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Israel-Hamas conflict: Why is this conflict a déjà vu for India?

The recent barbaric terrorist attack on Israel, appropriately dubbed Israel’s 9/11, where living children were burnt alive, and hundreds were killed in their beds. Innocent teens participating in a music festival were hunted and killed like animals, unprecedented in history. However, similar though not the same depravity was exhibited eloquently in India in the last seventy-five years perpetuated by radical elements originating in India’s neighbourhood.

Here also, innocent civilians were killed, maimed, and hurt. The big difference is while it was done by real nonstate actors like Hamas representing Palestinians fighting for a homeland, here we have a terrorist state orchestrating and perpetuating Islamic jihad and horror hiding under the garb of so-called “Nonstate actors.”

Responding to the attacks, Israel initiated a series of military actions, including airstrikes targeting critical Hamas facilities and strongholds within the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have articulated their actions as a necessary measure to neutralise the threat posed by Hamas and protect Israeli citizens from the barrage of rocket attacks.

However, these retaliatory actions have also resulted in many Palestinian casualties and widespread destruction within Gaza, eliciting international concern and condemnation. The unfolding conflict, it has been primarily believed albeit correctly, can precipitate a humanitarian crisis, with countless individuals displaced and vital infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, being decimated. While divided in its stance, the international community has expressed deep concern over the escalating violence and its devastating impact on civilian populations. This has impelled every right-thinking entity to broker peace. Ordinary Palestinians will always be victims and lose, irrespective of who wins this present skirmish!

In the throes of the escalating conflict with Hamas, Israel’s political landscape has witnessed a moment of solidarity, forming an emergency unity government. Spearheaded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this coalition has melded political rivals into a singular front, aiming to navigate the nation through the turbulent waters of war and crisis. The unity government, which includes former defence minister Benny Gantz and members of his centrist party, has pledged to focus solely on managing the conflict, abstaining from pushing unrelated policies or laws. A specialised three-member war cabinet, tasked with directing the offensive against Hamas, has been formed, signalling a strategic alignment of political and military leadership.

This unified approach not only presents a consolidated front domestically but also communicates a potent message to the international community and adversaries: that in the face of a common threat, Israeli political forces can and will unite. While symbolising national solidarity, the unity government now faces the multifaceted challenge of managing the military offensive while navigating the complex humanitarian and geopolitical landscape that characterizes the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Tragically, for India, which was faced with obnoxious efforts of our neighbours to deliver a “thousand cuts,” this has not been the case.

Remember Nov 2008, when gun-wielding Pakistani citizens entered the country to kill and maim hundreds. It was India’s 9/11, too. How can we also forget our brave heart, Saurabh Kalia, who was taken as a war captive by Pakistan just before the Kargil war, and his dead body was handed back with evidence of torture?

Post-mortem examinations conducted by India reported that the prisoners variously had cigarette burns, ear drums pierced with hot rods, many broken teeth and bones, fractured skulls, eyes that had been punctured before being removed, cut lips, chipped noses, and amputated limbs and genitalia. Imagine the barbarism; is it much different from what we recently saw in Israel? Earlier governments neither had the backbone nor the courage to deal an effective blow to the orchestrator of such heinous crimes. The present government’s righteous effort to pay back such cowardice and punish the perpetrators has been ridiculed by certain elements in our political spectrum.

Amid the Israel-Palestine conflict, where Israeli political factions have united to form a robust front, a parallel yet distinct scenario unfolded thousands of miles away in the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir. Both conflicts echo tales of civilian tragedies perpetuated by radicals. Yet, the political unity observed in Israel starkly contrasts with the political landscape in India. Israel’s unity government, a blend of various political ideologies, stands together amidst crisis, prioritizing national security and stability. This coalition, even amidst the chaos, signals a collective, unified resistance against a common adversary, Hamas. Now, casting a glance towards India, the situation unfurled differently. Kashmir, a region of breathtaking beauty, has been a hotbed of conflict since 1947, orchestrated by Pakistani illegal occupation. Over three decades, the area has witnessed three major wars, numerous clashes, and an ongoing insurgency. Until late, the perpetrators of this mayhem were left unscathed in their evil efforts as India, despite having one of the largest armed forces in the world, did not bother to even whimper in the face of such atrocities. Despite India’s armed forces being ready to teach the perpetrators a lesson, due to a stout lack of political will until the present dispensation in New Delhi came to power, it had remained a distant dream.

