Sharif and Netanyahu: One Handshake I Would Like to See Making News

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

I just came across a post from the Israeli Prime Minister on social media reporting on his interaction with the leaders of the world, including the Indian Prime Minister, in the recent Paris Climate Change Conference. Just imagine for a second the awkwardness of the Israeli and Pakistani leaders completely ignoring each other’s existence during the leader summit. Maybe it would take more than climate change to unite the nations of the world.

During the conference, two handshakes made news, only suggestive of how bad things are between those nations: The one between PM Nawaz Sharif and PM Narendra Modi, and the other involving PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. But one handshake that I would have liked to see making news would be between Pakistani Prime Minster Sharif and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

This only takes you to the idiotic foreign policy Pakistan, and a number of other Muslim majority countries, mostly Arab, have been maintaining toward Israel. There is hardly any doubt that Pakistan has been losing a tremendous opportunity for decades by not building its relations with Israel, despite being aligned with the Western alliance that both are part of, including the Gulf Arab states. Let it be issues like defense and security or trade and educational exchanges, the opportunities offered by the diplomatic relations would be unlimited. But only if the people of Pakistan open their minds to them and drop old prejudices for a while, if not for good.

What is even worse is that due to the diplomatic vacuum in the region for Israel, its partnership with India, Pakistan’s primary rival, has been strengthening manifold on the defense front. Pakistanis have the option to keep on whining about how the Jewish people are the sworn enemies of Muslims and are colluding with Hindus against them. Or they could try joining forces with Israel themselves. If the Israelis are being hostile, have the Pakistanis given them a chance to be friends? Even once? Actually, Pakistan’s defense interests are more aligned with Israel than ever with common threats in the region.

We need to understand that the diplomatic boycott of Israel is not just an expression of political hostility, it stems out of antisemitism. We certainly should know better than that. Now that even some Gulf states are opening new diplomatic avenues with Israel, and Arab League members proposing recognizing Israel in a peace plan, Pakistan certainly does not need to be bound by any obligation to them.

Furthermore, since Pakistan’s beef with Israel, as is the case with other Muslim majority countries, is the occupation of Jerusalem, diplomatic relations would put them in a far better position for negotiating peace. Besides, the priority of peace for the Middle East should be the independence and recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state and the protection of the rights of the people rather than pursuing a religious crusade.

Building relations with Israel would be a step forward to improving tolerance and acceptance among the people of Pakistan, who have been conditioned to riot at the very mention of Israel. Pakistan needs to expand its horizons for a brighter future and must not restrict itself with the false obligations of being a Muslim majority state. We need to interact in a saner manner with the global community and the current civilian leadership is capable of bringing about the required results.

It is time to break our shackles and embrace the policy of friendship and cooperation instead of insisting on bigotry, boycott and hate.

It is time to establish relations with Israel and recognize its right to exist.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Pragmatist’s Resolution to the Gaza Conflict

Source: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images/

Source: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images/

If you are sick to your stomach of the recurrent, and I repeat recurrent, Gaza conflict, well you are not alone. The episodes of this conflict are bound to occur after a small period and the tragedies will only grow worse with time.

The Hamas control of Gaza Strip and the consequent blockade is not a point of equilibrium and is unsustainable. This is why the conflict keeps on escalating every two years, or so it seems.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ends the conflict now, and if you are realistic, it would only mean one thing. We are going to see another Gaza episode two years from now, and maybe sooner.

Did more than 60 Israeli soldiers die for a nothing campaign?

I am sure Israelis are sick of it, and you can be very sure that it is a matter of survival for the people of Gaza.

The most dreadful thing about the nature of this conflict is that neither Hamas nor the Israeli leadership will care for the human tragedy. They say they would, but we all know what to expect. And probably this war is one that has made so many civilians vulnerable more than any conflict zone in recent history.

This is why there are very strong arguments for relieving Gaza of Hamas control. And to me, this is the pragmatist’s resolution to the current Gaza conflict. It is not a permanent solution, far from it, but it is a start toward a better life.

