India-Israel and the Generation of Defenders

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at an event celebrating 25 years of good relations between Israel and India, at the Convention Center in Tel Aviv, on July 5, 2017 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at an event celebrating 25 years of good relations between Israel and India, at the Convention Center in Tel Aviv, on July 5, 2017 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

India has shown that it can embrace Gandhi and decisiveness together, whether it is the historic move on abrogation of article 370 from J&K or the decision of not joining the RCEP agreement, which in its current structure was not balanced and fair enough to consider the interests of the Indian farmers, MSMEs, and other crucial industries. And undoubtedly Israel under Netanyahu has demonstrated decisive leadership and positions on many occasions.

India and Israel present the example of holding the nationalistic vision with a fresh and positive global outlook, something which even some of the most celebrated democracies could not succeed to do. At home, people of both sides think rationally and ask questions on almost every matter, in fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that they do not prefer to leave any occasion of questioning the Prime Minister office. The elections of both countries are vibrant, pre/post-election talks are interesting and the global engagements are multi-dimensional, can there be a more vibrant democratic environment than this.

Sometimes it is necessary to remind ourselves that the two previous generations have invested their blood and sweat and dedicated their whole life to building the nation, in which we live today. Even just a careless look on the global happenings is enough to realize this hard reality. There are still many parts of the world that are struggling for the basic rights of humanity, there are several ethnic communities that are struggling to survive, there are numerous unresolved conflicts and mindless administrations that are leading them, and a lot of all that is happening in our immediate neighborhoods. In the recent Syrian crisis we have seen how the strategic interests/conflicts/unresolved treaties and uncertain geopolitical alignments have the potential to change the status and determine the fate of an ethnic community (at any time) and what space does some overused terms like justice, morality, and human values, etc. holds in the calculations of some power bloc.

History and current realities suggest that the protection of the national identity and the Grand National Narrative is crucial. People of our generation often say how does it matter whether our past was glorious or not, only the present and future matters. It is not a wrong view as only recalling the past is of no use but the sense of the past is crucial for building a vision for the future. Without a sense and awareness about civilizational and cultural identity, a nation cannot recognize and develop its full potentiality.

DEFENSE OF NATIONAL IDENTITY FROM THE NARRATIVE WARFARE

India and Israel’s experience in dealing with all-sided attacks of narratives are rich and both have their share of experiences with that. Even today, whenever a right or center-right government comes to power in any of the two democracies or even the chances of it being form surfaces, a sort of flood of opinions starts in the mainstream media, which often combines the religious jargons with the democratic slangs to develop some exaggerated what-if scenarios such as the Ultra-Orthodox coalition bloc of Netanyahu and Hindu Nationalist government of Modi (the intentions behind twisting the words to make them sound more religiously dangerous, are quite visible).

Under the British rule, the national identity of India was brutally suppressed and even after the Independence, constant attacks on its core elements are continued. As S Gurumurthy (a noted thinker of India) mentioned in one of his recent articles that “Post-Independence India did not attempt to reinstate the national narrative it had lost due to centuries of foreign domination even after it rediscovered it during the freedom movement. Instead, it enjoyed living on borrowed narratives like secularism and socialism.”  

People like Gurumurthy belong to a generation that has witnessed the devastation of everything related to India taking place and their almost entire life went in fighting for the defense of India’s national identity. They have seen their people praising foreign rulers and their systems and condemning the Indian way of life, and have seen how that mindset in academia and media impacted the morale of the masses to an extent that they started saying that this country will always remain a non-performer. They have seen those times when governments and machinery were serving as the puppets of the colonial regimes (even after British left) and those who dared to retaliate were getting brutally eliminated. But still, there were some people, visionary and real thinkers, who decided to retaliate to defend the country’s identity and they defended it bravely. They sacrificed their professional and personal lives to protect the soul of the nation. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who belongs to that generation, when he came to the power in 2014, started rebuilding a strong national narrative of India, which he today represents in every global platform. How the presence of a sense of national identity and national narrative can create an impact is visible in the remarkable growth which India has achieved in the last few years.

