In the wake of the recent resurgence of Israeli atrocities in occupied Palestine, one is reminded of the situation closer home, in India, where according to experts violent and calculated genocide of Muslims could be underway. India, especially after the 2014 election of the BJP government to power and with the rise of hindutva ideology, has been gradually striving towards a Hindu Rashtra where there is no place for other marginalised communities, especially Muslims. In this project of hate, India finds a mentor and ally in Israel.
The Israeli occupation of Palestine has led to the violent dispossession of Palestinians and has facilitated ruthless attacks, destroying 531 Palestinian towns and villages during the Nakba of 1948, itself. During that time, Israeli forces carried out more than 70 massacres, killing 15,000 Palestinians.
Apart from the blatant and explicit armed attack on Palestinians, Israel has also been orchestrating a covert and sly project of cultural erasure by destroying Palestinian cultural symbols like the city of Yafo which was destroyed to build the Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv over it or appropriating parts of Palestinian culture like Palestinian culinary cultures without any dues to them.
The Hindu right in India has also been embroiled in a similar project of direct attacks on the Muslim minority in the country which includes lynching of Muslims, bulldozing their homes and destroying religious monuments like the Babri Masjid as well as subtler attempts to destroy what they deem to be “Islamic culture,” in India.
From renaming cities and banning hijab to the promotion of “pure” vegetarianism while decrying Mughlai culinary culture, India has been embroiled in a mission to wipe out all traces of the Indian-Muslim culture that was unique to our nation, which was once a melting pot of cultures.
Criticism of Zionism and Hindutva is deemed anti-Semitic and Hindu-phobic
For a state to further its political agenda, it must create and maintain a narrative of false victimhood to manufacture consent to justify the atrocities it orchestrates. Post-second world war, the state of Israel was formed on 14th May 1948, on Palestinian land, bordered by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, mainly, to house the Jews who survived Nazism. Jews all over were welcomed to Israel which was promoted as the Hebrew ‘Promised Land.’
All Jews across the world aged 18-26 are offered a free Birthright trip to Israel. In this attempt to create a Jewish state, Palestinian land was unlawfully snatched from the indigenous people who were turned out of their own homes and forced to seek refuge in dismal camps in the neighbouring countries of Jordan and Lebanon. Before the formation of Israel, Palestine was a multi-ethnic state with people from all religions co-existing harmoniously.
However, ever since the formation of Israel, Zionism which is the country’s national ideology that conflates the Jewish religion with Israeli nationality, has raised its ugly head to propagate hate towards Arabs and Muslims in Palestine. Any well-deserved criticism of Israel’s violence in Palestine is shut down by accusing the critics of being “anti-Semitic,” or discriminatory towards Jewish people and Judaism.
While anti-Semitism is a real problem in some contexts, especially about Nazi rhetoric, deeming any form of dissent as systemic hate based on religious identity, is a desperate attempt to play the victim to divert any criticism, however valid it might be.
In present-day India, the tactic of assuming false victimhood has taken much inspiration from Israel’s hissy fit on alleged anti-Semitism. India’s Hindutva right has deemed any criticism of the state’s genocidal tendencies to be “Hindu-phobic“. The phrase ‘Hindu khatre mei hai,’ (Hindus are in danger) has been touted left and right, propagating a false narrative of meek Hindus being oppressed by Muslims who terrorise them and impose Islamic culture onto them forcefully.
From propaganda films like The Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story which depict the imaginary “persecution,” of Hindus by Muslims, to the cancellation of Muslim and liberal comics like Munawar Faruqui and Kunal Kamra on grounds of alleged “Hinduphobia,” the Hindutva attempt at playing the victim is ridiculous yet scary at the same time. By weaponising this very narrative of “Hinduphobia,” Hindutva proponents have carried out mob lynchings, violence, cyber crimes and even murders.
The striking similarities between alleged anti-Semitism and Hinduphobia lay bare the tactics employed by right-wing genocidal governments to legitimise violence and atrocities against the oppressed.
