At a time of shared grief, let's not hurt each other

The war being waged on India also affects Israel.

holtzberg funeral 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
holtzberg funeral 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
As a friend of Israel, I grieve as much for the six Jews, among them Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, as for my fellow Indians and others who were killed in last week's mass slaughter by Islamic terrorists in Mumbai. As a father of two children, I weep for two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg. Fear lurks at the back of my mind: Some day I could become a victim of jihadi terror and my children would be orphaned; worse, like many parents in India, I would live to see them killed by terrorists. It's all a matter of chance - of being in the wrong place at the wrong time: Life is uncertain in the bad times we are living in. At this very moment, all of India is shocked, outraged and furious that such a terrible massacre should have happened on our soil. We feel frustrated that it could not be prevented. We feel angry that so many lives have been lost in so cruel a manner. We feel humiliated that a nation of more than a billion people has been made to look so vulnerable and weak. YET, IN this gathering gloom, there is also steely determination. In cities and towns and villages, people are determined not be overwhelmed by the violence unleashed by terrorists. We value our democracy and we cherish our way of life. Neither is negotiable, nor will we compromise on our open, plural society. Based on my interactions with Israelis during my visit to Israel and from the many conversations I have had with Israeli friends in Delhi and abroad, I can safely suggest that these are values shared by both countries. It is because we are democracies and boast of open societies anchored in freedom of speech and human liberty that we continue to be targeted by Islamists. This, in a way, is a shared experience, a shared tragedy, for India and Israel. Israel has suffered on account of Islamist terrorism for long. India has been bleeding since 1989. If we go back in history, we will find that the sword of Islam has been wielded with as much ferocity against Hindus as against Jews. The past continues to cast a long shadow on our countries and our peoples. It is to Israel's credit that it has crafted an effective counterterrorism strategy and evolved admirable means and methods to keep the barbarians outside the gate. We are still grappling with the problem. But we must remember that Israel has had far more time to frame its response and institutionalize it. WE MUST also remember that till recently there were few countries willing to accept India's case; even now, the US and Europe, while grudgingly conceding that Pakistanis, if not Pakistan, are involved in waging a war of a "thousand cuts" against India, insist that India should hold its hand, that it should not strike out at the enemy. Geopolitics and strategic interests of the West ride roughshod over the terrible death and destruction that we have been suffering for many years now. Israel should understand this more than anybody else as its voice, too, has been and continues to be drowned by the duplicity of Western democracies which are stirred only when the barbarians threaten to break down their gates. THERE HAS been criticism in Israel of the manner in which Indian security forces handled the hostage situation at Chabad House. I can understand Defense Minister Ehud Barak's anguish, as well as that of other Israeli officials. Many things are said in grief and anger that are not necessarily meant to hurt a friend. But four points need to be made, if only to dispel notions of failure on part of Indian security forces. First, Chabad House received as much attention as the other two establishments which were attacked: Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and Oberoi Trident Hotel. Second, in all probability, the hostages at Chabad House were killed even before our National Security Guard commandos could move in. The brutal slayings and the commando raid are not necessarily linked. Third, the commandos suffered casualties during the Chabad House raid. Fourth, it was Sandra Samuel, the 44-year-old Indian nanny of Moshe, who saved the child from a horrific death: Had she not shown exemplary courage, which was really far beyond the call of duty, we would have been grieving for one more life lost to jihadi violence. The war that is being waged on India also affects Israel. It would be to our benefit if we were to join hands and stand together, and look our common enemy in the eye, not as two separate nations but as partners in a noble mission. Recrimination and accusation will serve little or no purpose, other than in strengthening those who wish to destroy both Israel and India. India and Israel are hurting over the loss of lives last week. Why hurt each other at this time of shared loss and grief? The writer is associate editor of The Pioneer in New Delhi.