The last 22 days have seen one of the strongest and most advanced military forces in the world pound one of the most dense civilian regions in the world without a trained standing army, air force or navy. More than 1300 Palestinians have been killed, the wide majority of them civilians, with atleast a quarter of those killed being children. In comparison 56 Israeli soldiers have been killed (majority of them after ground invasion began on 17th July). For 22 days the international community has been witness to what can only be described as a textbook example of war crimes. Statistics, although they scream out the disproportionality and horror of the situation, ring hollow as the lone superpower (the USA) continues to extend support and justifies the killings carried out by the Israeli military in broad daylight. No global counter measure has been put in place by states that mouth 'concern' over the situation. The international community continues to watch as the Israeli military puts on a gory show of its strength. This genocidal bullying by the Israeli state over Palestinians, especially the people of Gaza, stands as one of the worst cases of chauvinist ultra-nationalism - reckless, unrelenting, denying even a remote semblance of recognition that what it (Israel) is doing is wrong in every possible way. No protest, no resolution, no humanitarian voice seems to be understood by the Israeli state while it tramples upon and decimates lives. Israel and its allies continue to spread propaganda across the world against the Palestinians, so much so that they justifies the bombardment of civilians under blockade by claiming to be “acting in self-defense”. The conservative elites of the world are only too happy to accept this “self-defense” fib, thereby strengthening Israel’s ‘conviction’ over the ‘rightness’ of its genocidal action. Clearly Israel is not alone in its reckless spree of killings, it draws its arrogance from the support it gains from other nation states with similar wishes of imperialistic superiority.
Despite many international groups, students and common people across the world protesting against this spree of mass killings and destruction, India has been rather quiet. Delhi has hardly seen any mass protest worth its name expressing solidarity with the Palestinian cause. The Indian Parliament has seen a minority of legislators even trying to have a debate on the situation. Except for certain groups from the Left who organized protests attended minimally compared to the size of the Indian civil society, the latter stands in utter denial of what is being done to the Palestinians as something that goes against the very basic universal right to life and safety.
In this larger morose context, the New Socialist Initiative (NSI) organized a meeting in the first week of the new semester in Delhi University (24th July). The University is going through its own experience of increasing attrition of democracy and the reign of an authoritarian administration, where free spaces (even paid spaces are no longer easily accessible) to conduct public meetings have almost become nil. The meeting titled “Palestine Burning: Israel neither wants Peace nor Settlement”, was held in the premises of the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics in University of Delhi. The speakers were Prof. Achin Vinaik, Prof. Aditya Nigam and Prof. Apooorvanand, who spoke clearly and strongly touching on issues which are rarely found in the mainstream Indian media coverages of the Israeli state's attack on Palestine, to a over full house of listeners.
Educating the audience, comprised of University students, the speakers charted out the history of the conflict and the scenario that characterises the recent escalation in violence. Differentiating between the Israeli state and the people of Israel the speakers highlighted the importance of understanding the foundational ideology of Zionism to understand the state's rationale. They also argued that the conflict was not a religious one, as is often portrayed. One of the high points of the discussion was how the arrogance of the Israeli state is well drawn from strong international supporters ranging from multinational corporate houses to states and conservative social groups and ideas. The speakers also further elaborated on why right-wing and conservative governments of the globe, like India, lend sympathy if not always formal support to Israel’s attack on Palestine; to them Israel exemplifies an ideal-strong state, it does what they themselves are unable to do to their “enemies”. Popular international media have been largely pro-Israel in its covering of the attack, at best making the case for both parties being at fault. The speakers cut through the propaganda of this being a two sided war.Speaking from experience of having been there and from simple facts they emphasised the dis-proportionality of the situation in terms of military capacity and political motive on each side. Characterising the situation as the longest military occupation of the modern era, they argued that the occupied people have the right of to defend themselves whereas the occupiers have none to blockade and attack Gaza and Palestinians.The speakers also forcefully highlighted the selective and conscious ignorance of Indian civil society in responding to something as drastic as the Israeli attacks. If the state of Israel has to be brought to peace and settlement, the international community should put sustained pressure on these big players who provide Israel the political and military defence it needs to perpetuate war crimes as it wishes. One of the movements highlighted and discussed was the global BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). The way to weaken Israel and to make it recognize Palestinian sovereignty and its people’s right to life and “right to return”, is by joining such existing movements and fostering forms of solidarity that hit at the heart of alliances (both political and economic) that provide the conditions for the perpetuation of such crimes in plain daylight by the Israeli state. The Left, united, can be the only force in such a situation to bring this society out of its slumber and create international solidarity for the people of Palestine. Till the state of war persists the development of a progressive political consciousness among the Palestinians will be thwarted as the odds are stacked heavily against the progressive-secular faction. The international community has to ensure peace, and the condition of freedom for the Palestinians such that it be possible again for a beleaguered people to make decisions about their future. The discussion continued for about 3 hours.