Arshad Shaikh studies the phenomenon of Indian Right Wing and Godi Media’s infatuation with Israel. As the war in Gaza intensifies with Israeli bombardment and aggression reaching new lows of barbarism and brutality, another battle rages fiercely on social media and TV channels over setting the narrative on the question of Palestine. In their blind hate for all things “Muslim” and “Islamic”, the Indian Right Wing has taken cudgels on behalf of Israel and is trying its best to legitimize the Israeli occupation and deride legitimate Palestinian aspirations. Our Godi Media diligently performs its round the clock service to its political masters and is therefore extremely busy building up the narrative that Israel, a legitimate and democratic state, is facing an existential threat from Palestinian terror and a belligerent “Ummah”. The Godi Media wants India to support Israel in its hour of need and expose those who support the Palestinian cause as being sympathetic to terror, against national interests and a threat to global peace.
Writing for Al Jazeera, veteran Middle East journalist Rami G Khouri (Watching the watchdogs: Babies and truth die together in Israel-Palestine, 13 October 2023) correctly points out, “The Palestine-Israel conflict now takes place in three primary battlefields: militaries on the ground, media narratives on the air, and attempts by both sides to protect their access to advocate in the public sphere, especially in higher education, public lectures, rallies, and advocacy. The media plays pivotal roles in all three arenas, which is why it must be monitored more closely than ever.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been raging for decades. However, never has the Indian mainstream (godi) media offered such biased and prejudiced coverage as it is doing currently. Meanwhile, the IT cell warriors and right-wing troll army are busy fighting Israel’s war on social media platforms in a bid to silence and harass those who support the Palestinian cause.
Even as right-wing publications, pro-Hindutva columnists, and “YouTubers” are frantically drumming support for Israel’s genocidal war on the Palestinians, the diehard anchors of godi TV channels are desperately building a “Muslims support terror” narrative.
Undoubtedly, there is a coming together of radical Hindutva elements and Zionist forces in the current conflict. Both cherish an exclusivist, supremacist, and racist state where people belonging to their faith will hold the position of first citizens, while the rest will be “second class” inhabitants in their state who deserve the worst discrimination and prosecution.
Experts point out that the right-wing admiration of Israeli policies, particularly regarding majoritarianism and exclusionist policies can be traced to their ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who looked forward to the fulfilment of the “Zionist dream” of Palestine becoming a Jewish state.
The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has frequently admired Israel. He has praised Israel’s “strong policies” but remained silent on Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
The Israeli model of a military state with a muscular state policy that crushes the genuine aspirations of Palestinians has always appealed to Hindu nationalists who envisage a similar model to be implemented in India when it comes to dealing with the Indian Muslim community.
An example of the influence of Israel’s exclusionary policies on the current government is the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by the Modi government. The CAA grants citizenship to Hindus from neighboring countries but not to Muslims. This mirrors Israel’s “Law of Return”, which offers Israeli citizenship to Jews worldwide.
Indian Media and Right Wing Side with Israel
- India’s right wing see Israel as a role model to deal with Muslims.
- Indian godi media is supporting Israel blindly.
- Both are displaying this behavior due to their intrinsic Islamophobic streak.
- By siding with Israel, India is losing its moral compass and ignoring its legacy.
An extension of this right wing affinity to Israel is visible in the high-octane support offered by the Hindutva troll brigade to the Jewish state on social media platforms. Thousands of tweets emanating from India were effusive in their praise for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and expressing solidarity with Israel in its fight against terror.
One right wing online warrior tweeted: “Why doesn’t Hamas release the hostages? It surprises me that everyone blames Israel for the attack on Palestinian civilians. But nobody questions Hamas on why they haven’t released the hostages yet. #IndiaSupportsIsrael”.
Another troll wrote on X.com, “Delhi Police arrested numbers of radical Islamists who were organizing protests against Israel and in favour of Hamas terrorists. Very good job Delhi Police.”
Not to be left behind, godi media’s prime time TV anchors also tried their best to paint Muslims and the Muslim world in the worst possible manner. Arnab Goswami of Republic TV said, “This is becoming more and more a fight between terrorist supporters and those who want to eradicate Islamist Terror. If the Muslim World unites behind the terrorist group, if the Muslim world makes this unfortunately a case about religion or religious identity which it should not… if that is a mistake that the Muslim World makes then we may as well be heading towards World War 3.”
India is the most populous country in the world with a significant English-speaking internet community. Their vocal support of Israel and denouncement of Palestinian aspirations can have a significant impact of the online narrative being built on “Israel being the good guy” in this conflict.
Another aspect of this phenomenon is the dynamics of the Modi-Netanyahu equation. At the beginning of the conflict, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “I thank Prime Minister @netanyahu for his phone call and providing an update on the ongoing situation. The people of India stand firmly with Israel in this difficult hour. India strongly and unequivocally condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”
The PM is yet to say a word on the plight of the Gazans who have lost more than 7000 lives in the aerial bombardments of its civilian areas.
The PM is yet to say a word on the plight of the Gazans who have lost more than 7000 lives in the aerial bombardments of its civilian areas. India is maintaining a studied silence on Israel cutting off water and electricity to Gaza and disallowing relief and aid to enter Gaza. India is ignoring these war crimes of Israel and thus providing it with a strong strategic partnership in the region.
More significantly, India has abstained from the UN General Assembly vote for ‘humanitarian truce’ and voted in favor of an amendment calling for condemning Hamas. By siding with Israel, the Government of India is losing its moral compass. It is also erasing India’s legacy of standing up for the oppressed against imperialist and colonial powers.