Parochialism is common in virtually all ethnic communities (and Jews are not immune.) The desire to feel included and comparable to similar cultures may partly explain a recent debate at Columbia University law school on the growing ties between Israel and India. The Columbia Spectator reports:
After attending the talk, I realized that much of the content was not academic in nature and was politicized to the point of propaganda. The panelists included members of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the former Indian ambassador to Israel, and the United Nations Development Programme. By the end of the talk, I found the panelists to collectively reflect a very biased and unrepresentative point of view that is not shared by the majority of moderate-minded Indians and Israelis.
The AJC, one of the lead organizers, recently endorsed an article by Indiana University professor Alvin Rosenfeld conflating Jewish criticism of the Israeli state policies with anti-Semitism. The AJC’s decree has sought to silence a constructive debate on Israeli state and foreign policies by labeling any dissent as falling inside the category of anti-Semitic hate speech.
Although the panelists harked back to long-time relations between India and Israel and glorified India as one of the only nations with no traces of “anti-Semitism,” the two nations only established normalized diplomatic relations in 1992, coinciding with the rise of a Hindu nationalist-led Indian government. The talk offered little convincing substance that the two countries shared much in common aside from rising Hindu nationalist and intolerant AJC-style fundamentalisms.
The theme reiterated throughout the talk was that both India and Israel are democracies under attack by a Muslim fundamentalist threat-both internal and external. This rhetoric of fighting a common war on terror against an Islamic enemy serves to fuel a rising Islamophobia that has become mainstreamed in Israeli, Indian, and even American discourse. We can see manifestations of these policies in Israel to justify the occupation of the Palestinian territories, in India to create a motive for the state-sponsored pogrom against Gujarati Muslims in 2002, and in the United States with Guantanamo Bay and a wide array of civil-liberties infringements against Muslims/ Muslim-Americans.
In the current political climate, anti-Muslim sentiment is hardly uncommon. Professor Raphael Israeli, currently in Australia on a lecture tour, has spoken out against the supposed Muslim threat. Of course, he doesn’t see himself as racist, merely stating some uncomfortable facts. The man has form, however, as explained by Irfan Yusuf:
For instance, immediately following the July 2005 London bombing, Israeli wrote a public letter to Tony Blair insisting that British officials recognise what he described as the myth of peaceful Islam.
Of the 50 or so victims of those bombing attacks, at least five were of Muslim origin or heritage. Among them was a bank clerk in her early 20s named Shahara Islam who was on her way to work. Israeli wanted British officials to regard her family name and her faith as a threat to their nation.
In June 2004, Israeli wrote a paper entitled Islam’s Sway Over Turkey in which he castigated the inexplicable Western policy of appeasement towards Islam which he claimed was predicated upon the false assumption that there was such a thing as moderate or pragmatic Islam. Israeli went onto castigate US and Western opposition to the genocide of Bosnian and Albanian Muslims in the Balkans. He repeats similar themes in a chapter he has contributed to a book called Muhammad’s Monsters. As a visiting historian, Israeli is entitled to interpret the history of Muslim civilisations and peoples in any manner he chooses. If he chooses to defend genocide and ethnic cleansing, that is his prerogative. It is also our prerogative as Australians to expect that visitors to our country not make public statements which cause division and incite hatred.
Barely a week goes by when a letter-writer in the Australian Jewish News argues that Palestinians are prone to violence and inherently anti-Semitic. The fact that these Jews have probably never met a Palestinian, let alone spent time in Palestine itself, is clearly beside the point. Racism is racism, no matter how it may be dressed up, defended by the intellectual class or denied.