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Indo-Israeli LectureHop II: The Om-Shalom Relationship

Last night, panelists held a discussion at the Law School regarding what may be an emerging political and cultural alliance between India and Israel. Bwog dispatched not one but two correspondants to the event in order to give readers as well-rounded a perspective as possible. Below, in the second and last part of our series, Josh Mathew presents his take:

Bwoggers, lend me your ears.

I write to you in between classes so brevity must be the soul of wit. What brings India and Israel together? According to last night’s discussion lecture “India, America, Israel: Emerging Relations,” it’s the terrorists…and the post-lecture free kosher Indian buffet…but…but mainly the terrorists.

United Nations Development Program specialist Ms. Mandakini Sud began the series by emphasizing the importance of connections amongst common men and the necessity of philanthropy. Her message of good will deteriorated, however, when she later suggested that the Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence has become obsolete in an age of terror when the enemy utilizes fear and violence without any desire for dialogue. I guess the Mahatma had it easy with British colonial armies.

Former Indian Army major and current SIPA student Probal DasGupta was the most blunt of the speakers when discussing the nature of the Indo-Israeli relations. He celebrated the military assistance Israel has presented to India, whether it be counter-insurgency training, intelligence, or Galil sniper rifles. While it seemed easy to get lost in his long list of arms transactions, he concluded his speech with a series of poignant yet disturbingly false analogies comparing Israel’s conflicts with Palestine, the Arab states, and Iran with India’s own clashes with Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia. His suggested justification for a close military partnership between the two countries wasn’t lost on the audience as a close friend wondered aloud afterwards whether he was actually missing MSA’s sponsored event on Islamophobia.

Later, American Jewish Committee’s Director of Special Projects Ms. Rebecca Neuwirth’s discussion of the “cultural commonalities” of Indian and Jewish Americans presented equally dubious ties between the two countries’ domestic situations. Drawing upon “positive” stereotypes, Ms. Neuwirth pointed to the two communities’ shared “reverence” for education, hardwork, creativity, and family values as an impetus for collaboration. Regardless of her subscription to the pernicious model minority myth, Ms. Neuwirth failed to explain how the status and interrelationships of diaspora communities serve as sound foundations for the the foreign or domestic policies of their respective “mother countries.”

Finally, the keynote speaker, Ambassador Raminder Singh Jassal, did not explicitly discuss the two countries’ military relationship to the extent DasGupta had; the message was implicit, however, in the structure of his speech. At several points during his presention, he returned to the question of what factors had led to the formal declaration of good Indo-Israeli relations in 1992. However, after mentions of recent scientific collaboration and some amusing anecdotes, the audience was left with only three possible factors for the alliance: the countries’ historical similarities, democratic governments, and shared “contemporary challenges.” Since the legacy of European exploitation, leftist nationalist pioneers, and early Marxist tendencies form the skeleton of most post-colonial states, the historical similarities the ambassador mentioned are anything but unique.

If you haven’t noticed already, the roundtable discussion strayed from the intended topic of India-Israel bilateral relations and ultimately focused more on the om than the shalom. In any case, having spent the past hour listening to false justifications for collaboration, I left Jerome Greene Hall that night feeling as if I had lost my own sense of of peace.

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33 Comments

  • this is says:

    @this is too much

  • this is says:

    @this is ridiculous. By your logic, it isn’t ok for any country to be friendly with Israel, making your comment about Islamophobia not a little ironic.

    1. huh says:

      @huh he didn’t say it “isn’t ok,” he just criticized the bases presented beyond “terrorism,” which is casually thrown around these days as a euphemism for islamophobia. it’s definitely conceivable that a country could have a basis for alliance with israel beyond this or dubious cultural ties – israel and the US certainly didn’t become allied to begin with because of a joint terrorist threat.

    2. Umm says:

      @Umm Learn to read.

  • Still, says:

    @Still, to allege that terrorism is always a euphemism for islamophobia is to trivialize the very real threat of terrorism. It’s not islamophobic to state that Islamist terrorists killed 250 people at a train station in Mumbai the same day they were firing rockets into Haifa…or at least it shouldn’t be. If this is considered islamophobic, then the world is in for some serious, serious shit.

    1. nope says:

      @nope not always, obviously. but often. far more often than criticism of israel is actually anti-semitic, at least.

  • Mahatma Gandhi says:

    @Mahatma Gandhi Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French.

    1. hmm says:

      @hmm well the “english” are descended primarily from anglo-saxon invaders who took the country by force after the withdrawal of roman armies…and “france” is essentially a syncretism of celtic gauls, left-behind roman elites, and germanic tribes. not the best (or most clear) analogy.

    2. Sprinkles says:

      @Sprinkles “Arabs” includes millions upon millions of people who hail from nowhere near Israel/Palestine. Does Israel belong to Moroccans?

