Aseem Shukla’s Piece on the Gaza Flotilla

In his piece in The Washington Post’s “On Faith” column last Wednesday, Aseem Shukla, co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), begins with the following:

Watching events unfold in the Middle East, I lose the hyphen in Hindu-American here and comment only as an American. I do not represent the Hindu American Foundation here, but represent the views of one stunned by the existential challenges in the Middle East (On Faith).

He then questions the motives of the flotilla organizers, characterizing it as a political stunt rather than a genuine humanitarian effort (why are the two mutually exclusive?).

The flotillas insist on direct access to land controlled by the same Hamas thugs that are committed to destroying Israel and have purposefully launched thousands of rockets at Israel. These seaborne do-gooders could easily unload their supplies in Israel and have them transported to Gaza if their concerns were only humanitarian. But theirs were political, and they chose to protest, provoke and, yes, in a few cases, covet the perverse martyrdom of the extremist.

The problem with Mr. Shukla’s article, and the reason I find it disingenuous, is that though he claims to lose his hyphen, his argument fits neatly within the political framework of HAF.

Since its inception, HAF has allied itself with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby,” working simultaneously to advocate for a stronger India-Israel-US relationship and to mark “common values” shared by the Jewish and Hindu communities.

From HAF’s first interfaith press release, 5/19/2004:

The leadership of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) ( interacted with several Jewish leaders from across the United States during the Annual Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, D.C., May 16-18, 2004 ( HAF, the only Hindu organization present at the annual conference attended by the most prominent U.S. elected officials including President George W. Bush, represented Hindu Americans during discussions that followed a breakout session devoted to United States-India-Israel relations (HAF).

From their second interfaith press release, 10/20/2004:

Addressing a meeting of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on September 20, 2004, Mihir Meghani, M.D., President, Hindu American Foundation (HAF) (, highlighted the common values shared by the two communities and stressed the need for Hindus and Jews to work together to promote understanding, tolerance, and pluralism.

“Both communities are inspired by more than 5000-year-old heritages,” said Dr. Meghani in his address. “Family values, tolerance and acceptance of other religions, cultures, and customs are defining characteristics of the two,” he added (HAF).

Given this, it’s hardly surprising that there isn’t criticism to be found of the Israeli government on the pages of HAF site. Now mind, HAF doesn’t give a pass to just any state combating terrorism.

Last year, HAF put out two press releases as the war in Sri Lanka neared its end (2/27/09 and 4/22/09) in which they criticized both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE:

HAF has repeatedly condemned what it considers a disproportionate Sri Lankan response on the civilian ethnic Tamil population in its annual Hindu human rights report…

HAF has condemned both the Sri Lankan army as well as the LTTE for the violence, for the loss and displacement of innocent civilians, and the destruction of Hindu temples and other places of worship.  HAF believes there can be no military solution to the problem and the conflict should be settled through a durable political solution.

Yet there’s no such nuanced statement that I could find about the Israel-Palestine conflict. I suppose it could be argued that HAF wouldn’t comment or issue a press release on Israel-Palestine since it doesn’t involve Hindus; however, given HAF’s alliance with American lobbies that support the actions of the Israeli government, is it unfair to assume that the omission of such a statement or press release is an endorsement of the Israeli state’s actions? If such an omission isn’t political, then what is it?

Mr. Shukla’s narrative of the conflict would have us believe that a mere wall is all that protects Israel from certain destruction, completely ignoring the disproportionate means of violence at Israel’s disposal.

Please note that I’m not taking issue with Mr. Shukla’s characterization of Hamas as anti-democratic and dissent-quashing. I agree that its attacks on Israel must be stopped and that it must accept Israel’s existence. But his kid-gloved treatment of Israel and its role in the conflict fits so conveniently into the larger political agenda of HAF that I don’t see how he can claim some sort of objectivity by losing his hyphen in writing this piece.

98 thoughts on “Aseem Shukla’s Piece on the Gaza Flotilla

  1. Neha, Ah, the delicious irony of Muslim desis railing against colonialism–pot, meet kettle. It is nourishing enough that I can skip dinner. Jai Hind, Rabindranath

  2. Ah, the delicious irony of Hindu desis trying to act white and important. Very nourishing indeed.

  3. @Rabindranath: But the blockade of Gaza isn’t about Turkey, the nationality of the individuals killed trying to take aid and builidng supplies to the blockaded territory doesn’t seem like it should be all that relevant.

    @Neha. Ouch! Perhaps accurate (for some), but harsh!!

