After Palestine criticised India for abstaining to vote in the United Nations Human Rights Council on a resolution for investigation into the recent Gaza violence, New Delhi on Thursday said that its position was not new.

At a media briefing, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi also said that Palestine has written similar letters on the matter to other countries who abstained.

“The position that we took is not a new position,” Bagchi said. “And we have abstained on previous occasions. I think that explains our position quite clearly and addresses these questions.”

On May 27, India was among 14 countries that did not vote on the UN’s human right’s body resolution proposing to setting up a commission of inquiry to look into the violations during the recent violence in Gaza as well as the “systematic” abuses in Palestinian territories and those inside Israel. At least 232 people, including 67 children, were killed in Gaza till Israel and Hamas entered into a ceasefire on May 21, after 11 days of violence.

The other countries who abstained include France, Japan, Netherlands, Italy, Nepal, Poland and South Korea. The resolution was passed after 24 countries in the 47-member council voted in favour of it.

India’s permanent representative to the UN body, Indra Mani Pandey, had said at the meeting that New Delhi welcomed diplomatic efforts of the international community and regional countries in bringing the ceasefire between Israel and the armed groups in Gaza. However, in its statement, India had dropped its stock phrase of extending strong support to the “just Palestinian cause”, according to The Indian Express.


Palestine’s letter to India

On May 30, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki wrote to his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar, saying that New Delhi’s decisions “stifles the important work of [United Nations] Human Rights Council at advancing human rights for all peoples, including those of the Palestinian people”.

The letter said that the resolution was “not an aberration” but a result of multilateral consultations. It said the resolution was a combination of thorough investigations into “Israel’s grave violations” by various countries, UN experts, human rights bodies and international organisations.

“India missed an opportunity to join the international community at this turning point, both crucial and long overdue, on the path to accountability, justice and peace,” the foreign minister said.

Malki said that the root causes of injustice that the Palestinian people suffered include “decades-long dispossession, displacement, colonization, oppression...and the denial and violation of their every human right by Israel,” reported the Hindustan Times.

He said that the situation will remain not only volatile but continue to deteriorate “with far-reaching and grave repercussions” until these root causes are addressed. The foreign minister said that Palestine was ready to “engage positively” and find peace in the region.

Recent Israel-Palestine conflict

The current streak of violence in the region was among the worst hostilities between Israel and Palestine since 2014.

The violence escalated on May 10 after the Israeli police stormed into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam. The police fired rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at worshipers during Ramadan. Israel’s actions were seen as a retaliation to the protests by Palestinians against attempts to forcibly evict a number of families from their homes.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, set a 10.30 pm IST deadline for Israeli forces to be withdrawn from Al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah. Soon after, the Hamas fired rockets from Gaza towards Jerusalem.

At the heart of the conflict was an Israeli Supreme Court hearing, which was due on May 10, in a long-running legal case about whether several Palestinian families would be evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood near Damascus Gate that was given to Israeli settlers.

As the court hearing neared, Palestinians and Left-wing Israelis began holding larger demonstrations, saying more evictions could cause a domino effect throughout the overwhelmingly Palestinian neighbourhood.

The renewed tensions due to the case in the Supreme Court, was an extension of the long-standing conflict as Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, sees all of the city as its Capital, while Palestinians want the eastern section as a capital of a future state. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is largely unrecognised internationally.

The neighbourhood is also home to Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, as well as the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam.