Why an ex-Hamas chief addressing a pro-Palestine rally in Kerala is problematic, dangerous and disturbing

 Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre had just announced their decision to write a book on Israel. The book later came out as O Jerusalem!, and became an instant global bestseller. But as they were halfway through their research for the book, as Lapierre recalls in ‘Introduction’, they received a telegram from King Hussein of Jordan wishing to meet them at his palace in Amman.

“The King spoke of the Palestinian refugee tragedy. He also confided to us the hope that our book would be truly impartial. A truly impartial book, he believed, could serve the cause of peace,” Lapierre writes. When asked what, to him, was true impartiality, he “shook his head several times and finally raised his arms to the sky in helplessness”.

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Lapierre told the King that a young Palestinian woman who had worked for the two authors as an interpreter during the three years of their research too had expressed the hope that “we would be objective in our book”. But when Lapierre asked her what it was, according to her, to be ‘objective’, the “eyes of the young woman had suddenly burned with a flash of passion as she had answered: ‘To be objective, Dominique, is to be pro-Arab!’” Hearing this, the King smiled and said, “I trust you.”

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Today, as West Asia finds itself on the precipice of another war, after Hamas’ genocidal act of October 7, there are people who seem to believe that to be objective is to be pro-Hamas. This has been the crux of the problem in the region. While there’s no denying that the Palestinians have a legitimate demand, this doesn’t make the Israeli right to existence in the region any less credible. In their hurry to corner and condemn Israel, Hamas and Palestine are being clubbed together and all the inconvenient truths surrounding Hamas are brushed aside, deliberately or otherwise, including the fact that it was the Islamist outfit that first pulled the jihadi trigger, pushing Israel into a retaliatory mode.

This disturbing awareness hit home last Friday when a former Hamas chief virtually addressed a pro-Palestine rally in Kerala’s Malappuram. Inviting a Hamas leader to address a pro-Palestine rally in south India is problematic, dangerous and disturbing on several counts.

First, it makes the mistake of projecting Hamas and Palestine as synonymous. The fact is the Palestinian demand for a separate state is as legitimate as the need for Israel to seek the dismantling of Hamas’ jihadi infrastructure. A strong advocacy for a Palestinian state doesn’t—and should not—come in the way of Israel’s fight against Hamas and its terror agenda.

It’s this affliction to the problematic notion—that being objective is being pro-Hamas—which makes one criticise the nuanced Indian position on the West Asian crisis. Those who accuse New Delhi of losing the moral high ground seem to be making the mistake of ignoring the jihadi colour of Hamas but also giving the Palestinian issue a bad name. They fail to understand that when Hamas attacked the innocent Israelis on October 7, Delhi was among the first capitals to stand in solidarity with Tel Aviv, but that has not stopped the Narendra Modi government from supporting the Palestinian statehood demand. India’s longstanding position has been to support the cause of the Palestinian people, while acknowledging the right of Israel to exist and defend itself.

Second, when one gives a platform to a Hamas leader, it invariably legitimises the Islamist outfit’s anti-Semitic agenda. The fact is that on October 7, Hamas chose to specifically target the Jewish people, many of them women and children who had gathered to attend a music festival. This was a dastardly act of terrorism and any outfit indulging in such activities should have no place in a civil, democratic society. In fact, there is a need to consciously and categorically fight the anti-Jewish sentiments that have deeply entrenched themselves in the name of Palestine.

It was this genocidal mindset that made the Jews suffer for so many centuries across countries—India, in that perspective, had been an outlier to this global anti-Semitic phenomenon, being one rare place where Jews received refuge and respect. Invariably, it is this innate anti-Semitism that conceals itself within the cover of Palestinian plight and aspirations. When one digs deep into this mindset one realises that the real fight is not for the creation of Palestine, but the violent extermination of Israel and Jews.

Hamas’ Kerala connection is problematic on another front, too: Islamism knows no national boundaries. It’s dictated by the idea of ummah, and this explains why people of distant lands and nationalities find emotional connect with issues of West Asia and are not averse to resorting to violent means to ‘express’ themselves. This means that any upsurge in the activity of an Islamist group in, say, West Asia will have an impact on their counterparts in India. The government can ill afford to ignore such forces at play.

To add to it is the fact that jihadi foot soldiers and their patrons have always been religiously and historically alive to their long-term objective, which they see as divinely ordained. (And if one thinks they are any less pragmatic all this while, then one must look at the Islamic world’s relations with China despite the persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.) Lawyer-author J Sai Deepak writes in India, Bharat and Pakistan how Syed Ahmad Barelvi (1786-1831), “credited with laying the foundations for a pan-India Wahhabi network in a systematic manner”, in 1826, visited Afghanistan and camped at the mausoleum of Mahmud of Ghazni, the plunderer and destroyer of Somnath. If Barelvi, “who lived in the 18th-19th centuries, felt a kinship with Mahmud of Ghazni who lived eight centuries before him”, today’s jihadis find a similar kinship with Barelvi.

This became obvious in February 2019 when India decided to conduct surgical airstrikes in Balakot—in response to the Pulwama suicide bombing that led to the killing of 40 CRPF jawans. Balakot is today the epicentre of jihadi terror in Pakistan, if not the entire South Asian region. And it’s the hub of terrorism precisely because Barelvi fell in battle against the Sikhs in Balakot on 6 May 1831. India’s Balakot strikes were, thus, not just aimed at destroying the existing terror infrastructure there, but also sending a larger message: That India understands the true nature of jihadi terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

The result was palpable: While Pakistan continues to harbour terrorism, it has become more cautious and circumspect post-Balakot at pushing the jihadi envelope beyond a point. The Kerala incident too needs a similar, categorical Indian reaction: That Hamas is not Palestine and any attempt to club the two would be resisted at all possible levels.

To be objective is definitely not to be pro-Hamas!

Source: https://www.firstpost.com/opinion/why-an-ex-hamas-chief-addressing-a-pro-palestine-rally-in-kerala-is-problematic-dangerous-and-disturbing-13318372.html


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