‘Palestine question was never a domestic political issue’
By Abdul Bari Masoud
Perhaps it is for the first time that Indian foreign policy towards the Palestine-Israel conflict and the media’s role have come under sharp criticism, as earlier India always stood for the Palestinians’ just and legitimate cause.
It has not gone unnoticed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first foreign leaders in the world to express “solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour”. In a tweet posted within hours of the Hamas onslaught, Modi said: “Deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel. Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour.”
Then India abstained from voting on a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on October 27 that called for an “immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce” despite Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes and ground offensive in Gaza, which are flattening neighborhoods and appearing to be mass casualties.
Analysts noted that the Modi government has been cleverly manipulating its foreign policy to serve its domestic ideological agenda. They see that Islamophobia has entered foreign policy.
Avay Shukla, a retired IAS officer and author of The Deputy Commissioner’s Dog and Other Colleagues, writes that previous Indian governments, from the time of Nehru to Vajpayee, had the humanism and vision to realize this; they had also learned from our own history the abject consequences of partition and could therefore empathize with the Palestinians whose own ancestral lands had been partitioned in 1947.
Shukla underlines that there is a deep rapport with Israel as “not so with Naya Bharat, where the benefits of Pegasus, hi-tech weapons, and training by Mossad matter more than shared history, humanitarianism, and justice. Islamophobia has now entered our foreign policy, it would appear; it was inevitable after the nine years of the present regime, for, as Hubert Humphrey remarked, “Diplomacy is nothing but domestic policy with its hat on.” Which is why Mr. Jaishankar has gone silent for now on this “war”, with even his usual waffling missing.”
“What India, which has ditched all moral and ethical values for rank opportunism and, in the apt words of (retired) ambassador Talmiz Ahmed, has “corporatized” its foreign policy for the benefit of a few cronies, does not smell is the faecal stench of racism emanating from the Israel-Palestine issue. When “white” Ukrainian civilians are killed by Russia, the West is outraged, but when “brown” Palestinians are massacred by Jews, it sees this as just retribution. Even an Uncle Tom like Rishi Sunak is blind to this”, he added.
On November 9, India again abstained from a draft resolution by the Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. The resolution was approved by a recorded vote of 85 in favor to 13 against, with 72 abstentions.
This resolution “deplores those policies and practices of Israel that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories, as reflected in the report of the Special Committee covering the reporting period.”
The Jordanian resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, which named neither Hamas nor Israel, was adopted, with 120 countries supporting it.
India, which claimed self-appointed leadership of the Global South at the G20 summit in New Delhi in September, found itself abandoned by the Global South in the General Assembly and effectively isolated. Every neighboring country voted in favor of the resolution, including Bhutan, which, by India’s logic, would appear to be supportive of terror.”
Former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said it was unfortunate India did not vote in favor of the Jordanian resolution on the ceasefire. Speaking with Radiance, Khurshid said that, as a result, India now stands alone in the Global South. If India had not abstained from voting in favor of the resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, it would have made a great impact, he said.
In response to a question, the former minister said the Palestine issue was never used for domestic political purposes, and those who were using it were not doing any good for the country.
It has been noted that the political leaders connected to the ruling party and the pro-establishment media are using the ongoing Middle East war to further polarize the country.
There is ideological alignment between Hindutva and Zionism, which is the main reason behind Israel getting enthusiastic support from Hindutva forces in the country, Prof. Apoorvanand told Radiance. In the past, there were no two opinions on the Palestine question, as we witness today, he underlines.
As the above pointed out, Indian foreign policy has ditched all moral and ethical values, and a large section of the mainstream media too is not following professional ethics.
Asad Mirza, an international affairs commentator, noted that the recent “inhuman” attack by Israel on Gaza and its reporting both by the Indian and western media have shown a complete bias and ignorance of history by the so-called journalists reporting from ground zero.
He told Radiance that most of the Indian Hindi TV channels, as usual, took to crazy, misleading, and mostly wrong headlines to garner the TRPs. Some even resorted to using two-year-old video clips, claiming that they were the latest videos from Gaza City. Most of our TV anchors, fully costumed in bulletproof vests and helmets, could be seen reporting from the backs of Israeli soldiers, moving around under cover, in addition to reporting from their cozy hotel rooms and taking their viewers for a ride, with the firm belief that a large number of Indian viewers are deaf and blind and will consume anything that is doled out to them in the garb of nationalism, read here as Hindu nationalism.
But here they forget that earlier, the RSS stalwarts, or the so-called founders or ideologies, were completely supportive of Hitler’s anti-Jew propaganda and killing machine. However, as in the current crisis, the common enemy of both the Jewish lobby and the so-called nationalist Hindutva forces is common, i.e. Muslims. The global Hindutva brigade quickly joined the bandwagon to condemn the Hamas attack and later extended the justification for Israeli operations against the unarmed Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
Echoing his views, another media analyst, Ashraf Quamar, argues the Indian media as a whole appears disinterested in the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, while citing the example of Manipur. Instead, the media seems to portray it as a success for the Israeli government. None of the Indian TV anchors went to Gaza to report on the sufferings of Gazans at the hands of Israelis; instead, they chose to fly to Tel Aviv and primarily reported on the conflict based on statements from Israeli authorities.”
“You have to admit that most of the journalists in the television news media have willingly aligned themselves with the right wing. They often prioritize safeguarding the government and promoting the interests of the BJP, either because they believe in protecting Hindutva or due to their inherent affiliations with the current administration,” he told Radiance.
He also noted that in TV debates, Muslim guests are often pressured to label Hamas as a terrorist organization, implying that their failure to do so automatically associates them with terrorism.
Recently, a defense expert made a disturbing statement, suggesting the slaughter of a significantly higher number of Palestinian children in response to Israeli casualties. Furthermore, during this statement, popular TV anchor Deepak Chaurasia appeared to express agreement.