Vijeta Uniyal on Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Podcast: “Being an immigrant myself, I thought I needed to take a stand.”
Half-hour talk focused on Israel-India relations and the “Indians For Israel” advocacy group.
This week I sat down with Kasim Hafeez of the Christians United for Israel (CUFI). The half-hour conversation revolved around Israel-India bilateral relations, anti-Israel activism, and “Indians For Israel,” a pro-Israel initiative founded in 2013.
The podcast is advertised as a “biweekly conversations with experts on Israel and the Middle East,” hosted by Hafeez, CUFI’s Middle East Analyst.
Kasim is a British citizen of Pakistani Muslim heritage and grew up in a Radical Islamist milieu. Today, he is the Middle East Analyst for a leading U.S. Christian organization. I met Kasim for the first time in March 2019. We sat down together for a brief interview with an Israeli public broadcaster. This week’s podcast was another great opportunity to catch up with him again.
For those who may not know CUFI: it is the largest pro-Israel organization in America. The organization, with over 10 million members, is at the forefront of educating and empowering Christians to stand with Israel and the Jewish people.
Indians For Israel is widely regarded as the leading Indian pro-Israel group online. Last year, I was named by the Algemeiner weekly among the “top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life.” The Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) ranked me among the “top 40 global advocates for Israel online” in 2020.
In recent years, I have been on many online discussions and radio interviews. But this was the first opportunity for me, as a secular Hindu, to address a predominantly Christian audience. Indian Christians have been at the forefront of my pro-Israel initiative, and I wanted to express my special gratitude to them.
I talked about my personal motivation for starting a pro-Israel initiative:
“I came to Germany in 2010 as an immigrant. I [had] studied German culture and history, and I was very sensitive to what happened during the Nazi regime. And the Holocaust was very much present in as far as my education was concerned. … [A]round 2012 during Gaza crisis I was in Cologne … and I saw what kind of views migrant young men had about Israel. And I heard things that you would not say in polite society in Germany. And they were being said. …The larger (German) society was tending to ignore it, saying, … “you know, they don’t know better,” or something like that.”
“Being an immigrant myself, I thought I needed to take a stand.”
And how Indians For Israel came into existence:
“I started writing a …. sort of blog online, which got certain attention from people in my community. And then from there I went to Twitter and Facebook. So one thing led to another and the kind of support I got made me do more. And the kind of support I found within my community … showed me that I was in the right path.”
A key topic of our concern was the inroads made by the anti-Israel boycott campaign (or the BDS Movement) within the Indian student community on the U.S. campuses:
“When you are talking about the universities, even Indian universities or universities abroad. You’re talking about a segment of Indian society, which is privileged to go into those institutions. If you’re talking about Indians in the U.S. and in colleges, they are the crème de la crème. (…)
If you talk about the Indian elite, who are to a great extent part of the problem we have in our own country, to lecture other people. I think that that’s the height of hypocrisy. (…)
Many Indians in [U.S.] campuses are trying to fit in, and trying to be the intellectuals that they would like to be and trying to be recognized. … And the anti-Israel BDS … is a part of that package. (…)
I don’t think there’s any deep conviction as far as Indians on those campuses are concerned because there are no grievances.
And … if they want to go after something … there are issues I can tell them they should be focusing on within their own community. (…)
So being a blue collar person for myself, I have a little respect for that elite…”
I was critical of India’s continued support for anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations:
“I think a lot of media focus has been on Mr. Modi’s hands-on diplomacy, the way the relationship has been with Mr. Netanyahu, that’s a great thing in itself. (…)
[C]oming to the negative part. A lot is to be desired when it comes to India’s stance … at international fora and the United Nations. India has been consistently voting against Israel, not as much as it did before, but still, India is a reliable country to vote against Israel if it is in any U.N. forum. (…)
As far as diplomacy is concerned, we still have our Cold War reflexes. (…) [T]his is the way that it has been going on for 20-25 years. (…) I think that there has to be a change in the thinking as far as India’s positioning in the international arena is concerned.”
I concluded the interview by expressing my thanks to Indian Christians who had played an important role in getting our initiative off the ground, and have sustained it through their support over the years:
“I would take this opportunity to thank our Christian friends in India, who are also very connected to your organization [CUFI] and very active in our community. I think they are one of the most enthusiastic, very loving, very kind and very encouraging people in my own social media community. So I extend our thanks to them and I encourage … more debate, more input from them.”DONATE
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