      1. well says:

        @well according to the right of return, any jew, whether from baghdad or buenos aires, can become an israeli…so why not adopt the same principle with regard to, say, arab moroccans?

  • vick says:

    @vick “…the two communities’ shared “reverence” for education, hardwork, creativity, and family values…”

    The rest of the event was pretty disturbing per Mathew’s discription but that right there took the cake. Why of course these qualities are exclusive to Indians and Jews.

  • Josh says:

    @Josh First, let me restate that I wrote this in about 30 minutes so I apologize if my language is a bit loose. #4 is right in that it’s not necessarily Islamophobic to observe that terrorist attacks have occurred concurrently in two separate locations; it IS ignorant to assume that the two groups share some sort of viable connection by Islam alone. The assumption carelessly ignores the numerous strains of Islamist/political Islamic thought and the cultural/national/material/etc. milieus from which they have emerged.

    Second, I do not oppose India’s having good relations with Israel. I support economic trade and the exchange of civilian technology/scientific research between the two countries (The ambassador pointed to the U.S. and Israel’s admirable role in developing agricultural technology in India to boost production and efficiency). However, I think focusing on the “common enemy” and cultural “commonalties” forms the basis of a weak, dangerous alliance.

  • listen up says:

    @listen up who said these were exclusive qualities?!?! Did the Ambassador not say (in the Q&A) that India could form equally strong bonds with other nations and peoples, and that he was speaking only on India and Israel because it was the current topic of discussion? I honestly dont know why youre ‘disturbed’ that two nations came together to express support for mutual success in assimilating thier immigrant populations within American society.

    1. Josh says:

      @Josh I specifically referred to Ms. Neuwirth not Ambassador Jassal when mentioning the positive stereotypes. Read more about the model minority myth. I know it seems benign if not positive, but it’s extremely dangerous.

  • beat me to it says:

    @beat me to it “Read more about the model minority myth. I know it seems benign if not positive, but it’s extremely dangerous.”

    and

    “However, I think focusing on the “common enemy” and cultural “commonalties” forms the basis of a weak, dangerous alliance.”

    Exactly.

  • so I guess says:

    @so I guess we’re not supposed to have pride in who we are, and I guess thataAs I Jew, I’m not supposed to be proud on some level that we have the highest college graduation rate of any any ethnic group in the United States. Education and family are two very strong (and by the way, Neuwirth never said they were exclusive to Judaism either–in fact, her point was the exact opposite of this. And the words “model minority” aren’t hers–they’re yours) cultural values in Judaism. And good luck proving otherwise.

  • beat me to it says:

    @beat me to it focus on whatever negatives you want, naysayers! i think indo americans and jewish americans have much in common and the shared experiences of these two groups should be celebrated; though these populations are not perfect (nor had anyone at the panel said they were), they have much to be proud about and its a great starting place for postive cultural/political work. What was expressed was mutual respect and genuine concern for adressing common issues such as security and poverty… and i see nothing “weak” or “dangerous” about that. spin it however you like

    and who on the panel said “common enemy” as if there was some ignorant islamophobia? i dont believe anyone on the panel used those words in that sense – i never felt a moment in which either side said there was anything common about thier enemies other than that they were both terrorists. the ambassdor was very frank in asserting that india’s muslims are an attribute to the nation on many levels.

  • asoidfnifqwq says:

    @asoidfnifqwq HMM why do I get the feeling that most people opposed to a relationship as benign as this are themselves Indians refusing to accept change? I hate to say it but that is pretty consistent with that Indian fear/rejection of foreigners. take Gandhi’s wholesale rejection of all things Western in his books. take Islamic terrorists attacking anything related to the West, progress, or democracy. I’m glad that some Indians accept this sort of relationship (not just some but many, especially those in power, as the event last night showed us) beause to suggest that Israel should not be trusted and that doing so is “Islam-phobia” and Indians should just buddy up with Muslims and Arabs instead is nothing but good old ethnocentrism and and xenophobia. OH but WAIT this is Columbia and those labels can only be applied to white people.

    1. Bwog is bullshit says:

      @Bwog is bullshit This is such bullshit. India gains as much from this relationship as Israel. Were you busy picking your ass when the ambassador mentioned all the agricultural benefits Israel gives to India all the time? The least India could do is show some grattittude for these services. Tell me what Israel gains from helping out Indian farmers? Profit? I don’t think so. This is one downtrodden peoples reaching out to another downtrodden peoples as an act of humanity. Give them a break Josh Matthew, like you could really feel the magnitude of Indian colonialism/exploitation or the Holocaust in Germany like these people do. I can not pretend to understand the colonialism not being Indian myself so I don’t. also this is the AMBASSASDOR, I am pretty sure he understands what he is doing in regards to foreign relationships better than a 18 year old writer for a college BLOG will.

      1. ahem says:

        @ahem josh is 20.