In a way, Israel has been presenting this proposition, which is evident by the way the conflict has escalated. The world seems to be largely OK with it. Therefore, the American, the European and Egyptian sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Nobody wants to see Hamas in Gaza Strip.

The problem is that most pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesters simply do not find Hamas a problem. Good for their moral high ground, bad for the pursuit of any resolution.

So what would kicking out Hamas of Gaza mean? Better lives, open borders, no embargoes and no war. There would still be Israeli occupation, which means that there would be no freedom, but it surely could mean no war.

Or alternatively, handing over the administrative control to the Palestinian authority, while the IDF remains in charge of border security. Well, because we know as a plain fact that the Palestinian Authority is simply incapable of it. That’s why Hamas occupied Gaza in the first place.

And there is a reason why Hamas is not an acceptable party to peace. The kind of freedom that Hamas wants, that is to end the occupation of land where Israel currently exists & of Jerusalem, is not acceptable. Moreover, their charter is pretty much about the annihilation of Israel and the Jews, so case closed.

This is why the Gaza Palestinians who are not insistent on a two state solution that some in Israeli right are blocking are a part of the problem. Not seeking compromise under the given circumstances is what blocks peace in the Middle East and intensifies the tribalism of the conflict.

And we know that this conflict is all about moral dilemmas and not as much about logic, as explained in this article.

Then again, Palestinians who want freedom would never favor Israeli occupation of Gaza. They’d rather become martyrs to present their case. And the politics never ends and neither do the killings. While I sympathize with their cause, I wonder if the Hamas way is the best way.

But the greatest tragedy of Gaza, as in any war, is the individual. Someone who should not have suffered due to a political conflict.

But nationalism is blind to the individual. It always has been.

What the Recurrent Gaza Conflict Brings Out in People



The periodic, recurrent, Gaza crisis which is bound to happen every few months for certain reasons, brings out a lot of things in different people.

It brings out the compassion and mercy in hearts and souls around the world for people suffering in the prison-like cities of Gaza.

It brings out the Nazi in most Pakistani nationalist conservatives, some of the more educated of which would claim they do not hate Jews but would chant “Death to Israel” in the same breath.

It brings out the hideously antisemitic internet memes attributing antisemitic quotes to their führer Adolf Hitler, that would make you wonder if Nazism is dead.



But Pakistan suffers from antisemitism in the true technical sense of the word, because other than the major chunk for the Jews, the rest of it is directed at the Arabs out of political disapproval. Especially for their hedonistic inaction on Palestine.

And not to forget, the Iran backed terrorists are not so dangerous.

It takes out the most nauseating moralists in just about anyone, from nationalist conservatives to anti-establishment liberals, who would twist logic in whatever form as they deem necessary to fit their worldview.

It brings out the usual twisted logic among liberals that you get to hear from time to time that conditions the righteousness of outrage to preference of wrongdoings in the order of immediate geographical proximity.

It also brings out the good old emotional blackmail in the overzealous political activist. One who would stop at nothing to hurl abuses at their target audience for watching football, and even worse, inventing non-existing obligations, in order to milk action.

Action for nothing.

Source: The News

Source: The News

It brings out the completely unreasonable policymakers in the Pakistan Foreign Office.

The policymakers who would very rightly condemn the Israeli brutality, but would never utter a word about the Hamas rocket strikes. Now this point is absolutely relevant because it defines your diplomacy toward the belligerent parties.

How can people possibly support terrorist groups over a legitimate state and the only democracy in the Middle East? If you ignore the growing intolerance at home thanks to the artificially created demographic.


Source: Times of Israel

It brings out the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a formidable wartime leader to his potential voters who easily comes across a war criminal to most people watching the Gaza operation on TV.

It brings out the illusion of defiant war heroes in the de facto Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshal, whose authority is doing hardly anything but jeopardizing the life and peace of their captive subjects.

It brings out the Israeli Defense Forces as vigilant publicists reaching out to the world meticulously chronicling the incoming rockets and highlighting Hamas war crimes of using civilians as a shield for their weapons.

It also brings out the Western progressive and radical left critics of Israel to abandon their usual devotion to political correctness and equate Zionism with Nazism.

