Saturday, May 24, 2008

Islamofascism: Muslims in denial mode

Hyderabad bombing: Killed by Islamists but Muslims won't admit it!
Islam’s enemy within
At a recent conference on radical Islam, attended by scholars from India and South-East Asian countries, it was irritating to hear professors from Jamia Millia Islamia repeating the canard about the 9/11 terrorist attacks being an elaborate conspiracy hatched by the Christians (of America) and the Jews (of Israel) to “defame Islam” and use the globally televised images of the imploding twin towers as justification for the US-led “war against Muslims”. The first time I heard this astonishing fiction was in Cairo where I had arrived soon after the terrifying attack, led by an Egyptian, Mohammed Atta, on the World Trade Center, one of the symbols of American power. The war in Iraq had not yet begun but the Taliban hoodlums, including Mullah Omar, were fleeing Afghanistan to save their lives. The fall of a ‘model Islamic state’ and the walloping the ‘soldiers of god’ were receiving from the invading kafirs had greatly distressed my friends in the Muslim Brotherhood who had wrongly believed that the flattening of the twin towers would signal the liberation of Cairo, not Kabul. Instead, they were shocked to see a tsunami of anger striking Arab shores. Rather than accept the 9/11 attacks had proved to be counter-productive, they chose the path of denial. Whispered allegations, anonymous e-mail and stories buried in the inside pages of Arabic newspapers began to do the rounds, spreading the patently false claim that the attack on the twin towers and the Pentagon had been planned and executed by the Americans and the Israelis. To substantiate this absurd claim, there were further absurd claims — Jews did not report for work on that fateful day, only the Mossad could have carried out an operation of this scale, the CIA had ensured the hijackers would not be frisked, etc. I found the assertions mildly repugnant and largely amusing, attributing the fiction to the street Arab’s lack of access to facts.
Seven years later, when I hear that absurd claim being repeated, that too by those who should know better, I don’t feel amused, but irritated. And so it happened at the conference on radical Islam when a professor of Jamia Millia Islamia questioned the authenticity of events as they unfolded on September 11, 2001, two of his colleagues nodding their heads vigorously in approval. My irritation gave way to anger when he went on to suggest that analyses of video images of the hijacked aircraft being flown into the twin towers showed they were “studio-generated”. Only someone who has undergone lobotomy would say something so stupid in public. But more than being silly, there’s a sinister purpose to such comments and they should not be attributed to a lobotomised brain; Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil would vouch for this. A lie repeated again and again, as Paul Joseph Goebbels proved through word and deed, tends to be believed by the masses. Islamofascists, both at home and abroad, who peddle the myth that ‘Islam is the solution’ and thus see nothing wrong with the ghastly crimes committed in the name of Islam, would naturally take to Goebbelsian propaganda tactics like a duck takes to water. Fiction propagated slyly at conferences and seminars, mentioned between the lines in newspaper articles, and slipped into Friday sermons by mullahs after the jumma namaaz, acquires a certain legitimacy and is soon perceived as fact.
We have seen this happen on more than one occasion. When Hindus were forced to flee their ancestral homes in the Kashmir Valley by killer squads of Islamists who indulged in rapacious depredations and revelled in the slaughter of innocent men, women and children, an insidious campaign was launched, pinning the blame on Mr Jagmohan, then Governor of Jammu & Kashmir: He was accused of telling the Hindus to flee the Valley. Strangely, this fiction was believed by the secular intelligentsia which, in any event, is desperate to clutch at straws to absolve Islamic fanatics of their crimes and eager to paint Islamist marauders in the most glowing of colours. Similar tactics were — and continue to be — used in the wake of the slaughter of kar sevaks in Godhra and to tar Hindus by blaming them for the violence that followed. After the bombing of commuter trains in Mumbai, killing 187 people, it was blatantly suggested by our homegrown Islamists that the massacre was the handiwork of either “Government agencies” or “Hindu organisations”.
