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Mainstream, VOL LII No 36, August 30, 2014

Israeli Killings in Gaza and Our Human Instincts

Sunday 31 August 2014, by Humra Quraishi


First things first. Why did the security forces kill an unarmed 14-year-old protestor in the Kashmir Valley? This boy was merely protesting against Israel’s brutal killings of those hapless Palestinians in the Gaza settlement. At least this young Kashmiri boy had the guts and grit to protest against the ongoing genocide! And instead of honouring his spirit, we kill him! Don’t we civilians have the basic right to protest and cry out?

In fact, this brings me to the bigger question. There is an eerie quiet spreading out, a strange reality hitting. Besieged Palestinians in Gaza are killed and ruined, yet the world sits unperturbed. Why? What’s going wrong with our very basic human instinct to react to this genocide?

Why talk of the world when the political rulers of this country don’t care to mouth outrage and disgust? Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, was rather too categorical in stating loud and clear that she will not react to the current Israel-Palestinian crisis. Is Israel so very overpowering? Is Israel donating or selling arms and arms technology to India? Is Israel controlling our governing moves?

There is more than a shift in our foreign policy. Though, thankfully, I’m no expert and nor an analyst but I have been covering New Delhi’s so-called social-cum-cultural circuit for the last several years and with that have seen those good old days when Palestinians were our ‘close friends, our allies, our Arab brothers...’

In fact, in the late 1990s I had met Yasser Arafat at a reception hosted in his honour. I was keen on interviewing him and I got in touch with the then Ambassador of Palestine to India, Dr Khaled El-Sheikh. He’d suggested I attend the reception he was hosting for his leader at New Delhi’s Taj Mahal Hotel and together with that gave a subtle hint that Yasser Arafat wouldn’t be able to give a detailed interview because of health reasons. And that evening this became clear as not just his hands but even his mouth was quivering. And beyond a brief sentence at one given time, he couldn’t speak at a stretch. His large eyes were at their expressive best. Though he spoke through an interpreter, what he had actually said in Arabic would get relayed through the expression of his eyes and, of course, his body language. Arabs, like us, Indians, throw about their hands and indulge in ample amount of gestures whilst talking.

And though Arafat was declared dead on November 11, 2004, he was dying a slow death for years before that. Ill-health had wrecked him, together with the constant unleash of atrocities on his people by the US-Israel combine. Not to overlook the divisions-cum-divides created within his people—a segment was critical his approach on how he should have gone about tackling the situation.

Getting you back to the Palestinians and the severe crisis they have been facing for decades, I’d been interviewing the Palesti-nian envoys to India. In fact, the very first Palestinian envoy to India was Dr Khaled El-Sheikh. Before he had joined the diplomatic service he was a member of the Al-Fatah movement for freedom struggle. Perhaps, the turning point for him came when his 18-year-old nephew was killed by the Israeli occupation forces, leaving him devastated. He had detailed the ongoing warfare: “There’s ongoing killings of the Palestinians by live ammunition, gas bombs, rocket attacks and tank shells. To add to the Palestinians’ plight Israel has targeted food stores, wheat mills and power stations... The Palestinian economy is suffering a daily loss of millions of US dollars. Israeli autho-rities are controlling our lives! We are treated worse than slaves in our own homeland... without Israeli permits and permission we cannot step out. We sit besieged and the irony is that all this is happening to us on our own land.“

And after Dr Khaled was posted back to Palestine, his successor was Osama Musa. He was a former Air Force Chief of Palestine and not a trained diplomat, so did not indulge in any of the formalities He was vocal and absolutely outspoken.

I had interviewed him on several occasions. In fact, even soon after Arafat’s death and Musa’s hadn’t minced words—“We are occupied. Slaves to the masters, Americans and Israelis, to such an extent that we had to take permission from them where to bury our leader Yasser Arafat. This is the grim reality!”

He had detailed not just the grim ground realities but also more than hinted of America’s role—“Can’t America see the killings taking place on a daily basis! And I can tell you: without America’s support, Israel is zero. Israel cannot survive a day if America did not support it.”

And he was as forthright with his peace formula for the region—“The day Israelis end their Occupation, peace will automatically come. The Palestinians are restricted to only 23 per cent of the total land that originally belonged to us. The rest—almost 80 per cent—has been occupied by Israel... Israeli policies have affected six million Palestinians—the three million displaced Palestinians who live in refugee camps and the three million who live like slaves on their own land!”

How Can We Protest in a Non-violent Way!

Hold non-violent protest meets, even if there is that lurking fear of the security forces shooting to kill the protestors! You could also request or more than request your political representative and civil society groups to hold such meets.

And, then, the other option is to shun Israeli produced-made-manufactured goods. With that boycott, shun all those connected manufacturing companies and business houses. There is a whole list of them...

I have stopped buying stuff made or marketed by Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, Procter and Gamble...