  4. Zaf, If theieves accuse others of theft, I think that their theivery is relevant indeed. It suggests that perhaps theivery is less bad than the accusers are suggesting, no?

  5. Peace, Rabindranath. This kills not, neither is it killed. Focus on the action (the blockade, breaking the blockade, media stunt, whatever) rather than the doer (Turks, Israelis, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Martians…)

    is this punitive blockade of a civilian population a good, or righteous, action or not?

    Are the issues being played out in Palestine similar to those played out in the subcontinent or not?

    What do they have to learn, good and bad, from our experience? What about us from theirs? Obviously I think the competing types of nationalism is relevant, but that’s jmho

  6. Neha opines -

    But then Hindus served the British army during WWII

    so did many other 1000s of indians of all faiths.

    And do you actually know anything about indian history? Such as the Quit India movement of the 40s? It doesnt sound like it – your palin-esque sound bites suggest otherwise.

  7. The HAF exists to give voice to Hindu traditions in the US and hopes to be able (a very distant second hope) to leverage the resources of the wealthiest overseas group of Hindus to hold up a mirror (the mirror of the most powerful democratic republic) before the Indian government so that it may not act in any way that ignores or harms Hindu interests in India. In case of the first, the HAF, it can be said, has found some success. It has taken to issuing statements on issues of the day (prayer in schools, yoga, the environment, 1st amendment, terrorism, profiling, academic discussions on Hinduism, etc.,) that are well written and unequivocal, do not sound strident or whiny. In the case of the second there is a very long way to go. Even if they wouldn’t tell you there are more than a few HAs (I do not include any HAF office bearers because I don’t speak for them) that think that what is considered secular in the US is very different from the Indian variant. Government interference with temple administration in India is a sore point. The issue as well as solutions are enormous and the HAF by itseld can’t do much. Read about HAF’s reaction to the recent accident at the famous Kalahasti temple in India, where the gopuram collapsed, showing up a cavalier disregard for architectural norms on part of the temple administration department of the state of AP.

    While the HAF may confer with the AJC, AIPAC, and ADL the purpose on part of the HAF is to engage at the level of the community rather than work on the larger country to country level. Why does HAF not work with SALDEF or with Sikh groups or CAIR, ISNA? I don’t know. But the HAF has collaborated other faith groups as well as secular organizations, most notably in the recent S.Carolina religious license plates suit.

    November 11, 2009 (Charleston, S.C.) – U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie ruled in favor of a coalition that included the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), several Christian clergy, a rabbi and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, yesterday, rejecting a special Christian license plate mandated by the South Carolina legislature last year. In her ruling, Judge Currie held that the license plate featuring a stained glass window, a large yellow cross and the phrase, “I Believe,” violated separation of church and state as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Ayesha Khan, Legal Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State represented HAF and the coalition. “Government must never be allowed to play favorites when it comes to religion,” said Khan. “That’s a fundamental constitutional rule, and I am delighted that the judge has reminded South Carolina officials of that fact.”

  8. BTW, no surprises about the HAF-baiting from the extreme leftys.

    Here we are, there are close to a million hindus in the US, and this modest attempt at representation brings out the weirdest questions from the extremists. I mean what do israel-palestine have to do with the “Hindu Americal Foundation”?

    Overall, the HAF has done an excellent job with limited resources and people.

  9. Overall, the HAF has done an excellent job with limited resources and people.

    there’s no baiting. i am glad that the haf, with its limited resources and people, finds time to take on such important issues as burger king ads in spain and the love guru movie.

    and btw, for those who say this is aseem shukla’s personal opinion and not haf, this article is now featured on the front page of haf. i assume you will now send outraged comments to haf about how this is not a “hindu american” issue, and is out of scope for the org? (you know, because your abiding interest for being on topic seems to manifest itself whenever the issue comes up on sepia mutiny).

  10. There is a small and modest effort by Hindus and Hinduphiles to carve out space in US politics. The Hindu Democrats PAC, formed recently, has all of three members – Bharat Krishnan (a Dem political strategist), Tauseef Kidwai (a techpreneur, social sector leader, paton of the arts) and Rajiv Srinivasan. The team is working slowly and activities are in a bit of a lull, because one among them – Rajiv – a West Point grad is currently serving in Afghanistan. Here’s his blog

