A Roundup Conversation About Indian and Israeli Ethnonationalism with Ajantha Subramanian, Lori Allen (JP)


Ajantha Subramanian and Lori Allen turn from hosts to interlocutors in an episode that ties a bow on our Violent Majorities conversations about Indian (episode 1) and Israeli (episode 2) ethnonationalism. The three friends discuss commonalities between Balmurli Natrajan’s charting of the "slippery slope towards a multiculturalism of caste" and Natasha Roth-Rowland's description of the "territorial maximalism" that has been central to Zionism. The role of overseas communities loomed large, as did the roots of ethnonationalism in the fascism of the 1920s, which survived, transmuted or merely masked over the subsequent bloody century, as other ideologies (Communism and perhaps cosmopolitan liberalism among them) waxed before waning.

The conversation also examines the current-day shared playbook of the long-distance far-right ideologies of Zionism and Hindutva. And it concludes with a reflection on the suitability of the term fascism to describe such organizations and their historical forebears as well as other contemporary movements.

Mentioned in the episode

  • Snigdha Poonam’s recent book Dreamers investigates the “angry young men” engaged in Hindutvite attacks, including those who are economically and educationally marginalized, as well as those who resent what they see as their wrongful decline from privilege.
  • Yuval Abraham’s “The IDF unit turning ‘Hilltop Youth” Settlers into Soldiers” is an investigation into how Israeli settlers from violent outposts are being inducted into a new military unit responsible for severe abuses of Palestinians across the West Bank. (However, in describing Israel’s “hilltop youth” as coming from “lower rungs,” Lori feels she may have overstated their marginalization. Although one report describes Israel’s hilltop youth as young men recruited from unstable homes, others point to the Israeli state’s unwillingness to stop them.)
  • Daniel Kupfert Heller, Jabotinsky's Children, on the rise of the transnational youth movement, Betar. A correction: Jabotinsky was from Odessa (modern Ukraine), but much of his support was in Poland.
  • RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) as the first institutionalization of the Hindutva project and a living remnant of 1920s fascism.
  • The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) arises as the political wing of the RSS and comes to prominence around the destruction of the Ayodhya Mosque.
  • Lori's interview with Zachary Lockman in MERIP about historical changes in American Jewish attitudes towards Zionism.
  • Ajantha refers to the argument in Natasha Roth-Rowland's recent dissertation ("'Not One Inch of Retreat': The Transnational Jewish Far Right, 1929-1996"), that the turn towards Zionism is linked in the US with a turn away from Communism as another transnational movement, waning as Zionism was waxing.
  • Lori mentions the grim effects of the redefinition of anti-Semitism put forward in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA), one response to which is the 2020 Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism.
  • Azad Essa, Hostile Homelands discusses Zionist support of Hindutva activism and lobbying in the US. One group that has modelled its congressional activism on that of the American Jewish Committee and AIPAC is the Hindu American Foundation.
  • Ajantha mentions Hindutvites repurposing their online Islamophobia in support of Israel after Hamas’s October 7th military operation.
  • Alberto Toscano, “The Long Shadow of Racial Fascism” discusses radical Black thinkers who have argued that racial slavery was a form of American fascism.
  • Robert Paxton’s “The Five Stages of Fascism” makes the case that the KKK may be the earliest fascist organization.

Recallable Books

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Elizabeth Ferry and John Plotz

Free-ranging discussion of books from the past that cast a sideways light on today's world. Recall This Book is hosted by Elizabeth Ferry, Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University and John Plotz, Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative.

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