In May 2018, I was asked by a Kashmiri journal to write an article about the affinities between the Kashmiri & Palestinian struggles. Recognizing those affinities did not originate with my observations but with those of Kashmiri writers & activists. The article was not published because the journal wanted more of an emphasis on the affinities between Kashmiri & Palestinian Intifada; on the targeting of children, the role of stone pelters in both struggles, the role of women, the scale of political prisoners, & resistance to the primary features of occupation. Today, I would write it differently but I think its observations are quite relevant to the discussion of the importance of forging unity in action between the two movements which are both rooted in the struggle against colonialism & occupation:
THE CONFLUENCE BETWEEN THE PALESTINIAN & KASHMIRI STRUGGLES FOR SELF-DETERMINATION
There is a confluence happening right before our eyes in real time–a confluence between the Palestinian & Kashmiri freedom struggles that is of the greatest importance for those movements &, it is not too pompous to say, for the future of humanity. For over seventy years, Palestinians & Kashmiris have been fighting colonial oppression & decades of military occupation but because of systematic news blackouts & false narratives turning freedom fighters into terrorists they were unaware of their profound political affinities. Both struggles were isolated from each other & from the rest of the world. They are very distinct struggles with very distinct social & political histories but they are yoked by resistance to colonialism & military occupation. They are also brought together by a similar political trajectory & of course by the growing political, economic, & military relationship between Israel & India.
Their movements have similar trajectories in that both in the later years of the 20th century explored the strategy of guerrillaism against occupation. Guerrillaism is a necessary tactic as part of a full program of resistance involving protests, strikes, shutdowns, boycotts, but when it is elevated to a strategy preempting all other tactics, it leads to passivity on the part of the many in deference to the heroic actions of a few. Irregular forces in & of themselves prove insufficient against the power of high-tech modern armies. What is required is massive participation to close a society down if necessary & bring the occupying nation to its knees regardless of the number of troops they deploy. It was inevitable that guerrillaism would exhaust its possibilities as a strategy for both Palestinians & Kashmiris as it did for the Irish struggle against British colonialism & occupation. It is serendipitous & unquestionably related to the advent of social media that it was about the same time in the early 21st century that both Palestinians & Kashmiris turned to Intifada, to a mass-based social movement strategy integrating all the tactics of social revolution. Nothing represents Palestinian & Kashmiri Intifada more than the stone pelters who are the iconic representation of Intifada. They are not a continuation of guerrillaism by other means but function as civilian defense guards for unarmed civilian protesters confronted by soldiers armed to the teeth.
It is primarily the relationship between Israel & India that dictates & compels Palestinians & Kashmiris to create formal structures of collaboration. Integrating Kashmiri solidarity & Palestinian solidarity will not weaken either but strengthen both as well as the Rohingya struggle which plays such an important role in Indian politics & is also yoked by Israeli weapons sales to Burma. An apparent irony is that Israel is a colonial construct rooted in British colonialism in the Middle East allied with Zionist terrorism while India is a postcolonial state forged out of the post-World War II independence movement against British colonialism. Israel is still fundamentally a colonial garrison state whose existence is based on militarism & genocide. The new state of India used the fractured divisions of the British Partition & the institutional matrix of British colonialism to construct a European model nation-state over a heterogeneous & vast political & social reality. In many ways, Israel & India remain artificial constructs with a manufactured, carefully honed image as democracies when both countries are based in religious nationalism–a Jewish-only state & a Hindu dominated state–one based on the dispossession, expulsion, & genocide of millions of Palestinians & the other on an ironclad & violent caste system & a colonial relationship to Kashmir. Israel has reproduced the violence of Jewish pogroms & persecution in its treatment of Palestinians just as India, using the instruments of the British Raj, has reproduced the violent excesses of the British in the occupation of Kashmir.
The political, economic, & military nexus between India & Israel inextricably link the struggles for self-determination of Palestinians & Kashmiris. We should not take seriously India’s formal diplomatic stance supporting the Palestinians since in the 70 years of its existence Palestinians have nothing concrete to show for it. Modi told Mahmoud Abbas that Indian support for a Palestinian state is unwavering & that “the relationship between India & Palestine is built on the foundation of longstanding solidarity & friendship since the days of our own freedom struggle.” But arms deals with Israel speak louder than words. Military links between India & Israel have grown exponentially since Modi took power in May 2014. The current 41 billion rupees (US $659 million) of Israeli arms sales to India is more than Israel’s total military exports to India for the three years before Modi took power. But in fact, for the past 25 years India & Israel have maintained extensive economic & military ties worth billions of dollars. Those military ties include Israeli weapons & a contract for Israel to train paramilitary forces in Kashmir. India has billions of dollars in deals with Israel for counterinsurgency training services going back over a decade. It has trained thousands of Indian commandos in the brutal methods used against Kashmiris & others in India because Israel was founded by death squad battalions & has perfected its brutalities on the bodies of Palestinians.
Since the 1980s Israel has been one of the world’s top arms producers & exporters with an estimated $7.47 billion a year in sales. India is the largest customer of Israeli military equipment which include assault & sniper rifles with ammunition; night vision devices; laser location & targeting equipment; drones; laser-guided bombs; high-tech surveillance equipment; anti-tank guided missiles & launchers; aircraft, cruise, & sea-to-sea missiles; border monitoring equipment; artillery radars; fast attack naval craft. You name it, Israel sells it to India which uses most of it against Kashmiris to maintain its force of 700,000 soldiers, paramilitary forces, & counterinsurgency thugs. Israel & India have a compelling need to collaborate about controlling occupied populations & breaking the political will for self-determination shared by Palestinians & Kashmiris. Both India and Israel are central to US political, military & strategic designs in the Middle East & South Asia so the nexus between them includes the Pentagon which has brokered military contracts worth billions with both countries.
The Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement launched by Palestinians in 2005 is having a profound destabilizing impact & undermining the legitimacy of Israel so that deepening political & economic connections to countries like India, China, & Russia are critical to its survival. Bilateral trade between Israel & India, excluding military sales, is almost US $7 billion annually, including $45 million in blood diamonds from Israel. There are also numerous joint projects involving Israeli companies in several Indian states engaged in wasteland development, irrigation, chemicals and paints, telecommunications, plastics, floriculture, agro-technology, electronics, knitwear & textiles, medical diagnostics, not to mention tourist promotion & cultural exchanges.
The growing confluence between the Palestinian & Kashmiri movements, which will also impact the Rohingya movement, is one of the most exciting political developments of the past several years & everything should be done to advance it. They are among the most important political struggles of our times & their outcomes will determine the future of humanity–hopefully in creating a world suitable for human beings to live & love in.