Volume 5: Number 2, July 21 2002.
Zionism, Hindutva, and Mickey Mouse Imperialism
by Raja Harish Swamy
With events careening in an ominous direction two major regions in the world today are flashpoints for the reactionary impulses of imperialism. A right-wing administration in the United States packed with oil and defense industry interests is engaged in an unlimited world war allying itself with two virulently fascistic regimes: Zionist Israel and India under Hindutva rule. Geography reveals what the mythologies of righteous war attempt to conceal: West and Central Asia’s vast oil reserves cannot be tapped with ease and gluttony if the countries of these regions had accountable forms of governance. Allied to this fact are also the immense resources of South Asia, marked for looting: structural “adjustment” enables the loot and strangulation of the population creating conditions for the growth of resistance. This resistance has manifested in massive strikes throughout the subcontinent as well as mass peoples’ movements articulating a powerful critique of capitalist globalization and the policies of its agents, and also the growing political strength of the extremely exploited sections of the population, particularly Dalits throughout India. To subvert and destroy this trend, the United States has found a useful ally: the Hindutva movement.
The much desired oil pipeline from Central Asia to Pakistan can only be possible by installing obedient regimes in the region. This is possible through maintaining leaders under constant threat: Pakistan’s leadership needs an Indian threat, while India’s leaders need the Pakistani threat; the same imperialists who organized the training of thousands of Afghan refugees in Jihadi warfare two decades ago, turn the other way while Hindutva’s fascist program unfolds with the organized genocide in Gujarat. By mid-April 2002, as the anti Muslim pogrom continued in Gujarat, the US sold radar equipment worth $140 million to India. The UK, junior ally of the US, made new arms deals with India, while Israel, that other running dog of imperialism, sold missiles to India, after its chief sponsor and boss scolded Israel for trying to sell the same to China. The Hindutvadis are ecstatic, now that the Indian armed forces are being showered with weapons while the ruling party engages in wholesale slaughter of Muslims, seeing the work of the VHP as a part of the “global struggle against terrorism.” Simultaneously an accelerated assault on the resources and livelihoods of the vast majority of working people on behalf of the IMF bosses in Washington continues. Arms dealing in the face of genocide offers the clearest indication of how the US government sees Hindutva: as an acceptable tool to keep the natives in line, and ensure profits for the arms industry, which not coincidentally is the only sector reporting profits.
Hindutvadis in India and their counterparts in Pakistan, with full encouragement from their imperialist masters, use the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri people to serve their own agendas, primarily to stay in power by playing with the sentiments of ignorant, and endemically illiterate populations. To this end they are even willing to threaten nuclear annihilation in the name of nationalism; after all we the natives don’t know that a nuclear bomb is something other than a humongous grenade. Such criminal contempt for the lives of millions, which extends beyond the Hindutvadi brigade to their sycophants in the so-called opposition, reveals what the ruling classes in South Asia are made of. The fascist Home Minister Advani was most recently quoted as saying that India needs defense more than social and economic welfare.
Israel’s reputation as a guard dog of US imperialism in West Asia is legendary. Zionism, a racist ideology marked by extremely hateful views towards Palestinians and Arabs, claims biblical sanction for colonizing and usurping the lands of indigenous Palestinians. Outside of the “spiritual” realm Israel ensures the compliance of Saudi Arabia’s corrupt monarchs while allowing the latter to redirect their peoples’ frustration against Israel. For its troubles the Zionist cause is ensured absolute loyalty from the US leadership and media: the growth of settler colonialist occupation and destruction of Palestinian national aspirations are bankrolled by the US taxpayer to the tune of billions of dollars every year. Israel, with its measly four million, population receives more aid from the US than the entire continent of Africa. Most of this “aid” translates into American weapons that are used with impunity against Palestinian civilians. For instance F16 fighter-bombers are used against civilian residential areas without so much as a whisper of criticism from the “civilized” west. It seems little has changed since the days of that murderous imperialist Winston Churchill who relished using chemical weapons against Arabs and scoffed at the notion of an independent India.
