A grand conference on the vexed Palestinian issue was recently organized in New Delhi to highlight the plight of the occupied people enduring 60 years of non-stop brutality.
The Jamia Millia Islamia, an educational institution whose emergence was a landmark in the history of Indian education, collaborated with a media organization to bring together prominent faces from the world of academics, politics and activism to try and persuade the international community and the Indian leadership, in particular, to act in a manner that hastens the formation of a sovereign and independent state of Palestine, which is territorially contiguous as well.
Very fittingly, seminar speakers recalled the contribution of Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, one of the founder members of Jamia and its first vice chancellor, in the struggle to achieve a just peace for Palestine.
Jauhar, who in the words of H.G. Wells “possessed the pen of Macaulay, the tongue of Burke and the heart of Napoleon” was held in such high esteem by the Palestinians that Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti Amin Al-Husseini not only gave him the honor of a final resting place in Masjid Al-Aqsa’s holy campus, but, most importantly, the funeral procession through Arab lands was lined with delegations holding placards, acknowledging Jauhar’s unflinching support to their cause.
Jauhar was so passionate about the rights of Palestinians to have an independent homeland that he did not even hesitate to confront the British government and other western powers. And this very sentiment is shared by a large majority of Indians, because of the country’s role in global decolonization efforts and fight against apartheid.
In fact, during the course of history, both India and Palestine shared common ground, especially during India’s freedom movement, when Indian freedom fighters discovered great similarities between their own struggle for self-determination and the Palestinians’ demand for a self-governed homeland.
Being leaders of a moral struggle based upon mass politics and movements, both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru recognized the importance of issues of justice and morality and the need for India to stand for it unequivocally.
Even Subhas Chandra Bose, known for his proximity to Hitler’s Germany, was critical of the contradictory and inconsistent policy of the British in Palestine, which has ultimately led to the current impasse. Indeed, Bose, very accurately pinpointed the fallacy of Britain’s policy of trying to keep both the Jews and Palestinians satisfied simultaneously, knowing fully well that one foot cannot stand on two boats.
That precisely was the reason why Gandhi was critical of the Jewish leadership and wrote in 1946 — two years prior to the foundation of the Israeli state — “they have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism.”
As Nehru’s niece Nayantara Sehgal very eloquently summed up the British design, “locating Israel on Biblical terrain had less to do with sympathy for Zionist sentiments than Britain’s need for a European ally in West Asia to safeguard the Suez Canal route to India.”
The British knack of promising contradictory things to different parties made Nehru urge the Arab and Jewish delegates of Palestine, attending the 1947 Asian Relations Conference, to live within a single democratic structure with an autonomous framework for the Jewish areas or else there will be a drastic reversal of scenario in the future.
Today, history has proven Nehru’s prophecy to be correct with Palestinians merely enjoying restricted autonomy in West Bank and Gaza strip. In his keynote address, Professor Arshi Khan of Aligarh Muslim University rightly observed that Palestine is recognized by many nations as a state but in reality it is not a state because a modern state is a constitutional entity, which enjoys sovereignty and recognized borders.
Even under Oslo, Israel continues to control over 60 percent of West Bank and maintains a blockade of Gaza since 2006.” Now that much water has flowed under the bridge, there is no alternative to a two nation solution — all the more so because a free state of Palestine will remain mortgaged to western donors for survival, in the absence of a self-sustaining economy or manufacturing strength.
Perhaps, it is time for the friends of Palestine, especially those in the Arab world, to come up with innovative ideas for economic emancipation of beleaguered Palestinian youths.
Building up the Palestinian economy from scratch and encouraging skill development among Palestinians through especially designed programs organized in neighboring Arab states should be the immediate priority. Yes, no economy can flourish under occupation and barriers and as expected the much publicized idea of turning the Gaza strip and West Bank into the Singapore and Malaysia of the Middle East, floated during those feel-good days of the Oslo Accord, did not fructify.
The Israeli crave for peace and stability to realize their country’s full economic potential and Palestinian dream of achieving economic prosperity in a free environment can create favorable atmosphere for brokering a genuine breakthrough in a protracted political dispute. And India can help create an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital by leveraging her newfound proximity to Israel.
More than anybody else, the Arab world, including Palestinians, would ideally want New Delhi to abandon its apparently non-prescriptive and non-judgmental foreign policy stand vis-à-vis West Asian geopolitics and persuade its second largest arms supplier to end its occupation of the Palestinian Arab territories, seized in 1967, by dismantling the illegal settlements for ushering a new dawn in the Middle East.