A principal South Indian daily The Hindu published an Opinion on 3rd April 2014 titled “The endless calamity in West Asia” by one Vijay Prashad. (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-endless-calamity-in-west-asia/article5863814.ece)
While the author Mr. Prashad, who a self-described Marxist and anti-Zionist, is entitled to his opinion, as a professor, one would have expected him to have had a certain balance in his approach to a very sensitive issue. His vitriolic attack on Israel goes to the extent of stating: “If not for the blind support by the United States, Israel would be considered one of the planet’s most undesirable states.” The only inference that can be drawn from this statement is that this so-called opinion is more about Israel-bashing and less about suggesting an amicable and workable solution to the Palestinian question. The author needs to be made aware that Israel maintains diplomatic relations with about 160 countries on this planet, and surely a bulk of these countries do not find Israel to be undesirable. Israel also has relations with Arab/Islamic countries like Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania. Iran and its proxy, the Hezbollah and Hamas are the only state and non-state actors who desire the destruction of Israel. There are quite a few ‘undesirable states’ not only in the Indian sub-continent but in the Middle East as well; but Israel is certainly not one of them.
Mr. Prashad also seems to have conveniently forgotten that one of the first states to recognize Israel was the erstwhile Soviet Union, a country which was also India’s closest friend and a major arms supplier.
Israel has a history of providing emergency aid and humanitarian response teams to disasters across the world. For the past 26 years, Israel has sent out 15 aid missions to countries struck by natural disasters. In Haiti, immediately following the devastating 2010 earthquake, Israel was the first country to set up a field hospital. Israel sent over 200 medical doctors and personnel to start treating injured Haitians at the scene. Despite radiation concerns, Israel was one of the first countries to send a medical delegation to Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami disaster. How many of the undesirable states of the Middle East acted in providing emergency aid and humanitarian response teams to areas affected by natural calamities?
The author places strong emphasis on the criticism expressed by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the use of the term “Jewish State”. He writes that in its new report, “Arab Integration: A 21st Century Development Imperative (2014),” the Commission notes, “Israel insists on being recognized by the world and the Arabs as an exclusively Jewish State. It imposes this recognition as a condition for reaching a settlement with the Palestinians. This policy is based on the concept of the religious or ethnic purity of States, which brought to humanity the worst crimes and atrocities of the twentieth century.” What is so abhorrent if Israel insists on being recognized as an exclusively Jewish State? Does the international community have any objection when most of the Muslim states refer to themselves as “Islamic” or “Arab” states? The world does not have a problem with “Organisation of Islamic Countries” or the Arab League where the connotation is either ethnicity or religious. In the circumstances, the people who suffered the most in the last century have a right to insist upon being referred to as Jewish State.
Furthermore, the Jewishness of Israel does not prevent it from being a vibrant democracy with a parliamentary system and an unwritten constitution. And unlike the radical Islamic states of the Middle East and North Africa, the minorities in the state of Israel have a right to practice their religion. Muslims constitute about 16% of Israel's population.
Issues relating to Palestine and Israel need to be put in proper perspective:
Firstly, the creation of Israel is a fait accompli. Israel cannot be undone or de-recognised as a state under international law (for it possesses all the attributes of statehood).
Secondly, so long as radical Palestinian terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad seek the destruction of Israel, there can be no peace and a Palestinian state can never become a reality.
Thirdly, Israel will not allow creation of an independent Palestine unless and until the international community guarantees the security of Israel and its people.
Israel faces existential threat from Iran and Syria and ongoing threat of terrorism from Iran’s proxy the Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas from Gaza. These issues and the Palestine question are interlinked to the larger question of peace in the Middle East. For Palestine to be a reality, Israel’s right to exist needs to be guaranteed.
Mr. Prashad feels further aggrieved by Indo-Israel friendship and the fact that Israel has become India’s largest arms supplier after Russia. Whether Mr. Prashad likes it or not, Indo-Israel relations existed much prior to the establishment of diplomatic relation between the two countries. Israel-India ties are centred on not just weaponry, but extend to science and technology, space, culture and tourism. Mr. Prashad also points out that there are a number of corruption cases in both Israeli and Indian courts relating to defence deals. It needs to be mentioned that corruption in defence deals is not confined only to arms imports from Israel, but also from other countries. Bofors may be buried but is not forgotten as yet.
Mr. Prashad further states that only the Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI (M), whose 2014 election manifesto seeks to “extend full support to the cause of a Palestinian state; sever military and security ties with Israel.” This, with respect may be the stand of a marginalized party and can never be the stand of the country as a whole.
Lastly, Israel will not be a mute spectator to the creation of Palestine, devoid of security guarantees, as India was in 1947, when Pakistan was created only to reap overt and covert conflicts for generations to come.
The endless calamity in West Asia is not one of Israel's making, but is the result of the acts of commission and omission by the British and the Arab states post World War II.