Palestine: Does India's abstention mean anything?

Published: July 17, 2015 - 17:21 Updated: July 17, 2015 - 17:58

In an endeavor to gain acceptance from Tel Aviv, the report tries to maintain some equivalence between Israel and Palestine from the standpoint of display of violence
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

In a recent media interview, the Palestinian ambassador to India, Abu Alhaija, conveyed his misgivings about India’s abstention from the United Nations Human Rights Commission's (UNHRC) resolution that condemned the violence committed in the Gaza strip between June and August 2014. This resolution was based on the report compiled by an independent fact finding mission headed by Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diene, which released after a yearlong investigation. The report sought to condemn Israel’s role in the conflict and its disproportionate use of military power.  

Over 2,000 Palestinians lost their lives, while fewer than a hundred Israeli’s were killed in the conflict. The kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas triggered off the violence, but strangely the Israeli government did not take the probe into their disappearance and death to its logical conclusion.  

Images that were streamed live from the conflict, reaffirmed the fetish for violence in Israel, where citizens, sat on rooftops and watched the land beyond their wall burn.

The UNHRC report looked into this monumental loss of life and property, and wanted those responsible, on either side, to be tried, and punished for their crimes. The report attempted to ascertain the sequence of events, the situation in, both, Israel and Palestine in the aftermath of the violence. In an endeavor to gain acceptance from Tel Aviv, too, the report tries to maintain some equivalence between Israel and Palestine from the standpoint of display of violence.

India was one of the six countries that abstained from the resolution by taking refuge behind the ‘technical’ issue that the country was not one of the signatories of the Rome Statute that had led to the creation of the International Criminal Court. In its defense MEA reminded that New Delhi had also abstained from resolutions in Syria and North Korea.

Why does this then outrage?

India’s support to Palestine has been pivotal. It was the first non-Arab country that supported the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole representative of the region. It's role has not been limited to just voting in its favor in UN bodies and providing political legitimacy, but it has also provided key developmental and infrastructural aid. India opposed the separation wall that Israel built in West Bank to keep the Israelis safe from "Palestinians terrorism".    

While the West continues to give carte-blanche to Israel, and equates the colonised people of Palestine with a rampaging army which has always blocked all attempts to stop its expansionism. In extreme situations, the issue is treated as if it were one of two equal parties, one of whom - the Palestinians - are for no rhyme or reason, launching terrorist attacks upon the other Israel, which we are repeatedly told, has "the right to defend itself". India, too, is now, moving towards such a position.

Sabika Zehra, in an earlier article for Hardnews has written about the significant change in the diplomatic stance of India towards Israel since 2014. Sushma Swaraj, the Foreign Minister of India, prevented any discussion on the conflict in parliament in August 2014 at a time when protesters came out on the streets of Delhi to express solidarity with Palestinians.

Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Likud Party, returned to power in a hard fought re-election. He campaigned vigorously on the twin divisive planks of denying Palestine statehood, and disallowing Israeli Arabs voting rights. So aggressive has Netanyahu been about dis-enfranchising the Palestinians and insisting that they do not have the right to a point of view that the authors of the UNHRC report found it  difficult to understand what happened during the conflict as the Israeli government just would not allow them the access to the war zone.  Israeli propaganda machine astutely painted Palestinian and their just demand for homeland as religious terrorism.  

Israeli media reported that on the eve of this UN vote, Modi got a call from his Israeli counterpart who asked him to abstain from voting. Nauru and Ethiopia were some of the other countries that heeded to Netanyahu's request.

For many, this conscious abstention from voting , both, within the country and outside, marks a change in New Delhi’s relationship with Jerusalem. The relationship is no longer under the veil as it was earlier. After the BJP government came to power in 2014, the glow of warmth between the two countries is quite visible. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first Indian Prime Minister who has promised to visit Tel Aviv later this year. This is a big change. Defence deals between the two countries have spiked,  which is seen as a major driver behind the change. What needs to be assessed is how this growing proximity between the two countries impacts India's domestic politics.

In an endeavor to gain acceptance from Tel Aviv, the report tries to maintain some equivalence between Israel and Palestine from the standpoint of display of violence
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

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