There is an Israel and a Palestine in every Indian village: Dalit activist

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By Muslim Mirror

New Delhi: A meeting of activists working in various parts of India to support the Palestinian cause was held in the conference room of the Delhi Minorities Commission. It was attended by individuals and NGOs working for Palestine in India. It included, in particular, a number of Christian organisations which support Palestine. Activists from Delhi, Nagpur, Varanasi, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai etc participated. The meeting was held at the initiative of Dr Vincent Manoharan, National Convener of Dalit Christian Watch. The main speaker was Ranjan Solomon of Goa who has spent a number of years in Israel/Palestine which opened his eyes about the historical injustice meted out to the Palestinians by Zionist Jews and their Zionist Christian supporters in the West.

Dr Vincent Manoharan said the purpose of the meeting is to observe Apartheid Week, support BDS movement in India including support to Kairos Palestine, to commemorate the Nakba day on 15 May and to create a platform in India to support the Palestinian struggle.

Chairman of DMC, Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan opened the discussion offering a birds-eye-view of the Palestinian issue, how Jewish settler-colonialists from around the world, helped by Britain, stole the Palestinian land and expelled around 60 percent of its population in May 1948. Today these refugees are found in umpteen refugee camps in the countries bordering Israel. Dr Khan said, it was hoped after Oslo Accords of 1992-93 that the Palestinian issue will be solved but this did not happen because the naïve Palestinian leaders agreed to Oslo Accords without ensuring the settlement of key issues like the refugees, Jerusalem, the proposed Palestinian state’s boarders and control of its natural resources. As a result, the Zionists were able post-Oslo to steal more land, build more illegal settlements and persecute the Palestinians more than ever before. Today, the Palestinian issue has entered a new dangerous tunnel with the US under Donald Trump supporting Israel blindly, transferring the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem and pressurizing the Palestinians to accept a dubious plan called “Deal of the Century” under which the Americans will make some Gulf countries donate lavish funds to the Palestine Authority while Egypt will give away a chunk of Sinai desert to “Palestine,” after which the Palestinian issue will be declared “solved”. The American President has also gifted the occupied Syrian Golan Heights to the Israelis.

Ranjan Solomon, a core member of Kairos Palestine, said recent elections in Israel were most catastrophic for the Palestinians. President of the US and his son-in-law think that Palestine is an issue of real estate. Under the new right-wing dispensation, Nakba is going to be re-enforced. That is why the Palestinians are pressing for a world coalition to protect them. Israelis have given oil rights in the occupied Golan Heights to the company of Dick Cheney. Netenyahu is facing very serious corruption charges. He went to elections as head of the ‘rightist groups’ but in Israel even liberals are right-wing. Netenyahu fought the elections on the promise of a Nation-State law which says that only Jews have right to the land in Israel/Palestine. When Israel says we are going to take more land, it means they are going to expel more Palestinians. Zionists live on a diet of hate. They want to annex West Bank and Gaza, yet the world watches hopelessly. Policies of Netenyahu will throw the whole region into chaos. Europe only condemns these crimes. They are still suffering from the guilt of what Nazis did to Jews. There will be no serious punishment to the Israelis for whatever they do to the Palestinians. But it will not be a cake-walk for the Israelis to annexe Palestinian areas. They cannot do it without formalising apartheid like South Africa did. It is a big question: under a system of apartheid how will Israel rule the Palestinian territories. Palestinians refer to their struggle as “sumud” meaning they will resist. A single democratic state for all Jews and Palestinians is the solution, Ranjan said.

Rev. Asir Ebenezzer, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), said the challenge for the Church is to address Christian Zionists. We have to tell them to look at it theologically to make them realize that the history they teach is that of the hunters, not of the land. It is a huge task to break the link between Zionists and Christians. Christians going to the Holy Land see it from the Israeli perspective. We have to tell them to look at it from a Palestinian perspective. We have to break Christian Zionism, break the support of Israel in India and strengthen the Palestinian economy by going and staying in their areas when we go to the Holy Land.

Dr. Rafiullah Azmi of the Centre for Westasian Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, said Israel is behaving as it does mainly due to the blind American support. Christian Zionists are more Zionists than Jewish Zionists.  Zionism is based on some myths like “land without people for people without land” and “Promised Land.” He said, Israel was created by design. It is an exception, it pretends to be democratic but it is racist in nature. It has perennial security concerns and owns hundreds of nuclear bombs but no one talks this. He added that Oslo was a process without peace. The main actors supporting Israel today are Trump, Kushner, MBS and Muhammad bin Zayed. Saudis may be doing it because of the pressure after 9/11 in which 15 Saudis were involved. Modi is not alone to be blamed for having close relations with Israel, even the earlier Congress government had same policies.

