Yesterday - on March 15 - in Beirut, the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) released a landmark report entitled Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid. What is most stunning about this report is that it very carefully lays out the case that Israel's policy towards the Palestinian people - whether inside Israel, in the Occupied Territory or in exile - is a form of apartheid. This is a sharp report that needs to be closely studied.
In today's The Hindu, I have a report - entitled 'Crimes of Apartheid' - based on my reading of this document. Please do take a look at it here. I have covered the Israel-Palestine conflict for very long, and have never seen such a brutally honest report from the United Nations.
The United States' Ambassador to the UN - Nikki Haley - has condemned the report as 'anti-Israel propaganda'. Israel's Ambassador to the UN - Danny Danon - said, 'The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie'. There is, of course, no analogy in the text. The authors of the document hew closely to the confines of international law and the Convention Against Apartheid to make their case, not the South African example.
The UN's spokesperson - Stephane Dujarric - said, 'The report as it stands does not reflect the view of the secretary-general'. But it does reflect the views of the Commission, which is comprised of 18 member states of West Asia and North Africa.
My report ends with a question to the Indian government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to go to Israel. What attitude should India - one of the important voices against apartheid in South Africa - take at this juncture?
The picture above is from the West Bank. It was taken by Najeh Hashlamoun of the ALWATAN Center for Media, Development and Nonviolence. In 2010, Najeh took Gandhi's grandson Rajmohan Gandhi and Usha Gandhi around Hebron. At a press conference, Rajmohan Gandhi said, 'The settlements, walls and separating roads loom larger and more oppressively than I had imagined. ‘They intrude everywhere and dominate the landscape. Facing the settlements, I find it hard to believe that the government of Israel is serious when it talks of wanting an independent Palestinian state. These settlements, walls and separating roads will obstruct the creation of a Palestinian state. The government of Israel has used fear – genuine fear – to pursue a policy of domination and expansion'.
I hope Modi will listen to Gandhi's honesty and that his foreign secretary will read the UN report with great care. Much is at stake here.
News comes that a new detachment of US troops have descended upon northern Syria. There were Special Operations specialists training the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), now there are Army Rangers and Marines. They have entered a complex battlefield, where it is hard to fully grasp who is an ally of whom and who is an enemy of whom. The US, for instance, is using Turkish bases to hit ISIS from the air, but Turkish forces have been engaging the largely Syrian Kurdish SDF forces that are backed by the US. This is only the beginning of the entanglement.
At Alternet, I have a brief report on the military mess in northern Syria, one that makes it difficult to imagine when the war for Raqqa will begin. You can read it here. There is a brief twelve minute video version of his report for the Real New Network here.
The print report has a section on Turkey based on a UN report on human rights violations in the south-east and on discussions with senior Turkish officials who were quite candid about the contradictions inside their military strategy.
The last part of the article goes from Mosul to Raqqa. The devastation in Mosul has not caught the media's eye. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced since the fighting began and large parts of the city have been destroyed. As I was reading the UN reports from Mosul, I thought of the poem on Kashmir by my dear - now gone - friend Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001),
- The colonel, dictating, turns around. My lost friend Vir! Srinagar is his city, too, he wouldn't have ordered its burning. It's not him. Someone else with a smile just as kind, the face of a man who in dreams saves nations. Or razes cities'.
The painting below is by Salvador Dali. It is called Construcción blanda con judías hervidas – Premonición de la Guerra Civil (Soft Construction with Boiled Beans – Premonition of Civil War). It is from 1936. The brutality of the Spanish Civil War is writ large in Dali's paintings of this time. Somehow these seem - to me - to be a mirror to our own times.
There is war, there is apartheid, there are a million tragedies.