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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