It at least brings out the best of propagandists out of anyone commenting on this complicated conflict.

In the end, you would feel that the criticism of Israel is absolutely justified, as always and the criticism of such critics is pretty foolish. Especially considering the completely cynical disregard to the peace process ever since Bibi Netanyahu took office.

Still, it is encouraging that the Israelis are reportedly warning citizens before attacks. But many wonder if it is of any use.

Where are they to go in that desert of misery and despair?

But to my mind, the responsibility on Hamas is just too incredibly great.

It all comes down to how much you are going to put up with a next door terrorist regime which is hell-bent to jeopardize your peace continuously. Leaving them no option but to go on and act without mercy.

Still you would ask why does not Israel simply flatten out Gaza City with bombs? Or why does it refrain from making such attacks in the West Bank?

The Hamas armed resistance would otherwise be respectable, but to my mind, saving every life in their given situation should be a priority. Which does not seem to be a priority of any party at the moment.

Gaza right now is Hell on Earth.

Sadly, you can’t do much worrying about a government who are content on making it even worse for themselves.

Somehow you hope that the current operation will bring the violence to an end for good.

A Government of Idiots (Pakistani Idiot of the Year 2012)

Ghulam Bilour (Source: AFP/ET)

So how low a government made up of supposedly progressive parties can go just to win cheap voter sympathy and public support?

I can quote analysts like Ayesha Siddiqa that there are hardly any secular forces in Pakistan. She is absolutely right, because those who are secular are virtually non-existent and are overwhelmed by the center and right forces.

But there are political parties like the ANP who claim to believe in non-violence and secular values, apart from the undying support of a number of their members to Peshawar’s (in)famous declaring-Eid-in-advance Masjid Qasim. Hey, I support their right to celebrate Eid the way they want.

I was very disappointed to see ANP’s very own Ghulam Bilour, who by far is the worst performing minister in the cabinet considering the shambles that the Railways is in, offering a bounty of $ 100,000 to anyone who kills the maker of the blasphemous film “Innocence of Muslims“.

I mean, really?

Before we even go into questioning the moral and legal authority of the minister, who maintains that he has offered the bounty in “personal capacity”, the greatest question to ask is this.

How is Mr. Bilour still holding his office and why the Government of Pakistan and the Awami National Party have not taken any action against the statement?

However, I do respect how he has responded to the news of the Taliban removing his name from their hit list. He was largely ambivalent, saying he could also die of a heart attack.

Nevertheless, I can hardly fathom the incalculable damage that he has done to the reputation of the country around the world. Not that it was very good already, but with such leaders at the helm, who needs enemies?

Source: AFP/ET

The government and the ANP should have taken strict action and should have called for the resignation of Bilour, if they could not agree to sack him. But despite all the clarifications, Bilour is still in charge of the Railways, a department which his administration has pulverized quite literally.

The statement was sensibly rejected by the incumbent Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, but let’s not offer him a clean sheet for that.

It was PM Ashraf’s absurd decision to observe the ridiculous holiday of “Yom-e-Ishq-e-Rasool” on Friday, September 21, 2012, which was an open invitation to the extremists of the country to unleash their wrath on the infrastructure and assets of the cities in Pakistan. The day ended with the loss of billions of rupees with more than 15 death and several injuries.

Source: AP/Dawn

It might sound a little harsh for someone who has lost his wife in such a cruel manner, but you really need to start acting like a head of state when you become one. I am really sorry to say but President Zardari looks like a complete idiot each time he places Benazir Bhutto’s portrait on the rostrum at the UN General Assembly. It was not his first appearance there this year. He has been at it before with the same portrait-displaying obnoxious exhibitionism.

Source: Wall Street Journal

His idiocy was also matched well by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding up a ridiculous chart which was supposed to tell the world why they have been all a bunch of idiots for not bombing Iran already. The bomb chart was brutally mocked by Israelis and non-Israelis alike shortly afterwards.

Both these props would have worked perfectly for both these gentlemen nevertheless.

