Mr President, Look the Other Way When in Israel
President Pranab Mukherjee
Dear Mr. President,
You are leaving on a state visit to Israel on Monday the 12th October. While I wish you Bon Voyage, I just can’t resist temptation of giving you some tips which for a l’homme du Mond like you may sound trivial but for a novice in me and many others like me who feel anguished at the turn the events Indian state is taking, it is an expression of repulsion and it is better I get it out of my system.
Mr. President, we are aware that you had expressed desire to visit Ramallah and meet the Head of the Palestine state as well during the same visit. We are not surprised that the Government in power turned it down. The message is loud and clear, Look the other way, so that your conscience does not ask you awkward questions. You have another term to get elected!
You will find the Ben Gurion Airport most welcoming and hassle free. Yes it is. But not for those Arabs coming to visit their long left home, or ancestral village. Most of them despite valid documents and at times holding American passport, are held for hours and questioned repeatedly, some are stripped naked and in some cases denied entry altogether. If any of the Arab visitors forgets to mention some small detour in his itinerary, he is treated as terrorist because he was lying to the state of Israel.
We are sure your sojourn in Israel will be highly sanitised but just in case you see a group of angry Jews running after an unarmed adolescent Arab youth shouting, “Kill him”, “he is a terrorist” and police gleefully comply and shoot him down, don’t ask, what about Justice ? This is the Israeli version of it. Sounds strange? Shrug off the thought and look the other way.
If you spot five and six year kids taken away in high security prison vans for a crime of throwing stones at armoured personal carriers ploughing through their crowded slum settlements, you will wonder what about juvenile justice. Well this is war zone and these six year old are enemy combatants. Sounds strange? Look the other way.
Unlikely to happen but if you have to ever pass an Israeli check point and spot lot of activity of womenfolk behind a hurriedly curtained small area open to blazing sun, it is a makeshift delivery room. Must be some unfortunate pregnant Arab women in labor pains after being held up at check points for several hours delivering baby in most unhygienic conditions. Don’t wonder if it is a boy or a girl. That is too naive question. Ask if the woman and the newly born are alive or dead. Before any question crosses your mind, look the other way, there will be a towering concrete wall running miles long enough to numb your senses and get lost into nothingness.
There will be a lavish state dinner in richly decorated hall and full of elites in Tel Aviv. Toast will be raised for the two ancient civilizations and great living democracies. Mind you, the person to whose health you are cheering a toast is considered architect of genocide in Gaza by over a million signatories in Europe. Does it contain any grain of truth ? Oh No. Why ask an irrelevant question.
In a way, Israel and today’s India are really identical in several ways. Majority community in both countries suffer from a false sense of persecution. Both have a common agenda of hatred and intolerance. And in both societies, having infiltrated the main stream discourse the extreme fringe elements have now become more vocal and assertive. Israel does not have a constitution. India had one which is more abused than used. Liberal Middle class in both countries is clueless and marginalized.
Then, why only in Israel? “Looking the other way”, has in a way become second nature to us here in India. We do it every day. A couple jumps off the building only because their six-year-old dengue affected child dies on road as no hospital is willing to accept him. Mob breaks into someone’s house and kills the person because he is supposedly savoring meat of a holy cow. A Dalit is burnt alive because he enters temple. Even infants are raped and an alleged bicycle thief spends 27 years in Jail before his case comes for hearing in the court.
Mr. President, your trip to Israel is one of a political Night Watchman. The prior commitment of visit by Indian PM cannot be followed upon because Iran Nuclear deal has changed the Geo Strategic situation in the Gulf region. But here in India, you have a possibility of expressing your displeasure over the bizarre things happening around. Please do not look the other way. That way, history will remember you be it one term or two.