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The Diplomat: Examining India’s Digital Impact on the Israel-Gaza Conflict

In the aftermath of the Israel conflict, an Indian journalist named Aditya Raj Kaul, who is known for his pro-BJP views, made a post on X (previously known as Twitter) about the alleged atrocities committed by Hamas. He claimed that a pregnant woman had been dissected by Hamas, resulting in the death of her unborn child. While this post has gained significant attention, with 10.2 million views and over 21,000 retweets, including one from Ben Shapiro, it should be noted that the story remains unverified.
The Israel-Palestine conflict has always been a breeding ground for conspiracy theories and false information, and the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has seen a surge in misinformation. This highlights the importance of the digital battlefield in modern-day warfare and the involvement of citizens beyond the Middle East in a battle of discourse and ideology.
Notably, there has been attention drawn to the production and engagement with pro-Israel content among Indian nationals, particularly among right-wing Hindu nationalists. BOOM, a reputable Indian fact-checking service, has discovered verified Indian X users at the forefront of a “disinformation campaign” that targets Palestine with negative news while supporting Israel. For instance, a video that falsely claimed to show young girls being taken as sex slaves by a Palestinian fighter was widely circulated by Indian accounts.
It is worth noting that the spread of false information related to the Israel-Gaza conflict in India has led to accusations against the BJP’s IT Cell, a department within the ruling party responsible for managing its social media presence. However, beyond state-sponsored disinformation, this episode reveals broader trends surrounding fake news and grassroots involvement in generating, disseminating, and exporting misinformation in India.
The links between India and Israel are not new, with ideological resonance observed between the two countries. Hindu nationalists in India have shown support for the Israeli cause, drawing parallels between Hindutva and Zionism. Modi’s government has also departed from India’s usual neutrality in conflicts, aligning with Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This camaraderie has had a significant impact on India-Israel relations, evident in the growing economic and strategic ties between the two countries.
The rise of Hindutva has also led to the prevalence of pro-Israel sentiments among the Hindu right in India. Hindu nationalists often express unwavering support for Israel and Netanyahu, often accompanied by condemnations of Palestine, Pakistan, and Muslims in general. This sentiment has been referred to as the “India-Israel brotherhood.”
There is a voluntary and decentralized disinformation campaign by Hindu nationalists supporting Israel, in which they present themselves as “digital champions” of Israel. These accounts with large followings share unverified one-sided news against Hamas, which has gained significant momentum online. This campaign has sparked memes and satirical content aimed at challenging the Hindu nationalists’ vocal support for Israel.
The spread of disinformation and the right-wing network are both mutually reinforcing. Disinformation utilizes narratives derived from the right-wing network, while the success of the campaign relies on the emotive nature of right-wing beliefs. As the conflict unfolds, Hindu nationalists exploit Israel’s retaliation against Hamas to further their anti-Muslim agenda. The intertwining of global issues with domestic politics fuels anti-Muslim hate, using narratives from the foreign conflict to justify the persecution of Muslims in India.
However, it is important to note that the right-wing network is not solely responsible for the fragmented information landscape. The larger Israel-Palestine conflict is highly emotive, and people from different cultures and creeds find themselves relating to various facets of the conflict. Individuals consume and perpetuate misleading information that aligns with their worldview, contributing to the spread of misinformation.
In conclusion, the Israel-Palestine conflict has provided fertile ground for misinformation, and the involvement of right-wing Hindu nationalists in India has exacerbated the spread of false information. The digital battleground has become a significant arena for the dissemination of propaganda and the manipulation of public opinion. It is crucial for individuals to critically evaluate the information they consume and be aware of the potential biases and agendas behind it.
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