Israel has long been a supporter of the worst fascists and criminals in the world. From openly supporting the Botha apartheid regime in South Africa and Zaire’s Mobutu, arming and training Salvadoran death squads, Lebanese Phalangists, and UNITA in southern Africa, to the recent military support for Colombia’s right wing paramilitaries, Israel’s despicable track record confirms its function in the American empire. As Hindutva strengthens its hold on India, Israel’s role in South Asia is beginning to become clearer. Just last week in the midst of irresponsible warmongering by the decrepit leaders of India and Pakistan, Israel sent a delegation to India to express “support against terrorism.” Such open interference in support of the Hindutvadi agenda makes Israel a dangerous enemy of the Indian people. However this trend has a history and several disturbing aspects reveal deeper connections between the purveyors of Hindutvadi ideology and their Zionist friends.
Israel has been suspected of involvement in the incitement of virulent anti-Muslim activities in India, as has been pointed out by Faisal Kutty, a writer from Kerala state who noted that a meeting took place, shrouded in secrecy, between BJP high officials and Israeli officials preceding a completely uncharacteristic violent communal anti-Muslim riot in the normally peaceful and harmonious state of Kerala in 1992. Incidentally, when the top leaders of the BJP came to the US a few years before coming to power, secret meetings were held with leaders of Zionist organizations such as AIPAC. Why did the Hindutvadis insist on secret meetings with the Zionists in America? What were they trying to keep secret?
Kerala’s Muslims are the oldest Muslim community in India, tracing their roots to the early Arab Muslim traders who plied the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea trade routes. They make up 20 percent of the population in Kerala while Hindus are 60 percent and Christians 20 percent. Kerala has the highest rate of literacy in the country, in no small part due to the work of the ruling Communist Party over the last several decades to build a literate and thriving, secular state. In comparison, the other South Indian states under the heel of chauvinistic ethnocentric parties have no comparable achievements. Faisal Kutty also notes that the first serious communal clash between Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus and Muslims occurred shortly after the opening of an Israeli interest section in the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. The section was later closed by the Sri Lankan government.
These suspicions are not isolated as similar reports about Israeli agents wandering in Kashmir as well as the BJP government’s fascination with “security cooperation,” and overt statements made by Hindutva ideologues about "Hindu-Yahudi" unity attest to wider involvement. On June 30, 2000 an Indian Express article offered a revealing glimpse into the Bajrang Dal, since implicated in the Gujarat genocide. The article, entitled "Desi Mossad is getting ready at Bajrang Dal's Ayodhya camp" described a training camp at which 150 male cadres, between 15 and 21 years of age, recited the following pledge in unison: "I, as a member of Bajrang Dal, swear in the name of Lord Hanuman to always remain prepared to protect my country, religion and culture."
On several occasions, the cadres and their leaders mention Israel and the Mossad as their inspiration: “Asked what he did at the camp, an activist whispers, ``I am from the secret service of Bajrang Dal. Israel's Mossad is my inspiration. I can't tell you more.''’ When pressed: “Dal leaders in their defence, cite example of Israel where all citizens have to undergo a mandatory training in physical fitness and arms handling. But, isn't Israel's geographical situation peculiar? ‘India's even worse. Israel has threat only from outsiders while India faces threat from even those inhabiting it,' Sharma replies.”
It seems strange that the trainees would mention Israel repeatedly and also venture to describe what they perceived as Israel’s example, unless this formed some part of their ideological training. Secondly, given the horrendous acts of violence committed by this organization, at times using sophisticated explosives in a highly organized manner, and also committing horrible acts of savagery against women and children, their admiration for Israel should set off alarm bells. Given Israel’s long history of supporting, arming, and training unsavory “pupils” throughout the world, are the monkey brigades another feather in this cap of infamy?
Israeli "counter-terrorism" assistance is also being mobilized, most evidently in (though not restricted to) Jammu and Kashmir, where the government of India sees a political issue as a “security” issue, in the age-old imperialistic tradition of ignoring the human, civil and political rights of the Kashmiri people while making every effort to suppress the voice of Kashmiris.
The Times of India, citing “high level government sources,” reported on September 22, 2000 that “a high-level team of Israeli counter-terrorism experts is now touring Jammu and Kashmir and several other states in India at the invitation of Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani to make an assessment of New Delhi's security needs,” [italics mine]. According to the article, “the Israeli team, headed by Eli Katzir of the Counter-Terrorism Combat Unit of the Prime Minister's Office, includes a senior Israel Police commander and Israeli military intelligence officials. The team will prepare a ‘feasibility study’ of Indian security needs and assess the areas in which Israel can offer assistance to New Delhi in tackling the activities of insurgent and terrorist groups.”
