India-Israel partnership finds an ideological link

Published : August 29, 2019 16:12 IST

Prof. Gadi Taub, Hebrew university of Jerusalem, and Dr Subramanian Swamy at the talk on Zionism and Hindutva in Mumbai on August 26. Photo: Vivek Bendre

On August 26, 2019, a little-known organisation called the Indo-Israeli Friendship Association hosted a talk on Zionism and Hindutva at the University of Mumbai. The keynote speakers were Dr Subramanian Swamy, a Rajya Sabha member, and Gadi Taub, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Posters promoting the event had the Zionist proponent Theodor Herzl alongside the Hindutva ideologist V.D. Sarvarkar.

The speakers and the topic were a big draw going by the university’s massive convocation hall that was filled to capacity. Security was tight as the Israeli Consul General and an MP were present. The doors of the hall were bolted from inside and surveillance by formidable looking security agents was constant.

Talks such as these seem to suggest that the India-Israeli connect is far deeper than buying arms and getting advice on tackling terror. Two hours into the programme, it almost seemed like Israel had been co-opted by the present regime to spread its agenda. To begin with, the university hall is not available for public events so easily, yet the fact that a small organisation could manage to book it, get security and ensure a packed audience speaks for itself. Even organisations with deep pockets find it hard to get the hall, said a university source.

The discussion, which was moderated by Vaibhav Purandare, a journalist and the author of Savarkar: The True Story of the Father of Hindutva, ranged from finding similarities between the two ideologies, which the speakers claimed were not supremacist or extremist, to justifying the “ghar wapsi” movement. For two hours, Taub and Subramanian Swamy spoke on democracy and nationalism. Taub backed up his talk with some historical data, whereas Subramanian Swamy made some references to the epics and how they played a role in forming the Indian Constitution. Both attacked the Left, the socialists and the liberals, the “current villains”, as someone in the audience called them.

Beginning the discussion, Subramanian Swamy said India has had a close connection with the Jewish people as the country welcomed them when they sought refuge hundreds of years ago. Speaking on Hindutva, he said: “It is a belief system, we use it in our day-to-day activities and like Zionism, it does not believe in active conversion.” Justifying the “ghar wapsi” movement, Subramanian Swamy said that whatever other religions existed in the country came out of forced conversions. He claimed many people had approached the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to find a way of making them Hindu again.

Taub began his discussion on Zionism relatively calmly but eventually worked up the audience into believing that modern nationalism was the better way for a nation state to exist. He said: “Democracy and nationalism are not against [each] other. They are two sides of the same coin. Modern nationalism is the answer today and it is a vote for the common good.”

In the same vein, the professor said if nationalism was allowed there would be a benign form of society. If it was prevented, there would be a violent form of society. He said that he was glad to see an increasing level of nationalism in India and that it was a pity that liberalism was attacking democracy.

The Indian Cultural Forum, consisting of members of the cultural and academic communities, issued a statement against the meeting. In a release to the media, it said: “What does this imply for India and Indians? These ties are a realisation of the Brand Israel project, the apartheid state’s full-fledged strategy to whitewash its occupation, apartheid and settler colonialism against Palestinian people with ‘growing partnerships’ around the world. This finds an eager partner in the Modi regime, which is buying the largest share of Israel’s weapons exports, allocating budget to its unsustainable and corporate farming model and even bringing in the Hindi film industry to cover up for Israel’s crimes.

“The weapons that Israel 'field-tests' on Palestinian bodies are today being deployed in Kashmir. The abrogation of Article 370 and 35(A), and the consequent threat of demographic changes, is also out of the Israeli manual of creating 'facts on ground' through illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. The fantasy of Israelizing India is a prized one for this regime and its supporters.”

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