Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hindus and Jews, India and Israel

One of the most sensational papers at the American Academy of Religion conference in Montreal was Shana Sippy's on Hindu-Jewish religious rapprochement as a corollary of Indian-Israeli military cooperation. A promising alliance whose time has come, bypassing the power of its jaundiced critics in academe.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Narasimha Rao (r.1991-96) lost no time in establishing diplomatic relations with Israel (1992) and, more importantly, replacing the USSR with Israel as India's chief arms supplier. Between India and Israel, weapons have long replaced diamonds as the most important trade good.

Dr. Shana Sippy presented a commercial film shown by the Israeli arms dealers at trade fairs. Daringly crystal-clear. Indian girls were dancing in between upstanding missiles and singing: "I need protection, I need strength" etc. Then a stereotypical Israeli guy hops onto the stage, with a broad smile, gracefully receiving the compliments of the Indian girls: "Safety and protection, security and perfection" etc. The Israelis reportedly congratulate themselves at having "won the Kargil war for India" by sending India weapons tailored to the specific challenges of the Paki occupation of peak terrain.

Then she focused on joint Hindu-Jewish initiatives in the USA and internationally. She acknowledged the strength of this alliance, though clearly begrudging the Hindu community the benefits of any alliance. She tried to muster reasons why Jews should refrain from this alliance: these are not just Hindus but the "Hindu Right"; these are the people who have issued a history textbook praising Hitler (a canard, thoroughly analysed and refuted in the first chapter of my book *Return of the Swastika*); Hindus are idolaters; at least Jews should have demanded that Hindus guarantee the religious rights of the many thousands of Jews who visit India annually (are these rights threatened?!); as a minority, Jews should side with the minorities in India, etc. Her understanding was that the Jews purposely ignore a lot of troubling facts or take them in stride because this alliance is politically so useful to them. On the Hindu side, meanwhile, she saw (quite correctly) an absolute ignorance of specific Jewish agendas.

The joint Hindu-Jewish declaration, earlier this year in Jerusalemn, between Swami Dayananda Saraswati, the chief Ashkenazi Rabbi and some more worthies on both sides, was a natural target of her criticism. She lambasted some of the points the two sides had agreed on, obviously at the Hindu side's insistence:
* the much-maligned swastika is innocent (banal);
* the Aryan Invasion Theory is bunk (totally misplaced, and strange that the Jewish side bothered to agree, but perhaps a way of saying that the much-maligned term "Aryan" is innocent too);
* Hinduism is monotheistic too (questionable, an imposition by a particular faction within the Hindu spectrum);
* Hindu murtipuja is not "idolatry" per Halakhic definition;
* the opposition to the Christian mission, which according to SS is no longer an issue for the Jews (nearly true in Israel in so far as Christian denominations have agreed to stop conversion attempts among Jews, but unchangingly a concern elsewhere when intermarriage mostly means conversion to Christianity or Islam);
* the obviously anti-Islamic rejection of "terrorism".

An orthodox Jewish member of the audience remarked that the meeting would have been impossible without a preliminary agreement between the Rabbi and the Israeli Government. The Israelis are not uptight about separating religion and politics, so this is quite likely. Shana Sippy alleged that the Jerusalem meeting had been sponsored by Rajiv Malhotra, whom she mislabelled as a Hindutva man. After all those years of Hindutva-watching, most supposed experts haven't even noticed the sharp divisions in the spectrum of Hindu activism.

On the whole, though, I was quite impressed with Shana Sippy's presentation. No silly pieties, not too much holy/hollow indignation at Hindutva schemes, not as soporific as so much theological and sociological talks at such conferences, her finger really on the pulse of the Yahudi-Hindu-bhai-bhai scene, and most of all, a truly important and consequential topic.

I refrained from volunteering my own experiences with this alliance, e.g. when in 1993 a Mr. Tiwari of the Washington DC chapter of the VHP took me along on a vsit to the office of the American-Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the spider in the web of the fabled Jewish Lobby. We got an impressive demonstration in some of the AIPAC feats in influencing US Congress decisions. The idea was that Hindu activists would get some training there in the noble art of lobbying. (Not that I've seen them put their new skills to any use since then.)

During the discussion, I learned that this annual panel on "Hinduisms and Judaisms" was from the beginning mistrusted by the AAR, initially because it looked like a joint Hindu-Jewish platform against Christianity, now because it looks like a gang-up against Islam. There is no substance to this, every speaker went out of his way to placate Islam, absolve it of any role in terrorism, and to lambast "Islamophobia" both in India and in the West. Perhaps on Christianity some Jews have taken a firm stand, but certainly no one on the "Hindu" side. In the three years I have attended these sessions, I have never heard a Hindu-bron speaker or an Indologist take as his own any known pro-Hindu (i.c. anti-mission) positions. In this session too, Hindu assertiveness was only present as the whipping-boy.


Gururaj B N said...

Hinduism is the most apolitical religion. Judaism at present, and Christian Church in the past, and Islam at all times during its history have been States which pretend to be religion. It is little wonder that the Hindu Diaspora has not cultivated the art of lobbying for Hindu society or for India. In this effort, they do not enjoy the support of the Government at Home. On the other hand, Government of India is distinctly indifferent to and at times, hostile to Hindu interests.

Anonymous said...

>>>"On the Hindu side, meanwhile, she saw (quite correctly) an absolute ignorance of specific Jewish agendas.


Apuleius Platonicus said...

Fascinating! Thanks for posting this and providing not only these highlights but a very nice analysis complete with historical background!

I am always amazed by those (including Hindus) who claim that Hinduism is monotheistic.

Unknown said...

Absolutely not. I do not see the Jews as useful allies to the Hindu cause, India, or to Indian people in general. As a proud Hindu, I am appalled by how Jews portray Indians and Indians in general in the western entertainment industry. Just watch the latest movie "2012", and you will know what i mean. For starters, the so-called Indian scientist who discovers everything is actually half white and hardly resembles your typical Indian.

Hindus should not be allied with the Jewish people.

Unknown said...

Correction on my part...India SHOULD and NEEDS to be allied with Israel. Israel is the most democratic and peaceful nation in the middle east so its only natural that they are India's allies. Jews have the Hindus' utmost admiration for their hard work in achieving high ranking positions in government/politics, law, science/research, academia, medicine, etc etc.. I guess movies and television shows will always hold to certain biases.

Siddharth said...


So since you were there, did you talk sense to SS?

Anonymous said...

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Yeah dear blogger, I think you're right because it was a sensational paper and you shall annex some illustrations about the alliance between India and Israel. I just can't believe it.

Anonymous said...

There are a few common symbols like Shatkona, six pointed star of union of Shiva and Shakti and god of war peacock angel Skanda. Golden calf Surabhi. Shiva speaking from pillar of fire and light in Lindghodhbava form etc.