Unlike the political unity in Israel, India’s approach towards the Kashmir conflict has seen varied perspectives and, at times, visible fractures among its political entities. Different parties and leaders in India often showcase divergent views on handling Kashmir, sometimes based on vote bank politics or self-serving purposes instead of a national perspective. In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and the subsequent surgical strike conducted by India, a section of the opposition sought to undermine the government’s efforts by demanding proof of the operation.

This wasn’t merely a call for transparency but was perceived by many as a political manoeuvre aimed at casting doubts on the government and the credibility of the Indian army’s achievements. While questioning individual leaders in the government is a hallmark of a healthy democracy, calling into question the achievements of the nation’s army, especially during sensitive operations, treads into precarious territory. It doesn’t just question the military’s credibility but also provides adversaries with a potent weapon – doubt. The enemy, irrespective of the truth of the strike, can point to the internal discord and say, “Even your own people don’t believe it, so how can it be true?”

Despite the apparent similarities, there is a glaring difference between the present-day Israel-Hamas conflict and India’s experience with a terrorist neighbour. We, unfortunately, must tread into history to get an understanding.

Let’s rewind to 1948. For Israelis, this year marks the birth of a nation, a haven for Jews, and a place to exercise their right to self-determination after a long history of persecution. But for Palestinians, this exact moment is known as the Nakba.

This catastrophe led to widespread displacement and shattered dreams of their own statehood. In the immediate chaos that followed, a war broke out, scattering 700,000 Palestinians and establishing Israel, which, despite its newness and being surrounded by hostile forces, managed to secure a ceasefire in 1949, though peace remained elusive. Fast forward through decades marked by further conflicts and territorial expansions, notably the 1967 Six-Day War, where Israel occupied additional territories, and various conflicts, including the 1973 Yom Kippur War and interventions in Lebanon in 1982 and 2006. Gaza, relinquished by Israel in 2005, has been a recurring flashpoint, experiencing several significant conflicts in the years since. Additionally, the region experienced two intifadas, or uprisings, in 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, further intensifying the conflict.

Many Israeli administrations were unwilling to give land to the Palestinians to carve out their homeland, which perpetuated such discontent, leading to the birth and flourishing of terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah! The depravity of these organizations in being killing machines can certainly not be used as an excuse for this-though it is a fact. However, what is ironic is we have given land to our neighbours to form an independent country to live in peace with us. Not only have they successfully, reminiscent of the evilest, eliminated minorities to create a “pure” Islamic state, but they have continued to orchestrate terrorist attacks on us, inflicting deep wounds. If religion could be the basis of peace and prosperity, then Pakistan would have been the world’s strongest and most prosperous country. Not only was it carved out to cater to one religious minority from India, but it consistently strived to be the poster boy for an Islamic state!

In any conflict, the civilian tales of loss and despair fare prominently, underscoring the urgent need for resolutions prioritizing human lives and aspirations. While seemingly straightforward, the path toward peace in the Middle East is layered with complexities and historical grievances that demand a nuanced and empathetic approach. The lingering question remains: Can the world navigate toward peace sooner with minimal devastation and human suffering? It is also true that we need to end political dissonances within India to handle the remaining Pakistan-occupied Kashmir issue. Thankfully, the Indian state of Kashmir is slowly but definitely staggering towards a semblance of normalcy and prosperity.

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