  11. Neha, I am a bit confused by your assertions and allegations. Yes Hindus fought in World War II on behalf of the British. Some fought against the British, but I am sure you knew that. No? Oh dear. Is that due to the much maligned rote learning of the subcontinent, or the much-maligned narrow focus of the western educational system? Sometimes the symptoms for the different diseases are so similar. Perhaps its due to the overall allergy to education demonstrated by the Caribbean nations–and yes I am being very facetious. Muslims, Sikhs etc. also fought on behalf and against the good ole Raj. It appears to be your viewpoint that Israel is a colonizer and the U.S. is either an accessory or colonizer itself and that Israel is a country which acts in a manner inimical to Muslims (as opposed to acting in a manner inimical to Palestinians). Based on your outrage about Hindus serving in World War II are you taking the view that Muslims should not fight on behalf of the United States of America or any country that might be an ally of Israel? I presume we can quote you? Can Muslims do anything that might further the objectives of the US, such as non-combatant or government service (lots of clerks in the Raj), or would that also earn your everlasting scorn as “Raj “lovers? What about those Muslims who swore an oath of citizenship to defend the U.S. against all enemies, foreign and domestic ? Was that just a Psych! moment? If so, can we quote you? I know more than a few message boards that would be delighted to have confirmation of their own suspicions regarding the loyalties of Muslims towards the American empire (speaking of colonialism).

    I also presume your rage about colonialism means that you will be giving back that land you occupy that doesn’t happen to be located on an Indian Reservation. After all, you are supporting ongoing, immediate, direct and local colonization (let alond colonization thousands of miles away) with your property taxes, let alone state and federal taxes. If your argument is that there are no longer any original inhabitants left on the land you occupy and therefore you don’t need to worry about the colonization, well I’d just like you to consider the logical implications of that justification for other regions of the world that seem to capture your interest.

    Whatever the views regarding the Israel/Palestine issue may be and I agree that it is a fascinating and emotional subject, I still maintain that the issue has about as much relevance to the purported purpose of this blog as the civil war in Sudan (speaking of colonizers) or the Troubles in Ireland.

  12. Seriously, WTF is wrong with Hindu-Americans, or HAF, liking Israel? Most Americans like Israel. Most wealthy people in the world identify with Israel, which has lots of successful start-up companies, over its neighbors, which are economic and intellectual basket-cases. I am F-ing American and F-ing wealthy, so I like Israel too. It’s natural. Israel also supports our homeland (Bharat) on intelligence and defense issues. WTF is there to apologize for? I F-ing love Israel, and I F-ing hate its enemies, who are my enemies (as an American and as a NRI with relatives in Mumbai).

    /rant off.

  13. schoolyard, The disclaimer at the bottom of Shukla’s article said this article may not necessarily reflect……of University of Minnesota and the HAF. So they’ve covered themselves, as is standard practice in most newspapers when people who have interests in one or more organizations also write in their individual capacity. Yet their motives, biases and influences are there for all to see. Shukla never said, nor has the HAF said, that they do not deal with Jewish issues or Israel or these are of no interest to HAF. His other Faith columns are also posted on HAF, so this one was. HAF probably agrees with him, but not all HAF members will agree with everything he said. Perhaps they’ll get e-mails questioning Mr. Shukla’s point of view. But to accuse HAF or Shukla of hypocrisy or being unfair/political is unfair. Unfair or political compared to who? All the other “fair” and “apolitical” South Asian American religious organizations out there? Only when you subject all the South Asian American organizations to this high standard (which even this blog cannot maintain all the time) will it be remotely fair. It’s not exactly earth shattering or rocket science to figure out that a prominent HAF member has written this article taking sides in this incident, just as it’s not earth shattering to read that Vivek disagrees with Mr. Shukla, given the nature of PTR website, which also excessively focuses on some things and gives short shrift to others. Take issue with Mr. Shukla’s position, not with a badly worded, clumsy disclaimer.

    If Mr. Shukla had been representing, say, a group seen more favourably by the original poster, and had written a column criticizing the Israel govt. and had also included a disclaimer saying the wasn’t representing said group, but his writings or views were not that different from the overall political agenda of that group, would the original poster have written a blog post criticizing him for being disingenuous about the de-hyphenation? Probably not. It’s Mr. Shukla’s position that irks the poster, not his dehyphenation. And his position is fair game, as long as the position of all the other organizations are also fair game.

  14. Seriously, WTF is wrong with Hindu-Americans

    Of course there is nothing wrong with Supporting Israel.

    Neha, your garbage accusations about Hindus wanting to side with the whites is ridiculous, as to why some Hindus support Israel. Argue all you want, alongside the numerous whites who to me are confused in their illogical condemnation of Israel, but I have valid reasons for not seeing Israel as colonizer or an apartheid state.

