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  Opinion   Columnists  02 Nov 2023  Indranil Banerjie | World’s outrage over Gaza war is selective

Indranil Banerjie | World’s outrage over Gaza war is selective

Published : Nov 3, 2023, 12:11 am IST
Updated : Nov 3, 2023, 12:11 am IST

Tel Aviv has only itself to blame for the October 7 carnage, which is the result of a failure to accept the two-state solution.

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (AP/PTI)
 Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (AP/PTI)

Israel’s devastating response to the brutal massacre of 1,400 civilians by Palestinian terrorists on October 7 this year has outraged people and governments across the globe. There have been anti-Israeli rallies in many European and American cities, and elsewhere as well. In Dagestan, Russia, an enraged Muslim mob attacked the local airport on hearing that Jews were arriving there on a flight from Tel Aviv. The mob wanted to kill them all.

In a massive public rally in London in late October, an estimated crowd of 100,000 took to the streets protesting against Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip. Many in the crowd demanded death for Jews and the destruction of Israel. Slogans were raised in support of the Palestinian terrorist organisation Hamas, which was responsible for the Israeli massacres. The British police could dare to arrest only a handful of the protesters, even though Hamas is a banned terrorist organisation in the UK. British officials later admitted that extremists backed by Iran had planned to provoke passions during the rally.

Anti-Israeli protests have been led by the government in Turkey, by Islamists in Iran, Yemen, Pakistan and Malaysia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has even praised Hamas, saying they were not terrorists but freedom fighters or “mujahideen”. Anti-Jewish sentiments have peaked in many other parts of the world. In India’s Kerala, an Islamist organisation held a public rally against Israel which was addressed remotely by a Hamas leader calling for the destruction of Zionism. Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who was supposed to speak at the rally, was told to stay away after he was learnt to have been extremely critical of Hamas.

The United Nations General Assembly reflected global sentiments by passing a resolution calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza. The vote was supported by 120 countries with 14 countries opposing (including the United States and Britain) and 45 abstaining, including India. The Opposition Congress Party in India, at its cynical best, turned this into a domestic political issue. Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote: “The Indian National Congress is strongly opposed to India’s abstention on the recent United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for an ‘immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities’ between Israeli forces and Hamas in Gaza.”

Many opinion makers and governments are promoting the view that Tel Aviv has only itself to blame for the October 7 carnage, which they argue is the result of a failure to accept the two-state solution to the Palestinian problem. They argue that a two-state solution alone can bring peace.

For many Israelis that is debatable given that Palestinian attacks on their country have never really ceased entirely. Many Israelis, especially the hardliners, rightly or wrongly, believe the only way to achieve security is to expand their country’s borders and push away Palestinians as far away as possible. Israel’s present Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only exacerbated the situation by encouraging the Israeli right while simultaneously underestimating the strength of the Palestinian resistance.

However, Israelis cannot be blamed if they feel beleaguered today. The astonishing aspect of the current outrage sweeping the world is its selectiveness. While the Israeli government has been reviled for being responsible for the deaths of civilians, including 3,000 children, in Gaza, there has been no rally anywhere in the world against Hamas and the October 7 massacre or the holding of 230 Israeli and foreign hostages. No condemnation there at all.

If anything, India is among the few countries in the world that has taken a balanced stance on the issue. The UN, while condemning Israel and calling for an immediate pullback in Gaza, did nothing to censure Hamas, which is responsible for the crisis. India justified its abstention in the UN General Assembly vote on the ground that it did not include “explicit condemnation” of the October 7 terror attacks in Israel. At the same time, the Indian government has appealed to the Israeli leaders to ensure the safety of civilians in Gaza and has sent several tonnes of emergency aid for Palestinians.

The world more often than not is cynical in its approach to conflicts. Today, a lot hinges on optics, opinion makers and the babel on the social media. The deaths of over 8,000 civilians in Gaza is admittedly heart-rending and is being seen as a wanton violation of morality. Yet, few other wars of recent times, all more devastating than the one in Gaza, have witnessed little or no protests.

A report by the Watson Institute at Brown University said that the death toll in wars undertaken by the United States after 9/11 in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Pakistan was 432,093 civilians as of September 2021. This is the figure for the direct deaths caused by combat; an additional “3.6-3.8 million people have died indirectly in post-9/11 war zones, bringing the total death toll to at least 4.5-4.7 million and counting… War deaths from malnutrition and a damaged health system and environment likely far outnumber deaths from combat.”

Another unnoticed conflict was the recent one in nearby Azerbaijan, where an enclave inhabited since time immemorial by Christian Armenians was subjected to military assault by overwhelming Azerbaijani forces intent on ethnic cleansing. How many were killed is not known but the entire Armenian population was forced to flee their homeland and escape to neighbouring Armenia. This happened barely a month ago, but there was not a peep from the world community. Turkey routinely bombs villages in Syria and Iraq, ostensibly for self-defence, killing hundreds, yet there no rallies on the streets anywhere.

Right now, it is extremely unlikely that the Israelis will step back no matter what the world says or thinks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected all calls for a ceasefire, saying they were tantamount to “calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism”.

Israelis surrounded by the wave of outrage engulfing their little country and devastated by the October 7 killings believe this is now a battle for survival. Hamas, which precipitated the crisis and knew fully well it would provoke an extreme Israeli retaliation, are also prepared for a protracted ground battle. They have sworn to make Gaza a graveyard for the Israeli forces, who, in turn, have pledged to permanently eradicate Hamas. The future of the Middle East will thus be determined in Gaza.

Bowing to the moral imperative has never been an effective choice of nations caught in an intractable geopolitical crisis. Whichever side wins writes history, and morals are an afterthought. Like it or not, that is realpolitik.

Tags: aa edit, israel palestine conflict, gaza airstrikes