India mourns

J'lem needs to do a better job affirming that we have a lot in common with India.

October 30, 2005 21:04
4 minute read.
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It is still unclear who was behind the terrorist attacks in New Delhi on Saturday which killed 61 people and wounded 200 others. An obscure Kashmiri group has claimed responsibility. We do know the attackers' primary objective: to slaughter as many civilians as possible out shopping for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Our condolences go out to the families of the bereaved, as do our thoughts for a speedy recovery to the wounded. India is no stranger to such outrages. Most recently, in May 2005, one person was killed and 49 wounded in blasts at two New Delhi cinemas. In August 2003, 52 people were killed in bomb attacks in India's financial capital, Mumbai. And in May 1993, some 250 people were murdered in a series of bomb blasts, also in Mumbai. In the latest attacks Saturday evening, three explosions went off within minutes of one another starting at about 5:30 p.m. The targets were a marketplace close to Delhi's central railway station, another in a southern district, and the third on a bus in the southeastern part of town. To add to the tragedy the killings followed a fatal train accident, perhaps triggered by bad weather, the same day in southern India in which at least 100 passengers were killed. But it is the man-made carnage captured in Sunday's The Hindu that Israelis can most readily identify with: "Body parts were scattered all over. Two minors were lying in a pool of blood with their faces completely disfigured, while several others lay writhing in pain screaming for help." New Delhi on Saturday, Hadera on Wednesday, where a crowded marketplace was targeted by an Islamic Jihad bomber killing five shoppers, including a Muslim father out buying food for a post-Ramadan meal. Over the weekend Palestinian forces launched indiscriminate rocket volleys against Sderot. These - and the drive-by shooting in Gush Etzion, which killed three young Israelis on October 17 - were only some of the many losses Israel has suffered since Yasser Arafat launched the current war in September 2000. All told, over 1,000 Israelis have been killed and some 7,000 wounded. No innocent citizen, whether in a country of 1 billion or in a nation with a mere 6 million souls, should die at the hands of religious or ethnic extremists for being at the wrong place - a market, a bus, a cafe - at the wrong time. Indian authorities will soon enough identify the perpetrators and those supporting them. For now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is being vague, blaming "terrorists" and declaring, "These are dastardly acts of terrorism. We are resolute in our commitment to fighting terrorism in all forms." We understand that India is a multicultural nation, that 13 percent of its population is Muslim and that both internal harmony and stability in its relations with Pakistan are Indian interests. But "terrorism" is not the foe - it is his tactic. The larger lesson of this tragedy is that India is under attack from Muslim extremists - like Israel - not for anything it does or did, but for being a largely non-Muslim entity in a part of the world claimed by the Islamists. India and Israel have similar historical trajectories. Both are ancient civilizations with religious, cultural, and linguistic roots in the soil of their respective lands. Both achieved independence at roughly the same time under difficult circumstances from Great Britain. The national leadership of each sought accommodation with their Muslim neighbors only to have their overtures rejected. In the ideal world, India would have been Israel's natural ally from 1948 onwards. That, unfortunately, was not the course of events. And even today we wish thoughtful Indians would better appreciate Zionism for what it is: the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Fortunately, full diplomatic relations were established in 1992 and the two countries are making up for lost time. The total turnover in trade between our two countries stands at a staggering $2.8 billion a year. Beyond expressing sympathy as India mourns its losses, Jerusalem, over the long haul, needs to do a better job at affirming that our two great civilizations have much in common.

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