Using the pretext of fighting “terrorism,” the Hindutvadi government of India now uses Israeli expertise in quashing popular discontent, whether it is in Kashmir or elsewhere; if this same government and its extra-governmental paramilitary allies are implicated in the Gujarat genocide, then it is not unlikely that their support for, assistance from, and admiration of Israel plays some role.
Hindutva and Zionism in the US
One Hindutvadi closely tied to Zionism is Aravind Ghosh, a "Research Associate" with the U.S. based Zionist organization the Freeman Center. This organization has a magazine called The Maccabean in which Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel are "frequent contributors." Ghosh is described as a ‘Hindu Historian & Publisher.’ In the center’s own words, "It is his expertise on Moslem behavior and atrocities in the Indian sub-continent that makes him a valuable contributor to the Freeman Center." Ghosh writes favorably of Israel and calls on India to learn from Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. He calls on “Jawans to carry the saffron to Lahore,” as a way of reasserting “Hindu” ownership which he claims was usurped by “Islamic fascists,” who according to this foul-mouthed charlatan, “see Bharat as the soft spot to propagate their irrational creed and foment violence. India tries to placate them. Israel expels them, This is what Bharat should do. If they hate Hindu Rashtra so much they are free to leave for dar'ul Islam.”
Meanwhile even mainstream campuses help continue to equate Hinduism with India. The Asian Studies Center at Michigan State University held an India 2002 Week in which four out of five items on the agenda had to do with Brahmanic Hindu religious traditions and concerns, one seminar suspiciously titled “Hinduism, non-violence and terrorism.” That this seminar was conducted while the Gujarat genocide was taking place did not appear to have bothered the organizers despite phone calls and complaints.
Hinduunity.org, a hateful website which espouses violence against Muslims and secular activists who speak up against Hindutva fascism was recently shut down for their offensive material. They were rescued by Zionist organizations tied to the Kahane group, extremists who openly profess racist views against Arabs. Their website features links to the Kahane group which reciprocates by listing Hinduunity as a “friendly site.” Both sites contain vitriolic materials against Muslims and the Kahane group is linked to acts of terrorism in the US and in Israel. Today Hinduunity.org and kahane.org share the same server, located in Israel.
Inventing ancient Israel and ancient Hindu India, projects in futility.
Both Hindutva and Zionism thrive on grossly falsified histories--racist narratives with strong similarities. In “The Invention of Ancient Israel and the silencing of Palestinian History,” Keith Whitelam describes how the discourse of biblical studies relates to the political project of Israel. Whitelam notes that most universities in the US, Europe and Israel offer “numerous courses on the history and archaeology of ancient Israel conducted in the context of the study of the Hebrew Bible from Jewish and Christian perspectives. At the same time there are few courses on the subject of ‘ancient Israel’ in departments of history or ancient history. While the western theological concern with ancient Israel has to do with interpreting the bible, the biblical narrative has been established as the only way to approach the issue of ancient Israel or the land of ancient Palestine for that matter. Thus for example archaeological sites are interpreted using names from the Bible; once this is done, the claim is made that the Biblical narrative is true because it is corroborated by material evidence. In this process, Palestinian history and its own body of narratives are silenced and a discourse that is uniquely western in location and orientation, straddles the boundaries of myth and ideology in legitimizing the Zionist claim on Palestine.
A similar process has gripped the Indian subcontinent as well, particularly in the last decade when the Sangh Parivar has attempted to poison history textbooks with a fallacious and utterly decrepit substitute for history. Again the myth of ancient glory is cast in exclusivist terms, but with an explicit agenda: to vilify and demonize India’s Muslims. Claiming and colonizing the past is very much part of the Hindutva agenda, so much so that they even stoop to outrageous assertions such as the claim that the Indus Valley civilization is really an indigenous Vedic civilization. While this claim has been thoroughly debunked by the historical and archaeological record, it is significant in that it belies a deep concern with the racialist/culturalist idea of claiming roots. Nobody in India can easily claim such “roots” to the subcontinent without at some point referring to migration, as is evident in the recent study of India’s peoples conducted by the Anthropological Survey of India. Even many Gujarati Hindus among whom are a large number of Hindutvadis, are themselves descended from the Gurjaras, a central Asian people who came to India as invaders on the heels of the Huns. Many Rajputs are descended from Huns who invaded and pillaged the ruins of the Gupta empire in the fourth century, eventually turning to Shaivism under Mihirakula, whose name is synonymous with ruthless mass murder of Buddhists in Tibetan records. Going even further, the Vedic peoples were themselves tribes from Khwarizm who migrated and invaded their way into the subcontinent three and a half millennia ago. How then may we deal with the descendents of all these ancient invaders? The Helmand river in Afghanistan is the most likely source of the “Sarasvati” myth, known as “Harkavati” in ancient Persian texts. This makes the ancient Vedic people as foreign to the land their descendents claim today as any other population that migrated to the subcontinent. It also throws open the humorous possibility that Mullah Omar and Pujari Advani are perhaps descended from the same ancestor. Indigenism is not only a stupid substitute for history, because it cannot account for anything that falls outside the simplistic categories and the circular logical fallacies it thrives on, but also serves to harbor fascistic idiocy in the guise of building cultural or religious self-confidence.
