Indian Jewry in Israel and Its Role in India’s Foreign Policy

Dec. 29 2021

Today, Israel is home to over 80,000 Jews of Indian origin. Unlike most immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, those who made aliyah from the subcontinent didn’t come fleeing persecution and anti-Semitism, but simply to live in the land of their ancestors. Oshrit Birvadker examines their place in contemporary Israel:

Indian Jews in Israel have assimilated into Israeli society, while keeping their own distinct identity. The young generations especially are eager to adopt an Israeli way of life rather than remain distinctive from the rest of their society, as many of their ancestors did. In recent years, the community has placed a special emphasis on preserving Indian Jewish culture and their contribution to the mosaic of Israeli society. This is evident from the growing number of conferences and media coverage about their culture as well as [the construction of] the Cochin Jewish Heritage Museum at Moshav Nevatim.

The burgeoning bilateral relationship between Israel and India today has boosted the confidence of the community, [and especially] the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel in 2017. Modi’s decision to host a rally of Indian Jews in the midst of an intense three-day visit helped inform Israeli society and decision makers of the importance of the community in the eyes of the Indian government.

Since the early 2000s, the government of India has undergone an institutional and conceptual change in which the Indian diaspora has become an important tool in Indian foreign policy. At first, it was the affluent Indians in the West who were courted by the Indian government, but under the rule of the BJP, working-class diaspora communities—such as the Indians in the Gulf countries and in Israel—have become a significant part of the government’s foreign-relations strategy.

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Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: India, Indian Jewry, Israel-India relations, Israeli society

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy