Semantics of ‘Common’ Vision

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In the 1920s, Gandhi declared, “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians as England belongs to the English and France to the French.” Gone are those days when India was one country that had been doggedly anti-Zionist and a powerful voice in the non-aligned movement. In the decades following the Nehru-Gandhi era, there has been a steady progress in India’s bilateral relationships with both Israel and the United States. Today, India is one of the largest trading partners of both these countries.

India established full-fledged diplomatic relations with Israel in January 29, 1992. Since1994 Indo-Israeli civilian trade has risen from some $250 million annually to $1.5 billion today with Indian purchases of Israeli defense products estimated as high as $900 million annually.[1] Contacts at many levels have become quite common when BJP came to power in March 1998. The relationship became warmer after the 1999 artillery duels between Pakistani and Indian forces in Kargil. Israel rushed to provide needed military technologies to New Delhi. Since then ties between the two nations produced a booming defense trade and rising commercial ties. In the summer of 2000, the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, and the Home Minister L.K. Advani visited Israel, followed by India’s National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra’s visit. In Jerusalem, of all places, Singh attributed India’s decades-long Palestine policy to the ‘Muslim votebank.’ The then Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, came to India twice –” in August 2000 and January 2001. As a prelude to Sharon’s state visit to India later in the year, Mishra was even invited to speak at the Annual Dinner held by the American Jewish Committee on May 8, 2003 in New York. The Dinner was attended by many hawkish supporters of Israel. Explaining the basis for the warm relationship between the two nations, he said, “India, the United States and Israel have some fundamental similarities. We are all democracies, sharing a common vision of pluralism, tolerance and equal opportunity."[2]

To cement the relationship, recently Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel ended his official visit as an invited guest of the Government of India. During the Vajpayee-Sharon meeting, New Delhi was promised to acquiring Phalcon airborne early warning system and anti-ballistic missiles from Israel. United States, which had earlier opposed sale of AWACS to India (and as a prelude to its own sale of nuclear and space technologies to follow in 2004), gave its nod. Speaking to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the assembled media, Sharon proposed that India and Israel work together to combat terror: "Today, Israel and India are embattled democracies and sharing values and the challenge of terrorism. United in our quest for life, liberty and peace, our joint determination to fight for these values can inspire our hope for a better future for our people."

So, here again (like Mishra earlier), Sharon –” a war criminal, who is guilty of killing tens of thousands of Palestinians, who opposed every peace deal, who personifies evil and exemplifies anti-thesis [for the pursuit] of ‘life, liberty and peace’ – spoke about sharing and fighting for common values with the Vajpayee-Advani’s India. Since when has the apartheid state of Israel promoted a “vision of pluralism, tolerance and equal opportunity?” Isn’t it a fact that the Israel is a Jewish state, which discriminates non-Jews on the basis of religion? Palestinian people are even denied basic human rights. Could Mishra or Sharon explain why there are scores of UN Resolutions and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Reports, which condemned Israel for war crimes? If Israel promoted pluralism, why did its leaders oppose a bi-national state since 1918, a position that has remained unchanged to this very day? Wasn’t it Dr. Weizmann, who in 1918, when asked by the British Secretary Balfour if coexistence of the Jews and Arabs was possible, argued against it by saying: “… the democratic principles reckons with the relative numerical strength; and the brutal numbers operate against us for there are five Arabs to one Jew”?[3] But that was then: some 86 years ago, before they uprooted nearly three quarters of a million Palestinians from their ancestral homes; Jews are now a majority in Israel. Has that shift in demography changed their position? No, not in ’67 when they occupied the West Bank and Gaza; and not now, with nearly a million Russian Ashkenazim Jews settled in their midst. They are still opposed to the return of the Palestinian refugees. The raison d’être, which has never changed, was reiterated by Moshe Dayan on June 11, 1967 in an interview with the CBS TV program “Face the Nation”. He explained: “It would turn Israel into either a bi-national or poly-Arab Jewish state instead of the Jewish state, and we want to have a Jewish state.” So much for the Israeli brand of pluralism!

A nation is often assessed in terms of its treatment of the minorities. In Israel, the Palestinians living within the pre-’67 borders are treated as the Fourth Class citizens (after Ashkenazim Jews, Sephardic Jews and Falasha Jews –” in that order). As far as the Palestinian people living inside the Occupied Territories are concerned, they are not even treated as human beings, a fact that is corroborated by hundreds of eyewitness accounts.[4] Even the former speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg of the Labor Party described Israel as a “nation [that] rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice.”[5] The indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian targets, routine demolition of homes, confiscation of lands, blockade of roads, denial of medical care and water rights, collective punishment and relentless harassment of the Palestinian population are all kosher things in the dictionary of Israeli leaders. As such, the massacre of Palestinians in Deir Yasin, Kafr Qassem, Qibaya, Sabra, Shatila, Tel et-Zaatar, southern Lebanon, Gaza, Jenin and other parts of the Occupied Territories and the resulting unfathomed misery and suffering of the Palestinian people are only a few footnotes to be repeated over and over again in the bloody history of Israel.

Consider also a specific example: in Hebron, 85% of water is diverted to 600 Uzi-totting Zionist settlers, while the 240,000 Palestinians are allotted the remainder 15% of water. That is equivalent to providing the share of 2267 Palestinians to a single Israeli illegal settler. Are these signs of equal opportunity, democracy or pluralism? How about the Settler ‘Apartheid’ wall that separates Palestinian farmers from access to their land? An example of Qalqilya is enough to demonstrate the harmful effect of this wall. The 40,000 Palestinian inhabitants of the town of Qalqilya live on one side of the wall, the land they farm and actually live off is on the other. It is estimated that when the wall is finished – almost 300,000 Palestinians will be separated from their land. The modus operandi of the Israeli state is typical of an apartheid state and not of a genuine democracy where people are treated equally. From its very conception to the present state, Israel has always been a colonial enterprise, established in the image of Cecil Rhodes’s Rhodesia, with rights limited to her Jewish people, in exclusion of her indigenous Arab population.[6]

Just as Israel considers the Occupied Territories of West Bank and Gaza as integral parts of Israel, so does India for the disputed territories of Jammu and Kashmir. Just as Israel has ignored scores of UN Resolutions relating to the Occupied Territories, India has refused to hold a UN mandated plebiscite in the IOK for more than fifty years. Just as Israel hinders UN inspection teams from investigating war crimes inside Israel, the government of India likewise bars any independent investigation team into entering Kashmir. Just as Israel has settlers in the Occupied Territories, India has been settling thousands of non-Kashmiri families in the Valley to change the demographics of the disputed territory. Just as Palestinians are depicted as terrorists in Israel, Muslims are likewise depicted as villains in India. Just as Israel discriminates against Palestinians, India discriminates Muslims. (For detailed statistics, see “Minorities in the Indian Subcontinent” by this author, Media Monitors Network, Sept. 11, 2003)

Since 1990, Indian security forces have killed more than 50,000 Kashmiris, with a lot more unaccounted for. Thousands of helpless Muslim Kashmiris have fled across the Line-of-Control to the so-called Azad Kashmir and are now living in refugee camps. The US State department, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have recorded varying categories of human rights violations in Kashmir. These include: political and extrajudicial killings; disappearances; rape; torture and custodial abuse; arbitrary arrest and detention; willful destruction of property; denial of fair trial; arbitrary interference into privacy, family, home and correspondence; use of excessive force and violations of humanitarian law; suppression of freedom of speech and press; suppression of freedom of peaceful assembly and association; and suppression of religious freedom. Are these the types of ‘fundamental similarities’ in the treatment of minorities (especially in the Occupied Territories of Palestine and the Indian Occupied Kashmir) that Mishra was alluding to?

Or, was Mishra referring to the similarities of the government actions in Gujarat and Jenin? In this regard it is worth quoting Mani Shankar Aiyar who wrote in the Indian Express (April 30, ’02): “Ariel Sharon is the Narendra Modi of Israel. Naroda Patiya is to Gujarat what Jenin is to Palestine. And just as Naroda Patiya is only the worst of a series of grisly atrocities deliberately inflicted as an act of revenge on a hapless people, so is Jenin only the worst of a vicious vengeance exacted from blameless innocents. If the Muslim pogrom in Gujarat is justified as ‘action-reaction’ for Godhra, so is Jenin exculpated as ‘action-reaction’ for a suicide bombing at a Passover party. … And just as Sharon, the Butcher of Qibaya in 1948, and of Sabra and Shatila in 1982, is the same as the Butcher of Jenin, Bethlehem and Ramallah in 2002, so are the mass murderers in Gujarat of the same stock as those who assassinated Gandhiji in 1948, razed the masjid at Ayodhya in 1992, and undertook the genocide of Gujarat in 2002. … Jenin was written into the Likud victory in the Israel elections as clearly as Gujarat was written into the ascendance of the BJP in ours. The BJP is the Likud in saffron, as the Zionist Movement is the BJP in gaberdine.[7] As in Gujarat against the minorities, so in Israel against the Palestinians the full weight of the state has been thrown behind the invasion of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank –” the territory on which, at Oslo and Washington in 1993, the Palestinians had been promised an independent state of their own by just about now."[8]

N.D. Jayaprakash, a member of the Delhi Science Forum, India, aptly sums up the newly-discovered ‘common vision’ between Israel and India: “Mr. Mishra’s claim of shared vision obviously rests on the ignoble Sangh Parivar’s (self-proclaimed group of fanatical "Hindu" organizations) version of history. According to them: ‘Just as the Hindus of India are fighting for their survival in the very land of their origin and forefathers, so too are the Jews of Israel confronting the very same threats to the nation that is theirs by historical and religious birthright. Hindus and Jews both face exactly the same danger: Islam."[9]

So, once again we notice that both these countries have identified Muslims as their common foes and are cementing the relationship on the basis of the Machiavellian mantra – ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ The troubling question is: has the United States eventually come out of the closet to join this anti-Muslim crusade? Otherwise, why would Bush in a statement from Monterrey, Mexico on January 12, ’04 pledge to help India with its space and nuclear technology?[10] Calling India and the United States "partners" in the effort to stop the proliferation of WMD, Bush said collaboration "will deepen the ties of commerce and friendship between our two nations and will increase stability in Asia and beyond." India will not be asked to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Indeed, Indian leaders made clear that, as a nuclear country, they would not sign the treaty. India’s neighbors in the region are denied any such privilege. Only six years ago the Clinton administration imposed economic sanctions after India’s nuclear tests in May 1998. The restrictions barred military sales and the transfer of military technology to India. Since then there has been much thawing in the relationship between India, Israel and the United States. The Bush administration waived the sanctions against India in September 2001 as a reward for cooperation against terrorism.

America has been fighting its war, both directly and indirectly, against the world of Islam for quite some time, since its use of cluster bombs against the Moro Muslims of the Mindanao Islands in the southern Philippines almost a century ago. It has also been providing billions of dollars worth of military, economic and technical aid to the rogue state of Israel for more than half a century. In recent days, Israel has also become the middleman to sell American technology and arms to third parties, with tacit US approval. So, with the official visit of Sharon to India, and the guaranteed sale of sophisticated weapons, it was only a question of time when USA itself would join the club. With Bush’s announcement in Mexico, it is obvious that that time has come.

It can surely be argued that these three countries, representing three world religions, are now united on the basis of a toxic ideology of hatred against Islam. Their ‘common vision’ is to defeat Muslims globally. The current ‘war on terrorism’ is a ploy to that end.[11] Demonization of the ‘other’ people legitimizes unilateral, lawless violence that otherwise would not be condoned. And this is precisely what we are seeing now. In today’s India, historical revisionism to spread hatred against Muslims has official BJP sanction. A similar disturbing trend is also up-and-coming in the United States where anti-Islamic bigotry is at an all time high. A visit to any of the bookstores or public libraries (let alone the media outlets like the TV, Radio, newspapers and magazines) is enough to smell rotten anti-Muslim bigotry. Malicious anti-Muslim materials are now easily downloadable from scores of hate websites, some affiliated with the Religious Right (whose 60 million strong Christian fundamentalists, now representing the single most powerful voting block in American history, are the greatest backers of the Bush Administration).[12] Almost all the Muslim charity organizations have been shut down under the pretext of illegally aiding groups like the Hamas.

Thousands of Muslims, mostly with minor immigration violations, are still locked up in detention centers across the country with no official charges brought against them in more than two years.[13] In a manner reminiscent of the Dreyfus case in France, Muslim Army chaplains, translators and others working at Camp X-Ray in the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been charged in military court on various charges.[14] Many of President Bush’s spiritual mentors,[15] political advisers and powerful members within his Administration – from Attorney General John Ashcroft[16] to Pentagon’s Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin[17] – have made disparaging remarks about Islam. And none of these individuals was officially reprimanded for their offensive remarks. Since 9/11, Bush, in total disregard for Muslim sensitivity, has also appointed some anti-Muslim hawks to important posts.[18] And to add insult to injury, Bible-belt missionaries have been dispatched to preach Christianity in Iraq and Afghanistan.[19]

Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy, is the front man for the Project for the New American Century. As the ideologue of the American unilateralism, he guides, promotes and drives the wheels of serial wars, aimed at one Muslim country after another. Richard Perle, the intellectual guru of the neoconservative movement, has profound influence over Bush policies and officials like Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.[20] He co-authored (with Bush’s former special assistant David Frum) the book “An end to evil: How to win the war on terror,” which is dubbed by columnist Jim Lobe as “Neocon’s Manual for Global Warmongering.” Regarding Muslims the authors write, “The roots of Muslim rage are to be found in Islam itself. There is no middle way for Americans. It is victory or holocaust.” That malicious remark speaks volumes as to what to expect in coming months and years if Perle’s neocon friends still control the policymaking bodies in Washington.

Gujarat was neither the first, nor will it be the last of its kind where the ideology of hatred showed its ugly face. The same goes for Jenin, and, arguably, for Afghanistan and Iraq (where US-dropped bombs and missiles sometimes contained highly offensive graffiti/epithets, written on their bodies, which mocked Islam). There are ample reasons to believe, something that Arundhati Roy also agrees to, that the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat and Jenin could not have taken place without the demonization of Muslims in America after 9/11.[21]

Bush’s pledge to India comes at a very odd time when India and Pakistan are talking – taking the first step towards peacefully resolving their problems. It is bound to enhance India’s ballistic missile and weapons programs, thereby strengthening India’s military capabilities and escalating an arms race in the region. It is irresponsible, if not immoral.

One also wonders if the term ‘stability’ means something different in Bush’s dictionary. I am sure no one is fooled by such an oxymoronic justification from the Bush Administration. The message from Washington is quite clear for all to understand. Just as Israel has been armed to the teeth so as to make the rogue nation the Goliath that it is today, India is now groomed for a similar role in South Asia.

Pakistan’s self-appointed President and strongman Pervez Musharraf can carry Bush’s baton and fight America’s war against terrorism, which many see as a cover for America’s emasculation of Islamic societies, but his service is seemingly paltry to merit America’s trust or friendship. Only a metamorphosis to Anwar Sadat may lend him that privilege. But is Musharraf ready to follow Sadat’s trail?

Notes:

[1]. See the report by JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), a powerful neo-conservative pro-Israel think tank – http://www.jinsa.org/articles/articles.html/function/
view/categoryid/1948/documentid/2219/history/3,1947,1948,2219

[2]. See http://www.indianembassy.org/i

[3]. The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia by Phillip Knightley and Colin Simpson, Bantam Books, NY, p. 140.

[4]. Read, e.g., former Staff Sgt. Ron-Forer’s recently published book for the treatment of Palestinian people at the checkpoints. See also Haaretz report about harassment of Armenian Christians by Amiram Barkat, Jan. 13, 2004.

