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Sane Voices on the Palestine-Israel Issue

Arshad Shaikh records the few sane voices over the Palestine-Israel issue. It is important to amplify these voices because it has become next to impossible to come out strongly in favour of the Palestinian cause in the face of the extremely dominant narrative being built by mainstream media that Israel is a victim of Palestinian terror. People like Shashi Tharoor, Talmiz Ahmad and Qamar Agha should be appreciated for speaking the truth when mainstream domain experts have been unable to say anything beyond declaring unwavering support for Israel.

In an era where speaking the truth to power has become something rare and precious, the words expressed by former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor are indeed welcome and significant.

Speaking to a news agency over the Prime Minister’s statement on Israel, Dr. Tharoor said, “While we understood the Prime Minister standing up for Israel showing solidarity at this time of great grief and this horror that has been visited upon them. At the same time, we felt that his statement was incomplete. Because I felt that, we needed to remember that there is a larger issue at stake here and a reason behind all of this, which is that there is a dehumanizing occupation continuing in many places.

“The people of Gaza have been imprisoned in the strip for a long time. The people of West Bank have a wall, which is interfering with their normal freedom of movement and conditions of life.”

It is important to remind people that the “dehumanizing occupation” is the core issue in the Palestine-Israel conflict. A resolution to the problem cannot be obtained without ending the occupation.

The President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Syed Sadatullah Husaini also struck at the root cause of the conflict. In a statement to the media, the JIH President said, “It must not be forgotten that the current spate of violence is the result of Israeli aggression unleashed by the most right-wing Netanyahu government against the Palestinians that has claimed the lives of hundreds of people including children, so far. The continued Israeli policies of occupation and settlements and the provocative desecration of Aqsa mosque are depriving the region of any serious opportunity for peace and stability in the region. The United Nations and the international community must immediately spring to action, de-escalate the situation and immediately stop the expansion of Jewish settlements. We also call on the international community to prevent Israel from using these events as an excuse to launch a disproportionate war against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind believes in the famous saying of Gandhiji that has been the basis of India’s age-old policy that

‘Palestine belongs to the Palestinians just as England belongs to the British, or France belongs to the French’.”

Former Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE, Talmiz Ahmad was interviewed by veteran journalist Karan Thapar for the Wire. Explaining the reason behind the eruption of hostilities between Palestinian resistance fighters and Israel, Ahmad said, “To describe these attacks as unprovoked is an exercise in self-delusion. It has been staring us in the face ever since December last year when Netanyahu formed his government. (It was evident) that there is going to be trouble in the region (as) he has put together the most extreme (right wing) government that we have had in Israel. A country, which has its fair share of xenophobes, now has them in the mainstream. They are the ones who run the country. He appointed a national security adviser and a finance minister who are associated with extreme xenophobia with regard to the Arabs and the Palestinians.

“They are committed to expanding the settlements in the West Bank. From that day till today consistent with their own view, they have been doing this, they have been deliberately and mischievously provoking the region into violence. Most importantly, they have strolled through the Al Aqsa (Masjid) Complex. Their zealots have gone in their hundreds disrupting prayers and really defiling the sacred precincts of the mosque. This has been building up for some time. There has been considerable evidence of anger in the region. Therefore, to believe this is unprovoked is to be completely delusionary and has no basis in reality.”

Highlighting the plight of the Palestinians, the former diplomat further said, “I don’t buy this argument that that Gaza was peaceful. This is again delusionary. Gaza can never be peaceful. It has 2.3 million people living in that little enclave. It has been described as the largest open-air prison in the world. They have 45% to 50% unemployment. Young people are unemployed to the extent of 75%. You think this business of 20,000 people getting jobs in Israel out of a population of 2.3 million is going to dilute their anger. It is not. It is completely idiotic; it makes no sense at all. Gaza has been a boiling cauldron.”

Taking part in a prime time media debate, defense expert, Qamar Agha said, “See you have to understand the problem. It is a problem of occupation. Israel must withdraw (from the occupied land) as per the international resolutions. Even the US is committed to this because of the various UN resolutions. Israel will have to withdraw under any circumstances.

“The Palestinians felt that the Palestinian question was receding from the horizon and being ignored and forgotten. The Israelis were inflicting pain and repression on Palestine regularly and without any consequence. The blockade of Gaza was a collective punishment on a land with the highest urban concentration of people.  Israel’s plan of a “Greater Israel” through annexation of land and subjugation of people is not easy. The Palestinians are not ready to accept this. They will continue to resist and fight the Israelis. If the war escalates, it will affect the global economy.”

As the war continues with the Gazans continuing to be subjected to the worst war crimes possible, the international community is complicit in this massacre of Palestinians by its criminal silence. These sane voices, which articulate the pain of Palestinians and call a spade a spade, need to be cascaded to those audiences who are trapped in the spin and bluff of the mainstream media.

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