Sri Subrahmanyam Jaishankar
Minister of External Affairs
Government of India,
South Block Raisina Hill,
New Delhi

17th Jun-21

Dear Sir,

We write to you as the Indo-Palestine Solidarity Network which is an All-India group of individuals and organizations whose aim is to bring an end to the unjust imperialist-apartheid-colonial system in Palestine. A huge number of Indian citizens were once again shocked and disillusioned by the Indian Government’s decision to abstain from voting in favour of Palestine on the resolution at the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session. The vote called on the UNHRC to set up a Commission of Inquiry on human rights violations in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank in the aftermath of the 11-day Israel-Hamas war.  India abstained along with 13 others to the resolution which referred to the ruthless killing of at least 232 people in Gaza as a result of the Israeli bombing. This included the deaths of innocent children, 65 in Gaza and 12 in Israel in the 11-day war which ended in a ceasefire on May 21.

The present BJP government has the worst possible record in its relations with Palestine. India has tilted its affinity towards Israel and can no more claim neutrality in Israel-Palestine relations. We have taken the side of the racist settler-colonialist power, namely the Apartheid State of Israel. Over the years, Israel has engaged in appalling violence against Palestinian civilians, stealth of Palestinian land, oppression of the Palestinians out of sheer prejudice, unheard of punishment to children, and youth who dare to resist the Israeli Occupation. It is one of the cruelest and most barbaric occupations. It resembles the very tyranny that Jews faced at the hands of the Nazi regime in the 1930s. They seem to have learned political cruelty from their oppressors.

We do not need to remind you – a Foreign Minister of our government who has previously held positions in the foreign services that Israeli occupation began with the unjust UN Partition agreement. India did not support it in 1948. The UN proposed terminating the British Mandate and partitioning Palestine into two independent States, one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish, with Jerusalem internationalized (Resolution 181 (II) of 1947). We know from history that one of the two envisaged States proclaimed its independence as Israel and in the 1948 war involving neighbouring Arab States expanded land allocated them to 77 percent of the territory of mandate Palestine, including the larger part of Jerusalem – a steep increase of nearly 21 %.  More than half of the Palestinian Arab population fled or were forcefully expelled. Jordan and Egypt controlled the rest of the territory assigned by resolution 181 to the Arab State. In the 1967 war, Israel occupied these territories (Gaza Strip and the West Bank) including East Jerusalem, which was subsequently annexed by Israel.

Our purpose in bringing forth this history is to state that in the light of event India has chosen to obfuscate history and has blind fully discarded the political ethics and morals around which India’s Foreign Policy on the Middle East was constructed.

Allow us to quote the revered Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation who was unequivocal in his demand that Jews can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. Mahatma Gandhi was familiar with the age-long persecution of the Jews. He affirmed: “The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me.” He said that Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French and it is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs.” Mahatma Gandhi said the settlement of the Jews in the Palestinian territory is akin to a religious act that rules out use of force. “The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs.”

India’s policy with regard to Palestine and Israel has also has its roots in Nehruvian policy.  Nehru was clear in his mind that even though Israel needed a homeland, he could not vote for the partition of Palestine. He argued for a composite State, wherein Palestinian Arabs and the Jewish people would live side by side in a secular State, India had voted against the United Nations Partition plan for Palestine. Israel was awarded 56% of the land which today has converted into 78% of the land with the remaining 22% existing as cut away from access to development and often as ‘Bantustans’.

Israel blatantly continues to steal land, build settlements, appropriate water and other natural resources, deny people civil rights, impose administrative detention on those who resist Israel oppression apartheid policies.  The Separation Wall built under dubious pretexts has destroyed Palestinian economics, divided families, land and communities, and draws punishment for those who try to circumvent the wall when they try to reach their own villages. Meanwhile, tens and thousands of Palestinians have been killed, thrown out of their homes ( dispossessed), and many continue to face daily , brutality under Israel military even used for testing and proving the effectivity of  their ammunitions.

