Vinod Mubayi

At the time of writing this editorial (Nov 28) a temporary 4-day pause now extended by 2 days has taken hold in the Israeli assault on the population of Gaza while exchanges of hostages in Hamas’s custody with some Palestinian women and children in Israeli prisons take place. Meanwhile, data on the number of Palestinian civilians Israel has killed shows that the toll is approaching genocidal proportions. The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor estimates the toll to stand at 20,031 killed in Gaza, including 8,176 children. The Gaza Ministry of Health has stopped updating its own toll due to the breakdown of the communications and healthcare systems in Gaza, but the latest official toll from the Government Media Office in Gaza as of November 23 was 14,854 killed including 6,150 children, and more than 36,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip. This toll, however, did not take into account the (unknown) number of bodies buried beneath the rubble of buildings. There is also the continued killing in the last month of more than 200 Palestinians in the West Bank by fanatic Jewish settlers in league with Israeli army personnel along with the seizure of Palestinian property: olive tree plantations, lands and farms.

Israel meanwhile revised downward the number of Israelis killed in the Oct 7 Hamas attack from 1400 to 1200, of which about 840 were civilians and the remainder military. As reported by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, some of these deaths occurred in the crossfire between the Israeli armed forces and the Palestinian militant groups. Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups also took around 240 hostages that are now being released and exchanged during the lull in the bombardment.

Since Netanyahu has repeatedly promised to resume bombing as soon as the “pause” ends, it remains to be seen how many more Palestinians must die before the Israeli government’s thirst for killing is slaked. In past Israeli assaults on Gaza, which an Israeli Army general colorfully described as “mowing the lawn,” that have occurred every few years over the last two decades, the Palestinian to Israeli killed ratio has generally been in the 25-30 to 1 range by the time of the end of the fighting. By that token, another 5,000 to 10,000 Palestinians must die, to validate Israel’s claims of self-defense. What species of morality justifies these ratios and claims is something Biden, Sunak, Scholz and others of their persuasion, need to explain to their people and to the world.

When Israel began its relentless bombing campaign a few days after the Hamas and Islamic Jihad attack on Israel, Western leaders uncritically supported the Israeli response. Biden, as well as Sunak, Scholz and Macron, went to Israel and embraced Netanyahu while the US expedited and augmented its delivery of military hardware including the precision bombs that have flattened a large part of Gaza and killed many thousands of Palestinian women and children. It is reported that Israel has dropped more bombs on Gaza in a month than the US did on Afghanistan in a year. Furthermore, many of the Israeli government leaders have openly espoused genocidal talk in relation to the Palestinians without incurring much blowback in the mainstream western media or expressions of displeasure from the leaders of the “democratic” west

Biden’s position that was so blatantly pro-Israel to begin with as to brush aside any talk of a cease fire seems to have changed a bit possibly in response to the split in his own party and the huge public demonstrations in favor of Palestinian rights in all the major cities of the West, New York, London, Washington, DC and Paris. Thus, a few weeks into the unrestrained slaughter of Palestinian civilians, the curious notion of a “humanitarian pause” entered into the discourse of the west’s leaders, as if it was somehow humane to let the population of Gaza live for another few days before resuming their killing. Prof Richard Falk, Emeritus Professor of International Law at Princeton University, one of the sanest voices on the Israel-Palestine issue in western academia, explains that “The rhetoric of ‘humanitarian pause’ is illustrative of a media disinformation campaign designed to affirm certain attitudes and stigmatize others. For instance, the Israeli pledge to resume the war after this brief interlude of relative calm rarely includes critical comments on the sinister nature of this commitment to reengage Hamas by recourse to genocidal warfare.”

Open calls tantamount to genocide have emanated from several Israeli leaders in the last few weeks. Nissim Vaturi, the far-right deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament, asserted that Israel’s war on Gaza was “too humane” and called on Israel to “burn Gaza now.” Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant labeled the inhabitants of Gaza as “human animals” and vowed to “eliminate everything” there. Some Israeli Parliament members from Netanyahu’s Likud Party urged that “Gaza should be wiped off the map” while others called for a “Nakba (catastrophe) that will overshadow the Nakba of ‘48’”, a reference to the forced expulsion and ethnic cleansing of over 750,000 Arabs from Palestine during the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1947-49. One Likud parliamentarian went as far as to demand that Israel drop one of its undeclared nuclear bombs to crush and flatten Gaza, “without mercy.” Noting that statements of intent to commit genocide are a key element of the crime, Israeli Holocaust scholar Raz Segal told Democracy Now! in an interview last month that “if this is not special intent to commit genocide, I really don’t know what is.” “We’re seeing the combination of genocidal acts with special intent,” he added. “This is indeed a textbook case of genocide.”

