The Gaza Debate A Viewpoint
The Rajya Sabha had been pressing for a debate on the Gaza action of Israel, and with overwhelming pressure, including by threatening to forestall all other discussions in the Rajya Sabha, they were able to pressure an unwilling government to debate the issue.
The government did not want a debate for good reasons, pivoted on the security of the nation and India’s consequently changing foreign policy. Not only that, but India’s foreign policy is overdue for a drastic overhaul, given that our erstwhile Arab friends never support India vis-à-vis Pakistan, while Israel comes to our material defense in time of conflict and has become a large arms supplier to poor India.
But, Rajya Sabha members, mostly from opposition ranks, that motivated by vote-bank politics, it is not surprising that they wish to discuss the Gaza issue with an aim at condemning Israeli action there, and embarrassing the incumbent government.
But, the Indian government needn’t feel ashamed of their stance and friendliness for Israel. But, it will come out in the debate that India is now a partly different nation, with revised priorities, that India will now not sacrifice or de-recognize Israel for the sake of vote-bank, and that Israeli-Indian relations are here to stay.
The Israeli History
A brief history of the Israeli case and India’s foreign policy gaffs is necessary. First, Israel never started any war with the Arabs. Even if you trace the entire chain of each and every violent event since 1948, you will discover that Israel never started any conflict, and that every action of Israel was a reaction to the Arab killing of Jews and attacks on Israel.
The State of Israel recognized by the United Nation was not a Jewish State: it was a state where Arabs and Jews were to live together, much as all religious groups live together in India and other democratically open countries. But, the Arabs were intolerant, wanted the whole of Palestine to themselves to the exclusion of Jews, and attacked their Jewish neighbors in 1948. That was the simple start, after which the Palestinians never relented, but after which the Jews never looked back.
The Jews, however, allowed Palestinians to stay in Israel. Even today, there are 1.6 million Arabs living in Israel, comprising 20% of Israel’s population, earning a good living, and not disloyal to Israel. But, guess how many Jews the Arabs will allow to stay in their countries? That’s right, zero. This first of all shows the Israeli tolerant viewpoint in contrast to that of the Arabs. So, who’s side would India rather be on: a religious sycophant’s or a tolerant group’s?
Attacks on Israel
Again, never once has Israel attacked without provocation—not in the 1948 or 1956 or 1967 or 1973 wars. It invaded Lebanon in 1980 upon increased rocket attacks from there on its territory, while the same reason was valid for 2007. Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear plant because it was an existentialist threat to them, plain and simple, a morally justified action against a mad dictator. It has threatened to bomb any Iranian nuclear plant for the same reason. Israel exhibits guts, unlike Indian governments of the past. It is a perfectly logical and rationale reaction to seek survival. So, Israel is not wrong in their reactions by a long shot. What would you expect: Israel to roll over? Sorry, you’ll have to fight for that.
In 1956, Egypt provoked the whole world by closing down the Suez Canal; in 1967, Nasser openly, and without provocation by Israel, mobilized his troops for war with Israel; in 1973, Egypt pushed across the Suez Canal in a surprise move. And after that, the Palestinians have thrown rocks and rockets at the Israelis without let for all these past decades. When Israel was ready to give Palestine 73% of the West Bank in a peaceful settlement in 2000 at Camp David between
Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, in exchange for recognition from Palestine for Israel’s right to exist, Palestine demurred. How can you blame Israel for demanding the right to exist? And, how irrational it is to demand that the Jews be pushed out into the sea. Why can’t Hamas stop its rocket attacks on Israel, instead?
The present episode started after Palestinians killed three Jewish youths, made their bodies disappear for a few days, and then dumped the bodies in the open some place for Israeli security forces to pick up.
This was outright and horrific provocation. This is also unlike India’s meek response when bodies of Indian soldiers were returned by Pakistan with the testicles of the soldiers neatly packaged in small packets above their coffins.
Israel’s philosophy is simple: “I won’t attack you if you don’t provoke me; but, if you attack, I shall extract an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This is, again, a very morally justifiable philosophy. One cannot always leave it to God to extract revenge, and one cannot roll over to let the enemy walk over. Besides, even God works through our own efforts.
