Dear Friends in Israel,
I wouldn’t write to you today, if I didn’t feel compelled to do so. But first, I have a confession to make; I didn’t always stand up for you – when at times I should have. Growing up in India in the 90s, like most in my generation I did share sympathies for you, but never gave it much of a thought.
Things changed during my college years and subsequent years of employment in International organizations. I conveniently went along with the dominant narrative of the ‘Arab–Israeli conflict’.
It was in the winter of 2012 that I was – for the first time – forced to reconsider my position after witnessing an anti-Semitic tirade (in Germany of all the places) that began ‘harmlessly’ with a condemnation of Israel’s ‘disproportionate use of force’. The incident made me realize that the nature of the debate on Israel has very little to do with the ground realty in the Middle East. On other occasions my polite attempts to bring facts to the discussions made things only worse. Since then I have witnessed more blatant anti-Semitism in elite circles in Europe than I have seen in immigrant suburbs of Paris or Berlin.
After seeing the futility of debates, I opted to just write about it occasionally. I do get my share of ‘hate mails’ and I take them as part of the deal. Like most people expressing their solidarity with Israel on the web, I too have been flooded with graphic images and verbal abuse in recent days. I have been repeatedly asked the same question: Why does an Indian support Israel (I am leaving out the customary expletives)?
I have chosen not to respond to these messages. Instead I have decided to share my reasons with you.
Firstly, as an Indian I feel deep gratitude based on History. You came to our aid militarily many times; like in the 14-day India-Pakistan war in 1971 and then again in the Kargil War of 1999. Your help came despite India’s consistent ‘unfavorable’ stand in UN and other international fora. On the other hand it took India 44 years to recognize Israel.
However, since 1992 our bilateral relations have flourished. Today Israel is India’s biggest partner in defense trade after Russia. India-Israel overall bilateral trade has grown from the base figure of $200 million to over $6 billion.
But that’s not the whole story. Israeli agriculture technology is helping farmers in rural India to improve their harvest and dairy output. Israeli water and irrigation technology is enabling farmers to get better yields with limited water resources and providing Indian cities with clean drinking water. Israel is partnering with India in an ambitious plan to clean major rivers that serve as life-line to Indian metropolitans. Recently Israel has even initiated a program to enable Indian women entrepreneurs to acquire right skill-sets and exposure to break new grounds in Corporate India.
My real admiration – like that of many other Indians – is not merely based on what you do, but based on who you are.
Your scientific temper, your zeal for learning, and your quest for innovation are some of the values that Indians in my generation would like to emulate.
After surviving the most vicious genocide in human history, you opted to create a nation based on democratic values, freedom, equality for people of all faiths and ethnicity. Today, over a million Arabs enjoy equal citizenship rights in Israel and religious freedom never seen before in Middle East. Arab Israelis are active in all fields of society and hold high places in academics, civil & military administration, politics, and cultural life of Israel.
Though you are not infallible, you are open to self-criticism as a society – a rare commodity in the region. Despite being a tiny country in size, you have successfully absorbed waves of immigration and continue to evolve as a society.
You received Jews of Indian origin with open arms. Today they form an 80,000 strong community. They have excelled in all walks of life, served gallantly in times of war, and brought glory to your country in sports. Those who try to raise the charge of Apartheid against you, knowingly ignore the plight of tens of thousands of Indian workers in Arab Gulf States working in sub-human conditions.
Since you proclaimed statehood, you have pleaded for peace, but have been prepared to defend yourself. This perhaps is also your biggest ‘crime’. In the eyes of your detractors, you have stopped playing the part that was scripted for you. Those in your neighborhood who are trying to ‘wipe you off the map’ or ‘push you in to the sea’ are not in much different from those Intellectual elite who want you to lower your defenses or ‘give up your (Jewish) character’ – and disappear.
No society before you has acted so humanly in the face of war, terror and constant aggression – not judging only by the way you treat your own, but by way you treat those who are hell bent on destroying you. You set up field hospitals to treat wounded Syrians; you send your technicians in harm’s way to restore power lines to Gaza; you go out of the way alerting civilians of imminent strikes – even when it means letting the miscreants to flee as well.
Like many of you Israelis, I too firmly believe that the day will come when the hostility against Israel would cease. Arab nations would one day come to realize that they have been the biggest sufferers in their campaign of hatred against Israel, and would instead focus on building their societies and tackling real issues.
Until that day – like millions of Indians today – I will stand with you.
~ by Vijeta Uniyal, an Indian-born writer and political analyst based in Germany. He is Contributing Editor to The Commentator (UK).