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Zionism and Hindutva

Zionism and Hindutva

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Conjoined at Birth: Why two bastard creations of western civilisation cannot do without each other.
Conjoined at Birth: Why two bastard creations of western civilisation cannot do without each other.

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Published by: Sukumar Muralidharan on Sep 22, 2013
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09/24/2013

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Conquest and Exclusion: The Parallel Trajectories of Zionism and HIndutva
 Ariel Sharon had a way of talking peace when he meant the opposite. His statedpurpose in going on a wander about the premises of 
Jerusalem’s
 Al Aqsa mosque inSeptember 2000 was to make a case for peace. And from behind massed ranks of grim, heavily armed security personnel guarding his promenade around one of 
Islam’s most hallowed spots,
he did manage to mouth a few pieties on peace into thescrum of media microphones that loyally followed in lockstep behind the securitydetail. Unsurprisingly, the immediate outcome of the Sharon ramble was anexplosion of suppressed rage among the Palestinian people that the thuggish soldier turned politician had spent all his mature years devising ways of removing from theland he imagined as the indivisible patrimony of the Jewish people.First protests were met with brute force. Mourning rituals for those killed in assertingthe claim to a Palestinian homeland, merged into the spiral of rage. All of Palestinewas soon in a state of full-fledged insurrection. That, we are told by a comprehensivestudy of the charade of the U.S.-
sponsored “peace process” in Palestine and its
ignominious end, may well have
been the tacit calculation of Israel’s Prime Minister 
Ehud Barak in
indulging Sharon’s instinct to trample over 
the territory of an enemyfaith. Palestinian factions most amenable to peace had just thrown up their arms indespair at the derisory and mean-spirited offer made by Israeli Prime Minister EhudBarak at the Camp David peace summit in July 2000. And to retrieve politicaladvantage, Israel sorely needed to prove that Palestinians could never be a crediblepartner for peace. Streets seething with rage were seen as a useful accessory inpursuing that agenda.
1
 Sharon
enjoyed Barak’s unstated patronage in calling forth this final showdown
before the peace process was formally administered its last rites. He soon ascendedto the Prime Ministerial position, after general elections that fed into the prevailingmood of paranoia. From then on, there was no talk of peace, only o
f “unilateralseparation” on terms that Israel would impose.
In the twilight years of his career,Sharon had opted for the lesser act of brutality as his parting gift to the Palestinians,since expulsion -- always his first preference -- was clearly infeasible. From being aregion under active military occupation, Gaza
was transformed into the world’s
largest prison, garrisoned through air and sea-power and remote-controlledweaponry. And the West Bank was transformed into a maze of roads andsettlements of Jewish exclusivity guarded by an apartheid wall of hideous concretesnaking through its length.
Sharon’s first known entry in the
register of crimes against humanity can be traced to1953, when he was a newly commissioned officer in the Israel Defence Force (IDF)and carried out an armed raid in the village of Qibya, killing sixty-nine Palestinians,mostly women and children. The purpose evidently, was didactic: to underline that
1
Tanya Reinhart,
Israel/Palestine, How to End the War of 1948,
LeftWord Books, Delhi,2003; especially chapter III.
 
Palestinians displaced from their homeland by the last kick of 
Britain’s colonial
mandate, should not make too strong a point about return and restitution. As hemoved up the military hierarchy, he became a highly valued hit-man for the Israelipolitical leadership, always willing to fulfil their deepest wishes, though without theformal instructions that would encumber them with moral responsibility. No suchconvenience was afforded him when the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982occurred under his watch as Defence Minister. Indicted by a commission of inquiryand compelled to serve a longish political exile, he managed a rehabilitation withoutreally seeming to seek one. He was just too integrally connected to the thuggish,terrorist personality of the state of Israel, to be too long in the wilderness. And oncehaving ascended to the office of Prime Minister, Sharon was not about to retreatfrom the path of bloodsoaked violence.
2
 In September 2003, Ariel Sharon came calling in Delhi, in a visit touted as a historicfirst for an Israeli Prime Minister in India. The day before he was scheduled to land, a
commentator in India’s largest English language newspaper 
acclaimed his visit as anoccasion to
“finally put behind us a dreary chapter in the history of our relations withthe outside world”.
 
