So deep does national sentiment in favour of the rights of the Palestinians run that regardless of which party is in power, the Indian government has so far remained formally committed to the cause of an independent, secure Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.
India has excellent relations with Israel too, but that has not come in the way of the country taking a stand against Israel’s violations of international law.
Against this backdrop it is not hard to understand why the videotaped remarks of the Indian consul general in New York celebrating the so-called ‘Israel Model’ have proved so controversial.
Perhaps as a form of damage control, the Ministry of External Affairs quickly released an advance copy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement marking the International Day for Solidarity with the Palestinians. Yet, the question remained – could it be that Modi’s letter of support for the Palestinians was just public posture and that what the senior Indian diplomat was caught saying on camera represented the real thinking of the Indian government? Or had the diplomat mis-spoken?
So far, the MEA has not clarified matters. The diplomat’s claim that his remarks have been taken “out of context” is not helpful since it was the context in which he was speaking which made his words so shocking. He was addressing a gathering of Kashmiri Pandits (KPs), lakhs of whom were driven from their homes in the Kashmir Valley following the onset of the armed insurgency in 1990. How could he or anyone imagine the Israel Model – which is based on the eviction of the Palestinian people from their homes and the annexation of their land – can offer a solution to the plight of the KPs?
Either way, it is evident that the diplomat in question, like many people in India and around the world, is a victim of ignorance and disinformation about what exactly the ‘Israel Model’ is. So here, in 10 easy-to-understand facts, is a quick guide to this model.
1. Occupy the sovereign territory of others and turn them into refugees
The United Nations created Israel and Palestine on November 29, 1948 as two equal, sovereign states. Today, Israel is in occupation of Palestine. It has annexed East Jerusalem. It has blockaded the Gaza strip and filled the West Bank with its own outposts of settlers, and refuses to abide by the terms of either UN resolutions or negotiated accords it has signed to end this illegal occupation of Palestinian land. As part of this occupation, Israel also steals the water resources of the Palestinians, and will not allow the refugees who were forcibly driven from their land to return home.
2. Impose collective punishment on the occupied people
When the occupied people exercise their inalienable and legitimate right to resist, the Israel Model involves subjecting the entire civilian population of the Palestinian territories to collective punishment using such methods as a territorial blockade, mass arrests and detentions, travel restrictions that can turn even the shortest of journeys into a nightmare lasting hours, the demolition of homes, fiscal pressure,, the use of civilians and even children as human shields.
3. Illegally convert occupied territory into your own land
The third feature of the Israel Model is the conversion of Occupied Territory into Israeli land, first by building illegal settlements, then a massive wall (ostensibly to ‘protect’ the occupiers from the occupied but actually to grab more land), then roads to connect these illegal settlements. Israel has grabbed so much land already that the West Bank resembles a piece of Swiss cheese, full of holes. The Israeli academic, one of the world’s leading scholars of Telugu and Tamil, has been chronicling the hundreds of crimes, small and big, that are an integral part of the ‘Israel model’. Each story of the theft of land and water will break your heart.
4. Discriminate against your own citizens on the basis of religion or ethnicity
The Israel Model involves not just robbing the Palestinians of their land but also turning a section of Israel’s own citizens – especially those who are Palestinian – into second-class citizens. Reactionary politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu regularly speak of Arab Israelis and their representatives as if they are national enemies. Arabs are one-fifth of Israel’s population yet suffer from discrimination when it comes to the right to lease land, reunite their families, or the right to residency in Jerusalem.
5. Turn your courts into a rubber-stamp for the occupation
Fifth, the Israeli model requires that the judicial system, which is otherwise quite independent of the executive, serve as a rubber-stamp for the illegal occupation and for the violation of human rights by the Israeli security apparatus and military.
Palestinians whose homes are taken over illegally have tried in vain to get the Israeli courts to intervene on the side of justice, yet judgment after judgment has confirmed what the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem has said, that “those under occupation cannot seek justice in the occupier’s courts.”
6. Regularly attack your neighbours
The sixth element of the Israel Model is to regularly attack your neighbours – especially Lebanon – and breed violence and insecurity in the borderlands of all its neighbours. Israel has formally annexed the Golan Heights from Syria and for years had turned southern Lebanon into a hell-hole.
7. Violate international humanitarian law whenever you wage war
It is impossible to think of the Israel Model without its seventh element – the violation of international humanitarian law whenever the Israeli Defence Forces wage war. Even if we leave aside aggression as a war crime by itself, the actual conduct of military operations by the IDF, especially in Gaza in 2014 and most recently in 2018, and in Southern Lebanon, has involved war crimes such as the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force, and the killing and maiming of civilians. All of this has been well documented by international human rights agencies but also by the United Nations.
8. Label your critics ‘terrorists’, terror sympathisers’, ‘anti-semites’ and anti-nationals
An integral part of the Israel Model is also the demonisation of critics as terrorists or terror sympathisers. Reactionary Israeli politicians and officials are quick to label the critics of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians as ‘anti-semitic’ or, if they are Jews or Israelis, as unpatriotic and anti-national.
9. Dishonour the memory of the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust
The ninth element of the Israel model is the tendency of some politicians to dishonor the memory of the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust by invoking their suffering to somehow justify what the Israeli state is doing to the Palestinian people. Using the suffering of one people to justify committing crimes against others is one of the most atrocious things a politician can do, and regrettably this has now become a tactic that is frequently resorted to.
10. Use war and the threat of terror for domestic political gains
The tenth element of the Israel model is one which has come into starker relief these days, given Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to form a coalition government in the face of the challenge from Benny Gantz in the September 2019 election to the Knesset.
Israel’s attorney general managed to block Netanyahu’s plans to launch an intensive bombing campaign against Gaza just before those elections but as Israel prepares for a third election early next year, the Palestinian territory has emerged as a convenient punching bag.
Over 30 Palestinian civilians were killed in Israeli bombings in Gaza last month and the fear is that there will be more aggression as Netanyahu seeks to push a reluctant electorate into giving him a majority.
Emulate at your own risk
So there, in a nutshell, is the Israel Model, in 10 atrocious parts. I cannot think of a single redeeming feature of this model. It is a curse for the people of Palestine, of course, but it is also a curse for the people of Israel, who are condemned by this model to live lives of perpetual insecurity, enmeshed in conflict and injustice. Anyone who thinks Israel can serve as a guide for India is either ignorant, or mad.