A single lie may not damage a society, but an unending stream of thousands has a cumulative effect, and history has shown us how dangerous that can be.
The Israeli and Indian nations share a great deal in their modern histories. Both were forged in the crucible of British colonialism. In ruling both, colonial officials employed “divide and conquer”: setting tribes or religious groups against one another to maintain inter-group conflict, which prevented them from uniting against a common colonial enemy.
After World War II, Britain reeled from the enormous costs of war. Europe was devastated. Economies were battered. As a result, the Empire divested its colonies. This British withdrawal led to war and mass expulsion in Israel’s case (1948) and inter-religious slaughter in India’s (1947).
Millions of Hindus and Muslims were expelled from their homelands during Partition, and in many cases forced to relocate to a country they’d never known.
While in Israel, a million indigenous Palestinian residents were ethnically cleansed from 400 villages, most of which remain abandoned to this day. They fled to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, becoming permanent refugees in countries they’d never known.
To this day most have not been granted citizenship, nor successfully integrated.
Despite the inter-religious bloodshed preceding statehood, secular socialist governments took power in India (Congress) and Israel (Labor). India’s foreign policy championed the non-aligned movement, which was, in turn, sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. It made alliances with the Soviet Union, which provided much of its military hardware. The Russians also were the chief superpower ally of the Arab states and provided much of their weaponry.
Israel, on the other hand, looked to the west for its economic and military support. Above all the US, and to a lesser degree Europe, became its guarantor and protector. Much of this alignment was dictated by the Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and this country.
The Labor Party elite which governed uninterruptedly from 1948 to 1977, was overwhelmingly composed of Ashkenazi Jews originally from Eastern Europe. Arab Jews (Mizrahim) were viewed as uncivilised compared to their European brethren, though were one small step higher on the social scale than Israeli Palestinians.
…to religious nationalism
In 1977, the winds of change swept the secular, socialist Labor Party from its three-decade domination of political life. The right-wing Likud, largely on the strength of Mizrahi resentment at decades of racism and abuse by Labor, came to power for the first time since the state’s founding.
In India, the Congress Party never faced serious opposition until the 1980s. Then, a new Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), arose from an anti-Muslim paramilitary movement, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It maintained a mystical belief in the racial supremacy of the Hindu nation that was modeled on German and Italian fascism.
The BJP was founded in 1980. One of its most promising regional leaders was Narendra Modi, the provincial governor of Gujarat. In 2002, after local Muslims set fire to a train filled with Hindu travelers, Gujarat’s Hindus took revenge. They rampaged for days through Muslim neighborhoods, nearly 1,000 died in the carnage. Modi was barely heard from or seen – until the worst was over. He refused to denounce the slaughter and denied any responsibility for it. Modi was also denied a visa to the US in 2005 and had his business/tourist visa revoked for severe violations of religious freedom – the only man to date who has been subject to that particular violation.
In any case, Modi rode this wave of anti-Muslim fervor to national prominence. In 2014, he toppled the Congress government, which had ruled the country almost uninterrupted for over six decades. Once in power, he repeated the Gujarat strategy. Through avoiding outright Islamophobic provocations and speaking of an India that was home to Muslims and Hindus alike, his policies and laws passed proved otherwise.
Occupation and annexation
In 2019, Modi rescinded the semi-autonomous status of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir and declared martial law. Indian forces invaded, arresting tens of thousands of political dissidents who support independence from India. Thus, commencing a reign of terror which continues to this day.
The next step could be full annexation into India proper. This would provoke furious resistance from Pakistan, which has its own claim to the territory and sees itself as a defender of its Muslim inhabitants.
Similarly, in Israel, right-wing parties have ruled almost without interruption from 1977. They employed creeping Palestinian land and resource appropriation leading to de facto annexation of the West Bank. In this apartheid system, Jewish settlers are full citizens and Palestinians, persona non grata.
Israel and India increasingly view themselves facing a common Muslim enemy. For Israel, the enemy is ‘Islamist’ groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and countries like Iran. In India, it is the Pakistani ‘jihadi’ threat and the rising Kashmiri protest movement. Both Israel and India have substantial Muslim minority communities which the religious majorities (Jews and Hindus) view as a threat to their dominance.
These commonalities have thrown these two countries into each other’s arms. Modi and Netanyahu have become brothers of sorts. In the past year, they exchanged visits to each other’s countries, marking the first visit of an Indian premier to Israel and the first visit of the Israeli PM to India. It was a bromance founded on Islamophobia.
The relationship also led to increasingly close military and intelligence ties. Israel, which has a thriving arms export industry, has been the leading provider for India’s military needs. Up to half of Israel’s overall arms sales go to India.
A tale of two lobbies
Both Israel and India maintain powerful US lobbies to advance their respective interests. Given the religious extremism of the ruling parties in each nation, the domestic lobbies reflect the same Islamophobia. Scores of domestic pro-Israel organisations offer tens of millions in support of Israel’s settler colonies. Others offer political cover for Islamophobia, including the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, StandWithUs, Middle East Forum and others.
Even more consequential is funding provided to these groups by pro-Israel billionaire Islamophobes like Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.
American Hindus have torn a page from the American Jewish community, building a network of thinktanks, foundations, and lobbying groups which promote Hindutva values. Among them are the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), the Dharma Civilization Foundation (DCF), and Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (RSS).