India is one of the youngest countries of the world but whether Indian youth will be able to hold the same spirit in their thoughts and actions as the previous generations had, only the time will tell.

Israel, the only stable democratic country in the Middle East and with a combination of its strong economy and military power it tops the international rankings in different sectors. Israel is a country that has been built brick by brick by its previous generation. Israel’s defenders have protected their emotional bonding with the homeland and ancient Jewish philosophy from several generations. Despite many assaults on their people, they kept the idea of nation and their cultural identity alive in their hearts and minds, for thousands of years and returned to their homeland. Their struggles have a long and glorious past which every Israeli recalls to this day. But the challenges which Israel’s previous generation (those who are born in Independent Israel) faced and fought with often get ignored. Those who built the nation and drafted the vision for its future; fought with the tremendous security challenges and unprecedented international pressure, economic and diplomatic both but still developed a progressive, modern, democratic and successful state, they need to be remembered too.

In 2015, while addressing the 37th Zionist Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu highlighted an important challenge when he said: “We’re fighting not only a campaign of physical assaults on the Jewish state – the Jewish people have experienced that throughout the centuries – but as we’ve experienced in our history, the physical assaults on the Jews are always preceded and accompanied by an assault on the truth, campaign of defamation and slander.” While exposing the ten big lies of that time he said that to fight such lies one needs to puncture them with the simple truth.

Post Independence generation of Israel including Netanyahu has seen the different kinds of battles in their lives, and they deeply understand the value of keep fighting this battle of ideas/narratives, for the defense of national identity.

A few days back, at a conference, Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan (former NSA and Likud Knesset Member) has said that if we want our society to be united, an awareness of the cultural national identity is crucial. Some twelve years ago, when Uzi Dayan observed that the young Israelis were learning about Israel from the satirical TV shows, he decided to initiate the monthly tours to connect the next generation of Israel with Jewish history and culture. Uzi Dayan who born in the same year when Israel was fighting the War of Independence, holds a vision for the day when Israel will celebrate its 100th Independence Day, which reflects the amazing passion and determination that this generation holds.

Those who fought and defended the national interests in the crucial years of nation-building, whether in India or Israel, were not one or two people or groups, but a whole generation, hence it would be more appropriate to refer them as “the Generation of Defenders.” This generation of defenders that exists on both sides, their approach and experiences could be different but they share a common and undying spirit for their respective nation. They are still defending the national interests with the same zeal. Can we assume that they will continue to do so for many more years to come? All of these defenders belong to the age group of 65 plus, only a few more years of their active life are left!

Today, almost every country is recognizing this fact, and the efforts to rediscover the national narratives are underway in different parts of the world, even where the cultural heritage was completely rejected (communist/socialist regimes), they are now re-embracing their ancient philosophies.

India’s Cultural and Civilizational identity is grand; it has links and influence in the entire Southeast Asian region. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dynamic leadership is restoring the linkages broken in the past and developing a sense of belonging beyond borders, which is in line with India’s glorious traditions. And in Israel, the last ten years of Netanyahu in power have made a profound impact on every aspect of Israel’s economic and diplomatic stature, the transition in the global image of Israel is quite visible. Today Israel is demonstrating, as Netanyahu often says, the “Power, Pride and Commitment” in its approach.

The responsibility of the present generation which is a part of Brand India and Brand Israel is huge as the urgency is diminishing with time and fractions between friends and foes are getting blurred. After two and a half decades, when the previous generation will not be there, a vacuum will certainly emerge and we need to ask ourselves whether we will be able to fill that or not? This time, if we will be able to combine our energy in this shared battle then we would be able to take this task of defense one step ahead from where our previous generations have left. And time for brainstorming in this direction has come.

About the Author
Devsena Mishra promotes advanced technologies, startup ecosystems and Indian government’s business and technology related initiatives like Digital India, Make in India and Startup India etc. through her portals, articles, videos, and books.
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