De-hyphenation cannot be done - for the Indian Prime Minister of today arose from the Chief Minister of the horrors of fifteen years ago, even as all the achievements of Israel are grounded in their hounding out 750,000 Palestinians from the Palestinian homeland seventy years ago and imprisoning in Israel's backyard - the Occupied Territories - millions rendered exiles in their own homes and another 1.7 million reduced to second-class citizenship in a nation explicitly reserved for one race and one religion to the exclusion of all others.
The Palestinians are a people who would be free if Israel had not been conjured up as a balm to appease the conscience of the European Christians who had caused the Holocaust by systematically inflicting for two millennia dreadful deeds on the Jews who took refuge amongst them. (Read Shylock in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice for a poignant rendering of the awful treatment meted out to them). Ironically, the only time the Jews were safe and secure in Europe was in the Arab empire of Andalus that ruled over the Iberian Peninsula (what is now Spain and Portugal) for 781 years between AD 711 and 1492.
When Modi embraced Netanyahu, it was Savarkar embracing Theodore Herzl, displacing Gandhi who had famously written in the Harijan in 1938: "Palestine belongs to the Arabs as France belongs to the French and England to the English". Modi was bent on replacing the Mahatma with Savarkar who, on December 19, 1947, celebrated the vivisection of Palestine by proclaiming: "The creation of a strong and independent Jewish state must serve to checkmate the aggressive tendencies of Moslem fanaticism in general".
That, not a few shekels worth of defence equipment, is why Modi so fervently and repeatedly embraced Netanyahu.
Netanyahu and his extreme Zionist Likud party have repeatedly been returned to power in Israel. He was PM when I visited Gaza at the invitation of Yasser Arafat for the doleful commemoration in 1998 by the Palestine National Authority of the 50thanniversary of Al-Naqba, the "Catastrophe" that massacred tens of thousands of Palestinians and drove three-quarters of a million Palestinians out of their burnt homes as Israel proclaimed its establishment as a state at the expiry of the League of Nations' British mandate on May 14, 1948. The Oslo agreement had allowed Arafat to return to Gaza. At my long meeting with him on May 16, 1998, Arafat sadly shook his head and said the "peace process" had been "frozen". I intervened with a question, "Frozen, because of the Israelis or because of Netanyahu?" "Netanyahu," he immediately and firmly replied, "it is Netanyahu who is refusing to accurately and honestly implement what has been signed" and recalled that even Israel's President had said that "what Netanyahu is doing is wrong and against Israel itself". "The problem," Arafat added, "is that Netanyahu does not believe in peace, he is against the peace process." (I wrote up my visit for Encounter, volume 1, no.4, July-August 1998, from which I have retrieved these quotes).
In Modi, Netanyahu has discovered his soul-mate. Both are economical with the truth. A few weeks before embarking for Tel Aviv, Modi received the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in New Delhi. At their press conference, Modi affirmed, "India has been unwavering in its support for the Palestinian cause." (True, at least till Modi arrived on the scene: Modi's India has twice in succession, and in complete violation of past precedent, abstained on UN resolutions, carried by huge majorities of our erstwhile partners and several shocked Europeans, relating to Israeli atrocities in Palestine, and the Indian delegation to the last non-aligned summit in Venezuela - not attended by the otherwise endlessly peripatetic Modi - was instructed to not say anything on Palestine). Having uttered this half-truth in Abbas' presence, Modi added, "We hope to see the realization of a sovereign, independent, united and viable Palestine, co-existing peacefully with Israel (through) an early negotiated solution."
The Palestinians have not been fooled. Politely but unambiguously, Palestine's deputy Foreign Minister, Tasar Jaradat, told Al-Jazeera (as per News Palestine 5 July 2017), "We expected him to visit both Israel and Palestine. To play an important role between the two sides and to be able to spread the message of peace, one should visit both sides." Quite.
As another keen observer of Israel-Palestine conflicts, PR Kumaraswamy of New Delhi's Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (who studied in Israel and is sympathetic to it) remarks, in an article that is enthusiastically supportive of "de-hyphenization", Modi "skipping Ramallah" - the headquarters of the PNA - "is a tectonic shift...a more powerful signal than all the courtesies that await Modi in Israel. This time the wind is different, chilly and unmistakable."
Modi has, indeed, abandoned the Palestinian cause, as definitively as Netanyahu. No wonder they couldn't stop hugging each other.
(Mani Shankar Aiyar is former Congress MP, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.)
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