15 Dec 2008
NEW DELHI: Two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg tugs at your heartstrings, crying for his mother who was brutally killed by Pakistani terrorists at Nariman House in Mumbai during the three-day terror attacks. In many ways, Moshe is the face of the trauma that wracked the city.
Moshe's Israeli parents, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his pregnant wife, Rivkah, 28, were killed along with other hostages. His story of being whisked away from his dead parents, soaked in blood, by his nanny has brought tears to most hardened hearts all over the world.
The Indian government, however, has remained completely immune to all this. In a display of crass insensitivity as well as an enduring sign that the government continues to pander to the politics of the Muslim-Jew divide, minister of state for external affairs E Ahamed did not mention the Nariman House attack in his statement to the UN Security Council last week. And this from an India which officially maintains that terror has no religion and all victims are equal.
In his speech to the UNSC asking for the world to ban the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Ahamed referred to "pre-selected targets which included a cafe popular with Indian and foreign tourists and two major hotels". There was no mention of the Jewish Chabad Lubavitch centre, which was specifically chosen by the terrorists to attack Jews.
The Nariman House siege was even more horrific as it was the only one where the entire world was witness to NSG commandos rappelling down from a helicopter and blowing up the building with grenades after a 56-hour battle. It was also the only place where another Jewish leader from New York actually conducted a conversation with one of the terrorists.
While there is no official reason for this omission, sources said it was "inadvertent".
In the aftermath of the attacks, India showed a lot of insensitivity, this was just one more of them. For instance, the Maharashtra government sent official letters of condolence to the families of victims. Singapore found that the name of its lone victim was misspelt badly. The letter had to be returned to get the name right. In Delhi, the Malaysian high commission found that it had not been invited to the government's condolence briefing because its citizen who died in the attacks was of Indian origin, so the government thought he was Indian!
But was Ahamed's omission of the Jewish house in his speech a function of the utterly improbable relationship that India enjoys with Israel or was it a function of the fact that the government didn't want to "anger" Muslims by sympathising with the Jews. Sources said it could be both.
India's relationship with Israel resembles an irresistible, clandestine affair -- where the linkages are growing in many spheres but all below the radar. So, while the government is perfectly happy to have a huge defence relationship with Israel and an intelligence synergy that is seemingly bottomless, a strong fear of angering the Muslim keeps it from acknowledging this relationship openly.
Little Moshe did not even comprehend the nature of his parents' deaths. But for those who hoped for a word of sympathy for an orphaned child, the Indian government has decided not to oblige.