One could easily be mistaken into thinking that some of the most ardent and vocal supporters of Zionism on social media are Israeli Jews or certain Evangelical Christians in the US. However over the past several years, far-right Hindu nationalists from India, who subscribe to the ideology known as Hindutva have become some of the most prolific and zealot supporters of Israel, less so due to their genuine security concerns of the state, or interest in Middle Eastern affairs but as a projection of their deep politically-driven animosity towards Muslims.
On Saturday night Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his appreciation towards overseas governments he identified as standing with Israel and its “right to self-defence against terrorist attacks”. The post contained flag emojis of 25 countries; chief among them the US but mainly select European and South American countries, India was not one of them.
Thank you for resolutely standing with 🇮🇱 and supporting our right to self defense against terrorist attacks.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 15, 2021
This appears to have caused much disappointment and dismay to a multitude of Indian users and prompted many to question why or beseech Netanyahu into adding the Indian flag emoji in recognition of their own standing with Israel amid its on-going heavy bombardment over the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from Hamas – which itself was in retaliation to the state’s illegal actions in the Shaikh Jarrah neighbourhood and its violent and provocative desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.
Where is India 🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳???
— Prakhar Garg (@Prakhar22694549) May 16, 2021
Sir, please mention indian flag too.India supports Israil.#IndiaStandWithIsrael
— AMIT MODI (@amitmodi02) May 16, 2021
Sir add India too, we r family pic.twitter.com/ek4vnbZVNo
— santosh joshi (@santosh71) May 16, 2021
we indians with you sir,,please mention our flag & also mention hindu nationalist of india who support israel all time,all weather.
— भगवाधारी 🚩राष्ट्रवादी🇮🇳💯%फॉलो बैक (@hGjSxEoTe4R3kAa) May 16, 2021
Along with replies of India and Israel flag emojis side-by-side many users also used the hashtag #IndiaStandWithIsrael.
I am so ashamed that Flag of India 🇮🇳 isn’t there. It breaks my heart but please, please rest assured that I personally and many others here in the INDIA support Israel.
We love you and pray everyday for safety and ultimate victory. #IStandWithIsrael
— Shailendra Chaudhary (@shailendra4532) May 16, 2021
Israel is second home for Indians we can give our breaths for isreal pic.twitter.com/z8GB07zykl
— Vinod Goswami (@VinodGo81957524) May 16, 2021
— Prashant Mishra (@Prashant_Pk__) May 16, 2021
Other users tried to convince themselves and others that Netanyahu’s omission of India was due to a disparity in the Indian government’s official position on the Israel-Palestine conflict and those shared by the people of India.
Indian flag is not mentioned there because indian people supporting Israel not Indian government if Indian government started supporting Israel then peaceful community will do anything to maintain peace in india 🇮🇳🤝🇮🇱
— Harshit (@Harshit71075039) May 16, 2021
— Deepika (@Deepika9815) May 15, 2021
The commotion even caused “Indians” to trend on Twitter as there was an inevitable backlash involving mockery and memes by users who found this online behaviour to be humourous, cringe-worthy or lacking in self-respect.
pLeaSe Sir MeNtIon InDiA pLeasEee 😭😭😔😔😔🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳😔😔🙄😑😑🙄😔. wE lOve GreAt NatIoN oF IsrAeL 🇮🇱😄😍😋. iSrAeL jIndAbaD 😍😍😍😘😆 pic.twitter.com/VOE6j7trfy
— Ali Nasir 🇵🇸 (@aliaikdoteen) May 15, 2021
— 🇵🇸 (@97jadinho) May 15, 2021
Indians using the 10 min electricity they get to tweet they stand with Israel. Losers
— يوسف (@_Ysff1) May 15, 2021
Clearly not all Indians are staunchly pro-Zionist though
I’m not happy, Kunal. I just find it funny. Indian right wingers burst their apendix tweeting “We support Israel” just because Israel is killing Muslims. Whole TL was filled with Israel and Palestine hashtags. And he didn’t even mention India. As it should be.
— karanbir singh (@karanbirtinna) May 16, 2021
Thanks for not acknowledging India’s support to you ! Let one sided ‘love affairs’ with Israel end.
PS: I’m a right wing Hindu.
— V (@AgentSaffron) May 15, 2021
I’m an Indian. My Solidarity to Palestine.
— Shakkir Nihal (@NihalShakkir) May 16, 2021
One user posted a quote by Mahatma Gandhi, widely considered to be “Father of the Nation” and who was assassinated by a Hindu extremist in 1948 less than a year after India gained independence from the British.
— FAIZAN KHAN 🇮🇳🇮🇳🇵🇸 🇵🇸🇵🇸🇮🇳🇮🇳 (@FaizanK61624289) May 9, 2021
Gandhi is quoted as stating that “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French” in 1938, ten years before the creation of the state of Israel. According to Indian professor of contemporary Middle East, P. R. Kumaraswamy critics perceive New Delhi’s growing ties with Israel “as an abandonment of Gandhian values” and the 1938 statement has been used reiterate India’s continued support for the Palestinians.
India voted against the Partition of British Mandate Palestine and Israel’s admission to the UN. In 1974 India became the first non-Arab country to recognise the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. India also became one of the first countries to recognise Palestinian statehood following the 1988 Declaration of Independence made by the PLO.
However, during the 1980s, India’s position on Israel also began to shift, as did its relationship with the US at the expense of the Soviet Union. This lead to normalisation and full diplomatic ties between India and Israel in 1992, becoming the last major non-Arab and non-Muslim country to do so.
Following the ascent of the Hindu-hardliner BJP administration headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, India’s bilateral relations with Israel intensified, as did the outpouring of online support for Israel by many of Modi’s supporters following his 2015 announcement that he would visit Israel. He made the visit two years later, making history as the first Indian prime minister to do so.