Lenin Raghuvanshi, an activist based in Varanasi, said young Israelis come in their droves to Varanasi after their military training in Israel and interact with RSS.

Franklin Caesar, a Supreme Court advocate and champion of Dalit-Christian causes, said Brahminist hegemony is the problem and both BJP and Congress support it. He said Brahmins supported Hitler and now they claim that they support Jews.

Ramesh of the National Dalit Movement said that support of Dalits to the Palestinians started with the Durban Conference Against Racism in 2001. We in India see that Dalits face same fate as Palestinians. He added that here in every village there is an Israel and a Palestine. Dalit girls are raped at will. Non-Dalits are targeting Dalit women to suppress the Dalit movement. We do not want a separate state but we demand equal treatment, justice, dignity and human rights.  Palestinians too should have their natural and legal rights.

Pandiyan, who works on Dalit human rights issues, said we have to keep reminding ourselves and others of what is taking place around us. There is genocide in Sri Lanka, in Tamil Nadu, in J&K and yet all are silent. We have to go out of the room and tell the world. There should be mass mobilisation. Millions of people do not know anything about Palestine.

Dr. Selvaraj Arulnathan of the Indian Social Institute, Bangalore, said there are two racist ideologies in the world today – Zionism and Hindutva. It is a question to be asked and replied: why India moved from supporting PLO to supporting Israel? He said, we have to rewrite our theology to get the real perspective of what is going on in Palestine. What is the role of Muslim countries in what is happening there, he asked, adding that Indian policies regarding Israel/Palestine will remain same if Hindutva remains at the helm of Indian politics for the next 15 years.

Dr. Richard Devadass, Dalit rights activist, said I have been taught in church sermons that Israel is the blessed land, that Jews are the Chosen People of God, that if you touch Israel, you touch the eye of God. This is all false. We have to reach out to our communities to teach them the truth. Our people can understand Dalit and Advasi issues but they know nothing about the Palestinians. We have also to reach out to the pastors. We need to go to colleges and universities to tell them the truth. This is necessary because newspapers do not write the truch about the Palestinian issues.

Nida Arif, a research scholar in Delhi University, said settler-colonialim in Palestine attracted me to study it. Settler-colonialism was taking roots in Palestine at a time when colonies were fast disappearing. An unnatural entity is flourishing in the heart of the Arab World. Landlessness of the Palestinians is the biggest problem from which other problems emanate. It is a question of narratives.

Asutosh Singh, a doctoral scholar in JNU, said Zionists have used media and academia to spread their message. Kumaraswamy in JNU tried to show that Gandhi was a supporter of Zionism. Universities are the best place to start with. Palestine should not be looked as a Muslim issue.

Aalia Khan, a research scholar in Jamia Millia Islamia, said Oslo and the Intifada post-Oslo did not solve the main concerns of the Palestinians. Oslo II in fact gave Israel more powers. In the wake of Oslo, 10 per cent of the land left with the Palestinians has gone to the Israeli hands. There is water apartheid in Palestine where Israelis can enjoy Palestinian waters while Palestinians themselves have restriction on the use of their own water. The Palestinian economy is in a very bad shape because all access points to the Palestinian territories are controlled by Israel.

Dr Abdul Majid Qazi, Professor Arabic in Jamia Millia Islamia, said that the main Nakba occurred in May 1948 but many Nakbas followed thereafter for the Palestinians.  Here in India in 1990 there were one thousand Palestinian students at Aligarh Muslim University alone but Indian policies later changed drastically forcing the Palestinian students to leave India en masse. Now there is no Palestinian student even in Jamia Millia. He said, despite problems, Palestinians are now on the top of education and literature in the Middle East.

Gauhar Iqbal of the Indopal Foundation, which was established four years ago as a forum to support the Palestinians, said that they have been welcoming Palestinian delegations of various streams like diplomats, politicians and academicians who interact with their counterparts in India. Representatives of Indopal Foundation have been participating in conferences held by Palestinians in places like Beirut and Istanbul. He said that the Israeli embassy is working hard on Indian campuses.

Apoorva, BDS coordinator in South Asia said that Israel enjoys a lot of impunity here. Israel wants to show off India as an ally. Indian film industry too is working for Israel which offers them locations in Israel to shoot.

The meeting decided to hold programmes on 15 May in various Indian cities like Delhi, Goa, Chennai, Varanasi, Nagpur, Aligarh, Malappuram, Srinagar etc in cooperation with Indopal Foundation and United Against Hate. The meeting resolved to set up an umbrella organization, Indian National Alliance for Palestine, so that all NGOs and individuals working for Palestine could unite and work under its banner.

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