    What I do see is that in every Muslim govt country, whether it be Jordan or Pakistan, apartheid is part and parcel of the laws and society. You would never put up with living in the “colonizing” US, with laws that state you cannot become President b/c of your religion, or you must practice a particular type of religious law or you are legally allowed to face persecution.

    Apartheid is not practiced by Israel but apartheid is practiced in Saudi, Jordan, and most other muslim run countries. The imperial, colonizing history that most empires have including of some muslim regimes (not just white brits…really whites are not the only people in the world capable of doing evil) in mid east and south asia, often forced conversions or reduced their subjects if they didn’t convert, what to us with 2nd,3rdclass or slave status. The Arab slave trade has long-lasting repurcussions. To me Neha, your priorities are just whacked and it’s unfortunate that you cannot support your points w/o resorting to “uncle tom” nonsense, that applies to more your like, if anyone.

    By the way, how much aid does the US supply to Pakistan or other Arab countries, as compared to Israel? — just curious.

  15. Delurked, I suspect it’s the combination of regurgitating a crassly dumbed down pov plus the chutzpah of pretending to speak as an individual rather than as the rep of an org trying to make common cause with AIPAC etc that sticks in the craw. Shukla’s article was not written for desis, and who else would care? So why written? For what purpose? It’s Bobby Jindal wearing a plastic star of David for political advantage, iow Kenneth the Page trying to be wily.

  16. PS:So your attitude is – I like Israel because they are not muslims? Talk about racism! Ofcourse islamic countries practice discrimination of all sorts. If you are willing to look at the facts on the ground you will acknowledge that Israel too does that with Palestinians. Islamic countries do not have much a reputation anywhere in the world- infact many of their own citizens do not like their governments.

    So how do we bring about open societies in such countries;

    1. Stop US/western aid and monarch props
    2. Let them figure out what is best for them. (imposing democracy does not work – never did)

    What can solve I/P?

    1. Stop US aid
    2. Stop blind support and make Israel accountable for its actions by the international community
    3. Help Palestinians get a country of their own.

    Point 3. is not possible as long is US blindly sides with whatever Israel does and prevent UN or anyother international org from bringing them to book. This harms US interests worldwide as we are trying to build bridges with the muslim world – we went to a fucking war on that pretext (false albeit).

    We can talk about all the history we want – that will not change anything. let us deal with the present.

  17. “I suspect it’s the combination of regurgitating a crassly dumbed down pov…”

    Zaf, but what if a supporter of the Palestinian side in this incident had regurgitated a crassly dumbed down pov? Would it get the same treatment? Only from supporters of the Israeli side.

    Is Mr. Shukla’s position surprising to Vivek? I doubt it. But HAF does have members who may not agree with the organization officially taking the position that Mr. Shukla took or the manner in which he expressed it, so naturally he has to put in a disclaimer. I just don’t think it’s fair to accuse him of pretending to speak as an individual just because his point of view does not appear to drastically veer from HAF’s general attitude towards Israeli/Jewish issues. People who happen to belong to other South Asian American organizations and who write in their individual capacity in newspapers are likely to also still express views that fall within the agendas of their organizations, even if they have included a disclaimer that these are their personal views. After all, they joined these organizations because their own views/passions coincided with at least some of the views/passions of the organization. They’re not really fooling anyone:) This is found on the editorial pages of the NYT everyday. I think the original poster just doesn’t like Mr. Shukla’s position (fair enough) and is annoyed that he can’t pin it directly on HAF, which comes in for a lot of flak here, sometimes seemingly unnecessarily so, given that other South Asian religious groups don’t seem to suffer the same keen analyses or monitoring of what they put on their websites/what their agendas are and whether they give all issues equal and fair attention. I am sure there are groups that take the Palestinian side in this incident that do not have press releases condemning every act of violence by the Palestinian side against Israelis. Again, if one of their spokespersons wrote a newspaper column castigating Israel/Hindus, would a Palestinian-side sympathizer care to scroll through their website to see if they were being fair or apolitical, if they had made common cause with CAIR/World Council of Churches/Vatican, or would he just probably say “Yes, I agree with this person” and ignore irrelevant information about whether his views represent just him or the organization? Now, a supporter of the Israeli position would probably check out their website for ammunition and complain about fairness and politics. Everyone plays the same games.

