State angry at Zaka's Mumbai 'meddling'

Foreign Ministry: Criticism of Indian commandos could have serious diplomatic repercussions.

mumbai jewish memorial 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
mumbai jewish memorial 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Senior Foreign Ministry officials lashed out at the Zaka rescue and recovery organization on Monday, charging that the group was causing considerable damage to Indo-Israeli ties by "meddling" in Mumbai. "They are causing all kinds of problems," a senior Foreign Ministry official said of the six-man team that flew Thursday on its own volition to Mumbai. "They are selling all kinds of stories to journalists looking for stories, and taking credit for things they didn't do." Charges by the head of the Zaka team in Mumbai reported in The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the Jewish hostages in the Chabad House may have been killed by Indian commandos, and not by the terrorists, infuriated the Foreign Ministry, with one official saying that these types of "irresponsible comments" can have serious diplomatic repercussions. "How can they say such a thing?" one official said. "Did they do an autopsy, do they know what type of bullet caused the wound? Do they have forensic or ballistic expertise? This is not the type of thing you can determine just by looking at a body." Asked whether he really thought that the Indians were unable to take external criticism of their actions, he said that they can take the criticism in private, but not the way it was publicly being voiced in Israel. "This type of public criticism is an embarrassment for them," he said. On Sunday the Foreign Ministry, already concerned that public criticism in Israel was having a negative effect in New Delhi, issued a statement saying that Israel thanked the Indians for their efforts and cooperation. And on Monday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, conveyed Israel's condolences on the loss of life in the terrorist attacks and praised India for the way it dealt with the crisis. According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office, Olmert expressed his appreciation for the Indian military's "brave response and determination and said that bravery and determination are the most important components in dealing with terrorism." Singh told Olmert that the determined nature of the Indian responses sprung from a belief that "there can be no negotiations with terrorists, and they must be dealt with by force." The two agreed to tighten the counter-terrorist coordination between the two countries. Regarding Zaka, one senior Foreign Ministry official said that the six-man team went to Mumbai on its own, and was not working together with the official Israeli representatives on the ground. "It is not exactly clear what they are doing there," the official said. According to the official, the Indian authorities removed the bodies from the home, and there was no need for Zaka to do what it often is called upon to do after terrorist attacks in Israel - collect body parts. Zaka spokesman Motti Bukjin deflected the criticism, and also said that the group had no intention of leveling criticism at the Indian government. Bukjin said that Zaka volunteers worked around the clock in Mumbai helping to identify the bodies, sponge up blood for burial with the bodies, deal with damaged Torah scrolls in the Chabad House and remove some of the six bodies from the house. Once these bodies were removed, he said the Zaka volunteers remained with them around-the-clock so they were not mixed up with other bodies, and - together with Foreign Ministry officials - to ensure that no autopsies were performed on them. He said Zaka would sit down with Foreign Ministry officials at a later date to draw conclusions from the events in Mumbai.