a) A stab in the heart of a peace process

An American President taking a pro-Israeli decision related to the Israel-Palestine conflict is no surprise. The U.S. has largely favoured Israel throughout the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and East Jerusalem. It has offered protection to Israel in the UN Security Council, come to its aid in times of crises, and provided it with advanced weapons. The U.S. has even looked away when Israel was amassing nuclear weapons. In return, Israel has become America’s greatest ally in West Asia. Despite this special relationship, previous American Presidents have been wary of recognising Israel’s claims over Jerusalem. Even after the U.S. Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the Administration to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City, American Presidents have deferred the decision endlessly given international public opinion and the political and moral sensitivity of the issue. It is this consensus that U.S. President Donald Trump has now broken by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Cutting off the oxygen

Mr. Trump’s supporters claim he was acting on a long-made promise, and that Washington remains committed to the peace process irrespective of the Jerusalem move. They also say that Mr. Trump has just shown the world he is a tough decision-maker and can act decisively while brokering peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. But what these arguments conveniently forget is that Jerusalem is at the very heart of an Israeli-Palestinian solution. By endorsing Israel’s claims over the city, the American President has driven a knife into that heart. A President who promised the “ultimate deal” to resolve the conflict has effectively dealt a body blow to the peace process. This is not diplomacy. If this is a calculated move as part of a diplomatic package, the U.S. would have held talks with both sides and extracted compromises, taking the peace process a step forward. If so, Mr. Trump would also have said which part of Jerusalem he was recognising as Israel’s seat of power and endorsed the Palestinians’ claim over East Jerusalem, including the Old City. Instead, Mr. Trump has taken a unilateral decision giving the largest concession to Israel, perhaps since the Oslo process, without getting any promises in return. His move will only strengthen the Israeli Right, which is dead opposed to ceding any inch of Jerusalem to a future Palestinian state.

Was never recognised

History is not on the side of the likes of Mr. Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Jerusalem has never been recognised as Israel’s capital by the international community. In the original UN General Assembly plan to partition Palestine and create independent Jewish and Arab states, Jerusalem was deemed an international city. The Zionists didn’t wait for the plan to be implemented by the UN. In 1948, they declared the state of Israel and in the ensuing Arab-Israeli war, they captured 23% more territories than even what the UN had proposed, including the western half of Jerusalem. Israel seized East Jerusalem in 1967 from Jordan, and later annexed it. Since then, Israel has been encouraging illegal settlements in the eastern parts of the city, with Palestinians being forced to live in their historical neighbourhoods. The Israeli Right has always made claims over the whole of the city. In 1980, when the Likud government was in power, the Israeli Parliament passed a basic law, declaring Jerusalem “complete and united” as its capital. This move invoked sharp reaction from world powers, including the U.S. The UN Security Council (UNSC) declared the draft law “null and void” and urged member countries to withdraw their diplomatic missions from the Holy City. This is the reason all countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv despite West Jerusalem being Israel’s seat of power for decades. Israel defying international norms and UNSC resolutions is nothing new, but America publicly endorsing Israel’s illegal claims is unprecedented. In an ideal world, had the U.S. been a neutral power broker, it should have put pressure on Israel to come forward and engage the Palestinians in talks. This is because on the Palestinian side, conditions for talks now look better. Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, recently came up with a new political charter that signals a readiness to deal with Israel and accept the 1967 border for a future Palestinian state — a compromise which has been compared to the group’s rhetorical anti-Semitic claims in the past. Hamas and the Fatah, Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas’s party that rules parts of the West Bank, also reached a reconciliation agreement recently. This could have been used as an opening to break the logjam in the peace process. Israel’s history suggests that it will not agree to any compromise unless it is forced to do so. Over the years, it has continued its illegal settlements in the occupied territories despite repeated warnings from the international community. If it was really bothered about peace it would have frozen the settlements and agreed to having talks with the Palestinians.

American nudges

The only country that can put effective pressure on Israel is the U.S. American Presidents have done that in the past without upsetting the U.S.-Israel alliance. Notable among them has been President Jimmy Carter who practically arm-twisted Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Menachem Begin to join talks with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and even with the Palestinians (whose claim over the occupied territories was not even recognised by the Israeli Right those days). Mr. Carter’s attempts proved successful as Begin and Sadat finally signed the Camp David Agreement. President Bill Clinton also played a key role in the 2000 Camp David negotiations between Yasser Arafat and Israel’s Ehud Barak, which eventually failed to reach a deal. But since the collapse of the Second Camp David talks, American Presidents have largely looked away from the issue. President George Bush’s 2007 Annapolis Conference was no more than a photo op in the last days of his presidency. President Barack Obama’s focus was on the Iran deal, while his administration offered full support to Israel at the UN. And Mr. Trump is least interested in finding cues of peace on the Palestinian side and acting upon them by putting pressure on Israel, the occupying force, for compromises. In his world, what matters is America’s cultural and military alliance with Israel. The real tragedy is the impact Mr. Trump’s decision will have on the Palestinian people. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who live in the annexed East Jerusalem without even Israeli citizenship, hope to be free at some point in time. Likewise, the millions of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza hope to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The U.S. has struck a blow against these hopes. First they lost their city and now are losing even their claims. This will only lead to their despair mounting. But if the history of Jerusalem states anything, it is that its disputes cannot be settled by force. During the Crusades, both Christians and Muslims captured the city using brutal force. The Ottomans ruled it for centuries only to have it lost to the British a century ago. The Jordanians and the Israelis split it among themselves for two decades after the Second World War. And, now, a millennium after the Crusades, the status of Jerusalem is still disputed. Mr. Trump’s move may be a big shot in the arm for the Israelis, but a final settlement is still afar.

b) Countering hate — on murder of migrant worker in Rajasthan

It is an ongoing investigation and very little can be said with certainty about the back-story of the murder of a Bengali migrant worker in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district. But from videos shared on social media and initial information from the police, a few things are clear. Mohammed Afrazul Khan, aged 50 and a long-time resident of Rajasthan, was hacked to death and his body set on fire by a man identified by the police as Shambhu Lal Raigar, a former marble trader. The videos, uploaded by his 14-year-old nephew, record Raigar as saying he killed Afrazul to save a woman from “love jihad”, and ranting against Muslims, his ramble ranging from films depicting inter-religious romance to the Babri Masjid. The police arrested Raigar and his nephew and declared they would seek the death penalty for the former. Director-General of Police O.P. Galhotra said that prima facie the murderer was of unsound mind, a theory his family seems to subscribe to. While Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje condemned the murder, saying the case should be prosecuted swiftly, the opposition has embedded the crime in the larger majoritarian rhetoric of the Sangh Parivar. But irrespective of whether the murder was the work of an isolated and unsound mind or a deliberate conspiracy, it is important that the political discourse around it be responsible, and responsive to the insecurity among migrant workers, especially those who are Muslims. It is imperative that this case comes to trial swiftly and the guilty are brought to book; this will be a test of the system’s capacity and intent to deal firmly with hate crimes. Hate crimes are particularly serious because of their potential to provoke panic. The speed with which the videos travelled on social media frames a difficult challenge for law enforcement authorities. A temporary Internet shutdown that was enforced in Rajsamand may appear unavoidable, but these are post-hoc measures and cannot prevent the problem of provocative, even grisly, content being made available and even spreading online. Rajasthan’s elected leaders would do well to go beyond denouncing the murder and its heinousness. Given the sheer venality of the videos, their accompanying anti-Muslim rhetoric, and the likely sense of insecurity they have caused, it is important for them to declare that they stand firmly against sectarian hate crimes. Such crimes pose a very stiff challenge in a democratic society. They may be isolated, they may be the handiwork of individuals acting on their own, but by positioning one group (religious, racial, ethnic, gender) against another, the impact of these crimes spills into the wider community. They heighten anxieties among the targeted groups, and in the age of a polarised social media, they risk giving the unacceptable a perverse acceptability. There is only one way to counter them: with a clear, unambiguous consensus against hate.


1) Aid

Meaning: Help, typically of a practical nature.

Example: He saw the pilot slumped in his cockpit and went to his aid.

Synonyms: Assistance, Support

Antonyms: Hindrance

2) Amassing

Meaning: Gather together or accumulate (a large amount or number of material or things) over a period of time.

Example: He amassed a fortune estimated at close to a million pounds.

Synonyms: Gather, Collect

Antonyms: Dissipate

3) Ally

Meaning: A person or organization that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity.

Example: He was forced to dismiss his closest political ally.

Synonyms: Associate, Friend

Antonyms: Enemy, Opponent

4) Wary

Meaning: Feeling or showing caution about possible dangers or problems.

Example: Dogs which have been mistreated often remain very wary of strangers.

Synonyms: Cautious, Careful

Antonyms: Unwary, Trustful

5) Consensus

Meaning: A general agreement.

Example: There is a growing consensus that the current regime has failed.

Synonyms: Agreement, Harmony

Antonyms: Disagreement

6) Endorsing

Meaning: Recommend (a product) in an advertisement.

Example: He earns more money endorsing sports clothes than playing football.

Synonyms: Support, Back

Antonyms: Oppose

7) Dealt

Meaning: Take measures concerning (someone or something), especially with the intention of putting something right.

Example: The government had been unable to deal with the economic crisis.

Synonyms: Handle, Manage

8) Ceding

Meaning: Give up (power or territory).

Example: In 1874, the islands were ceded to Britain.

Synonyms: Surrender, Concede

Antonyms: Keep, Gain

9) Deemed

Meaning: Regard or consider in a specified way.

Example: The event was deemed a great success.

Synonyms: Consider, Judge

10) Annexed

Meaning: Add (territory) to one’s own territory by appropriation.

Example: The left bank of the Rhine was annexed by France in 1797.

Synonyms: Appropriate, Arrogate

Antonyms: Relinquish

11) Embassies

Meaning: The official residence or offices of an ambassador.

Example: The Chilean embassy in Moscow.

Synonyms: Consulate, Legation

12) Defying

Meaning: Openly resist or refuse to obey.

Example: A woman who defies convention.

Synonyms: Disobey, Flout

Antonyms: Obey, Surrender

13) Unprecedented

Meaning: Never done or known before.

Example: The government took the unprecedented step of releasing confidential correspondence.

Synonyms: Unparalleled, Unequalled

Antonyms: Normal, Common

14) Came up

Meaning: To happen, usually unexpectedly.

Example: I’ve got to go – something has just come up at home and I’m needed there.

15) Anti-Semitic

Meaning: Hostile to or prejudiced against Jews.

Example: Anti-Semitic remarks were posted on the site.

16) Reconciliation

Meaning: The restoration of friendly relations.

Example: His reconciliation with your uncle.

Synonyms: Reunion, Feud

17) Logjam

Meaning: A situation that seems irresolvable.

Example: The president can use his power to break the logjam over this issue.

18) Frozen

Meaning: Become suddenly motionless or paralysed with fear or shock.

Example: She froze in horror.

Synonyms: Stop

Antonyms: Run away

19) Right-wing

Meaning: Conservative or reactionary.

Example: A right-wing Republican senator.

Synonyms: Conservative, Rightist

Antonyms: Radical

20) Cues

Meaning: A thing said or done that serves as a signal to an actor or other performer to enter or to begin their speech or performance.

Example: She had not yet been given her cue to come out on to the dais.

Synonyms: Signal, Indication

21) Alliance

Meaning: A relationship based on similarity of interests, nature, or qualities.

Example: An alliance between medicine and morality.

Synonyms: Relationship, Affinity

Antonyms: Distance, Separation

22) Blockaded

Meaning: Seal off (a place) to prevent goods or people from entering or leaving.

Example: The authorities blockaded roads in and out of the capital.

Synonyms: Barricade, Seal

23) Despair

Meaning: The complete loss or absence of hope.

Example: A voice full of self-hatred and despair.

Synonyms: Hopelessness, Desperation

Antonyms: Hope, Joy

24) Mounting

Meaning: Grow larger or more numerous.

Example: The costs mount up when you buy a home.

Synonyms: Increase, Grow

Antonyms: Decrease, Diminish

25) Crusades

Meaning: Lead or take part in a vigorous campaign for social, political, or religious change.

Example: A crusading stance on poverty.

Synonyms: Campaign, Fight

26) Disputed

Meaning: Question whether (a statement or alleged fact) is true or valid.

Example: The accusations are not disputed.

Synonyms: Challenge, Contest

Antonyms: Accept

27) Afar

Meaning: At or to a distance.

Example: For months he had loved her from afar.

28) Hacked

Meaning: To cut into pieces in a rough and violent way, often without aiming exactly.

Example: Three villagers were hacked to death in a savage attack.

29) Ranting

Meaning: Speak or shout at length in an angry, impassioned way.

Example: She was still ranting on about the unfairness of it all.

Synonyms: Fulminate, Spout

30) Ramble

Meaning: Talk or write at length in a confused or inconsequential way.

Example: Willy rambled on about Norman archways.

Synonyms: Chatter, Babble

31) Depicting

Meaning: Portray in words; describe.

Example: Youth is depicted as a time of vitality and good health.

Synonyms: Describe, Detail

32) Condemned

Meaning: Express complete disapproval of; censure.

Example: Most leaders roundly condemned the attack.

Synonyms: Censure, Criticize

Antonyms: Praise, Commend

33) Prosecuted

Meaning: Institute legal proceedings in respect of (a claim or offence).

Example: The state’s attorney’s office seemed to decide that this was a case worth prosecuting.

Synonyms: Summons, Indict

Antonyms: Defend, Pardon

34) Swiftly

Meaning: At high speed; quickly.

Example: She got up and walked swiftly to the door.

Synonyms: Rapidly, Fast

Antonyms: Slowly

35) Intent

Meaning: Intention or purpose.

Example: With alarm she realized his intent.

Synonyms: Aim, Purpose

36) Provoke

Meaning: Stimulate or give rise to (a reaction or emotion, typically a strong or unwelcome one) in someone.

Example: The decision provoked a storm of protest from civil rights organizations.

Synonyms: Arouse, Produce

37) Heinousness

Meaning: The state or quality of being utterly evil.

Example: The heinousness of the Holocaust was only fully realized after the war.

38) Perverse

Meaning: Showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable.

Example: Kate’s perverse decision not to cooperate held good.

Synonyms: Awkward, Contrary

Antonyms: Accommodating, Cooperative

39) Unambiguous

Meaning: Not open to more than one interpretation.

Example: Instructions should be unambiguous.

40) Consensus

Meaning: A general agreement.

Example: There is a growing consensus that the current regime has failed.

Synonyms: Agreement, Harmony

Antonyms: Disagreement

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