[5]. Is there hope? –” Where to look for it, by Ran HaCohen, Dec. 29, 2003, http://www.anitwar.com

[6]. It was no wonder therefore that the founding father Theodore Herzl approached Cecil Rhodes to okay his plan for the Jewish state.

[7]. The reference here is from Shylock to Antonio in The Merchant of Venice: “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog/ and spit upon my Jewish gabardine.”

[8]. http://www.indianexpress.com/columnists/aiyar/20020430.html

[9]. http://www.counterpunch.org/jayaprakash07302003.html

[10]. (Phila. Inquirer, Jan. 13, ’04)

[11]. For the USA, in particular, the ‘war’ allows them full control over the politics and economics of the subdued territories. The flow of cheap oil and multi-national contracts are the extra bonuses.

[12]. Many of them are Southern Baptists –” who believe that Jews of the world must be assembled in Israel a priori to facilitate the second coming of their Messiah (Jesus); those Jews who convert to Christianity will be salvaged, the rest slaughtered. President Bush identifies himself with the Christian Fundamentalists (Ref: Kevin Phillips’s latest book: American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush; also heard over NPR Morning Edition: The Bushes, an ‘American Dynasty’, Bob Edwards’ interview with Kevin Phillips: Jan. 22, ’04).

[13]. See ‘Abuse of Human Rights in America’ by this author, in the Media Monitors Network, USA, Nov. 12, 2003.

[14]. “Camp Delta translator charged in military court” by Rupert Cornwell, Independent.co.uk, Jan.14, 2004.

[15]. Franklin Graham (Samaritan Purse), Pat Robertson (700 Club), Jerry Falwell (Moral Majority), Jerry Vines (Southern Baptist Convention) and leaders of the Christian Right have all made highly provocative, anti-Islamic remarks. Jerry Vines, former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, has described the Prophet Muhammad (S) as a "demon-obsessed paedophile". Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and the head of Samaritan’s Purse, has described Islam as a "very evil and wicked religion".

[16]. In an interview with Christian right-wing columnist Cal Thomas, Ashcroft said, “Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for Him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends His son to die for you.”

[17]. Lt. Gen. Boykin, a Christian fundamentalist, was recently appointed deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence. A month-long investigation by LA Times showed that “… (the) 30-year veteran .. (is) an intolerant extremist who has spoken openly about how his belief in Christianity has trumped Muslims and other non-Christians in battle.” Appearing in dress uniform before a religious group in Oregon in June, Boykin said Islamic extremists hate the United States "because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christians. … And the enemy is a guy named Satan." ” “Discussing a U.S. Army battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia in 1993, Boykin told one audience, "I knew my god was bigger than his. I knew that my god was a real god and his was an idol." (CNN, Oct. 16, ’03)

[18]. Elliot Abrams was appointed in December of 2002 with appointment to head the National Security Council’s Near East and North African office. Daniel Pipes was recess-appointed by President Bush to USIP.

[19]. “Bible Belt missionaries set out on a ‘war for souls’ in Iraq,” London Telegraph, December 27, 2003

[20]. He is a close friend of Wolfowitz since 1969 and is the latest recipient of the “Senator Henry M. ‘Scoop’ Jackson Award” at the Inaugural Jerusalem Summit (Oct. 12-14, 2003). He advocates regime changes in the Middle East. [Ref: Richard Perle vs. Paul Krugman: A Debate On the War On Terror, Jan. 13, 2004 (http://www.democracynow.org)] He is also opposed to the Road Map for Palestine. It may be recalled that he was the election adviser to Netanyahu’s Israeli government during the period of 1996-99, and counseled Israel to scrap any and all peace attempts, and to annex the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

[21]. In a Znet interview on “War Talk,” Arundhati Roy said, “.. in ‘War Talk’ I look at how the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat could not have happened last year without demonization of Muslims in America after September 11. It’s not just that the radioactive waste from the wreckage of the World Trade Center [was] dumped in Gujarat, but also a toxic ideology that reached a critical mass in the ‘war on terrorism’ and the rabid hatred of the Muslim world we see being driven by the Bush administration. Anti-Muslim hatred has been given sanction and legitimized.”

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