India’s longstanding
refusal to do business with Israel, he said,might once have had a purpose
: it “took care” of India’s
oil imports,
“ensured” jobs
for thousands o
f citizens in the Gulf, and “ke
pt
afloat”
the foreign exchange situation.But that was only part of the story. The other side, perhaps the decisive influence indetermining decades of estrangement between India and Israel, was moreunsavoury
: “dogmatic anti
-Americanism fanned by fellow-travelling academics,politicians and bureaucrats to ensure Soviet support for our foreign policy objectivesand the desperate need that avowedly secular parties felt to keep on the good side
of the Muslim electorate”. This “vote bank phenomenon”,
accounted for 
India’s“refusal
 
to build bridges with Israel” –
 
a “vibrant democracy” th
at it shared corevalues with -- and its willingness to be best friends intimate with
“tinpot dictators andsundry sheikhs”.
3
 
On the day of Sharon’s arrival, another major English
-language newspaper ran acommentary which purported to see amid all the apparent differences, certain key
points of convergence between India and Israel: “... two nations. One large and the
other so diminutive that it appears as a mere dot on the map. Both contain within
2
Nur Masalha,
 A Land Without a People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians, 1949-96 
,
Faber and Faber, London, 1997, provides details of Sharon’s military exploits:
p 89 for Qibyamassacre; pp 34, 150 and 160 for his attempts at various times to put into action anexpulsion plan.
3
 
Dileep Padgaonkar, “Shalom! Ariel Sharon”,
The Times of India
, Delhi edition, 8 September 2003, editorial page; extracted on 15 January 2013 from:http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2003-09-07/all-that-matters/27211135_1_palestinians-hamas-israelis. 
 
their boundaries so many diversities. And yet, both exhibit several similarities: the
fight against terrorism being perhaps the foremost of them”.
4
 In their tone, these commentaries foretold most of the themes that were played outduring the Sharon visit. A common commitment to democratic pluralism and sharedconcerns over terrorism were ostensibly two powerful solvents that at long last, werewiping away the legacy of estrangement between India and Israel. In brief andheavily guarded moments in the public eye, these were precisely the themes thatSharon underlined. Following the accustomed ritual Sharon was compelled amonghis first public engagements to pay a call on Rajghat,
India’s
memorial for MahatmaGandhi. Having paid ostentatious homage to the message of peace with rose petalsstrewn over the spot where the Mahatma was cremated, Sharon wrote the following
few lines in the visitor’s book: “
From Jerusalem, the city of peace, eternal capital of the Jewish people, I bring you a message of hope and peace. Today Israel and Indiaare embattled democracies, sharing values and the challenge of terrorism. United inour quest for life, liberty and peace our joint determination to fight for these valuescan inspire our hopes for 
a better future for our people”.
5
  As during his walkabout in the Al Aqsa compound, the pieties at Rajghat issued frombehind a heavy security blanket. Local police took over the venue many hours inadvance and traffic on main thoroughfares leading there was stopped an hour ahead
of Sharon’s arrival. It was a harrowing experience which top officials of the police
admitted, they were happy to see an end to. After it all, a curiosity persisted and an enormous, unresolved incongruity. The manthat Sharon paid florid homage to at Rajghat was best remembered for his insistenceon the peaceful attainment of political ends, for his deep religious beliefs whichcoexisted with a wide and generous ecumenism in matters of faith. And even if these
aspects of Gandhi’s legacy
could be submerged in the empty ritualism thatdiplomacy today thrives on, Sharon surely could not have been unaware of the viewson Palestine of the man whose memorial he was at.
This is an aspect of Gandhi’s
political legacy on which there is absolutely no ambiguity. From the time of theBalfour declaration promising a Jewish homeland in Palestine, to the very eve of thecreation of Israel, Gandhi remained a resolute opponent of the forcible expropriationof the Arabs from their land by terrorism and military coercion, tactics that reachedtheir very acme in the person of Ariel Sharon.In 1921, soon after the Balfour declaration and the revelations of the Sykes-Picotagreement had brought to light the devious imperial game-plan for the Arab lands,
Gandhi had this to say: “So far as I am aware, there never has been any difficulty put
4
 
Manish Pant, “The Israel Question”,
The Hindustan Times
, Delhi, 9 September 2003,editorial page.
5
 
 A description of the visit and remarks entered in the visitors’ book can be found at the newswebsite Rediff: “Sharon pays homage to Mahatma Gandhi”, Septem
ber 9 2003, extracted onJanuary 15 2013 from: http://www.rediff.com/news/2003/sep/09sharon2.htm. 

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