India’s Foreign Policy
Our past governments have always leaned towards the Arabs, starting with Jawaharlal Nehru’s ivory cloud philosophy and intellectuality. His reasons for leaning towards the Arabs were first of all retaliation against Western powers for their colonial rule. He fancied himself as the great leader of the emerging world, which never really came to pass. He saw Israel’s creation as a Western plot rather than seeing it as a homecoming for the Jews after 2,000 years in forced exile. Why do we think that the Palestinians are underdogs when the Jews have been underdogs for 2,000 years and still are?
And, inspite of their exile and hardship—being pushed around from country to country—the per capita contribution to Nobel Prize Winners from among Jews is higher than any other religious group. Einstein was a Jew, and so were economists Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman. Twenty percent of all Nobel Prize winners have been Jews when only 0.2% of the world is Jewish. It behooves India to flock with the good kind, rather than flock with countries who produce terrorists who declare jihad on India.
Nehru’s distorted philosophies—such as in Korea and in shunning Eisenhower’s atoms for peace program—took us further and further away from the West, resulting in India being denied Western technology that was desperately needed in India. The philosophy of shunning the West soon drew us deeper and deeper into Russia’s orbit. First, we were a non-aligned nation “aligned” with the USSR; then we further supported all nations that were supported by the USSR, such as the Arab nations and Palestinians, training pilots such as from Iraq in flying MIGs. The more India supported the USSR and nations allied with them, the more the West shunned India, and the more India fell deeper and deeper into the Soviet hole. When we couldn’t develop our own weapons because we didn’t have the technology because the West had shunned us, we leaned more and more on the Soviet post such that if their support were to fail, India would fall. The Soviets finally had India where they wanted it. And, India had lost its compass.
But no amount of support from Russia would ensure the support of the Palestinians or Arabs for India during a war with Pakistan. So, why should India be friends with those who will not be friends with India in time of need? I would rather have a friend who will watch my back (Israel) when the bullets start flying, than have friends (Arabs) who will disappear from the scene. One good friend is better than a hundred hocus-phocus friends. This is a lesson no one should ever forget. When it’s war, you must be in a trench with someone who will fight with you.
We should have seen the light of day when Israel knocked the daylight out of all Arab nations in the 1967 war, but India is slow to wake up. Even now, India should assert itself for its friendship with Israel. If one won’t stand up for one’s beliefs, then no one will stand for yours. Not one Arab nation has ever once come to our moral support, let alone material support during a standoff with Pakistan. Then why do we want to lick the boots of those who will not scratch our back when we scratch theirs? This is not to say that we need to break relations with the Arabs, or stop business with them, but only that we need to set our compass straight.
Petroleum and Business
It is said that we need to support the Arabs because we need to buy petroleum from them. This is ridiculous! Much oil is bought at the spot market. Next, where there is business, there are deals. So, India can make commercial deals without bending over backwards. Not only that, one doesn’t have to be a friend to do commerce: one only has to be a buyer and seller—a merchant. Merchants have only one interest—commerce and trade. In fact, the Arab oil producing nations want to sell India oil as much as India wants to buy oil. Don’t think that the oil will go elsewhere if India does not buy from them. Commerce, buying capacities of nations (including China), and price of minerals doesn’t work that way.
The next fear is the arm-twisting India fears from the more than 20-some Arab bloc in the United Nations. But, that is a misplaced fear, too. For instance, look how well Taiwan is doing economically and militarily, and it isn’t even a member of the United Nations. Thus, India’s priorities must correspond to its security interests. There is no need for India to place its eggs in the wrong basket. Those eggs will break if they are not secured.
Hence, the conclusion is straightforward: Israel and India are fighting the same jihadis; Israel and India are subject to the same existentialist threats. India needs true friends, not fair-weather friends. The Rajya Sabha must be told by the government in the debate that it won’t retract at all in its relationships with Israel, that it won’t condemn Israel for its rocket attacks on Gaza when Israel is not in the wrong. There is no need to feel sorry for the Arabs, because they never feel sorry for India. But, there is reason to sympathize with Israel because Israel sympathizes with India. Finally, Israel is not a terrorist nation, but the Arab nations produce terrorists. Thus, to take a page from morality means taking the high road. And that’s where India needs to be.
(Indian Defence review)
By Amarjit Singh