With most Western leaders and their media adopting pro-Israeli narratives and positions, it is worth looking at how the world's two most populous nations — India and China — have reacted to the violent events in Israel and Gaza.
Since the latest crisis erupted following the armed operations by Hamas against Israeli targets on 7 October, China has stood out in its calls for a ceasefire, humanitarian access and protection of civilians in Gaza, and in addressing Palestinian statehood aspirations.
The brutality of Israeli bombardment has fuelled anger in much of the world. People have seen how neighbourhoods, hospitals, schools and civilian infrastructure facilities have been wiped out by the Israeli military in Gaza, which was already under blockade since 2007.
China has historically been a supporter of the Palestinian struggle for statehood. But its ties with Israel have also grown significantly to cover a range of sectors such as trade, technology, investment and tourism since the establishment of formal relations in 1992. India also opened its embassy in Tel Aviv the same year.
Amidst a wave of support for Israel in most of the Western world, China has stood out in its calls for a ceasefire, humanitarian access and protection of civilians in Gaza, and in addressing Palestinian statehood aspirations.
China's Middle East policy
China's Middle East policy is shaped by several factors, from securing energy to accessing markets and building partnerships to boost its global role amidst its rivalry with the United States.
Iran has been an important partner for China for a long time, and Iranian policies of strident opposition to Israel and support for Palestinians also influence the Chinese regional outlook.
Israel's role as a US-subsidised undertaking and its limited regional acceptability and perpetual conflict posture against Arab and Muslim countries, make it an unattractive partner for most countries.
China has a genuine desire and need for building closer partnerships with Asian and African countries. The path to that goes via strong relations with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and other influential regional players.
While the US is trying to convince Muslim countries to normalise relations with Israel, China is happy to work with these countries without any strings attached.
To foster a more cooperative regional environment, China in March helped Saudi Arabia and Iran reach an agreement under which the two regional heavyweights agreed to reopen their diplomatic missions and normalise relations. This diplomatic breakthrough underscored China's clout and will surely garner goodwill in the Middle East.
China's Middle East policy is shaped by several factors, from securing energy to accessing markets and building partnerships to boost its global role amidst its rivalry with the United States. While the US is trying to convince Muslim countries to normalise relations with Israel, China is happy to work with these countries without any strings attached.
Chinese position reflects its long-term interest in the region
China has responded to the developments in Palestine in a way that would serve its interests in the long term, especially considering America's dwindling moral authority in the Middle East.
China wants the Israel-Hamas war to be stopped as soon as possible, President Xi Jingping was quoted by Chinese state media as saying on Thursday, adding Beijing was willing to work with Arab governments for a lasting solution to the conflict.
Xi also said a ceasefire was "imperative" as soon as possible to prevent the conflict from expanding, or spiralling out of control, the state media said.
Xi was speaking after meeting Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, who was the only senior delegate from the Middle East to attend China's infrastructure Belt and Road Forum this week.
In the often-mentioned US-China rivalry, Beijing is in a stronger position to influence Muslim public opinion if it pursues its policy on Palestine in the same spirit as expressed in Foreign Minister Wang Yi's words.
The Palestinian statehood issue is not a Hamas-versus-Israel fight. Many resistance organisations are focused on securing Palestinian rights. They may operate differently, but a sovereign state is their common goal.
Though making it clear that it opposes all acts that harm civilians, China recognises the broader goal of groups such as these.
"The root of this problem lies in the long delay in the realisation of Palestine's aspiration to establish an independent state, and in the fact that the historical injustice suffered by the Palestinian people has not been corrected," Wang said in remarks to the media after a meeting with European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Beijing on 13 October.
In stark contrast, Borrel's position was that "Israel has the right to defend itself", essentially giving carte blanche to Israel to continue its war on Gaza with impunity.
"Israel has the right to statehood, and Palestine also has the right to statehood. The Israelis have received a guarantee of survival, but who will care about the survival of Palestinians?" Wang asked.
China has not sought the role of that guarantor, but Wang's lucid words will undoubtedly raise his country's profile.
Wang also emphasised that generations of Palestinians have been mistreated and called for this cycle to end.
This marks a starkly different position and approach among influential state actors, mostly in the West, who have rallied behind Israel during this current outbreak of war. The United States is Israel's most loyal backer, giving it billions of dollars of aid annually and state-of-the-art weaponry.
Wang has expressed China's position in conversations with Middle Eastern officials. In a phone call on 14 October with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan, Wang described Israeli actions in Gaza as having gone beyond the scope of self-defence.
More than China's strategic position on Palestine, it is also important to note that the Chinese people sympathise with Palestinian suffering and are not beholden to Israeli interests.
The root of this problem lies in the long delay in the realisation of Palestine's aspiration to establish an independent state, and in the fact that the historical injustice suffered by the Palestinian people has not been corrected.
Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi
Pro-Israel mood in Israel
In India, the public mood is highly pro-Israel amid the rise of Hindu nationalism. As a result, India's traditional policy on the conflict, expressing the right for Palestinians to establish their state, has eroded.
While public protests in support of Palestinians in Gaza have mushroomed worldwide, some Indian state authorities have attempted to curb expressions of support for Palestine.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi quickly reacted on the day Hamas carried out the operation inside Israel.
"Deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel. Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour," Modi said.
Three days later, Modi received a call from his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, during which he expressed similar sentiments.
At a media briefing on 12 October, when asked if India considered Hamas a "terrorist" organisation, foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi offered a dull answer, calling it a "legal" matter that the relevant authorities should address.
However, he explicitly labelled Hamas's operation inside Israel as a "terrorist attack".
There is fervent support for Israel among the Indian population. There has been widespread disinformation against the Palestinians on social media from journalists and prominent handles associated with the Hindu nationalist ecosystem.
India is currently in a bind as it struggles to balance its strategic interests in Israel, which include close military links, cooperation in space, agriculture and domestic security, with its vast business interests in the Arab region.
"India has always advocated for the resumption of direct negotiations towards establishing a sovereign, independent, and viable state of Palestine, living within secure and recognised borders side by side at peace with Israel. And I think that position remains the same," Bagchi said.
With soaring anti-Israel sentiment in the Arab region, the same position may not work anymore. Israel is seen as the aggressor, and Arabs — and many others worldwide — view its bombardment of Gaza as barbaric and genocidal.
On 13 October, Saudi Prince Faisal and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar had a phone conversation, but Jaishankar didn't have much to say about it.
The Indian minister, in a social media comment, said he "discussed the grave situation in the Middle East" while the Saudi foreign ministry issued a detailed statement on their talks.
India is aware that being vocal about the events in the Middle East may rile one side or the other.
In non-official circles, however, there is fervent support for Israel. There has been widespread disinformation against the Palestinians on social media from journalists and prominent handles associated with the Hindu nationalist ecosystem.
An increasing number of verified social media accounts in India are amplifying the statements of Israeli officials. Leading Indian television channels, owned by top business groups, not only regurgitate statements put out by the Israeli army, diplomats and government officials but also bring in commentators to fuel hatred against Palestinians.
Unfortunately, because of general ignorance of foreign issues in India and Islamophobia, Indians are easily influenced by these pundits. Additionally, Israel has invested over the years in building "hasbara" networks in Indian media, academia, Bollywood and think tanks for mass deception.