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BDS and the Islamic lobby in US has found a new target after Israel — democratic India

The Indian community in US is caught flat-footed by this activism. Islamists had a ready-made network, a built-in constituency, and pre-programmed rhetoric.

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The worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or the BDS movement, against Israel now appears to have found a new target: democratic India. The BDS has been widely denounced as anti-Semitic and hypocritical because it singles out the only Jewish State and the only democracy in the region, Israel, for unique criticism. But now Kashmir is emerging as their new punching bag. The BDS brigade recently claimed that “India’s policies in Kashmir resemble Israel’s settler colonialism,” that “India also borrows methods of repression from Israel,” and also, absurdly, that “the weapons that Israel ‘field-tests’ on Palestinian bodies are today being deployed in Kashmir.”

Nobody has called for a boycott against India. But this kind of comparative language and suggested equivalence is unique and deserves to be flagged.

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India the ‘oppressor’

Writing earlier this month in The Muslim Vibe, a media outlet aimed at Western Muslims, commentator Hamzah Zahid made a forceful case  about what Muslims in the West must do concerning the issue of Kashmir, the Muslim-majority region long coveted by Pakistan, saying that Kashmir needs to be turned into “a similar vein as the anti-Apartheid, anti-Fascism, and the Palestine movements.”

While Zahid’s pronouncement was unusually specific, there have been campaigns going on for years that propagate similar thought. This campaign does not solely consist of groups with a South Asian origin, such as the Western branches of Jamaat-e-Islami, but of Middle East-linked groups that had previously focused almost solely on Palestine.

In fact, the campaign was underway even before the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. In early 2019, New York-based journalist Azad Essa published an op-ed declaring that “when it comes to Palestine and Kashmir, India and Israel are oppressors-in-arms.” According to Essa, “Free Gaza” and “India Go Home” are the same message to those who champion the cause of separating Kashmir. Essa insists that both the issues surrounding Kashmir and Israel represent the same sort of “settler-colonialism” theme and are, in essence, the same issue.

Increasingly, Western-focused foes of both Israel and India are acting to make Essa’s claims ubiquitous. Painting India as the “oppressor,” as Essa’s op-ed did, just two weeks after a brutal terrorist attack killed 40 Indian security personnel in Pulwama district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, may seem bold. But Israel’s foes in the West, driven largely by theocratic Islamic organisations and their allies on the far-Left, now use this sort of rhetoric as a matter of course.

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Indian patriots and Zionists on the same page?

BDS is hardly alone. American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) explicitly claimed that by removing the special status of Kashmir, India was adopting a “Zionist settler-colonialist model,” and that “like Israel, the Indian government has brazenly violated several UN resolutions and human rights conventions,” accusing it of a “brutal crackdown.” They steered their members toward the newly created, shadowy group, Stand with Kashmir (SWK), an entity that frequently lauds terrorists and assorted theocrats as inoffensive and peaceful political actors.

The SWK was quick to ‘return the favour’, quoting an article by Zainab Ramahi, a ‘coordinating member’ of Students for Justice in Palestine, which is heavily funded by AMP and shares a common founder. According to Ramahi, “Hindutva nationalists and Zionists often try to reframe the conflicts,” over Kashmir and the Palestinian territories, as caused by Islamists, which she claims is merely an effort to distract from what she calls “repression” in the name of fighting terrorism.

The countless victims of US-designated terrorist groups such as Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir and Hamas in Gaza, go unmentioned.

Not much later, the SWK partnered with AMP to organise a march in San Francisco on Kashmir.

Of course, the South Asian-origin radicals are also part of this push. The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which Professor Vali Nasr of Johns Hopkins states is one of the eight most important franchises of South Asia’s violent Islamist movement Jamaat-e-Islami, a group long dedicated to separating Kashmir from India, worked with the SWK to support protests shortly after the removal of Kashmir’s special status.

But they were not alone. ICNA partnered on these protests with foes of Israel more closely aligned with Middle Eastern Islamist movements, such as the Muslim American Society (MAS), which prosecutors named in 2007 as an “overt arm” of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in a scheme to fund the Hamas terrorist organisation in the Palestinian territories, founded by Palestinian Nihad Awad, a self-declared supporter of Hamas, also promoted various protests over Kashmir. Awad even spoke at the protest outside India’s embassy.

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Islamists, hard Left and their identical argument

The above examples are by no means exhaustive and meant only to illustrate the nearly ubiquitous events, articles, tweets and newsletters of various Islamist groups and their friends on the hard-Left, making identical arguments. These efforts have clear, real-world effects. Decision makers and opinion leaders with significant political power, such as Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), are now high-profile opponents of India.