  18. Zaf, but what if a supporter of the Palestinian side in this incident had regurgitated a crassly dumbed down pov? Would it get the same treatment? Only from supporters of the Israeli side.

    so, to be clear… you are arguing that vivek should only discuss this article on its viewpoints, not on the signature. but you are criticizing vivek for hypocrisy based on your assumption about what he might say about a hypothetical article by a pro-palestinian indian?

  19. So your attitude is – I like Israel because they are not muslims? Talk about racism!

    Are you joking?…where in anything that I wrote did you get this reaction?

  20. Well, I think Vivek would be better served to discuss Mr. Shukla’s actual position rather than whether he was hiding behind a dehyphenation or not. But he can discuss it in whatever fashion he chooses, and people can take issue with his take – isn’t that the point of blogs and internet discussions? If Vivek can make assumptions about the motives of others, he should be open to questioning of his own motives. Vivek has made assumptions about HAF’s sins of omission. You’re right, I am making an assumption that Vivek would give a pro-Palestinian piece a kinder, gentler treatment and a few free passes. Everyone is a hypocrite in some way (including myself), not one side or the other. As I said above, it’s all about which “bias” you ultimately feel more of a kinship with. We all tend to overlook flaws and commit sins of omission when it suits us. Everyone always says “Just because we don’t talk about “blank” doesn’t mean we don’t care or we are biased….” except that it generally does mean just that. It’s like people who say “Two wrongs don’t make a right” but who were silent or apathetic when the first wrong was committed or who overlook the first wrong and focus on the second wrong and only bring in context when it’s the first wrong that concerns them and not the second wrong.

  21. delurker #38:

    Expecting Mr. Shukla, even as an individual, to express opinions markedly different from those espoused in connection with HAF, is like expecting Vivek to express opinions/view things on Sepia Mutiny markedly different from those expressed on Pass The Roti. He’s not officially representing PTR, I assume, but his writing here is probably similar to his thoughts there. Both are shaped by their respective biases and ideologies.

    Sure, but I’m not changing hats between here and there.

    ente #44:

    I had no idea that “real” Americans (by which I obviously mean the unhyphenated) were so objective… I am more curious as to why the poster believes that HAF is somehow obligated to condemn Israel. Is it supposed to condemn the attack? Or is it supposed to condemn the existence of Israel?

    Fair enough on the first part. I had written about this a bit in an earlier draft, but cut it because it would have made the post considerably longer. Let me just say that I didn’t find Mr. Shukla’s opinion to be uniquely or definitively American, and wasn’t really sure why he went with that one either. Objectivity was the wrong word for me to use. Distance, perhaps?

    Second, I don’t want anything from HAF. Even if I agree with some of the issues that they take on (jyotsana’s #57 being a great example), I don’t subscribe to the Hindu American political identity. I only brought HAF into it because I didn’t think that Mr. Shukla’s piece diverged from HAF’s point of view, and wanted to illustrate why this was the case. The reason I wanted to make this link was NOT because Mr. Shukla is writing as an individual and not representing HAF. It was because of the line about losing his hyphen. Why was it so important to do this in the first sentence of his column?

    To those of you who feel that there’s enough to focus on in South Asia without worrying about Israel/Palestine, are your comments directed at Mr. Shukla, me, or both of us?

    Keshav, your comments rely on an underlying assumption that you haven’t backed up. Also, it’s been a few years since I self-identified as anything other than vivek. Or the vivekster. Or el vivekerino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

  22. Well, I think Vivek would be better served to discuss Mr. Shukla’s actual position rather than whether he was hiding behind a dehyphenation or not. But he can discuss it in whatever fashion he chooses, and people can take issue with his take – isn’t that the point of blogs and internet discussions?

    sure, and nobody is censoring you or shutting you up afaict. i am just amused at the obvious contradiction in your position.

    pointing out the problems with an obviously deceptive coda in a piece is inappropriate, but attacking that criticism based on hypotheticals is just a-ok!

    i am equally amused by those who are unbothered by haf, an organization that they identify with, peddling shukla’s purportedly independent opinions about israel, but are tremendously upset by a blog writing about the same issue because it is supposedly out of bounds.

  23. oh, and mr. shukla’s disclaimer is hardly pro forma. it is in fact the beginning of his essay, and supposedly frames it.

  24. “Sure, but I’m not changing hats between here and there.”

