IT isn’t concealed from the keen observer of politics that the Five Eyes Anglosphere created the modern state of Israel in 1948, which in turn birthed the Hamas as a foil to the non-sectarian and avidly secular PLO. In both instances, the objective was to vacate the threat of leftist fervour striking roots around the fabled Arab oil wells.
It was not insignificant that Arthur Balfour’s letter to Lord Rothschild, cited as laying the grounds for a future state of Israel, was drafted and delivered on Nov 2, 1917. In other words, the overture came as the Bolshevik Revolution set off alarm bells in European capitals.
A handy asset to this end arrived only a year before the Balfour Declaration. The secret Sykes-Picot accord of 1916 carved up former Ottoman territories in the Middle East, to become areas of influence between France and Britain. The accord enabled Lord Balfour to draft his promise to the Jewish elite as an overdue quid pro quo.
The Rothschild support for England’s war efforts had climaxed with the campaign against Napoleon. From London in 1813 to 1815, Nathan Mayer Rothschild almost single-handedly financed the British war effort, organising the shipment of bullion to the Duke of Wellington’s armies across Europe.
He also arranged the payment of British financial subsidies to their continental allies. In 1815 alone, the Rothschilds are said to have provided £9.8 million (equivalent to about £1 billion today) in subsidy loans to Britain’s continental allies.
Balfour’s letter to Walter Rothschild, however, spoke plainly of a “national home” for Jews in Palestine, “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”. There was pointedly no mention of a theocratic state exclusively for the Jewish community, much less any expulsion of non-Jews from Palestine.
There was pointedly no mention of a theocratic state exclusively for the Jewish community, much less any expulsion of non-Jews from Palestine.
There could, in any case, not be a religious state in the sense Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing cohorts would conceive Israel in their time. The idea didn’t excite the Anglosphere, which initially favoured a multicultural milieu, the kind that would one day produce a Rishi Sunak or a Barack Obama in their own drawing rooms.
The religious genie was never, however, completely exorcised. The Christian trope of turning the other cheek was meant to be a challenge to the Old Testament’s prescription of an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. It never found traction in the real world.
European wars, colonial armadas and the West’s ceaseless duels with each other reinforced the sombre truth, not to speak of the slave trade they plied to manage the conquest of other’s lands. Colonial competitors built churches across the world but thumbed their noses at the injunction against stealing and killing. Rwanda massacres took place between two tribes that both went to the same church installed by their colonial masters.
Some Hindu activists in India were, however, ranged on opposite sides of the Christian-Jewish-Muslim injunctions about the text and spirit of their faiths. Gandhi was a pacifist in the Christian mode, so much so that Martin Luther King Jr, the civil rights leader and Christian preacher, saw him as his inspiration.
On the other side stood Hindutva, which proposed as early as 1939 to do to the Muslims and Christians in India what Hitler was doing to Jews in Germany. In his admiration of Hitler, M.S. Golwalkar was as staunchly anti-communist as Narendra Modi would soon be. Anti-communism became a clear reason for Hindutva to flip its mockery of Jews subsequently to side with Israel. Intense Islamophobia only fortified the ties.
There was a seminal piece published in the Indian Express, curiously a day before the Indian parliament was attacked on Dec 16, 2001.
An erstwhile Hindutva votary and journalist-politician from A.B. Vajpayee’s stable pontificated on how to deal with the collusion, which he swore he could see, between Muslim extremists and Indian Marxists, who he branded as terrorists. (There’s a useful protocol followed by the BBC on why the media should not describe Hamas and other serial offenders, including Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus or Naxalites, as terrorists.)
The journalist-politician advocated a jaw for a tooth, unwittingly subscribing to the biblical dictum, a trope his worldview otherwise shunned. To the relief of his critics, the journalist-politician has evolved as an opponent of Prime Minister Modi’s politics.
Israel’s bloodthirsty pursuit of revenge against the religiously inspired Hamas — if that ever helped the US in Afghanistan after 9/11 — is not different from the West’s eye-for-an-eye atavism. It was used to destroy secular states at the altar of an entity the West created to brush off its guilt of mocking and murdering Jews for centuries.
As Noam Chomsky and others persistently remind us, the defeat of Hitler didn’t find the Americans or anyone in Europe welcoming the exodus. They needed someone else somewhere else to do the job. The Holocaust was not on the historic firmament until 1967, respected Jewish scholars like Norman Finkelstein would tell you.
I had a ringside view of an event in 1982 that links up with the rise of and secret investment in Hamas by Israel until last week. Then Saudi crown prince Fahd was promoting his peace plan in Fez in Morocco to the Arab League, whereby Palestinians would get a state.
The price was recognition of Israel with security guarantees, something Iraq, Syria, Libya and South Yemen turned down. It was precisely these secular pro-USSR states that were dealt with one by one when the Cold War ended. They were systematically destroyed at the altar of Israel and as a reward for the feudal-tribal satraps installed as rulers by Britain.
They say the Hamas assault on Israel has disrupted a likely Israel-Saudi accord. The question is when was the accord not there?
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2023