The denial of human rights violations by Israel and India
On 17 October, an explosion took place in Gaza’s al-Ahli Arab Hospital. Although Israel denied the allegations which claimed that the IDF had bombed the hospital, killing 500 civilians, a series of deleted and edited tweets hint that the hospital bombing was indeed Israel’s doing and not a failed rocket launch by Palestinian radical liberationist group Hamas.
Israel has historically refused to acknowledge or accept allegations of continuous violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people, portraying itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” In a deleted post by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, he justified the apartheid and genocide of Palestinians in the following words:
“This is a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle. We saw this in the horrors that the reprehensible murderers perpetrated in Kibbutz Be’eri, in Kfar Aza, in the other communities of the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, and in the killing field of young people at a festival in Re’im.”
Similarly, despite warnings of human rights violations in India by third-party organisations like the BBC and the US Council of Foreign Relations as well as Indian journalists and activists like Rana Ayyub and Arundhati Roy, India strongly denies all allegations, with Modi maintaining that “All is going well,” perpetuating the myth of “achhe din,” or “good times.”
For India and Israel, the “other,” is not just the marginalised communities oppressed by them, but also the neighbouring nations which question their history of human rights violations. During the recent escalation of violence, Israel has bombed Lebanon and Syria, neighbouring Muslim-majority countries which support the Palestinian cause. Similarly, India has set up its nationhood in contrast to the Muslim “other.”
The construction of Indian as well as Israeli state identity, therefore, is carried out at the expense of their neighbouring states who are deemed lesser nations on account of their religious identities.
India and Israel’s violence against journalists and activists
In 2022, Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by the IDF. Israel initially denied the allegations and as usual, blamed it on Hamas. Similarly, Gauri Lankesh, a journalist vocal against Hindutva hate in India, was shot dead in her home in Bengaluru in 2017.
Just like Israel has been detaining Palestinian activists, India, too, has booked several activists and journalists under UAPA and sedition charges. To this day, Kashmiri journalists like Fahad Shah and activists like Natasha Narwal and Umar Khalid are jailed for speaking out against Hindutva hate.
This attempt by Israel and India to silence truth seekers and truth speakers figures into the larger hate politics of the two states which build their narratives on the backs of misinformation, fake news and disinformation.
What does India’s foreign policy say?
Despite the overwhelming solidarity shown towards the genocidal state of Israel by the Hindutva right in India, it is important to remember India’s original stance on Palestine. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as well as Mahatma Gandhi were strongly against the creation of the Israeli state, fearing the disenfranchisement of Palestinians.
India voted against the formation of Israel in the UN and was the first non-Arab country to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the legitimate representative of Palestine in the 1970s. The Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had always maintained a pro-Palestinian stance, inviting PLO leader Yasser Arafat to visit on several occasions.
However for decades India now, under US pressure, initiated diplomatic relations with Israel. During the India-Pakistan wars, Israel also supplied arms to India. After the election of PM Modi from the BJP to power in 2014, India’s support for Israel became more blatant. In 2017, Modi visited Israel as the first Indian Prime Minister to visit there. Israeli PM Netanyahu came to Delhi soon after and thus began India’s newfound alliance with Israel, built on a shared penchant for Islamophobia and genocidal hate.
During the recent escalation of the atrocities in Palestine, Hindutva proponents in India have vocally supported Israel on social media. Pro-Israeli YouTuber Hananya Naftali recognised and established the India-Israel alliance claiming, “Kashmir is India and India is Kashmir. Judea and Samaria is Israel and Israel is Judea and Samaria.” It is evident that Israel and present-day India share a common hatred for Muslims and hence, birds of a feather flock together.
In such times of hate, as conscious and aware Indians, it is of utmost importance to look back at history to understand our original foreign policy on Palestine as propounded by the founding members of this nation so that we, as a nation, are not on the wrong side of history.