The Indian Soldiers Who Fought to Liberate the Land of Israel

July 10 2017

During his visit to Israel last week, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accompanied by Benjamin Netanyahu, paid a visit to a cemetery in Haifa where 44 Indian soldiers who fought with the British army during World War I were laid to rest. September 23, 1917, the anniversary of the Battle of Haifa—during which these soldiers fell—is still commemorated by the modern Indian Army. Lenny Ben-David tells the story of the Indian troops who fought to free Palestine from Ottoman rule, and especially their role in the liberation of Jerusalem:

More than a million Indian troops fought with the British army in World War I, at the Western front in Europe [and] in Africa, Mesopotamia, and the Near East. On the Sinai-Palestine front, 95,000 Indian combatants served; approximately 10 percent were killed. From 1914 to 1918, they fought the Turkish and German armies at Gallipoli and the Suez Canal, throughout the Sinai and Palestine, and finally at Damascus, with crucial battles in Gaza, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Nablus, and Megiddo. . . .

The Indian troops served in the cavalry, camel corps, infantry, and logistics units. A large number of them were Muslims, and the Turks attempted to weaken their resolve with religious appeals. Except for a few cases, the Turkish propaganda failed. The importance of Muslim soldiers was understood by the British commander Edmund Allenby. After capturing Jerusalem, he cabled to London, “The Mosque of Omar and the area round it has been placed under Muslim control, and a military cordon, composed of Indian Mahomedan officers and soldiers, has been established round the mosque.” . . .

The war ended in 1918, but British and Indian troops remained to police the British Mandate and put down Arab disturbances.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Edmund Allenby, History & Ideas, Israel-India relations, Israeli history, World War I

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem