May 15th is Nakba Day, the Day of Catastrophe for the Palestinians. In 1948, that was the date when the Israeli State began to emerge and three quarters of a million Palestinians were ejected from their land. The term Nakba was coined by the Syrian historian Constantine Zurayk, who was the Acting President of the American University of Beirut (Lebanon) in 1952.

Part of the expelled Palestinian nation had fled to Gaza, where – from the first – they lived in refugee camps under the care of the fledgling United Nations. War between Israel and Egypt across Gaza drew a UN response in 1956, when the United Nations Emergency Force arrived to guard the Armistice Demarcation Lines. Amongst the blue helmets to make their way to Gaza were a significant detachment of Indian troops. Indian troops had been in Gaza during what was known as the First Battle of Gaza in 1917 that pitted the British imperial forces against the Ottoman imperial forces. They had fought across Iraq and Egypt, including up the Levant into Jerusalem. Their story is largely forgotten. I was glad to see it reprised in Leila Tarazi Fawaz’s monumental history, A Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War (2014) in a chapter entitled ‘South Asians in the War’.

General Indar Jit Rikhye served in Gaza as part of the initial deployment and then returned in 1966 to lead it till the 1967 Six Day War. India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru came to visit the Indian and other UN troops in Gaza in 1960. After his visit, he boarded a UN aircraft to fly him to Beirut. As his aircraft took off, two Israeli fighter jets came alongside and began aggressive maneuvers against the UN plane. Nehru told the Indian Parliament part of the story on 1 August 1960. He said that the Israeli action was ‘unwarranted’ and that the Israeli authorities had ‘prior knowledge of his intended visit to Gaza’. Fortunately for Nehru, his UN pilot held his nerve and got the Prime Minister to Beirut.

In Beirut, Nehru visited the American University, where he was received with open arms. When I taught at the AUB in 2013-14, I went to the archives and found many wonderful pictures of the visit, including one of Nehru walking past the AUB President’s house (see above) and another of students sitting in the windows of the chapel to listen to his speech,

At AUB, Nehru didn’t say anything about what had happened over the skies of Gaza. He held his tongue till he returned to the Indian Parliament. It was there that he made his official statement. You can read my story for Frontline on this visit, which was called ‘Nehru in Beirut’. It provides some more context and has some more photographs.

I was thinking about this story, about the ongoing Palestinian hunger Freedom & Dignity strike (see my report in English and my report in Turkish) and the visit by the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel. I doubt that Modi will ask the Israeli government to formally apologize for putting the life of a previous Indian head of government at stake. Israel has never acknowledged this incident. But Nehru put it in the record of the Indian parliament. I hope that the Indian opposition will raise this issue in the Monsoon Session.

Meanwhile, three Indian warships (TrishulMumbai and Aditya) have docked in Haifa (Israel) to hold a series of joint activities with the Israeli navy. This task force is commanded by Rear Admiral RB Pandit.

Unlike in the 1950s and 1960s, the Indian troops are not in a position to protect the vulnerable and the weak, but to strut their muscle alongside the powerful. The Indian troops who went to Gaza in the 1950s were part of Operation Shanti (Peace). No such word is applicable for the troops now. They are part of far more dangerous games.

Recommended Reading: From India to Palestine: Essays in Solidarity, edited by Githa Hariharan (LeftWord Books, 2015).

Vijay Prashad
Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. Prashad is the author of seventeen books. He can be reached at:


      • He was the Prime Minister of the entire country not just of Congress. Its an insult to the whole nation. Israel should apologize.

        • first you need to know whether this piece of news is true or is it mere anti Modi propaganda. Had the Israelis been willing to assassinate Nehru. They would have done it

          • Read history Akhil not fake news than you would know if its a real incident or not. Read the Middle East Record Volume 1, 1960, Arab-Israel Border Relations pg 193-194. The sun doesn’t shine when Modi opens his eyes. Wake up!

            • @StarofDavid Wishful thinking of fooled Bhakts who think RSS is a nationalist organisation. RSS is the most anti-national organisation funded by Pakistans ISI and even British & American companies likie CISCO to create riots in India.

          • @StarofDavid Wishful thinking of fooled Bhakts who think RSS is a nationalist organisation. RSS is the most anti-national organisation funded by Pakistans ISI and even British & American companies likie CISCO to create riots in India.

            RSS leader Shyam Apte has alleged two RSS leaders, including general secretary Mohan Bhagwat were funded by Pakistan`s ISI, Malegaon blast accused Dayanand Pandey said in his confessional statement to the

            “In August 2008, I had gone to Pune where I met with RSS leader Shyam Apte who told me about (Indresh) Kumar (Muslim wing leader of RSS) and Bhagwat taking money from ISI.


            For the last 13 years, the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF), a US-based charity has reportedly misused American corporate philanthropy to fund RSS-affiliated organisations here. For instance, the IDRF obtained vast sums from CISCO, a leading technology company in the US with a substantial number of NRIs on its rolls by saying its activities are “secular” since company rules explicitly prohibit donations to organisations of a “religious” nature.


            The extremist RSS’s front organizations have received millions of pounds raised from the
            British public. These funds were collected by the Leicester-based registered charity, Hindu
            Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) and its fundraising arm Sewa International.


            • The people of India believe in what they see, and not what any Shyam Apte says, or what lies a**holes like you spread in the social media. RSS is the only organization in India that stands up for the Hindus and India’s thousands years old Hindu heritage, and that is a fact of life.

  1. Fake history. 1) The Palestinians refused to accept the partition declared by the general assmbly of the US, and said that all Jews should either be killed or thrown to the sea. Fortunately, they faild. 2) if the Israeli planes intended to kill Nehru, he would be dead. He wasn’t !

  2. Come on. They have bombed a US warship intentionally. The Jews in America got the inquiry surpressed. These guys will go to any length to LIE.

  3. Israels jets wanted to shoot down the aircraft they would have the action was meant to remind Nehru of his place. A paper tiger trying to strut around like the peacock he was actually. Failure on all fronts a stooge of the British who’s taste in women was a disaster that India bears even today. Never forget.

    • Mossad has safe houses in New Delhi. It betrayed RAW. A disproportionate assets case filed by R.K. Yadav, 62, a former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official against Anand Kumar Verma, 81, who retired as RAW chief in 1990, mentions two companies as alleged conduits for diverting secret funds. Yadav alleged that Verma, who was chief between 1987 and 1990, had amassed properties now worth over Rs 100 crore. It now emerges that two of the three flats bought by the RAW front firms were safe houses for Israel’s secret service Mossad to operate covertly in New Delhi.–yadav-anand-kumar-verma/1/258012.html

    • From a fb comment must read > Israeli Mossad and CIA orchestrated assassination of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. And the massive negative propaganda against Nehru family is due to Zionist control on media. Modi’s PR is managed by shady firm APCO which has links with CIA and Mossad.

    • Jay Vaidya, thank you for reminding some history……Stalin, at the time of Nehru’s coronation as first PM of India, did not believe that he was the suitable man for the post of PM and even suspected him to be an agent of Britain……as for Mao, he found him to ba a dangerous “bourgeois” PM …..

  4. Why would congress party will oppose, the policies of congress of today is nearer to bjp than the nehruvian congress. Now congress is banckrupt both in terms of leadership and ideas. It was congress government which established the diplomatic ties with Israel in 1991. Further,it was congress government which started buying their weapons and eventually during UPA India became largest importer of Israeli weapons. Nehru would said #notInMyName.
    Overall, it was policies of congress government which led to revival of communal parties and organizations and annihilation of congress party in India.

  5. The people of India could not care less about Nehru in 2017 … !! … This author is wasting time digging out stuff about Nehru that only the Khangress party Chors and Thugs may like to buy … !!

  6. No rounds were fired nor stopped the nehru flight. How come people decided isreal was trying to assassinate?? How stupid to assume? It’s a war time and isreal is surrounded by enemies. This much servellance is minimum. Grow up ghose.

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