As part of a tightening of rules on foreigners living in, or wanting to visit, the occupied Palestinian territory, the Israeli government on September 2 announced that foreigners must inform the Israeli defence ministry if they fall in love with a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank. The regulations also required that should they decide to marry a Palestinian, foreigners would have to leave after 27 months for a cooling off period of at least six months.
Three days after issuing the regulations, however, after facing international backlash, the Israeli government withdrew its requirement for West Bank visitors to declare their love interest.
Where did Israel get this idea in the first place, and what motivated it? It’s likely the answer does not reside in Israel or Palestine, but thousands of miles away in India.
Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party came to power in 2014 on the back of a far-right, ultranationalist platform – the ties between India and Israel have “warmed up” faster during the past eight years than the six preceding decades, making it easy to forget that India voted against Israel’s entry into the United Nations and voted for a resolution that condemned Zionism as a form of racial discrimination.
Today, India views Israel as a source of inspiration. Conversely so does Israel, particularly with respect to the subjugation of restive Muslim populations. These growing ties have created a situation whereby the oppression of Kashmir is linked to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, leading some commentators to observe the Muslim majority territory of Kashmir looks a lot like Israel’s rule over Palestine.
And it’s not too difficult to see why Israel and India find each other irresistible, given they share so many commonalities, as noted in my 2018 article for the New Arab.
Both countries were founded in 1947; both are colonizing territory inhabited by an indigenous Muslim-majority; both have been accused of operating a system of apartheid; both peddle Islamophobia to “justify” their draconian security policies; both are governed by ruling parties that inhabit the far right of the political spectrum; both make dubious claims to being fully-fledged democracies; both commit human rights abuses that go largely unnoticed by the Western media.
Today, Israel not only supplies India with billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including drones, armaments, and spyware, but it also provides India with counter-insurgency training, with Tel Aviv recently vowing “there is no limit” to the military assistance its willing to provide India, while also urging the Indian government to adopt an “Israeli-type retaliation to terror strikes.”
But this relationship has become a two-way street, as the two countries forged a number of strategic, military and technology partnerships during the Modi years, with bilateral trade soaring from $200 million to $6.3 billion over the past three decades. Israel and India have become the ultimate blood brothers.
So, if you’re looking for where Israel got the inspiration for its proposed “war on love” in the occupied Palestinian Territories, then look no further than India. President Modi’s party — Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – have enacted laws prohibiting Hindu women from marrying Muslim men under the pretext of preventing “Love Jihad” – an Islamophobic conspiracy that falsely contends Muslim men are tricking Hindu women into marrying them, before forcing them to convert to Islam as part of grand plot to transform India into an Islamic caliphate.
The conspiracy theory was first circulated across social media platforms in India, then picked up by right-wing media pundits in the media before being used by BJP-ruled states to further stigmatize Muslims and make their life so unbearable that they believe they have no other choice than to self-deport to neighbouring Muslim majority countries Pakistan and Bangladesh. The goal is to transform India into a Hindu-only nation.
Similarly, Israel, a country built on the displacement and dispossession of indigenous Palestinians, has made no secret of its intent to make life so miserable for its two million Palestinian citizens in hope they will self-deport to the occupied Palestinian Territories or neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. Israel has been credibly accused by all the world’s top human rights groups of establishing a system of apartheid rule to achieve this aim.
“Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy,” observes Human Rights Watch.
Both Israel and India are using and proposing anti-love laws to control targeted populations and counter unwanted demographic change by making falling in love with a Palestinian or Indian Muslim pure hell.
“Indeed, the sole purpose of this directive is to isolate, complicate, and control Palestinian lives. It’s hateful and it’s destructive,” writes Marwan Bishara, a political analyst for Al Jazeera.
Through these actions, Israel and India have made clear that they’re willing to weaponize romance and love to create and maintain demographic change in their respective occupied and disputed territories.