Dear Mr President,
You are leaving on a state visit to Israel on Monday, 12 October. I wish you bon voyage, but would also like to give you a few "tips". A man of the world such as yourself might find this to be a little presumptuous, but it's something I want to get out of my system - and while my "advice" in this case is for Israel, it applies to India too, especially given the repulsive recent developments in our country. You'll see what I mean in a bit.
Mr President, we are aware that you had expressed the desire to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque during your visit. We are not surprised that the Israeli government turned it down. The message is loud and clear: look the other way, so that your conscience does not bother you. You have another term to get elected!
You will find Ben Gurion Airport to be most welcoming and hassle-free. It is for most people. But not for those Arabs coming to visit their long-abandoned home or ancestral village. Most of them, despite valid documents and perhaps even as American passport, are held for hours and questioned repeatedly; some are stripped naked and in some cases denied entry altogether. If an Arab visitor forgets to mention some small detour in his itinerary, he is treated as terrorist because he was lying to the state of Israel.
"[T]his is war zone and kids, even six-year-olds, are enemy combatants. Sounds strange? Look the other way."
We are sure your sojourn in Israel will be highly sanitised but just in case you see a group of angry locals running after an unarmed adolescent Arab youth shouting, "Kill him" or "he is a terrorist" and the police then gleefully shooting down, don't say, "what about justice?" This is the Israeli version of it. Sounds strange? Shrug off the thought and look the other way.
If you spot little kids taken away in high-security prison vans for throwing stones at armoured personal carriers ploughing through their crowded slum settlements, you might start wondering about juvenile justice. Well this is war zone and kids, even six-year-olds, are enemy combatants. Sounds strange? Look the other way.
Unlikely to happen but if you have to ever pass an Israeli checkpoint and spot a lot of activity of womenfolk behind a hurriedly curtained small area open to the blazing sun, it is a makeshift delivery room. Must be some unfortunate pregnant Arab woman delivering a baby after being held up at a checkpoint for several hours. Don't wonder if it is a boy or a girl. Ask if the woman and the newborn are alive or dead. Or better still, before any question occurs to you, look the other way -- there will be a towering concrete wall running for miles, long enough to numb your senses and get lost into nothingness.
There will be a lavish state dinner in a richly decorated hall attended by the elite of Tel Aviv. Toasts will be raised for the two ancient civilizations and great living democracies. Mind you, the person to whose health you are toasting is considered the architect of genocide in Gaza? Is there a grain of truth in this? Oh no. Why ask an irrelevant question?
"In a way, Israel and today's India are really identical in several ways. The majority community in both countries suffers from a false sense of persecution."
In a way, Israel and today's India are really identical in several ways. The majority community in both countries suffers from a false sense of persecution. Both have a common agenda of hatred and intolerance. And in both societies, extreme fringe elements have infiltrated the mainstream discourse and are more vocal and assertive than ever. Israel does not have a Constitution. India has one, but it is more abused than used. The Liberal middle class in both countries is clueless and marginalised.
Then, why only in Israel? "Looking the other way", has in a way become second nature to us here in India. We do it every day. A couple jump to their death because their only child succumbs to dengue as no hospital will treat him. A mob breaks into someone's house and kills him because they think he's eating the meat of the holy cow. A Dalit is burnt alive because he enters temple. Infants and octogenarians are raped and a bicycle thief spends 27 years in jail before his case comes up for hearing in the court.
Mr President, your trip to Israel is one of a political night watchman. The prior commitment of a visit by the Indian PM cannot be followed through yet because the Iran nuclear deal has changed the geo-strategic situation in the region. But here in India, you have a possibility of expressing your displeasure over the bizarre developments unfolding everywhere. So what I really mean to say is this: Please do not look the other way. That way, history will remember you, even if you don't last another term.