The recent hostility between Israel and Palestine is one of the oldest in the history of the United Nations (UN). A piece of land that has been at the centre of the crisis is Jerusalem, a holy place to Jews, Christians and Muslims. For various reasons the situation has become complicated. There has been no permanent resolution, but only violent confrontation amongst the stakeholders. Initially, this place “did belong to Jews,” but it is also true that it was taken over by various emperors over the period of time (Muhammad F, 2021). Finally, it came under the rule of the British Empire. Yet, when it withdrew from the Middle East at the end of WW2, the UN Resolution 181 was passed which divided Palestine into both a Jewish and Arab state (britannica.com). This was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Arabs. The disagreement triggered a confrontation in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. The conflict has continued until the present day, involving various hostilities and causing intolerable sufferings for many.
Before the outbreak of violence this year on May 10th, various incidents occurred at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It led to an “eviction process of six Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem” (The Hindu). The cause of this violence was the emotional and religious sentiments arising from the religious events of the two months April-May. The Israeli police forces were deployed in the Al-Aqsa compound ahead of the Jerusalem march organised by a right-wing Jewish group. Meanwhile, “The Hamas”, the governing authority of Gaza, gave Israel an ultimatum to withdraw their forces from the Temple Mount and the nearby area of Sheikh Jarrah by 6pm. However, the Israeli government did not respond to the ultimatum of Hamas. When the ultimatum expired without any response, Hamas launched rockets on Israel. Israel retaliated, firing at Gaza on May 16th. The conflict caused severe damage and pain to the Palestinian side with the casualties of 256 people, including 66 children. In Israel, 13 were killed, including two children. Thousands were injured. Observing the seriousness of the matter, the international community condemned both sides and invited both parties to restrain from conflict. After the intervention of the U.S President Joe Biden, both Israel and Hamas ceased conflict, agreeing to a ceasefire on May 21st. Both sides, though, tried to claim the moral high-ground, arguing that the ceasefire occurred by their own initiative.
Meanwhile, on May 16th, the Israel-Palestine conflict issue came to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for discussion. India endorses its traditional stance concerning the conflict. During his intervention as the UN Permanent Representative and Ambassador for India, T.S Tirumirti stated: “I reiterate India’s strong support for the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering support for the two-state solution” (m.timesofindia.com).
However, at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on May 20th, the Modi government changed its tone and language without any reason. It changed its long-term commitment to the ‘just cause of Palestine.” The statement issued during the intervention of India at the UNSC was completely dropped in the UNGA. India carefully removed the words that it had previously given regarding “India’s strong support to the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering support to the two-state solution.” This change in policy forgets that the suffering of the Palestinian people is really a matter for concern. Many international media headlines noticed this change in Modi’s policy towards the Palestinian cause in such a short span of time. One Indian media outlet published an article with the headline: “India’s statement at UNGA hints at tilt towards Israel” (Times of India). It was noticed that after the UNSC meeting, the then Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, thanked the countries which supported Israel in the UNSC. However, he did not thank India. Many have argued that this was why the Modi government changed its position immediately afterwards in the UNGA. India also reiterated its changed position in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on May 27th.
Why did India change its stance on Palestine? It is a just question that anyone in the foreign policy circle will certainly ask about India. I accept that Israel is the emerging exporter of advanced weaponry to India. There is no doubt about this. Yet, even for this, India should not give up its independent stance on Palestine. It is our duty and commitment to support the just cause of the Palestinian people. Modi even communicated this support while visiting Palestine in 2017. It is an utter shame that Modi has given up the independent approach of our country and bent to the Israeli government’s pressure. India is a continent size country seeking for Major-power status. It should not act so cowardly.
This was a great opportunity to show our diplomatic capability; it has, however, been missed. This ambivalent policy approach will never bring a favourable moment for us in the international arena. Our strong support to the Palestinian people should not mean that we are against Israel. Our traditional stance of peace gives hope to many countries around the world and sets an example as a responsible nation. From our first Prime Minister Nehru to the present Dr. Manmohan Singh, we have never closed our eyes and forgotten the deprived situation of any nation that is oppressed by the powerful. If we look back at our history, we find that we stood strongly with Tibetans, Tamils, Myanmar and many more. All of our past Prime Ministers stood strongly with oppressed people shoulder to shoulder and shared their pain. Modi is the only Prime Minister who is working for the rich alone in India and stands only with the powerful nations abroad. This is not the way in which we articulated our foreign policy in the past. A firm correction is necessary, not only for our policy toward Palestine, but also for our inaction towards the suffering of the Myanmar people.
Our policy change at the UN clearly indicates that under the leadership of Modi, India is abandoning the Palestinians. This will have deplorable consequences amongst the Muslim community, including in the minds of small nations. The damage that he has caused to India’s diplomacy will hurt us even in the long-run.