“Forgive Us Dear Palestinians, We Have Lost Gandhi and Deserted You” MANOJ KUMAR JHA

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Dear People of Palestine,

Please treat this letter as a letter of apology from ‘we the people of India’ for the manner in which our present government has jettisoned the rich history and legacy of Indo-Palestinian relationship that had withstood the challenges of the many turbulent phases of world history in the past.

Let me try to explain how we have come to this pass. There comes a moment in the history of a nation, when the elected government of the people (irrespective of the size of the mandate) appears so completely disconnected with the feelings and aspirations of people.

We experienced precisely such a moment in our contemporary history as our Prime Minister visited Israel and carefully stayed away from the issues that impact on you, and your very serious concernsl. Under the ‘magical spell’ of our PM almost all news channels and other media outlets became willing executioners of a process of silencing, and invisibilizing the cause of the Palestinian people. It was not simply the rhyme or the reason of this visit that disturbed us, but the alarming extent to which the Indian position on Palestinie has been vilified.

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Let me be candid in saying that we as a nation are on the verge of losing our memory of the history and the context of your stuggle, and our support and solidarity for you. The historical trajectory of our robust and emotional connection with your struggle through the last seven decades or more is being erased in a very methodical manner.

I wish I could caution my compatriots of the devastating impact of forgetting and jettisoning history on the psyche of nations. Who knows this better than the Palestinians? When confronted by this erasing of public memory, even those friends from the liberal side of the fence tell me to move on, and advise me not to remain a ‘captive to history’. What these friends do not wish to acknowledge is that life cannot move on for you, unless your grievances are understood and addressed. They do not wish to counter the haze of the Islamophobic propaganda, through which the West has been deliberating Palestine so far.

We seem to have lost the plot of engagement with you by not speaking up loudly enough that Palestine is not a ‘Muslim issue’ but an issue which shall haunt human civilisation forever, if it remains unresolved. The cultural pretence has also exposed many friends who love to read and recite Mahmoud Darvish in literary contexts, but our posturing betrays a blatant denial of the poet’s words, ‘if only the olive trees knew the hands that planted them, their oil would become tears’.

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My Prime Minister occasionally invokes Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation whom we lovingly call Bapu. But these invocations often sound hollow because of the disconnect with Bapu’s ideals. This was evident in our PM’s recent and delayed response to increased instances of mob lynchings in India. Fortunately there are still many amongst our fellow Indians who can remind the PM to read and inculcate Bapu’s stated position on Palestine-Israel, wherein he asserted that, ‘Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct…. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home. (Harijan, November 26, 1938).

Except for one or two annoying aberrations in our long relationship so far, Indian people and the state have stood firmly in solidarity with you. We have come out on the roads in solidarity against your subjugation, and oppression at the hands of a rogue state. The empathy of the majority of Indians has been with you always. We could feel your pain when the Israeli state made violent endeavours to annexe ‘maximum land with minimum Palestinians’.

I also remember almost eleven years ago Judith Butler told the world, that a Palestinian citizen of the United States submitted to the San Francisco Chronicle obituaries for two Palestinian families who had been killed by Israeli troops, only to be informed that the obituaries could not be accepted without proof of death. The staff of the Chronicle said that statements ‘in memoriam’ could, however, be accepted, and so the obituaries were rewritten and resubmitted in the form of memorials. These memorials were then rejected, with the explanation that the newspaper did not wish to offend anyone.

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When I had read it I was aghast at the unprecedented degeneration in the moral-canvas of the people who were at the helm of the affairs in the journal. I remember thinking that such things could never happen here in our country. The recent posturing of my Prime Minister and friends in the media make me realise how monumentally misplaced was my faith about the moral fabric of the Indian Media.

In the noise of ‘strategic and commercial treaties’ with the true friend, my Prime Minister and his delegation members conveniently forgot Nakba– an instance of ethnic-cleansing incomparable in human history took place. They also chose to be callously indifferent to the de-nationalisation of your history.

Forgive us our Palestinian friends! Seventy years after our independence we have come to be partners in the crime committed against you, by aligning with those who are responsible for perpetrating ‘incremental genocide.’

But this too shall pass,

Until then au revoir dar friends from we, the people of India.

Author :  MANOJ KUMAR JHA, Rashtriya Janata Dal spokesperson and a Professor in Delhi University Manoj Jha writes this open letter through The Citizen for the Palestinians in the wake of the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel, where he enjoyed the embrace and hospitality of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Note : This article was first published on The Citizen

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