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In ‘pro-Palestine’ Kerala too, why CPM, Congress are avoiding taking sides | Political Pulse News


AS THE Israel-Palestine crisis takes a turn for the worse, the heat is being felt in Kerala, a state where politicians on both sides of the divide have traditionally backed the Palestinian cause.

This time, even while Muslim organisations and religious bodies in the state have taken to the streets in pro-Palestine protests, the ruling CPI(M) and opposition Congress are both treading cautiously to avoid giving the BJP any room to allege appeasement.

The CPI(M) kept silent as the Congress was targeted by the BJP for a recent Congress Working Committee (CWC) resolution reaffirming its support for the Palestinian cause without mentioning the Hamas, whose unprecedented terror attacks inside Israel sparked off the current crisis.

That too had a Kerala link, in the form of CWC member and state leader Ramesh Chennithala, who pushed for a mention of the crisis even as others cautioned against it, and were reportedly taken by surprise at the “last-minute inclusion”. Sources said that many felt that the Congress stand would hurt the party and help the BJP in Kerala.

In its statements on the Israel-Gaza crisis, the CPI(M) Politburo has blamed both the sides, regretting “these attacks and counter attacks between Hamas and the Israeli forces’’. Like the Congress, it has kept out any mention of “terror” to describe the Hamas attacks.

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However, the differences within over this nuanced position – without unequivocal support to the Arab / Palestinian cause – are evident. While Politburo member M A Baby earlier said that if Hamas was being dubbed “a terrorist organisation”, Israel had to be seen as “a terrorist country”, CPI(M) Central Committee member and popular leader K K Shailaja Teacher Wednesday also drew a parallel while calling out the Hamas as “terrorists”, in a Facebook post.

Expressing her anguish over killings on both sides, Shailaja said: “Anyone with a conscience would deplore the attacks carried out by Hamas terrorists in human settlements in Israel. At the same time, one should not forget that Israel and the imperialistic forces supporting the country are responsible for the terrorism which Palestine has been facing… since 1948,” she said.

With its clear pro-Israel position, the BJP is hoping to gain from the predicament of the CPI(M) and Congress. On Tuesday, after the Dakshina (south) Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, a body of Muslim scholars, held a march in solidarity with Palestine, BJP state president K Surendran said that the CPI(M), Congress and IUML were “provoking Hamas supporters in Kerala”, and said this was not merely because of their “grudge towards Israel”. “What is bubbling over is their anti-India sentiments, the longstanding hatred towards Hindus and Christians,’’ he said, accusing Baby of “propitiating a vote bank”.

Kerala and Palestine

As recently as the last decade, an “anti-imperialist” stance was a big part of the political discourse in Kerala, dominated by the Left. The US invasion in Afghanistan, the American action against the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, the Gaza War of 2008-2009 and the India-US civil nuclear agreement had all been taken up by the Left to criticise the Western powers.

However, recently, the CPI(M) and Congress units in Kerala have been accused of tailoring their response to the Israel-Palestine crisis to their politics. In 2021, when a caregiver from the state, Soumya Santhosh, was killed in Israel in an airstrike by Hamas, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Congress veteran Oommen Chandy had come under flak for mentioning the outfit in their condolence message and then deleting it.

Vijayan’s eventual statement only mentioned “a nurse who died in the Israel-Palestine conflict”, while the state government had reportedly abandoned a plan to send a representative for her funeral in Idukki.

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The two main parties in Kerala are vying for the Muslim vote, which is seen as looking at options beyond the Congress. The IUML as ally has kept the Muslims on the Congress’s side, but the Muslim League is coming under pressure to take a stand when other organisations like the Jamaat-e-Islami are taking the lead.

IUML state president Sayyid Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal said on Wednesday that the developments in Israel were a sequel to Israel attacks in Palestine. “The IUML is with the Palestinians, who are fighting for freedom. The issue demands a political solution. The support of the world forces towards Israel is a matter of concern,” Thangal said, while calling the Modi government’s support to Israel “unfortunate’’.

Following a phone conversation with hardline Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Modi posted Tuesday: “People of India stand firmly with Israel in this difficult hour. India strongly and unequivocally condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”





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