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The ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and the ‘Jewish State’: the Ideological Foundations of Ethnic Democracy in India and Israel Open Access Deposited

The close military, political, and diplomatic relationship between the right-wing nationalist governments of India under Narendra Modi and Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu is well-documented. Thus far, however, no study has undertaken a comprehensive comparative analysis of the ideological themes and principle that underlie the two countries’ particular nationalist regimes. Using the analytical framework of ethnic democracy first developed by Israeli sociology Sammy Smooha, I seek to answer the question: How do the parallel themes found in Hindutva and Revisionist Zionist ideology influence the contemporary nationalist right and shape the construction and perpetuation of ethnic democracy in India and Israel? Using a combination of primary ideological writings and secondary scholarly commentary, this paper highlights the primary themes—the construction and mobilization of national identity, the question of national minorities, the deployment of historical narrative, the politics of national renewal, and the articulation of maximalist territorial claims—that can be found in both the Hindutva ideology of the Indian BJP and the Revisionist Zionist ideology of the Israeli Likud Party. Examining each theme at both the ideological level as well as the level of contemporary Indian and Israeli politics, I provide an in-depth comparative analysis of each case. Ultimately, I conclude that while the contemporary political right in both countries does invoke the legacies and ideologies of the past to shape and legitimize their respective ethnic-democratic regimes, both movements strategically select and repackage the key tenets of these ideologies to suit the unique needs and conditions of a 21st-century ethnic democracy.

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