Ancient Israel and ancient Hindu India are only possible when everything else is excised: for ancient Israel, Palestinian history is not permissible because the Bible chooses Israelites as the chosen people. All material evidence that cannot be quickly interpreted as proof of the Bible’s veracity is not relevant. For Hindutva’s ancient Hindu past, everything great must either be Hindu or not; everything meager, bad, undesirable is foreign; therefore all that is labeled foreign is evil, negative, undesirable. The quest for Ram’s temple continues in the same vein as the fantasy of King Solomon’s temple, both fantasies necessitating the destruction of mosques, in the latter case the third holiest shrine in Islam. Why are Hindutva and Zionism so hellbent on temple building when their primary goal is using the secular state to carry out genocidal social engineering? Both assert that the symbolism of temple building is supposed to represent a resurgence, a return to an ancient lost glory, one that in reality never existed. Recently, a newsreader on T.V. Asia, a pro-Hindutva news channel in the United States spoke of Rama having been born in Ayodhya 900,000 years ago as if he were stating a fact. Mythology is being used as an ideological bludgeon in the fascist program in either case. Even if these alleged temples existed in the distant past, which in the Hindutvadi calendar could extend beyond 8 billion years ago, their symbolic or divine relevance cannot and must not be allowed to override the human, cultural and political rights of existing human beings.
The temple movements in both cases are carefully used devices of provocation: Advani used the temple movement to bolster the BJP in the so-called Rath Yatra and again in 1992 led the mobs’ demolition of the Babri Masjid; Sharon sparked the Al Aqsa Intifada by deliberately provoking a confrontation by storming the Haram Al Sharif with armed soldiers in September 2000. Some of his close supporters favor destruction of the Al Aqsa mosque as a symbolic reassertion of Zionist identity. These movements are not merely efforts to appease religious sentiments in either case, but to bolster a physical assault with an assault on the religious sentiments of Muslims, in Palestine, India, and the world. It is also significant that the stepping up of the VHP’s Ram temple campaign provided the context for the Hindutvadi-engineered carnage in Gujarat. The increased temple fervor came on the heels of a series of resounding defeats for the BJP in the Uttar Pradesh and Punjab Assembly polls.
The Hindutva-Zionist nexus is an ongoing project of collaboration between fascist movements broadly following an agenda that serves the interests of US imperialism. It is an axis of evil in that it derives from and promotes genocidal racism while carefully serving the economic interests of imperialist capital. It enables and facilitates the US imperialists to pursue their geopolitical agenda of cornering the vast oil reserves of West and Central Asia. It also draws strength from, and strengthens the Bush administration’s “war without end,” as it is founded on a virulent hatred of Muslims, most notably because Muslims make up the majority populations in the areas where the oilfields lie. Taken together, the Bush axis of evil in reality is a nefarious alliance between US capitalism, Zionist Israel, and Hindutva, whose ideological camaraderie derives from the fascistic worldview of the Huntingtonian “clash of civilizations.” In the light of this axis of evil, Israel’s siding with Hindutva constitutes a threat to India and demands a response from the left and progressive forces in India. The struggle for a free Palestine is inevitably tied to the struggle for a free India, neither of which can be achieved without a powerful internationalist left that struggles against the fascistic agents of imperialism. Billion-dollar arms deals have no bearings on the will of a people to be free, as can be seen in the incredibly brave struggle of the Palestinian people. Ultimately Zionism and Hindutva, like their imperialist sponsors, will end up on the dung heap of history. The left must ensure that they reach there sooner rather than later.
[Raja Harish Swamy works for Wesleyan University, and plays the guitar while waiting for the revolution.]
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