    Fair point. But I also don’t think Mr. Shukla is claiming to change hats as much as trying to say that he’s speaking as an individual American (and each individual American has their own viewpoint). You’re right, there is no uniquely American viewpoint on this issue, but each individual American citizen is a unique person. He’s putting forth AN American viewpoint (one not solely determined by his Hindu/Indian cultural/relgious influences), not THE American viewpoint. I think he made sure to say it primarily to be responsible to HAF. He cannot, in good conscience, claim that this is the official position of HAF, even if many of their members agree with it. But there will be members who do not agree with his position, so let’s not assume every member of HAF is an automaton. He also said it to, let’s face it, express a viewpoint that will gain him “points” (and in this sense I do agree with Vivek) with a section of the American populace and to express solidarity with those he supports/ But is he really doing anything differently to what most spokespeople do in their editorial columns, even when they claim to be speaking as individuals? They all generally support some side or the other. And he should be allowed the freedom to speak as an individual even when his views coincide with the group.

    “I only brought HAF into it because I didn’t think that Mr. Shukla’s piece diverged from HAF’s point of view, and wanted to illustrate why this was the case.”

    I don’t understand why, just because his views appear to mirror HAF’s, that he still can’t say he’s speaking as an individual. Is his claim of speaking as an individual only legitimate if his views appeared to differ drastically from HAF’s? And it does say at the bottom that it does not “necessarily” differ, which I think, is a get-out-of-jail for most columnists who also represent organizations.

  25. Razib, to put it more bluntly – if your basic contention is that there are other issues that are more important, but also that it is a reality that this issue receives focus, then in what ways are you engaging or reacting to this issue in order to draw attention to those other more important issues, both here and elsewhere. For example, actually listing them as has been done is useful. Pointing out that there’s a bias in the media of the U.S. (and other places) to overfocus on this issue in contrast to others is useful. But without addressing WHY this is the case and ideally making strides towards action on those ‘other’ issues besides Palestine is basically a call to demobilization of public opinion at a time when, for the first time in a long time, it seems like at least a single group of disempowered people in the world that has been suffering for a LONG time is making some headway. It wasn’t so long ago that you wouldn’t find anything even on apartheid in Israel/Palestine in the mainstream in the U.S. – and you will find even less on the continued degradation of people in Sri Lanka (of all kinds, but especially Tamil), and you will find next to nothing on Western Sahara.

    So yes, we can go through the Human Rights Watch, UNDP, or Amnesty reports on how people are faring in different places and look at the enormous biases that are reflected, and this is useful. But after we leave the discussion in this post, the discussion should have spurred us on to do something greater – to stop being silent. Even if that means just making the list of degradation of human welfare by various measures in different contexts and publicising it widely. Here in the UK, the Guardian (I think) actually just did that because it is (International?) Refugee week and they published a graphic showing what countries the most displaced people are from and what countries host the most displaced people – Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan were near the top in one or both categories.

    Rabindranath, thank you for making explicit where you’re coming from. It’s extremely useful to understand that support for the interests of corporations in the U.S., support for Indian and Israeli governments, and support for the violence of the U.S. government are all linked. I wish more people were more explicit as you were – because although I completely and totally disagree with you, it’s because I completely and totally disagree that a system that creates the kind of inequalities that you and others and I benefit from should continue to exist in the way that it does. I would rather have a conversation about what should happen than defend what is happening for my narrow interests, and I would hope that you would do the same.

  26. “pointing out the problems with an obviously deceptive coda in a piece is inappropriate, but attacking that criticism based on hypotheticals is just a-ok!”

    You are assuming that he is being deceptive. That is hypothetical too. Can you prove that he is being deceitful? What is so obvious about it? So my hypothetical is just as hypocritical or no less a-ok than accusing someone of deception based on no other evidence than his position doesn’t appear to differ drastically from HAF’s. Even if HAF’s position is the same as his, they have the right not to want to officially endorse it in a newspaper column. And what good does that do them anyways? You’ve cleverly seen through their deception, so all is well with the world. As I said, as long as everyone is subject to these standards, fair enough. As a Hindu, I’m glad he started off that way, whatever his devious intention, because his views do not represent all Hindu Americans on this topic. Neither do pro-Palestinian Indians. Perhaps the latter, too, could at least also pretend not to speak for everyone. Perhaps this deception is more honest than no pretense of deception at all. Sleights of hand by both sides might actually do the rest of us a favour.

  27. I don’t understand all this debate about what Shukla is doing by not using the name of the organization. The effects of it are that tacit support are expressed by HAF, while HAF is not formally commenting. This is pretty common and it’s pure speculation what it formally says about HAF’s position. The reasons for that may be multiple but those are the effects and the reasons are unlikely to significantly change anyone’s opinion that HAF is aligned with AIPAC and Israeli ultranationalists in general.

