WITH Narendra Modi’s “groundbreaking visit” to Israel, India seems to have traversed the distance of 70 years and a long history of standing by the Palestinians in the blink of an eye. As a beaming and effusive Netanyahu put it, after hugging the guest for the nth time, Israel has been waiting for this moment for 70 years. And who better to accomplish it than the man who has made a tradition of breaking with all traditions?
With his eventful past, it’s but natural that Modi should enjoy the distinction of becoming the first Indian leader to visit Israel, abandoning India’s historical solidarity with Palestinians.
As early as Nov. 26, 1938, when Western powers were laying the groundwork for Israel, Gandhi wrote in his journal Harijan: “My sympathies are all with the Jews. I came to learn much of their age long persecution. But my sympathy doesn’t blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me.”
“Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood? Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It’s wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What’s going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct.”
Although Israel soon became a reality, India continued this unequivocal support for the Palestinians under Nehru and even under his daughter Indira Gandhi. It is because of this vocal support that Yasser Arafat used to visit India frequently, rather than fellow Muslims next door in Pakistan. Nehru even travelled to Gaza in 1960, as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinians and to visit Indian-UN troops based there.
All that is history now. Under Modi, India couldn’t be a more different country. Today, the secular and democratic nation of Gandhi’s dreams has never been closer to the Zionist, apartheid Israel.
India has given elaborate burial to the Palestinian cause. Since India established full diplomatic relations with Israel under Narasimha Rao in 1992, Delhi tried to strike a balance between romancing Tel Aviv and keeping Arabs in good humor with perfunctory visits to the Palestinian side. Modi broke away with that tradition, by skipping Ramallah, in a message to his hardline constituency back home.
Having visited some Arab nations in the past couple of years, he isn’t too worried about upsetting the Islamic world.
Besides, Israel is too important right now to fuss over such niceties. Of course, there is an economic and strategic side to this relationship. Increasingly impelled by its world power ambitions, India has been on an unprecedented shopping spree for the world’s finest and fiercest weapons. Indeed, the inheritor of Gandhi’s philosophy of ahimsa (non-violence) is the world’s largest importer of arms right now although nearly half of its population struggles below poverty line and yearns for the basics like water, health care, education and electricity.
Israel has been the largest supplier of arms to India — many of them US-made and provided for with the help of the US taxpayer’s money — after the US and Russia. Of course, Washington looks the other way when it suits it. Thanks to those exports to India, Israel has been earning billions of dollars annually, in addition to the massive military and economic aid that it receives from the US. Israel offered arms as well as strategic expertise during India’s wars with Pakistan.
For years, the Israelis have been training Indian forces and intelligence agencies in fighting “Islamic militancy,” given their vast experience of “dealing” with the Palestinians. Over the years, visits by top Indian security and intelligence officials as well as their political masters to Israel have been frequent. Thus Israel has had a role in the mass arrests and incarceration of innocent Indian Muslims for years in trumped up terror cases.
It is not just the elites of security establishment who have been besotted with the Zionist regime that has terrorized the larger Arab and Muslim neighborhood with its US-funded arsenal and deadly firepower.
What is ironic about this growing bonhomie between Israel and India is the fact that the RSS, the parent organization of the governing BJP, and its Hindutva was inspired by the Nazis and Fascists. The extermination of Jews at the hands of Hitler has long been idealized by the Sangh as the “final solution” to deal with India’s own minorities.
This hasn’t however in any way dampened the passion of Hindutva-Zionist love affair. Indeed, Hindutva ideologues have long admired Israel, hoping to replicate its apartheid model of one religion, one culture supremacy. As Anilesh S. Mahajan argues, Israel is everything that the RSS has long wanted India to be and Modi is making it happen.
This is why this government has been in bed with Israel, the last symbol and vestige of colonialism and religious apartheid, ignoring the close relations that India has historically enjoyed with the Arab world. The region is home to around 10 million Indian workers who contribute more than $35 billion dollars annually in foreign remittances to the economy. Besides, it’s not Israel but the UAE and Saudi Arabia that are India’s largest trading partners (second and third respectively), after the US. Yet successive governments have increasingly hobnobbed with Israel, ignoring its crimes against humanity and long history of persecuting the Palestinians.
There are many parallels between Hindutva and Zionism. If the Israelis have found and invented ever new ways of humiliating and dehumanizing Palestinians in their own land over the past seven decades and more, Hindutva has been looking to reclaim the imagined “Akhand Bharat” by cleansing it of the people it has always considered “impure” and “invaders”.
If the Israelis have been shooting down Palestinians like flies under some pretext or the other, Hindutva zealots have been on the rampage since Modi came to power, lynching Muslims in the name of cow and other such excuses.
It’s an unholy nexus, between two ideologies of hate. Along with US neocons, it forms a powerful axis, united in its visceral hatred of Islam and its followers. With power in its hands, it’s totally out of control. Look at the chaos and turmoil it has unleashed in India.
This is an alarming state of affairs, to say the least. It’s even more so considering those at the receiving end seem so oblivious to the gathering storm. The Islamic world, preoccupied with its own conflicts and economic issues, is indifferent to the clear and present danger. The opposition in India is in total disarray and appears incapable of taking on the Hindutva specter.
But doing nothing is no option. We must all resist in our own small ways, and continue to work for a global alliance of peace and justice against the forces of darkness. The price of inaction is peril.
[Aijaz Zaka Syed is an award winning journalist. Aijaz.Syed@hotmail.com. The article first published by Saudi Gazette.]