    2. Refusing change? says:

      @Refusing change? Wtf? Indians refusing change? Fear of anything Western?
      First off, I’m from India, and frankly you’re full of shit. When India was drafting its constitution, it used the American, Irish, French & yes even the British constitution as a guide in drafting its own. I consider secularism a Western value, and India is far more secular than Israel. We go out of the way to accomodate religious diversity, whereas Israeli Arabs are treated like shit. As a generalization, Jewish communities tend to be far more conservative, clannish & traditional than Indians, who today are very receptive to Western culture.

      As for #19, Israel is one of the largest suppliers of arms to India. What do you have to gain from it? Money. don’t delude yourself into thinking Israel is helping us out of charity. & don’t patronize us considering your country would go to hell without AIPAC & America literally dumping cash on you.
      *rant over*

      Anywho, I think there are some shared values between the two communities, & I think Israel should use India’s handling of the Kashmir issue with pakistan as a model for dealing with Palestine. Rather than start wars over small incidents, diplomatic channels have been more successful in keeping terrorism at bay.

  • i dont know says:

    @i dont know why you get that feeling.

    I honestly think youre argument used too many stereotypes and false pretenses to make any sort of intelligent comment.

    Dr. Gupta’s prescription: relax and smoke a j

  • give says:

    @give em hell josh.

  • Dr. Sanjay Gupta says:

    @Dr. Sanjay Gupta A j may well be appropriate in this situation.

  • Julia says:

    @Julia Back in Chicago, we already have a strong Jewish-Indian alliance. It’s a Thanksgiving Day football game we call “Indo-Jew Bowl.” Seven years and counting of challenging the model minority myth and celebrating diversity in our own slightly demented way:

    http://hometown.aol.com/indojewbowl/myhomepage/

    http://www.chicagoist.com/archives/2005/11/16/indojew_bowl_vi.php

    1. ahahaahaha says:

      @ahahaahaha RACISTS! this is just another example of white people trying to pit minorities against each other, this time literally.

      heh, nah jk.

      1. Julia says:

        @Julia It’s a lot of fun! Each team prints up shirts, too. And some local celebrity shows up to do the coin toss. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, because you freeze it off together in the spirit of brotherly/sisterly loooooooove.

        Chicago, sometimes I miss you. Like today, when snowploughs did a terrible job scooping up a mere four inches of snow.

  • youareafineonetotalk says:

    @youareafineonetotalk Who the F%^&* are you, or any other American, to tell India and Israel who they can or cannot be friends with?

  • but says:

    @but i heart josh mathew

  • The New Centrist says:

    @The New Centrist “not always, obviously. but often. far more often than criticism of israel is actually anti-semitic, at least.”

    The vast majority of Islamic and (radical) leftist criticism of Israel is anti-Zionist. Anti-Zionism is defacto anti-Semitism. You may not see it this way but the vast majority of the world’s Jews do.

    “I consider secularism a Western value, and India is far more secular than Israel. We go out of the way to accomodate religious diversity, whereas Israeli Arabs are treated like shit.”

    You need to visit Israel or at least learn a bit about the country. BTW, I have been to India a few times (BA in South Asian studies) and the country you describe may exist in some small, middle-class enclaves. But get out to the countryside and talk to the people who make up the vast, vast, majority. They are hardly paragons of secularism.

    Unlike in Israel, the (Hindu) religious party in India, the BJP, is a majority party. In Israel, the religious parties never get to govern. Yes, they are part of the governing coalition but they are never, ever a majority.

    Also, check this out, in 2 ½ years of the Second Intifada, where Israel used Apache helicopters, tanks and artillery against Palestinian terrorists, close to 2,000 Palestinians were killed. 2,000. In 2 ½ years. Recently, in India, one week of anti-Muslim violence left a similar number of Muslims dead. 2,0000 killed with clubs, knives and fists. In one week.

    “As a generalization, Jewish communities tend to be far more conservative, clannish & traditional than Indians…”

    You are simply ignorant. Most Jews in the U.S. do not live in seperate communities. Some do, especially the ultra-Orthodox. But they are a small minority of Jews in this country.

    Lastly, why does the author think that one of the presenter’s made “poignant yet disturbingly false analogies comparing Israel’s conflicts with Palestine”?

    I think there are a lot of similarities in the political history of the two countries (British imperialism, partition, etc).

    http://newcentrist.wordpress.com

  • xyz says:

    @xyz i think muslim men are fantastic in bed…an i have experience regarding it, being a hindu woman myself married to a hindu man!

  • asha says:

    @asha i say this because they find a muslim male friend of mine helped me find my G spot ( i think its the G spot coz he excited me to the hilt with his fingers!), while my hubby – a hindu hadnt been able to arouse me by touching the right areas. i think you must also focus on why hindu women want muslim men in bed!

  • xyz says:

    @xyz asha, i am a hindu woman and think thats because muslim men also last much longer and are simply better in bed. Period!

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