India and Israel, Hindus and Jews: Increasing Connections



Israel has made, let’s face it, some unsavory alliances and business deals over the years. For example, during the Cold War, Israel sold military products to a variety of right-wing authoritarian states. In discussions with my loony radical lefty friends, I contend that this was largely the result of Cold War dynamics and the embargo against Israel. Soviet allies were part of the Warsaw pact and mainly traded with their fellow states in the socialist camp. Decolonizing states in the so-called Third World, especially in Africa and Asia, actively boycotted Israel and Israeli goods. In this situation, Israel’s trading partners were incredibly limited.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union bloc in the 1990s, there was a generalized euphoria among political elites in the West regarding the ability of open markets to encourage greater cultural, social and intellectual exchanges. Markets previously closed to the Western capital—and to Israel—were opened. Additionally, new security alliances were developed. For Israel, an incredibly important trading partner and military ally–and one that is certain to grow in importance in the future–is the alliance with India.

While the radical left laments these increasing interconnections, it is a welcome development and benefits both countries. I’ve long felt, despite the variance, some commonalities between the political history of India and Israel. Both were colonized by the British and emerged from colonial rule as democracies, not authoritarian states as was the case in so much of the developing world. Both experienced partition—Israel-Palestine and India-Pakistan—resulting in wars and animosity with neighbors. Both countries also share a common adversary in the form of Islamist terrorism.

On a more individual level, Varnam brings to my attention this article about personal networking, intermarriage* and political alliances between Hindus and Jews in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Here is a bit:

Working together also presents a chance to wield greater political influence. Both communities, on their own, represent a small, if affluent, portion of America’s population. According to census data from 2005, there are 2.3 million Indian Americans in the United States, while an American Jewish Committee survey last year found 6.4 million Jews in the United States. Together, they amount to 3 percent of the population. And so the two communities have started collaborating on common political aims, such as immigration reform and protecting church-state separation.

They’ve also been willing to rally to one another’s side.

When protesters disrupted the first-ever Hindu prayer to open the Senate’s daily session in July, Jews stood alongside Indians in decrying the incident. And when Bay Area Jews face off against protesters in San Francisco calling for people and businesses to dump their Israeli assets, they’re not alone.

“When we stand out there counter-protesting, we found that members of the Hindu-American community always stand shoulder to shoulder with us,” said Lisa Cohen, who has taken part in a number of rallies and protests.

That friendship, she added, is just going to get stronger.

*Here’s an old article from The Forward on HinJews/Om-Shalomers.

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