the common ground of Islamophobia. The identification of the Indian establishment with Israel today is so complete that any disagreement with the government’s position is being treated as support for Hamas and terrorism. This identification with Israel is now turning into endorsement of genocide of a people fighting for self-determination. Such a policy can only alienate India from our traditional allies in the Arab world and undermine our own anti-colonial legacy of the freedom movement. The Indian people must therefore reject this pro-Israel stand of the Modi government and join the global voice for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and a political resolution of the conflict honouring the Palestinian people’s right to a sovereign homeland.