Dear friends in Israel,
I am writing to you, as I feel compelled. But first let me confess that I didn’t always stand up for you – when at time I should have. Like most Indians growing up in 90s, I did sympathized with you, without feeling the need to act upon that conviction.
Back in those days, it was possible to pass through the Indian school system without ever hearing the word Holocaust or other historic crimes committed against the Jews – and I was no exception.
Things changed when I entered the college and later made a career working for international organizations in India. I preferred to go with the flow, never challenging the prevailing doctrine of ‘Israeli-Arab conflict.’ If I had doubts, I kept them to myself.
It was not until the winter of 2012 – and in my mid-thirties – that I first began to question my stand. It all started when I encountered antisemitic diatribes, in Germany of all places. My polite requests to examine the facts were often countered by personal insults. Since then, I have seen more blatant and crude antisemitism in European ‘high-society’ than in the inner-cities of Europe.
Seeing the futility of debates, I opted to write instead. As someone questioning the narrative peddled by the media and academia, I get my fair share of hate-mails. Just like during the Gaza conflict of last year, this time around too with the rising Palestinian violence, the usual abuses have started pouring in. The rebukes keep on getting harsher and at times more creative by the year, but one thing hasn’t changed. I am repeatedly asked one question by my detractors; why should an Indian care about Israel (leaving out the usual expletives)?
I have once again chosen not to respond to them, but decided to share my reasons with you.
Firstly, as an Indian I am driven by a sense of historic gratitude. You came to our aid militarily in just about every war we fought as an independent nation. Our leaders in their vanity, polished their international credentials denouncing you in every possible international gathering, but they never hesitated turning to you when they needed military supplies in times of need. And from Golda Meir to Ariel Sharon, you never turned our request down. In turn it took our rules more than 40 years to even formerly recognize your existence.
Things have looked up since both our nations established formal diplomatic relation in January 1992. Bilateral trade has grown from a meagre $200 million in early 1990s to over $5 billion in 2014-15. Today, we are cooperating in areas ranging from space exploration to irrigation. The agriculture project run by you in India is the the largest of its kind – with a network of some 30 agriculture centres across the country, bringing latest farming methods and innovations to rural communities in India. Israeli university are training India’s future technology and business leaders – with special programmes focusing on training Indian female entrepreneurs.
However my real admiration – like that of many young Indians – is not based on what you do, but who you are.
Your scientific temper, your zeal for learning, your entrepreneurial creativity, and your quest for innovation; are just some of the things that many Indians in my generation want to emulate.
After surviving the biggest genocide in the human history, you decided to create a nation based on democratic values, rule of law and equality for men and women of all faiths and ethnicities. Today, over a million Arabs enjoy equal citizenship rights in Israel and religious freedom unheard of in the Arab and Muslim world. Arab Israelis play active role all arenas of Israeli society and hold high places in academics, media, military and political establishment of the nation.
You may not be infallible, but you are self-critical as a society – a trait that is rare in the region. Nowhere are Israeli policies scrutinized more intensely and Israeli leaders reproached more severely than in Israeli media.
Despite being a tiny country in size, you have successfully absorbed waves of migration and forged ever stronger shared identity. European elite who gleefully sit in judgment upon you for your alleged inequalities, would do better to look at the plight of Europe’s own Christian Roma and Sinti minorities that even to this day are confined to the margins of European society.
I, myself too dream of an India and a Hinduism devoid of the immoral barriers of caste and creed. If I could, I would steal your spirit of nation-building – nurturing a shared identity, while not infringing on ethnic identity or individual liberty.
Even in victory, you sued for peace, but have not given up defending yourself. For the European elites, this is your greatest ‘crime.’ In the eyes of your enemies, you have stopped playing the part they had scripted for you. Those in your neighbourhood who want to ‘wipe you off the map’ are not very different from those supposed do-gooders who want you to lower your defenses or ‘give up your [Jewish] character’ – and disappear.
Your enemies do not hate you for a particular policy your government pursues or a specific boundary you are unwilling to squeeze yourself back to. They hate you because you survived, got back on your feet, and then had the temerity look them in the eye. From the War of 1948 to this very day, they keep on forecasting one dooms day scenario after another for you, and you are still here? And now when the foundation of the European civilisation is crumbling under its own weight, you are flourish? “How dare you.”
No society before you has acted so humanly in the face of war, terror and insistent aggression – not judging by the way you treat your own, but by way you treat those who are hell bent on destroying you. Your paramedics tend to the wounds of terrorists who moments ago were charging to thrust knifes into unsuspecting passers-by; you set up field hospitals to treat wounded Syrians; you send your technicians in harm’s way to restore power lines in Gaza, as Hamas keeps on firing rockets unabated; you go out of the way alerting civilians of imminent strikes – even when it means letting terrorists flee as well.
Despite my religious Hindu upbringing, I share one belief with practicing Jews. I believe, one day, hostilities against the Jews and the Jewish state would seize. Arab and Muslim world would come to realize that it is they who have suffered most because of their campaign of hatred and violence against the Jews, and would decide to put their focus on building their societies and tackling real issues.
Until that day – like millions of Indians – I will stand with you.