They are now using the same tactics in their response to the jihadi attack on Jaipur on May 14, in which at least 80 people were killed and many more maimed. The Hindustan Express, a Delhi-based Urdu newspaper, pontificated in an editorial comment on May 16, “Apart from elements like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Al Qaeda or HuJI (who may possibly be involved in these explosions) why should we not think also of those international powers and agencies who are known to the Government for their discomfort towards Indo-Pak peace?” Why not, indeed! The Jamaat-e-Islami’s biweekly journal, Daawat, was nauseatingly sly in its comments on May 19, “The truth cannot be out without changing the formula for the probe into the bomb blasts. Instead of going through the formality of a probe and connecting the links, we will have to see which group of people gets political benefit out of such incidents.” The only group that stands to benefit from the bloodbath in Jaipur, the Jamaat-e-Islami, whose mullahs pretend to be as innocent as Goldilocks, needs to be told, comprises those who subscribe to the slogan, “Islam is the solution.”
These are the people who are at ease with explosives being strapped to an eight-year-old girl and the button on the remote control being pushed as she reaches out to take a chocolate from a soldier (not an American) in Iraq. They are untouched and unmoved by the sight of the blood of innocent victims, as was spilled on the streets of Jaipur, of their perverse ideology. They are fully aware of their criminal misdeeds, but they want us to believe they are not to blame. And if you dare point a finger at radical Islam and its army of Islamofascists, they will accuse you of indulging in Islamophobia.
It’s time we called their bluff. The only other option is to subjugate ourselves to those who know no mercy and meekly accept Islam as the solution.

Coffee Break / Sunday Pioneer / May 25, 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008

All that glitters is not Dubai

All that glitters is not Dubai
The shockingly superfluous reportage of life in Dubai in Indian newspapers and news magazines, which would have us believe that the streets of this emirate, from where once upon a time dhows would set sail for Bombay laden with contraband now sold at discounted rates in the shabbiest of our malls, are paved with gold, is not quite the whole picture of what it means to live and work in this booming, flush-with-money former Bedouin outpost where India's bold and the beautiful, bored with Page 3 parties, fly off to for extended weekends of unbridled hedonism. The glittering high life that we get to read about is restricted to Dubai's wafer thin creamy layer, comprising sheikhs who can afford to squander millions of dollars for the company of camels declared winners at 'beauty contests', jet-setting fund managers with mind-boggling expense accounts and a variety of wheeler-dealers, many of whom are involved in 'export-import' businesses. Then there are those who have invested in property built on reclaimed land in the Palm Islands (three palm tree shaped man-made islands) and The World (a man-made archipelago of 300 islands), billed as the playground of the fabulously rich who are no longer charmed by the sun and the sea of the Bahamas and other such exotic places.
But behind the shimmering glass-and-chrome fa├žade of the Persian Gulf's most famous destination that has attracted millions of expatriate workers hopeful of striking it big lurks another face of Dubai. Here there are no sprawling malls with rosewater fountains, swank cordon bleu restaurants and bustling nightclubs. Instead, you will find dark and dingy, overcrowded labour camps where men bunk it out four to an eight-by-ten cubicle and dream of the day they can return home with a pocketful of dirhams. The fantastic cityscape that you see and the overflowing wealth that you encounter, have been created by these overworked, underpaid men -- and women -- from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other South and South-East Asian countries. Emerging as the 21st century's El Dorado where Tiger Woods is paid a million dollars to hit a ball into the sea from a newly-built hotel's helipad, Dubai continues to treat its expatriate blue collar workers as slaves of the medieval era, denying them human dignity and rights whose absence is curiously ignored by those from the West who are the prime beneficiaries of this emirate's booming economy. President Bill Clinton once famously described Dubai as a "role model" for others although he was sufficiently enraged by human rights violations in the Balkans to despatch Nato bombers.
