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For Hindu Right, support for Israel and disdain for Palestine is extension of hatred for Muslims

Yati Narsinghanand, the hate-mongering priest of a temple in Dasna in Uttar Pradesh has issued a video message sayinghe and his disciples would like to settle down in Israeland fight the enemy as they have the same enemy as India. For those who do not know,he has served jail timefor making speeches that call for the genocide of Indian Muslims.

In Uttar Pradesh, four students were booked for taking out a marchin support of Palestine in the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU); besides instructions have gone out that social media posts would be monitored and on October 14,a cleric was arrested for “promoting enmity”by allegedly supporting Palestine in posts.

We can, therefore, conclude that in the popular imagination of followers of the Hindu Right, supporting Israel and showing scant sympathy for Palestinians, is an extension of their deep hatred for Muslims. Thebrutality of Hamas’ attackon Israel also makes it easier to say Hamas equals Muslims equals terrorists.

But there are some very dark — almost perverse — ironies here. For some of the ideological fountainheads of the Hindu Right, such as V D Savarkar, accordingto historical accounts,admired Nazism(that eventually killed millions of Jews in concentration camps — after which Israel was created).

In 1939, at the 21st session of the Hindu Mahasabha, Savarkar is reported to have said “Indian Muslims are on the whole more inclined to identify themselves with Muslims outside India than with Hindus next door, like Jews in Germany.”

It is also recorded that B S Moonje, president of the Mahasabha from 1927 to 1937, travelled to Italy to visit the Fascist Academy of Physical Education and even managed to personally meet Mussolini (page 20, Vajpayee: the ascent of the Hindu Right by Abhishek Choudhary, Pan Macmillan).

There is a 2017 article in the Israeli paper Haaretz titled:Hitler’s Hindus: The Rise and Rise of India’s Nazi-loving Nationalists. The author notes that “admiration for Nazism –often reframed with a genocidal hatred for Muslims — is rampant in the Hindu nationalist camp”. In the course of travels across India, the author discovers that Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler is a bestseller and the author is shocked to come across a pool parlour named ‘Hitler’s Den’.

The Right-wing responses apart, many Indians are no longer able to look at the tragedy of Palestine, from the perspective of a colonised people. Israel came into existence in 1948 through a United Nations resolution passed after World War II ended. It has been said the West was cleansing their guilt over what they did to the Jewish people (in places beyond Germany) by carving out a homeland away from Europe in what was the promised Holy Land.

Till the matter went to the UN, the British were administering the territories known as Palestine. The receding colonial power would leave partitions in two territories, the Indian subcontinent and in Palestine, as influential members of the British establishment and eventually the UN, also went for a two-state solution. Within a year, therefore, two states were created on the basis of religion: Pakistan which translates into ‘Land of the Pure’ as a homeland for Muslims, and Israel as a homeland for Jews, whose arrival in Palestine, immediately displaced thousands of Palestinians. Both these partitions have led to endless conflict ever since.

Pakistan as an idea would fail in 1971 with the liberation of Bangladesh. Israel has fought many wars, but can it come out of this without addressing the Palestinian question?

More so as the United States is not the only big power in the world today: Washington demanded condemnation of Hamas by the UN Security Council, but China and Russia did not oblige. Saudi Arabia which was negotiating ties with Israel under US pressurehas reportedly backed out. Israel, badly wounded and bleeding itself, maybomb Gaza to smithereens, but can they really expect to return to that maximalist position where it kept Palestinians caged and under surveillance (that spectacularly failed)?

Besides, for how long can the US and the West continue to support what now looks like genocide in Gaza — even if they justify it as a response to Hamas terror? In the US, meanwhile, wherewhite supremacists are notoriously anti-Semiticand also glorify Nazis and fascists, there has been a bizarre counter-reaction. Speaking up for Palestinian rights can currently invite the ‘anti-Semite’ label. Yet, some known public voices still do try.

Many narratives in the Indian media come from individual commentators being tethered to Western interests, even at a time when both within the US and Israel the State leadership is being seriously challenged, even as the global balance of power is changing.

(Saba Naqvi is a journalist and author.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

(Published 16 October 2023, 05:46 IST)

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