    As for the relevance to South Asian Americans, another very good reason – probably the best – is that we face a similar situation as Jewish Americans in terms of how we choose to relate to the countries that we have been taught to be affiliated with. This article by Peter Beinhart on recent changes in how the organisations like AIPAC and the newest generation of young Jewish Americans do or do not relate to each other is quite useful for us – As is the whole debate, regardless of what ‘side’ you’re on.

  28. schoolyard

    Your contempt for HAF and ignorance of their activities is striking. But I would not expect less from authoritarian lefty full of prejudice and hot air.

  29. i am equally amused by those who are unbothered by haf, an organization that they identify with, peddling shukla’s purportedly independent opinions about israel, but are tremendously upset by a blog writing about the same issue because it is supposedly out of bounds.

    I don’t think anyone was criticizing Vivek for being out of bounds so much as for being. . . well. . .you know. . . wrong.

  30. Hey Vivek, I suppose I did make an assumption. I thought you also wrote for “Pass the Roti to the Left”?

    But I might jump in on the conversation about the dehyphenation. I think you guys are over analyzing. Mr. Shukla probably personally supports Israel. HAF has been shown to be associated with AIPAC. HAF maybe does not have an official stance on the raid.

    Without drawing his faith into it, he probably wanted to talk about it as a regular person without affiliations. Obviously, no author can do that fully when the audience knows his background pretty well but I don’t think it speaks to any sort of deceptive nature on his part.

  31. Sorry Keshav, I was talking about your statement about the lack of Hindu communities.

  32. I don’t think anyone was criticizing Vivek for being out of bounds so much as for being. . . well. . .you know. . . wrong.

    reading is fundamental. i assume you just missed the posts about how israel palestine was not a south asian issue.

    But I would not expect less from authoritarian lefty full of prejudice and hot air.

    nice assumptions, dear. you clearly know more about me than i do. but keep on with your ad hominem. it is a clear sign that one has lost the argument when that is all one can resort to.

  33. HAF maybe does not have an official stance on the raid.

    but still chooses to feature mr. shukla’s position on their front page. hmm.

  34. Even if HAF’s position is the same as his, they have the right not to want to officially endorse it in a newspaper column. And what good does that do them anyways?

    and yet haf features aseem’s article on their front page. so, which is it? does the article represent haf position or not?

  35. Dr. A, You really mystify me–have you ever traveled outside of the cocoon of the US/Canada/UK? Are you telling me that the political rights of gays or women are better in F-ing Algeria or Jordan than in the US or Canada? How are you ordering your priorities? Some old goat-farmer in ‘Palestine’ needs to kill a gay because his culture tells him to kill the Joooooss? Yeah, I’d rather my brown ass be governed by the Joooos than by the Algerians or Jordanians? So why are you sucking up to the latter? I care more about the rights of women and gays than about the supposed rights of Arabs over their neighbors, especially since outside of Arabia the Arabs are themselves colonialists.

    Konfused, but interested, Rabindranath

  36. It is always amusing to see Hindu desis bashing Arabs, when so many of them work in Arab countries, and large parts of India is even sustained by money earned from work in arab nations.

    How many Hindus would Israel be willing to hire in its IT or education or service jobs? Yeah, you guessed it. Very little because Israel does not want to dilute its Jewish population. It doesn’t even want to dilute its white demographic, leaving black and Indian Jews on the periphery of mainstream culture. It’s amusing to see Hindu desis supporting Zionism, which is a blatantly colonial and racist enterprise.

    HIndu desis in America can go ahead and earn good press and roles on TV because of their alliance with Israel, but the reality is that they will never, ever have power of their own because being Jewish and white is what gets you the good seats at this play.

    Aseem and hAF are basically taking orders from a new master. In the 20th century it was the Christian Brits. In the 21st century it is the Zionists Israelis. Always being a slavish follower is not something to be proud of.

  37. Vivek,

    Thanks for posting this story. It is well-researched, thoughtful, and informative.

    Also, next time less tonic and more gin please.

    • Neha
  38. Neha,

    Are you serious or just trolling ? It’s ironic that you are displaying such bigoted contempt for Hindus while bashing them for being ‘anti-arab’.

  39. It’s amusing to see Hindu desis supporting Zionism, which is a blatantly colonial and racist enterprise.

    You are a horrible distorter of history. Imagine if I said “It’s amusing to see Muslim desis supporting Islam, which is a blatantly colonial and racist enterprise in the Subcontinent.” Isn’t the latter comment as true as accusing the Jews of colonialism for creating a state where they’ve lived for millenia? Both claims are false. Unless you hate Muslim desis as much as you appear to hate Israel.

