A Missed Opportunity of Our Own Making

Source: Hindustan Times

Narendra Modi made history by becoming the first sitting Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. We already know that India has been a buyer of Israeli arms in the recent years, but this visit goes far beyond anything we have ever seen in the history of their relations.

Modi and Netanyahu brought together their private sector which has signed deals worth $4.3 billion. These deals cover sectors as broad as information technology to water treatment and from startups to innovation. But more alarming for Pakistan is India’s investment in an Israeli missile defense system among other defense contracts worth $630 million.

India and Israel have come a long way, while Pakistan can only shed tears at this alliance.

Now, this might seem like the vindication for the anti-Semitic “Brahmin-Zionist nexus” conspiracy theory proponents. However, the fact remains that India has overcome a lot of resistance as well as the internal struggle to come to terms with Israel. You could argue that even today, a good number of Indians are critical of friendly relations with Israel. Especially when Modi is snubbing the Palestinian leadership during the visit to Jerusalem, unlike most world leaders. The message sent to Israel is that India stands with it unconditionally.

For those who are not familiar with the background of the Indian stance on the Israel-Palestine issue, India has been surprisingly anti-Israel. Both India and Pakistan voted against the 1947 resolution for the partition of Palestine and creation of the Jewish majority state of Israel. India and Pakistan refrained from voting because of perfectly legitimate reasons.

Both the countries considered the creation of a Jewish state inappropriate and an invasion on the rights of the local Arabs. However, once the resolution passed, both the countries at least should have shown the decency to accept it and recognize Israel. At least they should have helped the infant Jewish state against acts of aggression by the neighboring Arab states right after its creation.

In any case, particularly due to the Cold War, India refrained from friendly relations with Israel due to its close ties with the Soviet Union and the Arab states. Pakistan, even though in the same camp as Israel with the United States, chose to anticipate Israel as an enemy. Pakistan’s foreign policy has been heavily influenced by Gulf Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, leading to such irrational policies which continue to this day. In addition to that, Pakistan became one of the few countries whose citizens cannot travel to Israel.

Source: junaidghumman.wordpress.com

Now back in the day, straining relationships with Israel made sense with India and Pakistan aligning with Arabs. And as Israel continues its brutal behavior toward the Palestinian people, it still attracts the rebuke of the world. However, in terms of the recognition of its right to exist around the world, Israel is not in a precarious position anymore. And with Pakistan’s archrival India softening its stance toward Israel, and using it to potentially put Pakistan at a disadvantage strategically, it is finally time for the Pakistani state regime to wake up.

With successive right-wing governments in Israel and more uncompromising and irresponsible behavior from the Palestinian leadership, the Israel-Palestine conflict has grown worse. However, you could argue that recent events such as the excessive use of force in Gaza wars could be good reasons to penalize Israel diplomatically, as Turkey did briefly. But none of these events are terrible enough to convince a country to not establish diplomatic relations. And for this sort of protest, you need to establish diplomatic relations in the first place.

Some of the biggest foreign policy lessons for Pakistan remain to be those concerning India. We must learn from India overcoming its anxiety when it comes to establishing friendly relations with Israel. Pakistan chose to ignore their Israel problem by printing a statement on national passports reading, “This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel” and Indian leadership finally realized to make the most of this weakness. But more than a weakness, it should be considered a missed opportunity for Pakistan, born out of anti-Semitism and paranoia.

It is a missed opportunity of our own making.

 

A version of this post was originally published in The Nation blogs

 

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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.

Ignoring Local Atrocities

Source: dawn.com

Source: dawn.com

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the not-so-correct political logic of accusing individuals of selective outrage.

Now I agree that such arguments are best reserved for academic debate instead of political campaigns.

I would not want to make this a habit, but perhaps I would actually like to engage in using such a line of reasoning every now and then too. And I’ll tell you why.

There is a deep problem concerning more educated but nationalist conservative Muslim Pakistanis who believe in the myth that Pakistan is fair and safe to all non-Muslim religious minority groups.

They simply fail to recognize a problem exists when it comes to local minority groups.

They would simply want to dodge the question about secularism, Shariah and the atrocities on the minority groups at home.

One of the more fresh and good examples is the recent incident of arson targeting an Ahmedi home in Gujranwala over an alleged blasphemous facebook post, which resulted in the death of a woman and two children. As usual, nobody stopped the rioting mob.

Now, these are the events that sadly do not even make it to their information radar, or even the mainstream media. Or are simply ignored, heh, let’s say because the body count in Gaza has exceeded a thousand. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous.

But I actually agree with ignoring the problem of, say persecution of Ahmedis at home, and picking up the Palestinian cause in the Gaza conflict. Hey, you are free to do that.

It is the same crooked reasoning with a complete lack of respect for individuals that lets Pakistani nationalists ask why Malala does not speak up about Gaza and is so concerned about kidnapped Nigerian girls.

Well, you can only do so much.

