In the ceaseless war of Israel vs Hamas and Hezbollah, I have at times waged my own mini-battles on Facebook, flying the flag for Israel. I have a couple of thousand or so Facebook friends, the vast majority of which have been acquired as a result of my work as a journalist. So, not so much ‘friends’ as a kind of vague, international, multi-ethnic readership base. My usual ‘status updates’ on the site relate to my writing, i.e. links to articles or interviews. But when I feel that current events call for it, I fire off salvos in support of Israel.
You meet all sorts on Facebook. So naturally these strongly-worded posts on my ‘timeline’ elicit a range of responses. It is always pleasing to see the ‘likes’ and messages of support, but there are sharp rebukes too. With dreary predictability, many come from the liberal-leftie brigade, brainwashed Westerners who wheel out their arguments of moral equivalence. The Israeli government is as bad as the terrorists, they practice apartheid, blah blah blah…
But the really vile messages are posted by a number of my Muslim ‘friends’ from around the world. These quickly degenerate into ugly personal attacks. I am called a ‘bloodthirsty Jewish bitch’ (even though I’m not Jewish), and exhorted to die along with everyone else in ‘fascist’ Israel. Luckily, it is easy to unfriend someone on Facebook and make them instantly disappear. In that respect, at least, it‘s got the edge on real life.
To my surprise, I noticed a while ago that pro-Israel posts receive many ‘likes’ and supportive messages from people with unmistakably Asian names, and discovered that the virtual friends behind them are Indian. A couple of clicks later I found myself on the Facebook page of the India Stands With Israel community. Their ‘About’ statement reads: ‘We The People Of India Love Peace & Hate Terrorist Activities. Our Prayers & Blessings Are With Israel’.
Well, it isn’t hard to see why. Violent, radical Islam is as much an enemy of the Hindus as it is of the Jews and Christians. In the current century India has suffered upwards of fifty terrorist attacks resulting in many hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries, largely emanating from neighbouring Pakistan. One of the most horrific was the three-day-long series of attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, leaving 164 dead and 308 wounded, perpetrated by a cell of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic terrorist organisation based mainly in Pakistan.
With its 1.37 billion people, India has the second largest population in the world, it is a democracy, a nuclear state, and an increasingly powerful global player. Surely, in addition to their moral support, there must be a way to harness in a more practical sense the empathy of its citizens for Israel?
In fact of the four major religions, three of them have every reason to unite in their battle against the violent jihadists of the fourth. Jews, Christians and Hindus are all under threat from militant Islam. I am not a religious person; I had a Catholic early upbringing but lapsed before I reached my teens. Secularity has always suited me. But the more I hear about the horrific fate of Christians at the hands of Islamist fanatics, the more Christian I become. And the more anti-Semitism I hear about, the more Jewish I feel.
It seems to me that the only way to stamp out the plague of radical Islam is by closer solidarity between the peoples of the other three great religions, in whatever form it must take – political, cultural, socio-economic, Facebook. No nation, no society, no single creed can do it alone. Those of us who embrace enlightened modern civilisation – and our numbers are great – have to unite to defeat the barbarity of jihad. Maybe with a bit of luck we can even rope in the more moderate mainstream Islam. In the end, this is the only way to prevail. But why wait until the end?