Demonstrators outside the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi seek snapping of defence ties between India and Israel
Demonstrators gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi on Monday 19 November demanding immediate halt of Israeli aggression in Gaza, pledging solidarity with blockaded Palestinians and asking the UPA government to condemn and snap all defense ties with Israel.
The protesters, who numbered nearly 200, wearing bandanas, waving Palestinian flags, and raising fists in support of Gazans carried placards reading ‘India is Israel’s largest arms buyer, Stop funding Israel’s genocidal war machine with Indian people’s money’ and ‘Down with Israeli racism aggression and occupation of Palestine.’ They vented fury both against the Israeli forces and India for what they see was a “cold response from India on Gaza attacks.”
“Indian people are not going to sit down and watch. Israel is committing war crime and the world must stop it,” a protester said.
India had a day earlier, sought peace and cessation of all hostilities by Israel and Hamas and urged direct talks between the Palestine Authority in West Bank and Israel.
Calls for Monday’s protest were made by students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students on social networking sites that began in the afternoon outside Hungarian Cultural Centre at Janpath. The demonstrators which included, JNU students, teachers and members of Disha Students Union, National Confederation of Human Rights Organization (NCHR) and Popular Front of India later marched towards the Israeli embassy at Aurangzeb Road where they burnt Benjamin Netanyahu’s effigy and chanted ‘Gaza will not die’, ‘Down with US imperialism’, Shame on Indian Government’, ‘Hallabol, Hallabol Israeli Imperialism Pe Hallabol” and ‘Stop this Zionist war on Palestinians.’
The protests were peaceful. However, Delhi police had placed a tight security around the barricaded embassy. A long green sheet and a police tent blocked the facade of the embassy while policemen prevented the demonstrators from nearing the Israeli Embassy using iron blockades on the road. The police armed with lathis had also deployed armoured vehicles to block the protesters march.
Shocked by the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, who teaches international politics in JNU said “Israel’s isn’t a defensive war at all. How can people who suffered for so many years under Nazi government behave like this? This isn’t at all a defensive war. Benjamin Netanyahu has created this security hysteria. There is no threat to Israel which is the region’s most-nucleared nation.” He added, “More shocking is the reaction of Indian government which has called for peace but not condemned Israel.”
Chenoy said the neo-liberalisation has led to the hegemony of United States which has ‘cleverly re-routed’ its arms to India via Tel Aviv in order not to annoy Pakistan. “It’s very sad to see India’s position. It’s in contrast to what our position was when during Ghandi and Nehru era towards Palestine,” he said.
The protesters held a sit-in protest after police blocked their march outside the embassy.
Writer and JNU professor Nivedita Menon drew widespread applause from the crowd when she said “Israel should be tried for war crimes in Gaza.”
“The terrorist state should be tried for war crimes,” she said. Menon also criticised India for backing military Junta of Myanmar for years and then hosting pro-democracy leader of the country Aung San Suu Kyi recently. “Same policy has been witnessed for both Israel and Palestine,” she said.
Israel has been bombing on what it says are “suspected guerrilla sites in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip” for the sixth straight day on Monday, and Palestinian rocket fire from the enclave dropped off as international efforts to broker a truce intensified. Israel has given 36 hours to Hamas to stop it’s attack on Israel or face a wide-scale military invasion.
Rakhi Sehgal, who was a member of ‘Indian Lifeline to Gaza’ that took aid in 2010 to Palestinians in Gaza through several countries said, “We know what happened in Gaza in 2009 air bombings. What is important to understand is that Israel is in occupation of Palestinian land which has to be given back.”
Sehgal said that if the aggression against the trapped Gazans doesn’t stop, peace activists will try to take a 2010-type caravan again. “Whatever the Indian policy, Indian people aren’t going to sit down and watch.”
During the protests, the organisers said the Israeli attacks along the Zionist expansionist agenda has to be seen in the context of the internal politics of Israel. “Elections are due next year and the right-wing parties with their full support for the attack on Gaza are trying to mobilise and woo voters in their favour. The miniscule protests by the Communist Party of Israel against the attack on Gaza have been nullified by the right-wing mobilisation in favour of the attack. Indian government, along with many other national governments, has maintained a complete silence on the issue which exposes their tactical support to the Israeli aggression,” the organisers said.
The incursion and bombardment of Gaza, they said, is not about destroying Hamas or about stopping rocket fire into Israel, or about achieving peace. “The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on Gaza, to use lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely defenseless civilian population, is the final phase in a decades-long campaign to ethnically-cleanse Palestinians,” said Amit Kumar, one of the organisers.
Protests in Kashmir
Meanwhile, reports of anti-Israel protests came from Kashmir too where a candle vigil protest by students at Kashmir University and peaceful sit-in by the Muslim Khawateen Markaz on Sunday 18 November was followed by lawyers demonstrations today.
Lawyers who were protesting against what they call “barbaric aggression in Gaza” by Israel burnt Israeli flags besides shouting slogans ‘Down with Israel’ and ‘Soldiers of Gaza, We Are With You.’
Reports say images of dead children and wounded civilians aired on popular Al Jazeera news channel has seen government asking cable operators to stop beaming the channel in Kashmir where anti-Israel sentiments run deep. The bombing of Gaza has also drawn sharp reactions from both pro-India and separatist leaders with some leaders demanding India snap defence ties with Israel.
Condemning the killings in Gaza, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik alleged that the US and the European Union “by patronising Israel, are directly or indirectly giving Israelis the license to kill humans in Palestine.”
“Any human who looks at the photographs of the infants killed by the Israeli terrorists cannot stop his eyes from shedding tears,” he said.
“The world needs to rise above all political or economic considerations and condemn these military strikes on people of Gaza,” said CPM state secretary MY Tarigami and Peoples’ Democratic Front (PDF) chairman Hakim Mohammad Yasin.
Both the leaders urged New Delhi to cut military ties with Tel Aviv.
Baba Umar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.