The recently concluded 11-day war ended in a greater tragedy for the people of Gaza. Once again, they lost a large number of lives. Houses were blown up and schools, places of heritage, schools, and offices housing personnel for welfare and development were ruthlessly torn down. Israel has blamed Hamas for shooting missiles into Israel territory. They neglect to own up to the fact that it was Israeli soldiers who raided the Al Aqsa Mosque with guns and swords to disrupt worshipers. They continued to attack innocent civilians in Sheik Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood, whose lands they have eyed for many years and convert it into a Jewish settlement. The Palestinians have zealously fought back and retained Sheikh Jarrah – until now. There were other instances of violence by armed Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. Palestinian youth defended as best as they could. It is their right to resist, when they are attacked by armed soldiers in their own land. Even international law understands and accepts that.. Hamas may have taught Israel a lesson they never expected. Residents of Israel whose spaces were attacked and who had to find temporary shelter knew the war would not easily end and that Hamas would fight on. A cease fire was then on the cards.The Organization of Islamic Cooperation members (OIC) proposed to set up a permanent commission to report on human rights violations in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. The resolution called on the UN Human Rights Council to “urgently establish an ongoing independent, international commission of inquiry” appointed by the council president to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Israel and Palestinian areas. The commission would also investigate “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict” including discrimination and repression, the text said. This commission marks an unprecedented level of scrutiny authorized by the U.N.’s top human rights body.

It is hard to imagine why the Indian Government would not support the resolution and, instead, opt for neutrality. When we choose neutrality, we take the side of the oppressed. Israel must be investigated. So too Hamas! But when one looks at the asymmetry of the two sides, it will be Israel which will find itself in greater trouble. Israel finds itself hiding from the various provisions of international law, international human rights law, and many other provisions of law under different UN regimes.

India has clearly chosen to be on the side of Israel. One fears the reasons for this. We have massively enlarged the scope of our military ties and are one of the largest importers of military hardware. It is hard to understand how we can morally and ethically chose Israel as a strategic partner- whether for military or trade purposes. We have given the edge in our trade relations even buying agricultural goods and services which have been rejected by our own farmers.

It makes little sense to pursue the Oslo agreements. If people are the subjects of their destiny, then it is they who must be consulted, not the nations who took an unprincipled stand by rejecting the provisions of international law almost all of which Israel has ignored.

Our Foreign policy has lost its moral value and foundation. We are with the oppressor whose cruelty has been inhuman and severely punitive. India can find a more respectable place in the community of nations, if we stand up for principles of self-determination and justice. Our vote in the UNHCR has betrayed our sense of global justice. The current regime in New Delhi has surrendered all political principles for minor gains and a vote that has, otherwise disgraced us as a nation.

We should be at the forefront of a renewed Non Aligned Movement and Group of 77 which challenges the colonial instincts of western powers. There were times when India and a few other countries provided the challenge to western dominance. To revert to such ethical lines must be in our political vision. The current pattern of our International relations smacks of political opportunism and lack of principle. The Palestinian people were deprived of the applicability of international human rights law. By an abstention in the vote, India has stifled the important work of Human Rights Council at advancing human rights for all peoples, including those of the Palestinian people. India missed an opportunity to join the international community at this turning point, both crucial and long overdue, on the path to accountability, justice and peace.

There is only one way to bring an end to the illegal occupation. That is to end the illegal occupation, and install a democratic pluralistic as a solution. This could be a niche contribution from India where, despite imperfections and hurdles, we retain a pluralistic democracy.

We urge you to use your good offices, your rich background, to get relevant countries to work collectively under coordination from India to impress upon Israel to give up its illegal occupation, surrender its settler-colonial policies, work towards a one-state solution even if the rest of the world thinks a two-state solution conveniently chooses a two-state solution in which Israel will be the winner and the Palestinians will lose.


Zita D’Souza                                                                                                                       Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad
Executive Secretary                                                                                                            President
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