The Indian Americans who back Israel and want to hurt Hamas

Several Indian Americans in influential positions, including the two Republican presidential candidates Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, have rallied behind Israel

Prime minister Narendra Modi with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, on 10 February 2018. Much was made of him being the first Indian PM to visit (photo courtesy: PMOIndia/X)
Prime minister Narendra Modi with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, on 10 February 2018. Much was made of him being the first Indian PM to visit (photo courtesy: PMOIndia/X)

NH Digital

Going some distance beyond the already supportive official US government line, at least two Republican presidential candidates — Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, both noted Indian-origin Americans — have rallied behind Israel following the attack by Hamas militant group on Saturday, 7 October.

Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a barrage of rocket attacks in southern Israel on Saturday, killing over 600 people, including soldiers, and wounding more than 1,900.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in response launched multiple airstrikes targeting Hamas' key infrastructure. About 1,000 people have been confirmed dead in Israel and Gaza, in the biggest escalation in decades between the two sides.

“Hamas and the backers who support them, the Iranian regime, were chanting 'Death to Israel, death to America'. That's what we have to remember. We are united with Israel because Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Iranian backers hate us," Republican presidential candidate Haley told NBC News on Sunday, 8 October.

"We have to remember that what happened to Israel could happen here in America. And I hope that we all unite and stand with Israel because they really need us right now,” Haley, born Nimarata Randhawa, said.

In a post on X, Haley told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “finish them (Hamas)”.

The Palestinian Islamist militant group has dominated the Gaza Strip since 2007. Gaza, a 41 km long and 10 km wide territory surrounded by Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, is home to about 2.3 million people.

Haley said she had introduced a resolution denouncing Hamas when she was the US ambassador to the UN.

“America was the only member of the Security Council to vote for it. This is what Israel is up against, a world that denies the evil in front of them. We did not bow to world pressure then—we won't now,” she said.

The other Indian American Republican candidate, Ramaswamy, said the key lesson for the US to learn from the attack on Israel was that it cannot be complacent about defending its own borders.

"If it can happen there, it can happen here. Our own border is near-completely porous right now. The Southern border is a disaster and I visited the Northern border yesterday, which is wide open for invasion. Hamas picked a moment when Israel is deeply divided over domestic politics, as we are now here at home,” he said.

“Our own foreign policy establishment has focused on distant foreign priorities while leaving us badly vulnerable on border defence, cyber and super-EMP defence, nuclear missile defence, and space-based defences. We can’t lose sight of that and should use the attacks on Israel as a wake-up call here at home,” Ramaswamy said on Sunday.

Mukesh Aghi, president and CEO of the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF), also posted on social media platform X on Sunday — “I stand with Israel” with the flag of India in the backdrop.

Bharat Barai, Indian-American community leader who designates himself the chairman of the US India Community Foundation, said Hamas and Hezbollah are the most barbaric terrorist organisations in the world.

“Israel has every right to destroy this brutal terrorist outfit for attacking Israel, murdering, abducting, raping and torturing innocent Israeli citizens. The entire civilised world must condemn Hamas and other similar barbarians,” he said.

Another Indian-American community leader who called the terrorist attacks by Hamas on the people of Israel "absolutely horrific" was Ajay Jain Bhutoria.

“I stand with Israel in its unwavering right to defend itself. My prayers are with the dead, reported hostages, and hundreds injured and all affected by these horrific attacks. I strongly condemn the terrorist attacks against Israel,” he said in an interview.

“These acts of violence are completely unacceptable. We stand with Israel and fully support its right to defend itself."

However, Bhutoria's response was of a less partisan pitch than some others, as he continued: "Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this. Civilian innocent life must be protected on both sides, including in Palestine.”.

Several Indian American Congressmen were far more 'unequivocal'—Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ro Khanna, Dr Ami Bera and Shri Thanedar among them.

The tenor of these responses may not owe themselves to alignment with the US official position (and an upping the ante of the same) alone, however.

Political observers in the past have drawn parallels between the settler-colonial stances of India and Israel as well, in specific contexts.

Media organisations have also noted the shifting of India's ideological position away from a firm non-alignment posture adopted since its Independence and lasting well into the 21st century, towards a greater readiness for alliance with Israel in more recent times.

Of course, other observers were left a little confused, as they pointed out India's support for Palestine at the UN as recently as April—though perhaps they, like many, are conflating Hamas and Palestine?

With inputs from PTI

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