NEW DELHI: “We must lend our support to the most severely affected population in the world. The Palestinians have been cornered in Gaza and West Bank. They can't get food or medical supplies and are living under the oppression of the Israelis.” said Dr. S.Q.R. Illyas, President of the Welfare Party of India at a joint protest held today against the recent killings of Palestinian people at the Gaza border.

Around 50 protesters gathered at 4.00 p.m. and began chanting slogans against the Israel-India trade, Israeli military, and extending their support to the people of Palestine, claiming that Jerusalem is their capital. The protest was initially to be held in front of the Embassy of Israel in Delhi but the protesters were allowed to walk for a mere fifty metres in front of the Indian Christian Cemetery.

Organisations like United Against Hate (UAH), Naujawan Bharat Sabha (NBS), Welfare Party of India, and Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) also took part in the protest.

The protest also saw the involvement of student unions from all over the country, including that of Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Delhi University signifying the support of the youth to the cause.

Speaking to The Citizen, Miraan Haider, a protester from the Jamia Millia Islamia university said, “For almost 70 years, the Palestinians have been under attack by the Israeli Army. The recent conspiracy of shifting the embassy to Jerusalem was denied by a 117 countries in the United Nations but despite this, the embassy was shifted.” He went on to say, “India and Israel formed a relationship recently but the policy of Nehru and Gandhi should've remained untainted.”

Shedding light on the recent relations of Israel and India, Khalid Saifi of the United Against Hate organization stated, “There are like minded forces on both sides now and hence you have a thriving relationship.” He went on to say, “We are law abiding citizens with a significant voice and our voice will reach its destination.”

In recent years, India and Israel have developed a strong bilateral relationship that goes beyond the scope of just diplomatic ties. In 2017, India was the largest purchaser of Israeli arms and the two countries have been known to share intelligence on terrorist groups while also having joint military training exercises. In his attempt to highlight the relationship, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on to break protocol to receive his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, who he claimed was a ‘friend’.

“From the beginning, the Indian policy was that Israel had violently captured the region from the Palestinians and till 1992 there was no Israeli Embassy here. Mahatma Gandhi said that Palestine belongs to Palestinians just like Britain belongs to the British. What Israel is doing in Palestine needs to be condemned by India and not doing so is giving support to them.” said Dr. Illyas highlighting the drastic change that took place between the two countries relations.

“I believe for all the people across the world who want to support Palestine, this is the most effective way of support.” said Apoorva, a BDS representative. In 2005, Palestinian civil society organisations called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a form of non-violent pressure on Israel. The BDS movement was launched by 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks, women’s organisations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other Palestinian civil society bodies. She further added, “We’re currently targeting the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HP), because they’re involved in the population registry that Israel maintains on Palestinians due to which a lot of people cannot go back home (Israel). HP provides computers to the Israeli military and it’s also maintaining illegal factories in Jewish settlements within occupied territory. HP is deeply complicit in crimes against international law.”

Two students from Delhi University who wished to remain anonymous said, “Since we’re from Kashmir and we’ve lived under occupation, we know how it feels to be in a state that witnesses genocides and massacres every other day. We’re here to register our peaceful protest against such brutality.”

As the protest came to its eventual conclusion, one of the protestors stated, “This may seem to be just another protest but it is one which carries a lot of importance. We have to look at Gaza as not just another piece of land but 1.7 million people living in unbearable conditions with no way out.”

(Cover Photo: Protesters chanting slogans, Credit: S.M. Seraj Ali)