The horror and the massacres continue in Gaza. The scenes of carnage being broadcast by Al-Jazeera are unbearably painful. Police stations, schools, universities, ministries, houses, crowded mosques, ambulances, paramedics, etc. were and are being targeted by the Israeli air force and now ground troops have entered to “finish the job” as the Israelis call it. Hundreds of innocents have been killed and thousands injured and there seems to be no end in sight. This is not a war but a massacre of a population that has been deprived of everything for more than 18 months by the Israeli embargo and is now being bombed to oblivion. The nearest equivalent is the massacre of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto in 1944. The world watches without lifting a finger to stop this genocide. Arab leaders are either collaborating with this massacre or are totally helpless in front of this brutality. The vast majority of the people of the world are horrified and disgusted with what is going on but are unable to do anything to help the suffering people of Gaza.
The response of Western leaders was expected. Obama’s silence is stunning. They more or less explicitly backed the Israeli attack and the hypocrisy was so evident. When the Mumbai tragedy took place everybody was quite rightly quick to condemn the attackers and to call for action against them and had sympathy with the Indian people. But there is no condemnation of Israeli terrorism that is on an even larger scale than that perpetrated in Mumbai. Obama was quick to offer sympathy to India and to condemn the Mumbai terrorists but when it comes to Israel he is keeping a silence that makes him an accomplice to the crimes being committed there. It is as if everything is permitted to Israel and Arabs are considered no more than “cockroaches”, the term used by Sharon to describe them.
There have been disappointing, muted protests from Pakistan and India who are involved in their own problems. Pakistan has always been quite lukewarm on the Palestinian issue as it has been a staunch ally of the United States for more than fifty years and therefore cannot criticise let alone condemn Israel, the United States’ greatest ally in the region. But what is disappointing to many Pakistani leftists and progressives is the response of the Indian government. There was a time when we looked up to and admired Indian foreign policy which was independent, non-aligned and at times even anti-imperialist in contrast to Pakistan’s foreign policy which was always subservient to US interests. One recalls India’s principled opposition to the Vietnam War. At one time one of the few countries which Indians could not visit was Israel because of its refusal to recognise the rights of Palestinians. How times have changed. Now India vies with Pakistan in trying to demonstrate who is the more loyal subject and says good-bye to all principles. India sees it self now as a big power and no longer as a defender of the weak and the underdeveloped world. India’s economic interests are now closely tied with the US. It sees itself as the main partner of the US in the region.
But apart from its closeness to the USA, India has also developed a special relationship with Israel particularly in the sphere of defence. It is one of the biggest customers for Israeli weapons and Israeli defence chiefs have visited India in recent years to propose training in counterinsurgency for Indian troops in Kashmir, based on Israeli experience in occupied Palestine, especially Gaza. After we see Israeli actions in the West Bank and particularly now in Gaza we can expect the kind of advice which the Israeli military is offering India in Kashmir. Targeted assassinations, collective punishment, massive bombardment, etc. without addressing the fundamental political issues. India seems to be buying into the US’s view that Islamic fundamentalism is the greatest threat to world peace and that a long unending war against so-called “Islamic terrorists” is necessary. The terrorist attack in Mumbai has driven India to join what many view as the new axis of Washington-Tel Aviv-New Delhi that will attempt to decide the future of the region. Given these facts it was perhaps not surprising the muted response from New Delhi to the Israeli genocide in Gaza but nevertheless it was disappointing and confirmed our worst fears of where India is heading.
What is needed from both Pakistan and India is a vigorous denunciation of Israeli war crimes. Pakistan does not have diplomatic relations with Israel but India does. The least India can do is to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv even if it cannot think of breaking diplomatic relations with Israel.
FAHEEM HUSSAIN is Professor of Physics at the School of Science and Engineering, Lahore University of Management Sciences.