Thursday, October 14, 2010

Op Ed Calling India Pariah State odd Choice for Israeli Publication

October 14, 2010 by Dr. Richard L. Benkin  

ric-hard-benkinOn September 19, 2010, the Jerusalem Post ran an Op Ed by Rob Brown, entitled “Why Isn’t India a Pariah State?”  The piece, in essence told Israelis that the Indian “occupation” of Kashmir was characterized by human rights abuses and is responsible for 70,000 deaths.  It also included a warning that if India was not taken to task for this, it would increase the animus toward Israel for its actions in the disputed territories.  Not only did I find the piece little more than an anti-India rant, but several members of the Indian-American community contacted me aghast that such a piece could appear in a major Israeli publication.  I defended the Israeli media’s adherence to free expression but also felt compelled to rebut Brown’s diatribe.  For whatever reason (and I am not second guessing it), the Jerusalem Post chose not to run it; but my Op Ed is re-produced here.

Ron Brown’s Op Ed, “Why Isn’t India a Pariah State,”should resonate with a lot of Israelis—not, however, because they find it compelling, but because the same sort of arguments have been used to justify Israel’s demonization.  It was an odd choice for JPost readers but quite strategic for Mr. Brown.  His focus, Kashmir, is India’s West Bank, and many would sacrifice both territories on the altar of realpolitik in land-for-peace formulae that few believe will bring genuine peace.  Others would do so for more sinister reasons.

Just as Judea and Samaria once had large Jewish populations, Kashmir was once home to large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs.  Over time, those peoples were violently uprooted, allowing advocates for Judenrien, Hindurein, and Sikhrein territories to claim that their position only reflects the will of the people and must be supported by any nation calling itself democratic.
The West Bank abuts Israel, is a terror hub and is otherwise surrounded by a Muslim ummah that has yet to show a willingness to stop its elements with maximalist designs; the same for India-abutting Kashmir.  Moreover, both sets of terrorists have a penchant for hiding among local Muslim populations and capitalizing on the collateral damage that insures.  Should the Indian army in Kashmir or the IDF in the West Bank be handcuffed in protecting their people from these deadly threats?

While Brown’s accusations are unattributed assertions, he does refer to “essayist” Pankaj Mishra and the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir (“People’s Tribunal”).  Brown’s reliance on these secondary sources seems odd for someone who claims to have “personally observed the situation in Kashmir.”  Was there no first-hand evidence for his anti-India rant?

Neither reference is objective or without an agenda.  Take Mishra.  On the eve of then-US President Bill Clinton’s 2000 visit to India, gunmen dressed in India army uniforms murdered 34 Sikh civilians in the Kashimiri village of Chattisinghpura.  Within hours, Mishra emerged from the village with a “report” blaming Indian soldiers for the cold-blooded killings.  The international press ate it up, and a flood of condemnations poured down on India.  When evidence later implicated Pakistan and local terrorists, who often masquerade as Indian troops, condemnations were withdrawn by all but committed ideologues like Mishra and the People’s Tribunal.  Israelis who recall the phantom “Jenin Massacre” and staged “murder” of Muhammed al-Dura are familiar with the pattern.

The People’s Tribunal is openly ideological.  A Kashmiri paper reported that it “roped in activists from India and abroad to be part of… its investigations.”  One People’s Tribunal Official, Khurram Parvez asserted, without offering a shred of evidence, that one in ten Kashmiris has been tortured—some 700,000 people.  So much for objectivity.  Tribunal founder and most active voice, Angana Chatterji, admits her research is intended to take an “advocacy position.” She and Brown both use the same disingenuous method of argumentation:  provide an effect that can be verified, then offer a reason that cannot.  So, he writes:  “The Indian occupation of Kashmir between 1989-2009 has resulted in more than 70,000 deaths.”  The deaths can be verified, but concluding that the “Indian occupation” caused them cannot.  Similarly, in September Chatterji wrote that “the occupation of Palestine has resulted in 10,148 dead.”

Why assume India is the culprit when there are others, including Pakistan, separatist groups, and terrorists like Lashkar e-Taibi with both motive and a history of mass murder?
In “Kashmir: A Time for Freedom,” published less than a week after Brown’s JPost rant, Chatterji parallels Kashmiri and Arab militants and decries the Indian army response by stating, “Stone pelting does not seek to kill, and has not resulted in death.”  She also and refers to those who abet the violence as “pro-freedom leaders” and complains about Kashmiri Muslims having to live under a Hindu-majority India.  Sound familiar?  Then after cataloging what she charges are human rights violations by India, Chatterji notes, “Since 2002, the Government of India has procured 5 billion US dollars in weaponry from the Israeli state. Authoritarian alliances between once subjugated peoples mark another irony of history.”  A week later, “Israel and India Brothers in Occupation of Kashmir” appeared to accuse Israel or helping India “to obliterate the Kashmiri freedom struggle.”

And so we get to the crux of the matter.  The burgeoning relationship between India and Israel has set off Islamist alarm bells worldwide.  Both nations are almost synonymous with high-tech excellence, and both militaries have an almost unblemished record of success.  The religions most closely associated with them—Judaism and Hinduism—are an anathema to Islamists and top candidates for the chopping block should our enemies prevail.  Breaking up this growing relationship would be a real coup for them.  What better way than to demonize India in Israel in the same way that anti-Israel propaganda has proven so effective elsewhere?  Perhaps Brown’s Op Ed was the opening salvo in that war.

Dr. Richard L. Benkin is a Chicago-based human rights activist who freed Muslim Zionist and journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury from imprisonment and torture in Bangladesh and helped stop an anti-Israel “seminar” in Australia, among other accomplishments.  He currently is fighting to stop the ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus and travels frequently to South Asia in that cause.

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