  40. Trully Neha, you are reaching for the lowest common denominator.

    If telling the truth about Arab run countries is bashing them; then so be it.

    How many Hindus would Israel be willing to hire in its IT or education or service jobs? I don’t know, does Israel have a need for IT folks in its small country – they don’t have enough educated ones.

    It is always amusing to see Hindu desis bashing Arabs, when so many of them work in Arab countries, and large parts of India is even sustained by money earned from work in arab nations.

    Bashing = telling the truth about the apartheid codified govts of the Muslim govt countries …okay. So what if Indians and other desis and other asians and africans who come from poorer countries go to the Middle East to be exploited? LOL…that somehow is supposed to mean that hindus are supposed to support countries like Saudi. The sad fact is, Saudis and other oil rich countries don’t have the man power willing to work in deplorable conditions so poorer desis, africans and other asians go there to get a job, as much as they hate it. My cousin works in the gulf, and you know why, not enough opportunity in India. So he takes advantage of the global economy.

    I could bring up muslim desis, in some gulf countries and how they are treated, and why they would blindly support such govts but really all that is not relevant. B/c many Indian muslims don’t involve themselves in this matter, when there is much more apartheid and atrocities practiced in these countries that is more relevant to them.

    61 Ente, brought up a lot of questions to you; I’d start thinking of an excuses quick on why you are here in the US when we dislocated the Native Americans.

    Anyways troll away…

    So glad Shukla doesn’t follow the mainstream crap! Kudos to his article?

  41. It looks as if all of Mr. Shukla’s or any other columnns that are also featured on HAF’s website also have the same disclaimer at the bottom and they are all featured under Recent News, so the treatment of this column is no different. Nor did Mr. Shukla claim that HAF has a different position to him, just that he was not officially speaking for them. The only difference was the extra disclaimer at the top of the article, probably because this is an emotive/contentious topic and one that HAF would rather not be officially pigeonholed into. That’s their PR sense at work. Perhaps they shouldn’t feature any of the columns to be consistent. Granted, they probably have sympathy for whatever is said in all those columns, but until and unless you speak to every member of HAF, you can’t assume it’s their “official” position. That seems to be reserved for the press release section. But even if this seems deceptive, what exactly is new about it? A quick check of FIACONA (Indian American Christian organization) shows their own insular preoccupations/biases and alliances with/support for groups/person others find dubious/too influential in American foreign policy and politics. They even have a series of articles on India accompanied by this statement: “A series of unbiased articles by so and so.” So, you don’t have to read and think for yourself. They’ve already done the thinking for you and told you they are unbiased articles. Do you honestly believe they are unbiased articles? Would you believe Mr. Shukla if he ran that statement with all his articles, especially the flotialla one? At least his deception didn’t go that far. He’s not claiming to be objective or unbiased, as far as I can tell.

  42. Kudos to his article!

    I remember when Harry Belafonte was calling General Powell a house slave, but in other terms. When you don’t have an argument you reach for your own inadequacies and project them to those that disagree with you…this is Neha.

  43. Aseem and hAF are basically taking orders from a new master

    This is anti-semitism.

  44. Ok, both benches are warned. If anyone has a response to #71, let’s hear it. If not, that’s enough.

  45. Neha, please crack open a history book and you’ll find the explanation staring you right in the face:

    80% of the 3 million victims there were hindus. hindu women were routinely singled out for rape (an ongoing and daily practice in modern bangladesh btw) Why you ask? Because the “perfidious hindu influence” on muslim east pakistanis was deemed to be inimical to the pakistani cause.“> so those oh so “martial” west pakistanis who routinely pray for even a speck of arab blood in their genetic make up committed one of the greatest mass murders in the last half century, all under the banner of religion and race.

    Incidentally, the states of pakistan and bangladesh continue to extinguish what remains of their hindu populations from 25% and 30% respectively to less than 1% and 8%, and yet no mention of it on this site. That is why HAF exists. Why does CAIR?

    Instead of vilifying jews and hindus, i suggest you shine the spotlight on your own cause. I do appreciate, however, how bloggers have time to search for injustice in the distant middle east, but almost methodically ignore it on a site dedicated to the appropriate geography. If this is your idea of a united South Asia, you can keep it…


  46. I guess that’s that. If anyone wants to take this offline, please feel free to email me at vivek[at] passtheroti [ dot] com