Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wading into the Palestine Discussion

Okay. I guess it is time to talk about Palestine--if nothing else, because that's what everyone seems to want to talk about and the issue intersects with everything else  that's happening.

When one  friend put me on the spot by asking my opinion about the "Palestinian issue", my first reaction was to ask whether he meant the Palestinian issue or the current situation in Gaza. Of course, Maulana Techno promptly said I was free to comment on whichever I felt was more relevant and urgent and what was possible given the medium (a Facebook comment-swap). Here, expanded to some extent and rephrased a bit, is what I said:

The situation in Gaza is what it is; it hardly needs any elaboration.

And I do think that the conflation of criticism of the actions of Israel and Zionist ideology and the actions taken to further it on the one hand and anti-semitism on the other is starting to break down a bit in American public discourse and the "mainstream".

And, as I was saying in a comment on Teeth Maestro's blog, in the US in particular, any challenge to Zionist actions (and I mean that advisedly; in the sense of actions that further the ideology and aims of Zionism) have been painted with the anti-semitic brush and thus kept in check. It is only in the last 2-3 years that some discussion has started in the public space. Until recently, this was true without exception even in progressive circles. But things ARE evolving; we’ve come a long way since 9/11, quite frankly. And the current assault on Gaza and the coverage of it has been both a case in point and another “halla” (as we say in Urdu) in that direction.

And, this might sound like a broken record, but this is not to pick on Jews; or even Zionists. After all we have the same thing gaining momentum both in Pakistan and in the wider Muslim world: the bugbear of “Islamophobia” is used to keep any challenge Maududist/Qutbist/Salafist thought and politics at bay.

Also, mind you, I am not saying Islamophobia does not exist–it is as real as anti-semitism; but my point is that both concepts have been used by extremists in our respective (Jewish and Muslim–the Hindus have their Hindutva, too) communities to their political benefit.

But there are still a ways to go and many myths to bust and many bugbears to put to rest along the way. I will address what I see and write and comment as we go along. Here's another one:

Someone expressed one thought that's been going through many minds around the world--not least in the Muslim world: that the Palestinians are being "punished for electing Hamas". While a very tempting argument for a lot of reasons, one can't forget that at one point the Israeli government used the same arguments and rhetoric ("No negotiating partner on the Palestinian side." "Terrorists we can't talk to." and so on) for the PLO and were actually, actively supporting Hamas in an effort to create a counterpoint to the PLO. Again; this is a tactic. It ain't Zionist or Jewish or American or Islamophobic in origin. It's just ye goode old "Divide and Rule" at its "finest"!

Another friend, going back to the media theme, wondered aloud--and that's what I'd call it; wondering aloud with your keyboard--why "the general media" was so on-it when the events in Mumbai happened but is "silent" now. My first response was what I said above; that there IS quite a bit of coverage and a regular body count in the headlines (and I am talking about the US media here). What I see is a media (thankfully she didn't say "news media", or she'd have gotten an earful from me) that was being played well by the Western and Indian establishment in the aftermath of Mumbai; and I see a media that is being played well by the Western and Israeli establishment now.

But, I also saw and see something else. I saw alternative media and the media and grapevine in Muslim and progressive circles buying in to some of the narrative of the neo-purist Islamist and hyper-jingoistic Pakistani (not always the same thing) circles at the time of the Mumbai tragedy/atrocity; and I see alternative media and the media and grapevine in Muslim and progressive circles buying in to some of the narrative of the neo-purist and hyper-jingoistic Islamist circles now.

Not much has changed qualitatively. But "facts on the ground", to use the favourite phrase of Israeli functionaries, do seem to be moving.

Let's see where they go. All I can do is quote something that's been going through my head the last month or two--what with the month of Muharram in the Muslim calendar upon us, with it's highly charged dates of Ashura. (And if you don't know what that is, do click through to the Wikipedia; any further ignorance about basic concepts from the Muslim world is just plain stupid--and dangerous for all of us.) The quote? No, not the "Every day is Ashura; Every land is Karbala" line that's been on every slideshow about Gaza that's gone around, but this one:

Har Phir'aon ra Musa; har Karbala ra Hussain

For every Pharoah, a Moses; for every Karbala, a Hussain

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Offyn Bufod y Frewd said...

Your voice on this topic is possibly the most similar to mine I have ever heard. I am a Jew and, I suppose, a moderate Zionist (I think Pakistan and Israel come from the same philosophical, legal, practical, and Zeitgeist-ian places, and are practically twins by the same Father and different mothers; I also think that a two-state solution is pretty much the only workable solution by this juncture, and that, as the old Ivy League/Oxbridge joke goes, "All Extremists Should Be Lined Up And Shot.")

It figures that you're a Pakistani and a Sufi -- My best memories of discussions of Faith and Politics as regards Islamo-Jewish relations were with Sufis and/or Pakistanis.

I have argued in a manner as violent as pure verbiage can get over this issue, and I am convinced that non-Muslim and non-Jewish Americans only join in on either issue (Pakistan or Israel) because they hate one or both sides and/or the current US administration reminds them of their dads and their dads' golf buddies and they're still mad at Dad for making them go to Church.

I think people who love God eventually end up heartsick over violence and try to work things out by taking a deep and ultimately depressing-but-enlightening, [b]honest[/b] look at the moral credits and debits on each side of either debate.

And then they realize that the misinterpretation of scripture (for instance, I forget which one it is, but there is a Hadith about it being okay to create an untrue scenario for storytelling in order to gain reverts/converts or improve the good name of Islam: I am certain this is about parable telling, but there are many Marxist soi-disant "Friends of Islam" who abuse the seeming ambiguity in meaning of this Hadith and take it to mean that lying is okay as long as it puffs up the spiritual city walls of the Ummah. Clearly the Hadith only means that to people with not-terribly-positive feelings about Islam (or why would they think He told His faithful to tell their congregations to lie for Him?) and religion in general ("Daddy made me go to Church. I hate Church and Muslims must hate Mosque, because nobody likes sitting in God's House saying prayers, and I think all religions are lies anyway, and here's proof.")

I can't figure it out, but I've never met a Marxist who truly had respect for religion. Most of the Marxists I know want to know "why it's such a big deal who owns what land -- It's just land and it's just a bunch of myths that make it holy, anyway."

But that's clearly not true to those of us who love and serve Him. And we must find a way to live together:

"If we do not hang together, then we shall surely hang separately."
Benjamin Franklin, to the Sons of Liberty, on why cohesiveness in opposition to bad government was necessary.

iFaqeer said...

Thanks for writing. There is much to discuss and unpack on these issues. I would love to keep the discussion going. Are you still actively writing on any of your sites, or on Facebook, etc.?