The Congress is ”strongly opposed” to India’s abstention on the recent UN resolution on the Israel-Hamas conflict, former party chief Sonia Gandhi said on Monday, asserting that while her party had unequivocally condemned Hamas’ attacks, the tragedy is compounded with the Israeli state now focused on exacting revenge from a population that is largely as helpless as it is blameless.
She also said her party’s longstanding position has been to support direct negotiations for a sovereign independent, viable and secure state of Palestine coexisting in peace with Israel.
In an article in The Hindu, Gandhi said ”humanity is on trial now”, as she called for the loudest and most powerful voices to be for a cessation of military activity.
”We were collectively diminished by the brutal attacks on Israel. We are now all diminished by Israel’s disproportionate and equally brutal response. How many more lives will have to be taken before our collective conscience is stirred and awakened?” she said.
On October 7, 2023, on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, Hamas launched a brutal attack on Israel, killing more than a thousand people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping over 200 more, she noted.
”The unprecedented attack was devastating for Israel. The Indian National Congress strongly believes that violence has no place in a decent world, and the very next day unequivocally condemned Hamas’s attacks,” she said.
Gandhi further said that this tragedy is, however, being compounded by the Israeli military’s ”indiscriminate operations” in and around Gaza that have led to thousands of deaths, including large numbers of innocent children, women and men. ”The power of the Israeli state is now focused on exacting revenge from a population that is largely as helpless as it is blameless. The destructive might of one of the world’s most potent military arsenals is being unleashed upon children, women and men who have no part in the Hamas assault; they, instead, for the most part, have been at the heart of decades of discrimination and suffering,” she said.
Articulating the Congress’s stand on the Israel-Palestine issue, she said there can be no peace without justice. Israel’s unremitting blockade for over a decade and a half has reduced Gaza to an ”open-air prison” for its two million inhabitants packed into dense cities and refugee camps, she said. ”In Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israeli settlers backed by the Israeli state have continued to push out Palestinians from their own land in a seeming effort to destroy the vision of a two-state solution. Peace will come only if the world, led by countries that have the ability to influence policies and events, can restart the process of restoring the two-state vision and make it a reality,” Gandhi stressed. She said the Congress has been consistent over the years in its strong belief that both the Palestinians and Israelis have the right to live in a just peace. ”We value our friendship with the people of Israel. But this does not mean that we erase from our memories, the painful history of forced dispossession of the Palestinians from what was their homeland for centuries, and of years of suppression of their basic right to a life of dignity and self-respect,” she said.
”Contrary to some mischievous suggestions, the position of the Indian National Congress has been long standing and principled: it is to support direct negotiations for a sovereign independent, viable and secure state of Palestine coexisting in peace with Israel,” Gandhi said.
She pointed out that this was also the stand taken by the Ministry of External Affairs on October 12, 2023. ”It is noteworthy that the reiteration of India’s historic position on Palestine came only after Israel began its assault on Gaza. The Prime Minister had made no mention of Palestinian rights in the initial statement expressing complete solidarity with Israel,” she said.
”The Indian National Congress is strongly opposed to India’s abstention on the recent United Nations General Assembly Resolution calling for an ‘immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities’ between Israeli forces and Hamas in Gaza,” the former Congress chief said.
”It is unfortunate that many influential countries are being wholly partisan when they should be trying their utmost to end the war. The loudest and most powerful voices should be for a cessation of military activity,” she asserted. Otherwise, this cycle will continue and make it difficult for anyone in the region to live in peace for a long time to come, Gandhi added.
She pointed out that in this war, as it is now described, entire families have been wiped out and neighbourhoods have been reduced to rubble. ”The denial of water, food and electricity is no less than the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. The outside world, particularly those who want to help, is largely blocked out of Gaza, with relief and aid reaching the needy in a trickle, and not on the scale that is necessary,” she said. ”Not only is it inhumane but it is also illegal in international law. Very few Gazans are untouched by the violence. Bottled up on a small, over-densely populated strip of territory, they have nothing to fall back upon. And now, even the occupied West Bank has flared up and the conflict is widening,” Gandhi pointed out.
Noting that the prospects for the future are ominous, Gandhi said senior Israeli officials have spoken of destroying and depopulating large parts of Gaza. The Israeli Defence Minister has referred to Palestinians as ”human animals”, she said and added that this ”dehumanising language” is shocking coming from the descendants of those who themselves were the victims of the Holocaust.
”The Israeli government is making a grievous error in equating the actions of Hamas with the Palestinian people,” she asserted. In its determination to destroy Hamas, it has unleashed indiscriminate death and destruction against the ordinary people of Gaza, Gandhi said. ”Even if the long history of the suffering of the Palestinians is ignored, by what logic can a whole population be held responsible for the actions of a few?” she said in the article.
With India abstaining from voting on the United Nations resolution on the Israel-Hamas conflict, opposition parties on Saturday had asserted that the move goes against everything the country has stood for, even as the BJP stressed that India will never be on the side of terrorism.
Over 1,400 people were killed in the unprecedented attacks on Israel by Hamas on October 7. Hamas also took more than 220 people hostage. Israel then launched retaliatory strikes. The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said on Saturday that over 7,700 Palestinians have died since October 7.