It was just announced that Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins were going to write a book on Israel. Subsequently published as O Jerusalem!, the book shot to international bestseller status right away. However, as Lapierre recalls in the “Introduction,” they were halfway through their research for the book when they received a telegram from King Hussein of Jordan inviting them to visit his palace in Amman.
The tragedy of Palestinian refugees was mentioned by the King. He also shared with them his hope that our book would be completely objective. He thought that a really unbiased book could advance the cause of peace, according to Lapierre. Upon being questioned about what he considered to be true impartiality, he eventually “raised his arms to the sky in helplessness” after repeatedly shaking his head.
Lapierre informed King that during the three years of their research, a young Palestinian woman who had served as an interpreter for the two authors also expressed the hope that “we would be objective in our book”. However, 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!'” Lapierre asked her what she meant to be “objective.” The King grinned and remarked, “I trust you,” upon hearing this.
Given that Hamas committed genocide on October 7 and that West Asia is currently on the verge of another war, some seem to think that supporting Hamas equates to being objective. This has been the main source of the issue in the area. Although the Palestinians have a valid demand, this does not diminish the legitimacy of Israel’s right to exist in the region. In their rush to corner and denounce Israel, Hamas and Palestine are being lumped together, and all the awkward facts about Hamas—intentionally or not—are ignored, including the fact that the Islamist group was the one who initially pulled the trigger on terrorism, forcing Israel into a defensive mode.
This unsettling realisation was brought home last Friday at a pro-Palestine rally in Malappuram, Kerala, by a former head of Hamas. It is problematic, risky, and unsettling on a number of levels to invite a leader of Hamas to speak at a pro-Palestine demonstration in southern India.
Firstly, it erroneously portrays Palestine and Hamas as interchangeable. As true as it is that Israel must work to destroy the jihadi infrastructure that Hamas has built, so too is the Palestinian demand for their own state. Strong support for a state for Palestine does not and should not impede Israel’s efforts to combat Hamas and its terrorist agenda.
Critiquing the nuanced Indian stance on the West Asian crisis stems from this problematic idea that objectivity equates to support for Hamas. It appears that those who accuse New Delhi of losing the moral high ground are not only misrepresenting the Palestinian issue but also ignoring Hamas’ jihadi hue.
They miss the point that Delhi was among the first capitals to support Tel Aviv after Hamas attacked innocent Israelis on October 7, but that hasn’t stopped the Narendra Modi administration from endorsing the demand for Palestinian statehood. India has long defended the rights of Israel to exist and self-defense while standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Second, giving a Hamas leader a platform always serves to legitimise the Islamist group’s anti-Semitic agenda. The truth is that on October 7, Hamas made the deliberate decision to target Jews—many of whom were women and children—who had gathered for a music festival. This was a heinous act of terrorism, and a civilised, democratic society should not tolerate any organisation engaged in such activities. In actuality, it is imperative to actively and resolutely combat the anti-Semitic beliefs that have become ingrained in the name of Palestine.
The genocidal mentality that caused the Jews to suffer for so many centuries throughout the world was India; from that angle, the country was an exception to the widespread anti-Semitic trend, as Jews were treated with respect and safety. It is this deep-rooted anti-Semitism that always hides under the guise of Palestinian suffering and ambition. If one looks closely at this way of thinking, they will see that the true struggle is not to establish Palestine but rather to violently eradicate Israel and the Jewish people.
Another issue with Hamas’ Kerala ties is that Islamism transcends national borders. It is governed by the concept of ummah, which explains why individuals from far-off places and ethnicities relate to West Asian issues on an emotional level and are willing to use violent means to “express” themselves. This implies that any increase in an Islamist group’s activity in, say, West Asia will affect their Indian counterparts. The government cannot afford to overlook these factors at work.
To make matters worse, jihadi foot soldiers and those who support them have always been aware of their long-term goal, which they believe to be divinely ordained, both historically and religiously. (And if anyone believes they have been any less realistic throughout, they only need to consider how the Islamic world has been getting along with China in spite of Uyghurs being persecuted in Xinjiang.) J Sai Deepak, a lawyer and author, describes how Syed Ahmad Barelvi (1786–1831), who is “credited with laying the foundations for a pan-India Wahhabi network in a systematic manner,” travelled to Afghanistan in 1826 and set up camp at the tomb of Mahmud of Ghazni, the raider and destroyer of Somnath. This account is published in India, Bharat, and Pakistan.
If Barelvi “felt a kinship” with Mahmud of Ghazni, who lived eight centuries before him, then modern jihadis find a similar kinship with Barelvi.
This was made clear in February 2019 when India chose to launch targeted airstrikes in Balakot as retaliation for the Pulwama suicide bombing, which claimed the lives of forty CRPF soldiers. The epicentre of jihadi terror in Pakistan, if not all of South Asia, is currently Balakot. And the reason it is the centre of terrorism is because on May 6, 1831, Barelvi was killed in battle in Balakot against the Sikhs. Therefore, the purpose of India’s Balakot strikes was not only to destroy the terror infrastructure already in place there, but also to convey a more important message: that India recognises the real nature of jihadi terrorism that originates in Pakistan.
The outcome was evident: Pakistan still harbours terrorists, but after Balakot, it has grown more circumspect and wary of pushing the boundaries of jihad. A similar, unequivocal Indian response is also required to the Kerala incident: that Hamas is not Palestine and that any attempt to link the two would be met with fierce opposition.
Being impartial does not equate to being pro-Hamas!