What I personally found disgraceful about President Zardari’s speech was calling for an international blasphemy law or some kind of rules allowing UN to take action against alleged blasphemers. While this would sound perfectly sensible to Muslims around the world, I find it to be just another effort to extend censorship measures and to curtail freedom of speech. The Pakistani government, one which claims to uphold democratic and progressive values, has itself banned youtube over the film controversy and should keep its censorship advice for the world to itself.

I have been wondering why not start declaring the Pakistani idiot of the year from now on. We have our winner for the year 2012 already.

His Excellency Ghulam Bilour of ANP.

I can safely put my money on no one surpassing him in the last quarter.

Remembering Yitzhak Rabin: A Peacemaker Shot Down

November 4, 1995.

Tel Aviv, Israel. A peace rally was held in the Kings of Israel Square of the Israeli city to support the recent Oslo accords with the Palestinian leadership. Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel at the time and the central figure in making peace with the Palestinians was the most important figure attending the rally. While the participants of the rally, along with Rabin, Foreign Minister and party rival Shimon Peres and singer Miri Aloni were singing the “Song for Peace“, some people present at the rally had completely different plans.

Shalom, Salaam, Peace

The Oslo Peace Accord was led by Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat had successfully agreed on a “Land for Peace” deal during the Oslo Accords in 1993, which involved Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank territory. The world witnessed the amazing sight of Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with Yasser Arafat at the White House on September 13, 1993, with President Bill Clinton standing along side the two leaders.

The Israeli right wing was furious, as is the norm for the right wing anywhere, over the Oslo Accords, maintaining their point that Rabin’s steps has taken Israel away from the Jewish values. He was criticized by Likud opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu for taking the peace steps. Netanyahu is currently the Prime Minister of Israel on the date of publishing of this post.

While Rabin was returning from the rally, a right wing extremist Yigal Amir was waiting for Rabin, who amazingly managed to by-pass the security for the rally and reportedly shot Rabin three times. Rabin was  rushed to the Ichilov Hospital of Tel Aviv and lost his life during the operation, while Amir was arrested a bit too late by Rabin’s bodyguard. Amir is serving life imprisonment for his crime while the world lost a very good opportunity towards a peaceful solution to Middle East peace process, despite assurances from Shimon Peres, who shortly became Prime Minister after this tragic event, which has been the center of many conspiracy theories.

The importance of this peace deal can be realized even more today, seventeen years from the Oslo accord, when peace appears bleaker than ever between the two nations as Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank. While Israelis are not comfortable about the security of their country, the Palestinian people are struggling even to make a decent living. The truth is that everyone knows that they have to depend on the State of Israel for their lives and that they are a people without a country.

This post is not to illustrate that Rabin’s murder has led to the failure of the Middle East peace process, nor that Rabin had a completely uncontroversial record as a peacemaker, but that this is the way the world treats the peacemakers. It also illustrate how dangerous and damaging right wing extremism can be. He was not the first man in history who talked about peace and was shot dead. There are many examples, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon. Rabin and his administration were the peacemakers of their time and I salute Rabin for his courage and initiative towards peace.

Military cemeteries in every corner of the world are silent testimony to the failure of national leaders to sanctify human life.

– Yitzhak Rabin

What started as the Oslo Peace Accord was a hope for a Two-State Solution for Israel and Palestine. Both the people deserve peace and to live their lives in harmony and prosperity, but it is not possible without the creation of a Palestinian State. Muslim countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should step up to recognize the right of the Israelis to live as free people and Israel, the United States and the EU should step up to recognize that Palestinian people have an equal right to live in freedom and peace, and that Israel should not be permitted to do whatever they like to them, like the manslaughter in Gaza in the late 2007 and 2008.

It is up to the current Israeli leadership to realize the importance of making peace in the Middle East, if not for themselves, for their children.

It is a choice between peace and harmony and bloodbath and manslaughter. Those responsible should think about it.

On Rabin’s funeral, President Bill Clinton concluded his eulogy with two words in Hebrew in his honor. But it was as if he was talking to peace in the Middle East.


Shalom, Haver.

Goodbye, Friend.