Nobody would suggest that the entire expatriate community is condemned to a life of grim existence. But the vast majority of Dubai's 2.7 million foreign workers (of which 1.5 million are Indians) registered with the Ministry of Labour finds itself excluded from both the emirate's prosperity and the trickle down benefits of an economy shooting through the roof, despite the roof getting pushed higher and higher. The number of such expatriates increases by leaps and bounds when you add to their ranks domestic help, drivers, gardeners, 'free zone' workers and those without legal papers. Immigration sponsorship laws have been designed in a manner that vests employers with limitless power while stripping employees of all rights, including the right to walk out of a job. Even if expatriate workers want to give it all up and take the next flight to, say, Kochi, they cannot do so because passports and travel papers have to be kept in the custody of employers. So, in a sense, they are no different from indentured labour and must toil tirelessly till their contracts come to an end. What makes the situation doubly worse is the fact that these contracts are signed only after workers reach Dubai and their bargaining power has been vastly reduced; more often than not, the terms and conditions of these contracts are entirely different from what had been promised by recruiting agents.
Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that wages will be paid on time. There are numerous cases of contractors winding up operations and leaving workers in the lurch with huge backlogs of unpaid wages. At Burj Dubai, touted as the world's tallest building, workers forced to meet construction targets in the most appalling conditions and in violation of basic safety norms, have gone on strike more than once for not being paid their wages or being denied medical care. Workers have gone on strike at other construction sites, too. Earlier this year, a Dubai court, in a first of its kind ruling, sentenced 45 Indian construction workers to six months in jail, to be followed by their deportation, for joining a protest against poor wages.
A common refrain that one gets to hear, provided you are interested in hearing it, is of working hours being extended beyond what the contract stipulates and without overtime wages. There are numerous reports of employers cutting back on expenses by not paying the utility bills for labour camps. So garbage piles up in festering heaps, power supply is disconnected and transport to construction sites is withdrawn. If you don't show up for work, not because you don't want to but because you can't, you are penalised. It never gets too hot in Dubai for workers toiling under the desert Sun -- you can drop dead but not take a break.
Many of these workers scrimp on personal expenses so that they can send most of their earnings to families back home where debts have to be repaid and hungry mouths fed. With the dirham, which is linked to the dollar, no longer a strong currency, the rupee value of workers' remittances has declined precipitously in the past couple of years even as wages have remained constant. Some estimates place the decline at between 25 and 30 per cent; others say it is more. As a result, Dubai/UAE-based grooms are no longer a hot ticket in Kerala.
In the poorly-lit, ill-ventilated and crowded labour camps of Dubai, far away from where DJ Aqeel spins out foot-stomping, hip-swaying music, expatriate workers brood over their miserable lives and despair at the thought of having to cope with slave-drivers at their workplaces till their contracts come to an end. Many are driven to committing suicide, although statistics are kept a tightly guarded secret and even the Indian mission will pretend either ignorance or lack of information. It must be conceded, though, that Ambassador Talmiz Ahmed has been trying to change things for the better, but there is no guarantee that his successor will be equally pro-active. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, of course, couldn't be bothered about the unwashed masses since it is busy pandering to rich NRIs and PIOs disdainful of India.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tourism is killing Goa

Punjabi munda despoiling Goa
It's hot and muggy in Goa this time of the year. The enervating heat hangs languidly in the still air. The rustling of the drooping fronds of coconut palms, heavy with ripening fruit, that accompanies the occasional gust of blistering wind, laden with pre-monsoon humidity, breaks the mid-morning silence. In the distance, the harsh cackle of sea gulls rises and falls in a rhythmic chant.
But despite the heat and the humidity, Goa, where I spent most of this past week attending a seminar, was a welcome break from life in the country's dust bowl, also known as Delhi, which has now grown to become the National Capital Region. Here summer means scorching heat that leaves your head throbbing, negotiating traffic jams made worse by rising tempers, infuriating dust storms that make breathing next to impossible, and an endless wait for what most years is an elusive monsoon.
By mid-April, the little foliage that dots the barren city from where India is ruled begins to turn shades of brown. By mid-May, plants and shrubs begin to shrivel, while the trees, or what remains of them after Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's gross act of chopping thousands of them down for a bogus bus rapid transit scheme for which responsibility is yet to be fixed (this never happens in this wondrous 'democracy' of ours), barely survive till the monsoon and its scattered rain. Delhi looks dusty, grey and dirty in summer.
