Column | Tragedy of Soumya Santhosh symptomatic of deep malaise

We often take pride in the fact that the sun never sets on the Indian diaspora. When the day begins in the South Pacific, an Indian will be going to work on his cane farm in Fiji and another Indian will be driving home in his Mercedes after a day’s work in California.

Their remittances keep our economy afloat. But it also means that Indians get affected by every crisis in any corner of the globe and some of them return home in coffins.

Every time this happens, we should bow our head in grief and also in shame that if we had provided enough opportunities for them to make a decent living in India, many of them may have stayed back. Young Soumya went to Israel just because it was there that she could earn and support her family back home. She probably did not even know what the politics in Israel was and how hazardous it was to live in an area of tension and conflict. She would have happily gone to a Muslim or a Christian nation if she had the opportunity. She had no grouse against Israelis or Palestinians. But yet, she was killed in a stray rocket at a moment she was talking to her husband back home and she had no time to rush to the bomb shelter. In a generous gesture, Israel brought her body back home and the Consul called her an “angel of Israel” and promised help to the family.

In Kerala, however, we were not united in grieving for her, because the rocket came from a particular direction. Would it have made any difference to her if the bomb came from the opposite direction? The tragedy of Soumya is symptomatic of a deep malaise that has gripped mankind. In the name of religion, race and colour, innocent people are butchered in different parts of the world. Even in the midst of the pandemic, people are adding to the misery because of their expansionist ambitions and greed. Futile fight over a common fatherland is the curse of Jerusalem.

Two wounded civilizations are perpetually wreaking vengeance for alleged injustice and deprivation of a homeland over centuries. Jerusalem is the only piece of real estate. which is considered the fatherland of three major faiths in the world. For the Jews, it is the sacrificial site of Abraham’s son Isaac, who was saved by divine intervention. It is also the site of the first and second Temples.

The Western Wall is the remaining relic of one of them, the ideal place for prayers. For the Muslims, it is here that the Prophet ascended to heaven and the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of Rock constitute the Noble Sanctuary.

For Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands on the site where Jesus was crucified and had resurrected.

Palestinian demonstrators look at burning tires during a protest over tension in Jerusalem and Israel-Gaza escalation, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Jerusalem’s multi faith character

The United Nations had wisely decided to preserve Jerusalem’s multi faith character without assigning it to Israel or Palestine. Only a reckless President Trump had named Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel and set off a chain of events that led to the present bloodshed, which has spun out of control in a week. The latest violence was sparked off by the growing unrest over control of Jerusalem and attempts by Jewish settlers to take over Arab-controlled communities.

The tensions have spilled over into the West Bank, where hundreds of residents in Arab communities staged overnight protests against recent actions of Israeli security forces against Palestinians. Casualties have been mounting on both sides, as Hamas continues its bomb attacks on Israeli targets. Clashes between the Arabs and Jews have been taking place in civilian areas. The United Nations, having failed to deal effectively with the pandemic on account of a Chinese veto, is now paralysed again by the US veto.

Russia and Turkey are likely to lead a move in the General Assembly, which is likely to pass a resolution against Israel with overwhelming majority.

To avoid such an eventuality, the US is reportedly applying pressure on Israel to stop the bombing. But Israel has asserted that bombing will continue and that it will take time to end the military operations. At the open session of the Security Council, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN , Ambassador T S Tirumurti said that the continuing violence, which began in East Jerusalem a week back, is now threatening to spiral out of control. "The events of the last several days have resulted in a sharp deterioration of the security situation." Tirumurti reiterated India’s strong support to the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-State solution, while also stressing India’s strong condemnation of all acts of violence, provocation, incitement and destruction. "Immediate de-escalation is the need of the hour, so as to arrest any further slide towards the brink. We urge both sides to show extreme restraint, desist from actions that exacerbate tensions, and refrain from attempts to unilaterally change the existing status-quo, including in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhood," he said."

These incidents have once again underscored the need for immediate resumption of dialogue between Israel and Palestinian authorities. The absence of direct and meaningful negotiations between the parties is widening the trust deficit between the parties," Tirumurti said, voicing concern that “this will only increase the chances for similar escalation in future.” Gone are the days when we stood solidly behind Palestine, but the latest Indian statement reiterated its strong support to the Palestinian cause and the two-State solution, which was noted and appreciated widely in India. Israel had shown understanding of our principled position on Palestine even in the old days and our continuing position on Palestine has not stood in the way of our good relations today. An all-out war is not likely because Hamas will have little support from the Arabs and a final solution is hardly possible when the global situation is in a state of flux.

Peaceful co-existence is the only option for Israel and Palestine. The futility of the war is clear and it will not be long before the conflict ends and Gaza returns to an uneasy peace. 

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