Giora Eiland, a former Israeli Army General, wrote in the Israeli Newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that epidemics in Gaza would be good for Israel.  He stated: “After all, severe epidemics in the southern Strip will bring victory closer and reduce fatalities among IDF soldiers.” The Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote a response to this genocidal proposal that is worth quoting at length:

Eiland, in the role of Mother Theresa, an officer and a gentleman in the world’s most moral army, made a Nazi proposal and no storm broke out. Anyone who attributes genocide to Israel is anti-Semitic, after all. Just imagine a European general proposing to starve a nation, or to kill it with an epidemic – the Jews, for instance. Imagine spreading a plague because it would promote the war effort. All is fair in war, and now it’s ok to suggest anything and everything you’ve dreamed of and never dared to bring up. Political correctness has been turned upside down. Apparently, there is horrific cruelty and correct cruelty. Hamas are animals, but the proposal to spread disease is legitimate. One of the most dangerous occurrences to be born in this war is unfolding before our eyes: the standardization, legalization and normalization of evil.

This evil grew out of the ground of the unbelievable disregard and pathological indifference in Israel to what’s happening now in Gaza. Foreign journalists who come here can’t believe their eyes: Gaza’s suffering doesn’t exist. Israel hasn’t killed thousands of children and didn’t evict a million people from their homes. Gaza’s sacrifice is totally out of the picture, gone not only from public discourse but even from the daily news. On Israeli television, alone in the world, we didn’t kill children. According to the Israeli media, the IDF hasn’t committed in this war even one tiny little war crime.

A society that so disregards reality and is so indifferent to the suffering of the nation it declared war on raises moral mutations like Eiland. You can be sure he thinks his suggestion isn’t in any way tainted, all he did was make a reasonable suggestion that serves Israel’s interest. What other consideration is there, anyway, except Israel’s interest? International law is for the weak, morality for the philosophizers, humanism for the bleeding hearts. And really, what’s wrong with a plague in Gaza? Only one thing: it could infect Israel too. In fact, it already has.

Under Modi’s leadership, India has pivoted, like many western countries, to Israel’s corner. Over 40 years ago, India had become the first non-Arab country to recognize the state of Palestine and had even issued a postage stamp in solidarity with the people of Palestine that depicted Indian and Palestinian flags flying side by side. That was then. Now Netanyahu is Modi’s close friend and the two leaders are said to share what has been dubbed a Modi-Bibi “bromance.” The two countries share significant links in the fields of military hardware and surveillance technology such as the Pegasus software that was used to infect and spy on the electronic devices, cell phones and computers, of opposition figures in politics, the media, academia, and human rights organizations.

India’s conduct so far in the Israeli assault on Gaza can be described in one word: shameful. It sided with many western countries in abstaining on a resolution in the UN General Assembly calling for a cease-fire and has continued to offer proforma lip service to the two-state solution. Modi skipped a recent BRICS meeting that was attended by the leaders of China, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa who all called for a ceasefire. Apparently, Modi wanted to distance himself from the line taken by South Africa that has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for alleged “war crimes” in Gaza.

Apart from international fora, what is worrying is the delegitimating and repression of any pro-Palestinian sentiment within India, whether in academia, or the media, or in public forums. Thus, there is the example of a professor at IIT, Bombay being harassed for showing a documentary film made by Jewish activists in Israel against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and a professor at the private Jindal Global University that invited a speaker on the Israel-Palestine conflict who compared Zionism and Hindutva. Pro-Hindutva advocates dubbed these educators as “Hamas sympathizers” and called for their expulsion and even went to the extent of registering a complaint against them with the police. A group of students from the humanities and social science department at IIT, Bombay who were forced by the administration to cancel film showings and talks on Palestine issued a statement saying: “It is evident from looking at this chain of cancellations over the last two weeks that the word ‘Palestine’ has become a forbidden, stigmatized, and censored word,” the statement said. “Why is an institute, where students are supposed to learn about the world, treating an issue of a humanitarian crisis as if it were untouchable? Why are students being prevented from even engaging with this issue in any capacity whatsoever?”

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