Discover more from Militarists and Vegetarians: A newsletter by Azad Essa
Israeli diplomat: 'Indians look up at Israel as a trademark of quality'
Hostile Homelands to launch in DC.
This week we start with a series of quotes from Hodaya Avzada, a former Israeli diplomat in India and now the first secretary in Israel’s London embassy:
”Being an Israeli in India is amazing. Being an Israeli diplomat in India is outstanding. They look at Israel as a trademark of quality, and look up to us in so many ways.”
Her comments during a charity event in the UK are just the latest in a string of comments by Israeli diplomats pushing hard for closer to India-Israel ties.
Here are more quotes:
“Hinduism is a religion, and people practise it, but people feel they have to protect Hinduism, not just in India but in countries in say, south-east Asia, where they are in small numbers — Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, some in Pakistan. “There is a feeling that they have to protect their Hindu identity. They feel like they have to protect Hinduism, which in a lot of ways is national feeling rather than just being a religion.”
Avzada, the former political advisor to the Israeli ambassador in Delhi, also said that “Indian Hindus feel like Jews”, meaning that Hindus also feel as if they culture, religion, history, civilization, are all under attack.
Why do these comments matter?
They matter because they part of a concerted effort to help build narrative and consensus for both India’s project at home as well as burgeoning India-Israel ties.
They are meant to reinforce each other’s policies.
And in the UK, where there have been several incidents and concerns about the rise of Hindu nationalism, her comments show the extent to which India has now become a natural part of Israeli foreign policy.
In other news
Narendra Modi congratulated Israel for celebrating 75 years since the establishment of Israel. “Heartiest congratulations to my friend [PM Benjamin] Netanyahu and the people of Israel on the 75th anniversary of independence. Mazel Tov!” Modi wrote on Twitter. The message is particularly fascinating, because India only recognized Israel two years after it was established.
Earlier in April, several agreements between U.S-UAE Business Council, UAE-India Business Council and UAE-Israel Business Council were signed as part of expanding the new economic partnership between India, Israel, UAE and United States (known as the West Asia bloc).
Eli Cohen, Israel's foreign minister, is set to visit India for a two day visit in mid-May. According to preliminary reports, his visit will focus on strengthening trade tries, among other areas.
Israeli’s senior diplomat in Delhi says that Netanyahu will visit India towards the end of 2023.
It’s been just over two months since my new book Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India and Israel (Pluto Press) was released. More on reviews and interviews later, but since the launch, I have been lucky enough to have participated in several discussions and other book events in the US.
These include events at UPenn, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Justice for All Canada (online), Brown University, the University of Hawaii (online), Harvard University, Columbia University, The People’s Forum in NYC and The Jerusalem Fund in DC.
Later this week, I have a book event at Creative Grounds in Washington DC.
The event, hosted by Bol Bookstore and co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace (DC) and Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) takes place on May 5, at 17h00. You can sign up for the event here.
Then on May 8, I have a book discussion at BusBoys and Poets at the U-Street store. I will be in conversation with journalists Laila Al-Arian and Sana Saeed. This event begins at 18h00.
More details on this event and how to get tickets here. Do come by if you are in the area.
In other news, the book tour will move to England in May and The Netherlands and Germany in June. More on this in days to come.
Also - if you interested in purchasing reading Hostile Homelands, Pluto Press is holding a May Day sale. All e-books are 80% off.
What I am reading:
Safa Ahmed writes about the disturbing and nonsensical remarks made by Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at an event in DC recently. When asked for her comments on reports of growing persecution of Muslims in India, Sitharaman said the fact that the Indian Muslim population was growing was proof that they were not being persecuted. As Ahmed expert explains, Sitharam not only lied about the Muslim experience, but she repeats another lie (extensive Muslim population growth) in doing so.
In this article, academic Alf Gunfald Nielson explains how deeply embedded Hindutva is in the country and why the phenomenon may be different from other countries also seeing a rise in right wing populism.
“The Modi regime is therefore more than an electoral mandate. It is the manifestation of a sociopolitical movement that has worked patiently and persistently over a century-long period to change Indian society. As a result, it is far more embedded in India’s social and political fabric than other authoritarian populists are in their respective countries, whether in the global South or the global North,” Nielson writes.
The Scholar Activist Collective published an op-ed with The Religion News Service, in which it welcomed the proposed legislation banning caste-based discrimination in California.
“Caste discrimination remains one of the least visible yet most pernicious forms of anti-Asian hate in the United States, and we — scholars of South Asia, teaching in U.S. universities and public educators about religion, and all members of the South Asia Scholar Activist Collective — are confident that this law will help create a more just and equitable world,” the authors write.
In my latest article for Middle East Eye, I wrote (with colleague Umar Farooq) about what’s it like to work for Representative Ilhan Omar.
The US lawmaker has faced a barrage of attacks, including several death threats, since she joined Congress in 2019.
While many of these attacks have been documented, not much has been written about her staff who are on the frontlines: answering the phone, listening to hateful messages, picking up the mail. So again, what’s it like to work for Ilhan Omar? You can check out our long read here.
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