A delegation of Indian journalists and social media influencers, including three Muslim writers from Kashmir, is currently in Israel on a weeklong media tour. This visit aligns with Israel’s efforts to strengthen its position in the global public opinion landscape, reported the Jewish News Syndicate, which covers Israel and the Jewish world.
The group, which also features an Afghan journalist residing in exile in Germany, is participating in the midst of an intense media battle over the narrative of the conflict with Hamas.
“How do I stop the support for the evil things that Hamas has done?” Yana Mir, Kashmir’s first Muslim female blogger, said.
Mir, who has a combined quarter-million followers across several social media platforms, has been threatened for her support for Israel in Kashmir.
She said that reading a children’s book at the age of nine about the birth of Christianity changed her worldview and put her at odds with the universal teaching in Kashmir that Israel is the land of Muslims.
“How can Israelis and Jews occupy their own land?” Mir asked. Of the October 7 massacre that killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and triggered the war, she said, “Now in our era, Jews are being exterminated again,” according to the Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
Columnist Irfan Ali Pirjade added, “We felt the parallels with what Hamas is doing after visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.”
Sajid Yousuf Shah, founder and CEO of The Real Kashmir News, who now serves as media head of Bharatiya Janata Party in Kashmir, said, “I am Muslim, but Jews deserve life and dignity,” adding, “It’s not a matter of land but a matter of existence.”
He noted that his mother and uncle were killed in Kashmir by Islamist terrorists in front of his four-year-old cousin.
The weeklong study visit, which was funded by Sharaka, an Israeli non-governmental organisation whose name in Arabic means “partnership.” Founded after the signing of the Abraham Accords, the organisation encourages dialogue, understanding, cooperation and friendship, as reported by Jewish News Syndicate.
The itinerary included visits to hard-hit southern kibbutzim attacked by Hamas, which have become a focus of war tours, and the traditional tourist stops at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Centre and the Knesset in Jerusalem.
“Especially during these times, it was important for us to bring this group of journalists and social media influencers to see the truth firsthand so that they bring this story to millions of their readers and followers in India,” said Sharaka chairman Amit Deri.
The Afghan journalist on the delegation, Abdulhaq Omeri, said that he had no clue before the visit that Muslims make up 20 per cent of Israeli citizens, noting that he was pleasantly pleased to freely visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and hear the Muslim call to prayer by the muezzin, things that he did not think were possible.
“People have forgotten the brutality of October 7 with the relentless propaganda of the media,” said Swati Goel Sharma, an editor at Swarajya magazine who is Hindu.
She said that while the Qatari-based Al Jazeera television network openly picks a side in the conflict, the Western media is more deceptive in their pretence of reporting on both sides’ perspectives.
The Indian journalist noted that the majority of Hindu India was largely supportive of Israel, with the exception of the upper class and the cinema world, which followed the cue of the American left.
“Not too many people in Bollywood have an understanding of Israel, but if (American actress) Susan Sarandon says something about Jews or Israel, then it’s fashionable,” Jewish News Syndicate quoted Sharma as saying.