On May 19th, New York Times The Daily posted an interview with Rahf Hallaq, a 21-year-old Palestinian student studying English literature in Gaza.
She described the nine days of living through bombings in Gaza strip, under unrelenting attacks from Israel, indiscriminately killing 248 Palestinians, including 66 children and wounding around 1900.
As Hallaq and her family could hear the bombs destroy the densely populated strip, they came up with a system in the event of being struck themselves-- to run to the living room, the safest place in the house, and if they die, to die together.
“People in Gaza have this thing they always say, like, if we die we want to die together,” said Hallaq.
Her family, unfortunately, is not the only one ready to give up their lives together. Many like her have their own traumatic memories of how they have shared looks of farewell with their family members, as they flee their homes surrounded by the rubble of what used to be houses, shops, offices, and entire lives.
Earlier this month, various videos of Israelis harassing Palestinians and taking their homes began to circulate. An attempt to evict Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem’s neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah later turned into more violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque, where far-right Israelis marched through to mark the annexation of East Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan.
Growing anger from the sound bombs and tear gas at Al-Aqsa Mosque led to Hamas firing seven rockets causing damage to some houses west of Jerusalem.
A report from the Human Rights Watch labelled these transgressions, which started the overtly devastating 11-day bombardment of Gaza, as apartheid and persecution from the state of Israel.
Given the magnitude of terror young people like Hallaq live in, a more robust global response against this destructive war would be reasonable to anticipate.
Global, however, does not include everyone. Least of all, Hindutva supporters, who took to twitter to voice their support for Israel’s “right to defend itself.”
Social media: #SaveSheikhJarrah v. #IndiaStandWithIsrael
While the Israeli Foreign Ministry called this a “real-estate dispute,” an online campaign called #SaveSheikhJarrah started trending on Twitter.
Even though Instagram and Facebook came under fire for censoring pro-Palestine posts, protests in solidarity with Palestinian liberation broke out across the world after the campaign.
This was not the response from the Hindutva Twitterverse whatsoever.
In fact, the opposite hashtags like #IndiaWithIsrael, #IndiaSupportsIsrael and #IndiaStandWithIsrael began to trend on the social media platform.
Verified right-wing Twitter personas like Vijeta Uniyal, founder of Indians for Israel, quoted a tweet with a video of attacks on Zionist protesters (conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism), cautioning that the next attacks could be on Hindus.
When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted a number of flag emojis to thank countries for their support, without the Indian flag, Hindutva twitter flooded his mentions by asking for the addition of India.
Given India’s prior support for Palestine, why would Hindutva and BJP supporters voice their favour for Israel?
India’s current neo-colonial and neo-fascist policies in Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in India, and the BJP’s intrinsic hate for Muslims might be two possible answers.
India on Palestine
India has had a drastic shift in its policies towards the Palestinian liberation movement. It has gone from being staunchly pro-Palestine to a “balancing act” to what may now even be labelled as pro-Israel under the Hindu-nationalist BJP government.
India was the only non-Arab country to vote against the partition of Palestine (creating the Israeli state) in 1948 in the UN General Assembly. Following this, India supported Palestine’s right to self-determination and became the first non-Arab nation in 1975 that recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to be the only governing body for Palestinians.
India continued to recognize the state of Palestine when the PLO declared its capital in East Jerusalem in 1988. Even though Indo-Israeli relations began to warm after 1992 with an Indian Embassy opening in Tel Aviv, India’s support through a two-state solution remained on the side of Palestine. India voted against the Israeli separation wall in 2003, voted for Palestine to become a UNESCO member in 2011, and co-sponsored a resolution for Palestine to be a non-voting observer at the UN in 2012.
Under Prime Minister Modi, after 2014, diplomacy took a different route.
In 2015 and 2016, India may not have abandoned the PLO’s two-state solution, but under Modi the nation abstained from supporting an investigation into Israel’s war crimes in the 2014 Gaza crisis at the UN Human Rights Council.
Modi was the first Indian PM to visit both Israeli and Palestinian territories in 2017.
Today, India’s de-hyphenated policy, independent of the country’s relationship with both Israel and Palestine, is certainly a cause for Hindu nationalist agitation.
As Hindutva supporters tweet at Netanyahu craving acknowledgement, Israel does not consider India as a friend in present-day conflict—much to their disappointment.
India’s Islamophobia & Fascism in Kashmir
The repeal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in August 2019 was a significant move in PM Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda, advancing his neo-colonial policies in the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).
Until then, J&K, the only Muslim-majority state in India, had quasi-autonomous status under law, given the territorial dispute between India, Pakistan, and the desire for Kashmiri self-determination.
Politicians were placed under house arrest, resource extraction began by the sale of land opening up, a complete communications black-out was mandated for months in what would become the most militarized zones in the world.
While the struggles of Kashmiris and Palestinians simply cannot be equated, the neo-colonial tactics of India, including segregation, militaristic occupation, rape as a political tool of subjugation, and settler-colonial land grabs, could be compared to those of Israel.
Kashmiris and Palestinians both know too well what life under occupation is, with little options left to regain their sovereignty.
As Kashmir was occupied by India, BJP supporters cheered on.
As the bombs struck Gaza, Kashmiris came out in solidarity with Palestine through art or social media. Their arrests were instant, bolstered by the militaristic occupation in the region.
Given that the BJP has never hidden its Islamaphobic ideology this should explain Hindutva supporters’ undying support for Israel and the annexation of Gaza.
After all, a “visceral hatred for Muslims” is far from an open secret in Modi’s India as politicians and prominent Twitter accounts cheered and mocked the relentless and inhumane bombardment of Gaza.
The Irony of “Hindutvadis”
When Trudeau decided to voice his support for peaceful protests as millions of Indian farmers marched towards Delhi against the anti-farmer laws, India’s Ministry of External Affairs slammed the Canadian government for getting involved.
As the BJP and their supporters agreed that an internal, democratic matter did not need outside intervention that fueled “extremist activities,” they continued their crusade to shut down support for the Indian farmers who were being harmed.
By this logic, the relations between Palestine and Israel should be of no concern to the Indian citizenry, and Hindutva supporters should let Israel continue the aggressions without commenting on their methods of governance and diplomacy.
But, consistent with the inconsistencies of Hindutva ideology, #IndiaWithIsrael is a clear indication of why one right-wing, Islamaphobic, settler-colonial ideologue would be inclined to follow another.
Karan Saxena (he/they) is a journalist and writer from Mumbai, India. He is currently in Vancouver pursuing his Master of Journalism at UBC. He graduated from the University of Manitoba with a BA (Adv.) in Political Studies and a BA in Women's & Gender Studies. Karan loves researching and writing on queer culture, climate change, immigration, power structures, fascism and violence. He could talk for hours about fashion, French pop music, the ongoing exploitation of the global south, wealth inequality, and the versatility of tote bags!
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