By Mohammad Anas, Aligarh Muslim University, Kerala.
India’s so-called neutrality from voting in the recent UN Human Rights Council meeting on the question of forwarding the “Davis Report” to International Criminal Court has created an instant outrage among the National Councils and people all over the world. Various assumptions are being made as to why India did not take part in the voting. Since 1948 when India got its Independence until in 1992 when full diplomatic relations with Israel were assumed India vowed to support Palestine to fight for its inalienable rights as a sovereign engaged in a struggle against colonial occupation which is much like the one that led to its own hard-won independence.India has always shown solidarity to the Palestine. This sudden change of India being silent on the report has raised many eyebrows.
Since past two decades Gaza, Israel and Palestine have been attacking each other because of which many civilians, children and soldiers have lost their lives. If we focus just on the previous year i.e.; 2014 then during Israel’s 7 week assault on Gaza titled “Operation Protective Edge” which lasted from eighth day of July and carried on more than a month till the twenty sixth of August saw Israel and Hamas exchange rockets and bombing attacks, that killed almost 2,191 Palestinians most of whom were civilians and 71 Israelis most of whom were soldiers. Infrastructure like houses, schools, mosques, hospitals have suffered a serious blow. These statistics are just for the year 2014, and we cannot figure out how intimidating it is to imagine the death roll and sufferings of people since the last two decades. This war has killed almost 1,196 Israelis and at least 9,136 Palestinians since year 2000. Many nations made efforts to offer peace talks, but all efforts failed. The two nations have agreed for ceasefire many times but always failed to keep their word. Latest peace talk halted in 2014 when Israel failed to release Palestinian prisoners and did not keep the promise.
There have been various reports of civilians being killed, kidnappings, etc. and majority of them being on the side of Palestine. Children are attacked at schools. UN schools in Gaza that offer shelter to people and various mosques are experiencing intense bombing attacks. The UN schools not only give shelter but also provide food, water and aid to people. This is the reason why attacks on these schools are very much being disgraced by every nation. The attacks are major when people gather to open fast during the holy times of Ramadan. Attacks start without warning fire and if warnings are given then residents are not given enough time to evacuate. Also, now there is no safe place where these people can run for shelter. People are also attacked while sleeping. When confronted, Israelis and Hamas Group blamed each other.
So to find facts, exact statistics of death roll and people’s sufferings, the UN Human Rights Council empanelled a commission to investigate the conduct of both the Israeli state and the non-state Palestinian resistance. The Commission of Inquiry’s Chairwoman was a famous American Jurist Ms Mc Gowan Davis. It was a 277 pages report written by Mc Gowen Davis and Douduo Diene, a lawyer from Senegal. The report accused both the Israelis as well as the Hamas Group and the Palestinian Authority for attacks. The report said that both sides are equally responsible for crimes and terror attacks. But its major inclination of accusation was on Israel as it said the attacks by Israel were mainly targeted on civilians and UN Schools in Gaza which was a reason for concern. Mc Gowan Davis in an interview herself condemned the attacks. The report was then forwarded to the ICC.
On 3rd July 2015 the UNHRC held a meeting at Geneva to vote on the question of forwarding the Davis Report to the International Criminal Court on Israeli war crimes committed last year On the basis of Gaza Conflict Commission of Inquiry, a summary of the report was submitted charging that Israel and Hamas may have committed war crimes during Operation Protective Edge last summer. 41 of the 47 UNHRC council members voted in favour of the resolution, including the eight sitting European Union members: France, Germany, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Latvia and Estonia. Only the US, which last week slammed the report as biased, voted against and five nations abstained: Kenya, Ethiopia, Macedonia, and Paraguay including India
India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave a reason for its abstention that India does not take part in any voting which is signatory to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC. So it abstained because of the reference to the ICC in the resolution and there is no change in India’s policy towards Palestine. This reasoning by Ministry of External Affairs is quite vague because in earlier years India has voted at least twice for UN Human Rights Council resolutions that do refer cases to the ICC. Both these cases are about allegations of Syrian government violations in its civil war — once on March 23, 2012, and again on June 1, 2012. The principled stand to refrain from collaboration. China though not being a signatory to the Roman Statute still voted with the majority.
Yet another suggested reason for abstention could be The Prime Minister Narendra Modi recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Last two decades clearly show India’s bending towards Israel and can be determined by increasingly intimate bilateral relationship which includes trade worth over $6bn, with India constituting Israel’s single largest arms buyer, a significant expansion of Military Corporation since NDA came into power and a radical shift from India’s once insistently anti-colonial refusal to endorse Israel’s atrocities in the region to enthusiastic military and commercial collaboration with Zionism.
On June 14, Israel released its own report on the war, which suggested that it had committed no war crimes. This is part of its campaign to whitewash the war and the continued occupation of Palestinian lands. Israel’s settlement activity and security walls in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its throttling of Gaza by embargo have rendered the “two-state” solution moot. There is no possibility for creation of Palestine in the moth-eaten land that remains. A “one-state” solution is equally impossible if Israel insists that it is a “Jewish State”, an ethno-nationalist concept that denies the rights of Palestinians inside Israel. Israeli policy directly leads to endless occupation and punctuated wars. That is why the Davis Report showed concern that nothing would come of their work, since “impunity prevails across the boards for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law allegedly committed by Israeli forces, whether it be in the context of active hostilities in Gaza or killings, torture and ill-treatment in the West Bank.” The resolution calls for report’s implementation and recommendations. It also calls for an end to the impunity of Israeli officials responsible for alleged war crimes. The decision by the council has no binding effect, but adds to pressure for war crimes prosecutions before the International Criminal Court and the investigation put on by ICC could have put some pressure on the Israeli state and would force it to keep a check on its conduct. India’s abstention does not help the situation in West Asia. It does not help to relieve sufferings of people on either side.
Although its abstention can be staged as a mere political step but it also shows that India is supporting Israel’s violent attacks.
Expectations of Palestinians, who are already suffering a lot are crushed by countries who resisted from voting or did not support the cause because it is not always about thinking politically but sometimes thinking with a feeling of humanity also counts.