It is this sort of jingoism which is why I actually find many protests at home in bad taste and want to think twice before joining. It is almost always an insult to your intelligence, but you need to put up with it for the sake of solidarity.

While politics is about emotional blackmail, it is also about compromises. Even though I greatly respect the policy of not joining any protests at all as well.

No, the ones who don’t speak up are not “criminals”. Yes, that is the word they use. Jesus, the rhetoric.

But then again, you have to stoop to the level of the Pakistani nationalist conservatives (actually, true for most political groups) to engage them and to proselytize. You need to really appeal to probably the kind of reasoning that they would understand and respond to.

Maybe, you need to do that when they accuse others of moral double standards and not even recognize secularism as a fair social contract, and opting for Islam instead while justifying murder for blasphemy.

I still think this line of reasoning is bullshit, but hey, who cares what I think.

What the Recurrent Gaza Conflict Brings Out in People

Source: abc.net.au

Source: abc.net.au

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.

Source: shariaunveiled.wordpress.com

Source: shariaunveiled.wordpress.com

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: timesofisrael.com

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.

Thoughts on November Gaza Strikes and the Middle East Conflict

Source: AP/Washington Post

You can’t expect people to act rationally or logically when they are being bombed, Israeli or Palestinian. If you think they do, then you know very little about humans. Though there are people out there who are paid to do so.

That’s why I think it’d take really smart people to handle the fragile Middle East situation. This is why I am worried that the Israeli policies could actually harm the Jewish people, even though they are designed to protect them, or offer the perception of protecting them.

Using force as a deterrent is probably a necessity there, especially in the early years when the memory of antisemitic fascist regimes was still fresh. It is relevant even today, but considering that Gaza does not enjoy that luxury would make you very concerned about their security too.

I believe the people living on the both sides have the same fears and desires. But thinking again from the Israeli perspective, I would be very concerned as an Israeli citiizen or diplomat about the image of the nation around the world. I know a lot of Israelis would prefer better security over a better world image. Who wouldn’t? I would too. Anyone would.

But this is something for the leaders to think about because it concerns the future. Unless we are hellbent to enact the Biblical or Hadith Apocalypse.

People often mention the wounded and the killed Israeli and Palestinian children and the propaganda about them. It’s not a question of whether a Jewish child dies or an Arab child dies. The question to ask is whether we would want a child to live in such a hostile environment.

Seriously, I would do whatever I can to prevent a child from living in a warzone (ideally anyone but why add more misery by forcing new people to suffer by shoving them into this world, though true in any other situation too). But can I, or can we? No.

If the Hamas regime is irresponsible, which I am convinced that they are, to the point that their policies don’t really reflect any sympathy for the security of their own people (if you ignore the fact that they are badly repressed by the Israelis), then what could be better ways to deal with them?

To a cynic, maybe build global consensus before bombing Gaza City. To a more rational person, maybe Israel and the US should stop blocking full Palestinian membership in the UN like civilized nations and lift the Gaza blockade and grant their states completely autonomous status like soveirgn countries and maybe give them a chance to prove their civilty once again.

But still if Palestinians are sensible, they would know that the intifadas are largely a lost cause today because the rest of the Arab world would rather really support Israel over them any time. Then again, is it a coincidence that the Palestinian resistance looks towards Iran? The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

I do think the Palestinian leaders could have done a lot more to ensure peace and are largely responsible for a lot of deaths over the years (Not because they should have as per their principles but because they lack political resources to fight Israel). But that’s politics. If only they were not obsessed with Jerusalem. Not that the Israelis are not.

The growing West Bank settlements and the policy of gradual Palestinian deprivation may have worked well for the Israeli occupation, but make a very poor case for Israeli peace efforts. In any case you would really want the violence to stop regardless of the political consequences. But in politics, land and power are more precious than life. Then again, there is liberty.

But the recent November strikes on Gaza have made an impact in some other way. The international community and media noticing the cruelty of the Israeli attack on Gaza this time for a change is significant. The image of the BBC photojournalist as posted above has shaken the West. Accussations of biased media coverage from both sides do not change the facts and the misery that both the affected people go through.

Therefore, both Israelis and Palestinians need to learn their lessons fast. Good luck to both of them for peace.

I know it almost sounds superficial, especially after these words echoing the conference halls on the conclusion of countless meaningless accords, but just in the memory of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, let us agree to stop the madness and say:

Shalom. Salaam. Peace.

Then again, it’s not important. Is it?

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.

 

Why Peace in the Middle East is Becoming Next to Impossible?

So what or who offers a hope amid the darkness? Maybe Tzipi Livni? Who knows?

Is Peace in the Middle East possible?

These 13 minutes and 6 seconds will reveal a lot more than what any comment possibly could. But you really have to Thank God that you are not a Palestinian living in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, unless you are one.

An Excerpt from 60 Minutes from CBS News

Video Courtesy: Michael Moore’s YouTube Channel , CBS News