The HAF “educates the public about Hindus and Hinduism and advocates…policies…that ensure the well-being of all people…”
But for the advocacy group, promotion of Hinduism goes hand-in-hand with the fight against Islam and Muslims.
In fact, it announced a $75-million lawsuit against four Indian-American organisations who had asked the US Small Business Administration to investigate HAF’s receipt of $400,000 in Covid-19 relief funds. The press release from the Coalition to Stop Genocide in India said:
“US taxpayers’ money being used to keep hate groups in business is absolutely unacceptable and should concern all who believe in fairness, justice and government accountability.
…“There are families across America still reeling from the human and economic toll of COVID-19, while groups that seem to be essentially serving as front organizations for a violent and supremacist ideology are raking in the windfall from federal COVID funding.”
The coalition’s statement was based on an earlier Al Jazeera article, which reported an $800,000 award of Covid-19 funds to HAF and several other Hindutva organisations. The former then sent a demand letter to Al Jazeera and the article’s author, demanding that it retract the article and issue an apology. After a legal review, Al Jazeera stood by the article and refused to retract it. The result is the lawsuit against the leaders of the genocide coalition.
Naik, who is not named as a defendant, but whose article is prominently featured in HAF’s legal filing, tweeted: “It’s a SLAPP [Strategic Limitation Against Public Participation] lawsuit & filed only to intimidate & silence me and other activists. It’s an assault on free press.”
A match made in heaven
Individual groups within the Israel and Indian lobbies have developed close ties. A case in point is HAF and the Middle East Forum. MEF’s founder, Daniel Pipes, is a former academic who became a leading pro-Israel advocate. Pipes’ attacks are riddled with outright hate and falsehoods.
For example, he advocated to “Raze the PA’s illegal offices in Jerusalem, its security infrastructure, and villages from which attacks are launched.”
MEF is a key member of the American Jewish Islamophobia movement, which also reaches out to Islamophobic groups worldwide, including the English Defense League’s, Tommy Robinson whose anti-Muslim street protests it funded. Geert Wilders, leader of the second-largest party in the Dutch parliament, has also been feted and funded by MEF.
Justifying Kashmir’s annexation
HAF hosted MEF staffers Clifford Smith and Sam Westrop on their June 2020 That’s So Hindu podcast. The latter was ordered by a UK court to pay £140,000 for wrongful allegations of terrorism against a Tunisian.
Westrop published an article in India’s, The Print, attacking Muslim charities which are, according to him, jihadi groups raising millions to support a shadowy army of terror conspirators whose ultimate goal is the overthrow of India’s government.
Pipes and other ‘counter-jihadis’ favour the same rhetoric. Some have urged that American Muslims be interned in camps, under the suspicion they seek the overthrow of America’s Judeo-Christian way of life.
MEF’s Smith published another article in India’s The Print, claiming the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement has expanded its ambitions to overthrow democratic India, as well as Israel.
In another First Post article, Smith declares that even US Congress members like Rashida Tlaib are sworn advocates of Muslim domination merely because they protest India’s policies in Kashmir.
In a separate First Post piece, Smith expands his theory of Islamist triumphalism, claiming that toppling Jewish rule in Israel and Hindu rule in India isn’t merely an attempt to impose Islam on these countries, but an act of historical redemption of former Muslim rule: a reverse Crusades.
In this view, the enemy of Hindu India and Jewish Israel is jihadis seeking a restoration of Islam’s supposed rightful claims to these lands.
What’s common to both movements is an over-arching Hindu-Zionist historical myth, suggesting that western-style democracies are opposed by dark forces of religious oppression. In this view, Israel’s and India’s ‘Islamist’ enemies seek to impose an oppressive theocracy on their otherwise peace-loving, democratic societies.
The rise of Hindutva and Judeo-supremacy is transforming both countries from democracies into ethnocracies, privileging a religious majority (Hindus, Jews) over the minority (Palestinians, Indian Muslims.
As we’ve seen over the past four years of a Trump presidency, a single lie may not damage a society, but an unending stream of thousands has a cumulative effect. It damages confidence and trust in institutions. It also suppresses society’s collective immune system, which is designed to repel such hate.
The world may not, by itself, embrace the concept of a Hindu-supremacist state. But if it repeatedly beats people over the head with cries of terrorism, genital mutilation, and misogyny, even the most resistant individual begins to question their prior beliefs. From there, it is only a few steps to an India shorn of its traditional secular democratic values, and replaced with a stifling, intolerant Hindu theocracy.
In 2016, the Vivekananda International Foundation VIF brought Pipes to India to brief leading Hindutva intellectuals, journalists, ministers, and army officers. He warned of the dangers of global jihad, specifically in the Middle East, adding that this regional threat would expand to India.
We have seen this sort of sweeping hatred before: in Nazi Germany it targeted Jews, Gypsies, Communists, homosexuals and the disabled. In Rwanda, it targeted the Tutsi. In Bosnia it targeted the Muslims massacred at Srebrenica. In Israel, it targets the Palestinians.
The goal is nothing less than the subjugation of a world religion with 1.8 billion adherents. Such dangerous delusions will inexorably lead to massacres not just between individual religious communities as in Gujarat, but between major religious groups on a national scale. It could also lead to war between nations themselves.
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Disclaimer: Israel, India and the Islamophobic Alliance RICHARD SILVERSTEIN - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view