In sharp contrast, Goa is verdant and lush. The hibiscus shrubs and the honeysuckle creepers are in full bloom. The air is redolent with the fragrance of flowers that we get to see in Delhi for a brief while during what passes for spring. The evenings are cool and the sea breeze is energising.
The only disconcerting distraction is the screeching of children and the uncouth, loud chatter of their parents - Delhi families visiting Goa courtesy incentive schemes offered by Papaji's office. They wrinkle their noses at the sight of sea food platters and noisily look for dal makhni and chicken butter masala. The distant cackle of sea gulls is replaced by the strains of bhangra, snatches of whose lyrics float in with the sea breeze. It's about a 'Punjabi munda' and a 'kudi Gujarat di'. Mr IK Gujral would say it's about national integration; Mr Narendra Modi would be alarmed.
The local newspapers in Goa are refreshingly different from Delhi's so-called 'national' newspapers, which reflect the concerns of politicians and their lackeys. In Goa, the concerns are more related to the people and their daily lives. For instance, a spurt in school dropout rates, which would be ignored by most 'national' newspapers, merits sufficient concern to make it to the day's top slot on the front page. At the moment, Goans are deeply worried about the garbage piling up in designated dumping grounds with no disposal system in place.
According to news reports, Goa produces 300 tonnes of garbage every day. This is apart from the bio-medical waste generated by hospitals and nursing homes. Given the size of the State, it's a huge amount of festering garbage and unless a disposal system is put in place, could begin to have an adverse impact on both Goa's environment as well as the health of Goans.
Obviously the tourism industry contributes to the accumulating garbage in a big way, as it does to the blighting of Goan culture and way of life. Contrary to popular opinion, not every Goan is excited by the sight of foreign back-packers and desi 'incentive scheme' holidaymakers. While it is true that tourism does create jobs and gives a boost to the State's economy, it also upsets those who just wish to be left alone.
It is, therefore, not surprising that there should be an incipient anti-outsider backlash building up among Goans. Last Thursday, the local edition of The Times of India front-paged the findings of a survey conducted by Synovate India, a leading market research agency, which clearly point to Goans beginning to resent the intrusion into their lives. This intrusion is most manifest in outsiders buying land and developing it into hotels and resorts, as well as increasing number of migrants seeking jobs in the service sector.
The survey's findings suggest that 64 per cent Goans, nearly all of them young, want a law banning the sale of land to non-Goans. The 34 per cent opposed to this law are elderly people, probably those whose children have migrated to other shores, are unable to look after their property, and thus have no compelling reason to cling on to home and hearth.
"Ban the sale of land to non-Goans, is the overwhelming response," the report says, and goes on to explain, "Our cultural identity - old ways of life, language, food and dress - is being diluted by the flow of migrants that has swelled in the last few years. Indeed, the fear of the Goan minnow being swallowed by the migrant whale is a recurrent theme... There is a reaffirmation of pride in the land's natural and manmade attributes. Both these sources of pride, say youngsters, are under threat." Most Goans feel that the tallest thing in their States should be a coconut palm.
It's easy to scoff at such resentful feelings and brand them as parochial. But it would be unwise to callously demand that Goans yield cultural and physical space just because tourists and migrants contribute to Goa's economy. There's no reason to be insensitive to local sensibilities. Yet, this is precisely what is on display. The outsider is disdainful of the insider; the despoiling of Goa does not bother those looking for cheap thrills or jobs by undercutting local rates.
Of course, the DJ at the nightclub will turn up the volume and play bhangra and the chef at the hotel will churn out maa ki daal and sarson da saag and tandoori roti for Delhi's Philistines. On the beach, vulnerable teenagers working in shacks that sell vindaloo and beer will be amenable to the illicit demands of the flotsam and jetsam from Europe and America looking for inexpensive nirvana or willing to trade sex for drugs. And owners of hotels and resorts will hire migrants because it costs less than hiring Goans.
