The complete silence of the UPA government on the Israeli blockade of Gaza has come in for strong criticism from the CPI (M) and senior diplomats. In a statement on January 22, the CPI (M) said, "The UPA government is keeping a shameful silence on this criminal blockade by Israel. It is instead collaborating with Israel to enhance its military capability."
The Left referred to the launch of the Israeli satellite TecSar from Sriharikota as an example of "how India is aiding the military efforts of Israel". Israel itself has admitted that the primary objective of this satellite is to track activities in Iran, a country that was at one time close to India. Diplomatic sources said the satellite would also be used by Israel to monitor countries in the Arab world. New Delhi is now being seen by the world as being in the "US-Israeli camp" with well informed sources pointing out that by participating in the launch of the Israeli spy satellite the government has shown "unforgivable insensitivity to the Palestinians and Iran", particularly as the spy satellite was launched after Israel had started its blockade on Gaza.
Former ambassador M Bhadrakumar, more willing than others to be quoted on the issue, did not mince words when he said, "Our leadership is humiliating the country. They should reread the history of India's freedom struggle. They should revisit Jallianwalla Bagh. Hopefully, then they'd know the pain, the tragedy and the humiliation of Gaza. Gandhiji would be turning in his grave. It is the height of insensitivity that India should launch Israel's spy satellite. Life is not all about economics and money." Israeli officials are currently in New Delhi for foreign policy consultations.
CPI leader D Raja said it was "distressing" to see how this government had moved away from the Palestinians to support the US and Israel. "They have not said a word against Israel, and instead are taking their military cooperation to a higher level," he said. He said that ever since the UPA government came to power, it had pushed back the issue of the Palestinians, which "betrayed the legacy of their own leader, Indira Gandhi". The sources said that the government's silence was deliberate, and intended to send the message that it was no longer sensitive to the concerns that had formed part of its traditional foreign policy, fine-tuned by the Congress just after Independence.
The ministry of external affairs instead will be working to bring Tel Aviv and New Delhi even closer together over the next few days through these consultations. It did not break its silence on the blockade despite the reports from Ramallah of a major humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. "They (Israel) have put the entire population of one-and-a-half million people in Gaza inside a cage, cut off the electricity, stopped the medicines and food supplies and are starving them. This is a war crime," the director-general of the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Jamal Juma, told this newspaper from Ramallah.
Decrying the "humiliation", he said Israel was continuing to bombard the people day and night, leading to a large number of casualties. He said there was no food in Gaza, and the decision to cut off electricity had also ensured that hospitals had to be shut down. "There is no treatment for the people, who are dying of their injuries," Jamal Juma said. The water supply was also running out, and was even today not sufficient to provide sufficient drinking water to the people in Gaza.
The CPI (M) said Israel was treating the people in Gaza worse than a colonial power. It urged the government to demand an end to the Israeli blockade and call for an urgent Security Council session to discuss the matter. Foreign policy has emerged as a major issue in India with the UPA government's decision to move closer to the US and Israel cutting directly into the Congress support base.
Jamal Juma pointed out that Gaza's only power plant was shut down by Israel on January 20, 2008. He said that the bakeries have stopped production, there is no food, and the people were starving and freezing in the winter. Water wells, hospitals and sewage treatment facilities, he said, were all shutting down. UN food trucks, he added, had been stopped on the outskirts despite the fact that 80 per cent of Gaza's population depends on this for survival. Medicines had run out, and, according to him, at least 700 persons who urgently required medical attention outside Gaza were now unable to move out. "Life in Gaza is now no longer possible. This is collective and holistic punishment, it is a war crime," Juma said.
Palestinian groups had protested strongly against the recent visit of US President George W Bush to the region. A statement issued by the Palestinians at the time declared, "We in the National Committee to Commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Nakba declare together with our people that the criminal George Bush is not welcome in Palestine or the Arab region. We call upon the Arab people to unite their forces and strengthen their resistance against American-Zionist aggression and colonialism using all means until the departure of the last American soldier from the region." The statement further declared, "To Bush and to all who support American policies in the area, the right of return for our people to their homeland and their properties is not up for negotiation. We will be ready to confront and defeat any attempts to annul this right or to undermine it." (Courtesy: Asian Age, January 23, 2008)