Last year, Omar went out of her way to join a hearing on Human Rights in South Asia, in spite of the fact that she was not a member of the relevant Congressional Subcommittee, to viciously attack Indian reporter and witness Aarti Tikoo Singh, a Kashmiri Pandit exiled from her home by Islamist militants almost 30 years ago, after she suggested Jihadists were at the heart of the problem in Kashmir. Omar used rhetoric closely echoing an article that SWK had published the day before the hearing attacking Singh. Omar later appeared in an interview for the SWK conducted by Professor Mark Lamont Hill, notorious himself for expressing extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Also read: What is stopping Narendra Modi from sending a Hindu Rashtra postcard to the world

Anti-Israel network politically invaluable for India’s foes

Given that Kashmir is an issue few Americans are intimately familiar with, one might question why this movement would want an ally like Omar. Known for rhetoric so anti-Semitic that it earned her the support of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke, Omar’s support comes with drawbacks. But the support of Omar, and the broader anti-Israel community, also comes with a built-in constituency, and tailor-made rhetoric to rally supporters. That’s politically invaluable. Indeed, fellow “Squad” member, Representative Rashada Talib (D-MI), an ethnic Palestinian, has joined Omar in supporting the Islamist cause in Kashmir.

Of course, this collaboration is not purely tactical. In significant part, it is ideological. While there are fair-minded critiques of India’s and Israel’s governments, their most steadfast critics are not enlightened advocates of liberty, but theocrats who recognise no higher good than Islamist rule. This is doubly clear upon examining the rhetoric and actions of both Western Islamist organisations and Jihadist groups in both South Asia and the Middle East.

The Indian community has largely been caught flat-footed by this activism campaign. Islamists had a ready-made network, a built-in constituency, and pre-programmed rhetoric to indoctrinate indifferent politicians and a largely naïve public, based on their decades of activism on behalf of the Palestinian cause.

Friends of both Israel and India must work to counter this shockingly effective political activism before it is too late. To do otherwise risks enshrining this inaccurate, but effective, narrative into Western policy.

Clifford Smith @CliffSmithZBRDZ is director of the Middle East Forum’s Washington Project. Views are personal.

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  1. Zionist settler-colonialist model, adopted by Pakistani governments by burning houses of peace ful Hindus, pressurising them for conversions otherwise killing in their own land.kashmir has an ancient history, even the present muslim population have the Gotra system of Hindus. They were forcibly converted with barbaric violence. How conveniently these people are trying to distort history and truth.if I am correct, this comment will not be entertained .

  2. Zakath Foundation is one of the richest organisations which is using other fronts to drum up support for Kashmir and in particular against India. Most of them do not understand the legal and constitutional position of Kashmir vis a vis India. Kashmir trnsited from being a princely state to a part of Union of India under an instrument of accession signed by the then ruler Maharaja Hari Singh. Palestine does not have any such legal status. Catholic church has Project Joshua, with the hope of conquering Asia for Christianity in the next two centuries. Similarly, Islamists dream of conquering India for Islam. They hope to do now, what Islamic rulers could not achieve in eight hundred years of oppressive rule. Regrettably, there are enough Indian traitors ready to help them – for thirty pieces of silver.

  3. They can try that. US will settle the Kashmir the same way the will settle Gaza. See how the winds are blowing in the Arab world and its relationship with Israel. We would like the same to happen with Kashmir and India. The more these jokers take up this cause the more it will drive both Republicans and Democrats together like the way they do with Jews and Israel. Bring it on. We want more of this.

  4. I am surprised that an ultra -postmodern-leftist-terror-apologist like Jyoti Malhotra would allow an article like this in The Print.

  5. The polity in israel is united. But unfortunately a sizable portion of the left liberal population in india will support these Islamic organisations for malicious and obvious reason – their hatred fro prime minister modi, more so because he become prime minister despite all odds.

  6. Well there are worst HINDU haters in INDIA than anywhere else, who are in league with pakistan and china .

    INDIA has not YET achieved freedom from slave mentallity from muslim and Christian invaders and a hybrid of BOTH brutal and barbaric INVADERS were described as benign in the history books and forced upon INDIANS

    Even only certain rapes and killings are protested against .

    However rioters and proselytizers are presented as victims and a whole lot of Journalists who are angry with progressive HINDUS are venting hatred through fake news.

    So what France is facing now, INDIA is continually facing that for more than 800 years and only since 2014 some resistance from HINDUS is taking place.

  7. Liberandus of India need to share the credit/blame for the uprise in attacks against India by the Islamists. The Islamists in the west only need to read publications like The Print to build a false image of India. Case in point, there has been no serious mention (letalone outrage) over the recent killing of Ankita Tomar while these publications will tell you about Pehlu Khan in great detail at every given opportuity.

    India needs to sort out its own Prithvi Chands before it can effectively counter the Islamists from the West.

  8. After a decline of Trumpism and facing imminent defeat Smith and the likes are looking for alternate pastures to vent their rhetoric.
    A failed lawyer clutching on the fringes of American society, all he is good for is to stir up conspiracy theories and look for sympathetic ear for their lunacy. Feel sorry for ThePrint readers to have to endure Smith.

    • Well, nice try, but A. I’ve never been for Trump, I was against him from day 1 and remained so, and B. I’ve never failed at being a lawyer. I remain a member of the bar in good standing, and even occasionally use it.

      So other than that, everything you said was totally accurate!

      Have a nice day!

  9. The easiest way to counter this would be to restore statehood to J&K, hold elections, seat an assembly, put a govt in place and declare that as a full state of India J&K has a representative govt and it is nobody else’s business to ask questions except the people of J&K through their elected representatives. For that Modi Sarkar will have to talk to J&K people and get things moving. Otherwise many other people also will have an opportunity to raise uncomfortable questions.

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