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How Nadav Lapid's comments on 'The Kashmir Files' disturbed the Hindutva-Zionist project
Announcing ‘Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India and Israel’
Last week, Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid made a few disaparaging remarks about the Indian film, ‘The Kashmir Files’. He called it ‘vulgar’ and ‘propaganda’. Lapid was speaking in his capacity as the head of a jury at the 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI), in Goa.
His comments set off the Hindu right-wing, but also ticked off the Israeli envoy in India, who wrote an open letter in the form of a long thread on twitter, calling on Lapid to apologize.
Lapid did not apologize. He did say his comment was not political; it was just a comment on the artistic value of the film, or lack thereof, for it to have been included at a festival purportedly meant to support the arts.
For those who haven’t heard of ‘The Kashmir Files’: the film made by Vivek Agnihorti, and starring Anupam Kher, tells the story of the departure of Kashmiri Hindus from Indian-occupied Kashmir during the height of the armed insurgency in the 90s. Yes, more than 100,000 Kashmiri Hindus did leave the valley amid an anti-India uprising, and several hundred were killed. Since the early 1990s, more than 70,000 Kashmiri Muslims have been killed and around 7,000 others disappeared.
But the film says a genocide of Kashmiri Hindus took place, and that Kashmiri Muslims drove them out.
Even a cursory glance of Kashmiri history - prior to the 1990s and into the 2000s - shows that this is a fiction created to demonize the Kashmiri movement for self-determination.
Naturally, once the film was made, it became a central plank in Narendra Modi’s government’s aim to “unite” Kashmir with India and make it Hindu once more. Kashmiri Muslims were said to be outsiders or violent agents of conversion.
So when Lapid described it as "vulgar’ and as ‘propaganda’, he wasn’t joking.
But the story doesn’t quite end here.
For those pushing India-Israel ties, it was a blot on the story of burgeoning ties between the two countries. So much effort has been made to create a single narrative that India and Israel are on the same page when it comes to cultural and civilizational pursuits as designed by Narendra Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Lapid’s comments disturbed the Hindutva-Zionist bubble.
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Until now, most of the successful interactions that have taken place between India and Israel have either been through business, technology, or the weapons industry that both looked to elevate India-Israel ties.
These are projects underlined by unapologetic Zionism and Hindutva, and shaped and amplified by crass, violent, and vulgar state propaganda. Therefore, this has been easy to manage.
Lapid is clearly not part of these developments. He is of the liberal Zionist class who knows that Israel was birthed out of ethnic cleansing and wants the world to know he suffers from the knowledge.
Writing about his latest film, Ahed’s Knee, Kaleem Hawa writes: “[But] Lapid’s art also betrays a tortured affinity for Zionism, complicating his christening as an Israeli punk and perhaps explaining why he has thus far been unwilling to cross the one line that would render him an enemy of his state.”
“Ahed’s Knee forms part of a lineage of Israeli films whose focus on the Palestinian goes no further than the moral degradation of the Israeli,” Hawa continues.
In other words, I suspect that it wasn’t the story in The Kashmir Files that offended Lapid; it was that it lacked any tension, any sophistication. The Kashmir Files is simply crass and Lapid surely couldn’t let that pass as art.
Unable to handle any criticism, the Indian right-wing latched on to anti-Semitism to strike back at Lapid and Israel. It demonstrated how fickle ties can be when they are based on the myth of superiority and hate (of Muslims).
Meanwhile, Indian liberals lauded Lapid for his ‘heroics’, for saying what they have tried to say or cannot utter. They did so without engaging with Lapid’s identity as a Zionist and an Israeli. They did so without asking why the IFFI invited former counter-terror operatives and now filmmakers as special guests to the festival. Lapid, too, spent almost three years in the army. But IFFI invited the creators of Fauda, which is propaganda, albeit a tad more polished than The Kashmir Files.
It is unsurprising that Lapid is precisely the type of Israeli that liberal Indians were hoping to befriend when India normalized diplomatic ties in 1992. A sophisticated liberal Zionist and soft Congress-led Hindutva could have worked together and pretended that both countries are secular democracies.
Alas, ‘they’ are now stuck with the ‘crazies’.
And Palestinians? Indian Muslims? Dalits? Kashmiris? They don’t exist.
P.S I have reached out to Lapid’s agent twice for an interview, but haven’t received a reply.
Some personal/professional news:
My new book Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India and Israel will be published in February 2023 with Pluto Press.
The book examine the ties the two countries historically, the military-industrial complex, the relationship between Zionism and Hindutva, the partnership between the Israeli lobby and Hindu nationalists in the US and finally the similarities between the occupations of Palestine and Kashmir. The foreword was written by Palestinian journalist Linah Alsaafin.
Here is an early look at the cover:
Pluto is offering subscribers to this newsletter a 20% discount for the book.
Use the promo code: ESSA20 when you purchase it from Pluto’s website.
Other work, stories, interviews:
Last week, I wrote about how Hindu nationalists in the US used a mobile billboard truck to flash anti-Muslim photos and videos outside several mosques and Islamic centers in New Jersey over the weekend of November 26.
In one incident, the truck parked outside a mosque and flashed images and video for around 45 minutes. Activists said the perpetrators seemed intent on linking the attack, said to be carried out by the Pakistan-based group Laskar-e-Taiba, on all Muslims which took place on November 26, 2008.
This comes just two months after a bulldozer - a symbol of demolishing Muslim homes in India - was used as a float during an India Day rally in Edison, NJ.
Earlier in November, I spoke with +972 Magazine about how Hindutva and Zionism use Islamophobia as a tactic to push colonial and expansionist ideas. Here is a snippet from the interview:
Why did the relationship become so fruitful under the premierships of Modi and Netanyahu, in particular?
Netanyahu and Modi met for the first time in 2014 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, a few months after Modi became prime minister. Relations between the two countries had already been developing steadily; they had been buying around $1 billion worth of arms per year under India’s previous government. But the difference was that Modi was willing to go public with his relationship with Netanyahu and Israel — despite the negative attention Israel had received a few months earlier as a result of “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza.
Israel had been waiting for this moment for a long time, and with Modi it finally came. Modi wanted to project himself as a strongman who connected India with a strong and influential country that had “disciplined the Muslims” and was able to defend itself. It was seen as self-reliant, and leading the way when it came to military technology. Modi was elected on a mandate of Hindu nationalism, and Israel’s strong image matched his message.
You can read the full interview here
The Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter in the UK will be hosting a conference on “Transnational Solidarity Among (Settler) Colonised People: Palestine and Beyond” in April 2023. They have put out a call for papers. Due: 5 Jan. Details below:
Until next time,