But that does not mean everybody's happy about it. On the contrary, the unhappiness is fast morphing into anger. We can either wake up to this reality now or pay for wilfully ignoring it later.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ten years after explosion of national pride

A decade after May 11, 1998
Ten years ago this Sunday, India stealthily conducted three nuclear tests at Pokhran, sending shockwaves around the world. The 'Powerful Five' and Janus-faced moralists like Canada and Australia were aghast and almost disbelieving -- not so much because India had decided to demonstrate its nuclear capability, which it had kept under wraps for years, but because of its audacious disregard for consequences, especially economic sanctions. The US had an additional reason to feel hugely upset: For all its 'eyes' in the sky and 'ears' on the ground, it had been taken by utter and total surprise.
Unlike PV Narasimha Rao, who almost dared the world but stopped short of conducting the crucial tests that would enable India to cross the Rubicon and emerge as a nuclear power, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee was both crafty and determined. We will never really know whether an accidental discovery by the Americans of preparations for conducting tests at Pokhran resulted in sufficient pressure being applied on Rao for him to call them off. But we do know that Mr Vajpayee instructed, and ensured, that no such discovery occurred between his giving the green signal for Operation Shakti and Buddha 'smiling' on May 11, 1998.
That demonstration of India's shakti was no doubt essentially the achievement of our scientists and technologists who toiled ceaselessly to put together, with indigenous know-how, nuclear devices of calibrated yields, including a hydrogen bomb, despite the barriers that had been raised after Mrs Indira Gandhi taunted the world with her 'peaceful' explosion of May 18, 1974, erasing forever the image of India as a nation with a begging bowl, perpetuated in no small measure by a mocking America since the days of PL 480 aid. Unlike Pakistan, we neither received nuclear technology nor burgled it from unsuspecting countries.
Hence, when the tests were conducted in May 1998, they were seen as an assertion of self-esteem and self-pride, a declaration of national resolve -- thrice over on May 11 and twice over on May 13. The front page of this newspaper captured the mood of the nation by running the story on the tests under a banner headline, 'India explodes H-Bomb', accompanied by a triumphant signed editorial, 'Explosion of self-esteem', by its editor, Mr Chandan Mitra.
Yet, it would be nothing short of cussedness to deny Mr Vajpayee the credit for daring to tread where his predecessors had feared to venture. Since Mrs Gandhi's decision to conduct the first test in 1974, all other Prime Ministers, including Rajiv Gandhi, had chosen to indulge in peacenik mumbo-jumbo about universal disarmament, hoping to join the ranks of disingenuous non-proliferationists like former US President Jimmy Carter. Mr Vajpayee chose to be different and, as subsequent events were to prove, initiated a tectonic shift in India's foreign policy and strategic posture.
Yes, it marked a break with the past, which had become so pitifully meaningless ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Empire. But it also marked the beginning of India's foray into a brave new world heralded by the advent of the 21st century two years later. In his own way, Mr Vajpayee foresaw the potential of India entering the 21st century as a nuclear power and acted accordingly. It helped that the BJP had never been squeamish when it came to the nuclear question.
The fallout of Pokhran II was felt on two fronts. Pakistan, enraged that it had been upstaged, conducted five nuclear tests on May 28 and a sixth test on May 30. That was Islamabad's assurance to Pakistanis that it could still steal a march over New Delhi. Almost simultaneously, donor countries turned off their taps and came down heavily with economic sanctions, apart from imposing harsh restrictions on technology transfer or whatever little of it was happening.
India rode through the storm and survived the vicious response. We continue to be a stable and responsible state, unlike Pakistan whose nuclear arsenal has become a cause for worry across the world as an unstable state implodes on itself, notwithstanding an elected Government taking over from the illegitimate regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf.
Our strategic engagement with the US to fashion a new over-arching security paradigm and the attempt to redefine our relationship with other countries, including Russia and China, both aggressively pursued by Mr Vajpayee, stands in sharp contrast to the co-option of Pakistan by the post-9/11 US-led Western alliance, not as an equal but as a client state. When the US refers to Pakistan as a "staunch ally" what it means is beggars can't be choosers.
But a decade after that stunningly awesome display of India's determination to secure its rightful place in the comity of nations, of announcing its arrival in a world where the voice of the powerful is heard over the clamour of those whose survival depends on the munificence of the 'Powerful Five', and 34 years after Mrs Gandhi posed for photographers at Pokhran, we appear to be losing the gains that accrued from Mr Vajpayee's decision to go nuclear.
Just how much we have compromised on our self-esteem, our self-pride, can be gauged from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's desperation to strike a flawed deal with the US for civil nuclear cooperation. It is reflected in the hesitation that has replaced confidence while dealing with foreign policy, most noticeably in our relations with China. It is exemplified by our reluctance to take Pokhran II to its logical conclusion by putting in place a credible minimum deterrent that is alive to changing geo-political realities and not a stagnant doctrine with an irrelevant posture.
The decline is as perceptible on the domestic front where non-governance has become the mantra of survival and as Ministers indulge their own perverse whims and fancies, a weak Prime Minister watches from the margins. It's nice to think of India as a nuclear power but that idea of India does not square up to facts that should embarrass us. Nor does it make sense to sell national honour for a nuclear agreement with America when basic issues remain untouched by either policy or programme.
It would be foolish to believe that the image of a resurgent India, that captivated the world after May 11, 1998, still obtains. The Prime Minister and his cronies in the media believe that India's deliverance depends on the 123 Agreement, that nuclear power -- as opposed to nuclear power - will take us to new heights of prosperity and a new level of strategic clout. What they forget is that in this wondrous land of ours, 67 million children below the age of five live without basic healthcare, more than a million children die every year before they complete a month of their wretched lives, and millions of adults and children still go to bed hungry even as the middle class struggles to cope with runaway prices and a tottering economy.
Mr Vajpayee had a vision for India to emerge as a powerful nation, prosperous at home, equal to others abroad. The most memorable highlight of his years as Prime Minister will no doubt remain the decision to empower India by going nuclear on May 11, 1998. But we would be unfair to his legacy if we failed to recall the beginning he had made in empowering Indians by improving their lot. That legacy has been squandered by Mr Manmohan Singh; it's not surprising that his Government should choose to shun the 10th anniversary of Pokhran II.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Israel, at 60, shows admirable grit

Israel, at 60, shows admirable grit
Our newspapers and 24x7 news channels went gaga over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's stopover in New Delhi last Tuesday. Given the exuberant, almost fawning, media coverage accorded to Mr Ahmadinejad, it would seem as if a great friend of India had come visiting although we didn't quite deserve this honour, having stabbed Iran in the back, so to say, at the behest of the 'Great Satan', otherwise known as the United States of America.
Such is the Left's influence on the media and the awesome disregard of our intellectuals -- or what passes for intellectuals -- who straddle newspapers and television channels, for India's strategic interests, that nobody has bothered to point out that a nuclear armed Iran is something we can do without. If Mr Ahmadinejad, with more than a little help from Russia and China, not to mention Pakistan's rogue nuclear establishment, is able to enrich sufficient uranium to produce an arsenal of nuclear warheads, Israel alone won't have reason to worry.
We have also elected to ignore the fact that Iran has been consistent in voting against India at the OIC even while pretending to be a 'friendly' nation. At the UN, rare is the occasion when Iran has made common cause with India, although the reverse is not true. It does not require evidence collated by the US to assert that Iran is currently forging a Shia brand of radical Islamism, much more insidious and potent than the pernicious ideology bequeathed by Sayyid Qutb to the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, with the purpose of becoming the dominant Islamic state by displacing traditional Sunni powers. In the short term this may not affect India, but in the long term it is bound to scorch us.
Nor has anybody bothered to point out that while India needs Iranian oil (and perhaps also Iranian gas), an increasingly isolated and cash-strapped Iran needs an emerging market to mobilise resources. At a time when Western democracies are loath to do business with Mr Ahmadinejad's regime, selling oil and gas to India makes eminent sense for Iran. Yes, it also makes eminent sense for India to leverage Iran's troubles to its advantage, but that would require a certain craftiness which is absent in those who preside over India's destiny. If this is true of the Congress, it is equally true of the BJP. The Left, of course, craftily conspires against India's national interests. The others really do not matter.
Meanwhile, Amit Baruah, writing in the Hindustan Times about Mr Ahmadinejad's visit, mentions something that does not figure in the other glowing reports that appeared in last Wednesday's newspapers. "In his opening remarks, Mr Ahmadinejad once again questioned the extent of the Holocaust against the Jews in World War II and felt this was used as a pretext to occupy Palestine," Amit Baruah says in his report, adding, "He also raised questions about the 9/11 terrorist attacks and felt these acted as an excuse to occupy both Iraq and Afghanistan."
Amit Baruah is a senior journalist and there is no reason to doubt the veracity of his report. Indeed, the fact that others chose not to incorporate Mr Ahmadinejad's odious anti-Semitic rant in their reports tells a story by itself -- of how our media is careful to excise those comments that may reflect poorly on individuals it places on a high pedestal. Not surprisingly, Amit Baruah's report has been picked up by Islamist Websites.
The man who now leads and inspires born-again Nazis and would like to see the remaining Jews exterminated and Israel "wiped off the face of the world" is not as daft as some people make him out to be. He used his stopover in New Delhi to repeat his outrageous lies -- that the Holocaust is Jewish fiction, Jews masterminded 9/11, and Israel is an illegitimate entity -- steeped in anti-Semitism on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day. He needed a platform and we, to our abiding shame, provided him with one.
Will we now onward allow any and every visitor to berate another nation from our soil? What if someone were to use his or her interaction with the media to denounce China and question the legitimacy of its occupation of Tibet? Have we become so soft a state that nothing matters any more? Is our foreign policy now bereft of all morals, scruples and ethics that were once considered central to our civilisational identity as a nation, as a people?
In sharp contrast to our inability to stand up and be counted, and thus be courted for our inherent strength and power, Israel remains firm as a rock in its determination to succeed against all odds. Unlike India, it is just a dot on the map, a small country that can be traversed between sunrise and sunset. Yet it is a giant among nations, ferocious in war and magnanimous in peace. In the last 15 years, ever since we established diplomatic relations, it has done nothing that can be even remotely considered to be against India's interests. Yet we are reluctant to acknowledge this friendship and stand by it.
On May 8, Israel will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its independence. During these six decades, indeed, from the time David Ben-Gurion declared Israel's independence, it has been at war with its implacable Arab foes, fighting for its survival. But that has not stopped it from emerging as a power to contend with, a David among Goliaths who won't rest till the last drop of Jewish blood has been shed. It has been the victim of unceasing calumny and perversion of history by those who blindly support the tribe of Mr Ahmadinejad and endorse their anti-Semitism.
British journalist and author Melanie Phillips, in a scintillating essay published in the latest issue of the Spectator, pithily sums up Israel's heroic struggle: "On the day after Ben-Gurion declared (Israel's) independence, six Arab armies invaded and tried to wipe it out. With the current exception of Egypt and Jordan, the Arab and Muslim world has been trying ever since... At present, the situation looks particularly ominous. Israel is menaced on several fronts...".
It is Iran which has taken over from the Arabs. In Lebanon, it is funding and arming Hizbullah whose leader Hassan Nasrallah is sworn to Israel's destruction. In Gaza, it is nursing Hamas whose army of fanatics has declared it won't rest till the last Jew is dead. In Syria, Iran is working over time to keep anti-Israeli sentiments alive. All this while building a Bomb to "wipe Israel off the face of the world" and achieve what Nasser failed in achieving 60 years ago.
Such is the 'friend' of India our media fetes.