Categories
Poetry

Gaza 2014

A Catalog of my Silences

This is a catalog of my silence
A record of words unsaid
Of failed guarantees, muted testimonies
Of going on, despite the calls of the dead. 
The Afghan dead–in thousands
The raped and tortured bodies of Bosnia
Of young girls plucked from schools
Latter day concubines under ancient rites. 
And of Gaza!
Yes, Gaza–the last concentration camp!
Yes, we should have the guts to name it so.
A walled city–with twenty-four feet tall concrete walls
And two closely guarded gates.
And YOU call this wall a fence!
Such elegant bullshit.
Like calling camel turd, mangoes.
Yes this is a record of my silences
A catalog of my complicities
and of my bourgeois cowardice.
For not speaking the truth
For not SHOUTING!
YOU are not victims any more
YOU with tanks, guns, and warships
YOU are murderers enabled by us
To slowly kill an inconvenient people.
To possess their land
In the name of a history of victimhood!
I shall say no more.
Your actions disgust me!
And your rationalizations are just a pack of shit.
And shit can never be mangoes!

Categories
Editorials

Rick Perry Chews on Pakistan to Cure Himself of Foot-in-Mouth Disease

In yet another attempt to dislodge the foot that he had swallowed in the last Republican presidential debate (the oops moment), Governor Perry has decided to chew on Pakistan as a laxative to excrete the said foot through the other extremity of his long intestine. [Watch the video here]

Pop art Portrait of Rick Perry
Image via Wikipedia

It seems as if having run out of usual slogans for do-nothing economics and  other extreme forms of social conservatism, Mr. Perry is now attempting to forge a tough guy image and Pakistan, it seems, is an ideal whipping boy for this exercise.

It is sad to see this sham policy debate as all the candidates excrete is the xenophobic and tetosterone-driven drivel that somehow counts toward their increasingly diminishing constituencies. So, Mr. Perry would expect Pakistan to continue losing its civilians and soldiers for a US imposed war and then come and beg for some help. This kind of politics might work in Texas, where Mr. Perry has had cordial relationships with rich so-called Job-Creators, but would not serve the US well in the international arena. Providing financial aid to one’s friends is the only tangible way of ensuring them of US committment to peace and stability in the region and if that aid is withdrawn to safeguard domestic political agenda then the consequences of such actions would not just be pertinent to the region.

So, in all sincerity I hope that Mr. Perry finds some other remedy to cure his own image problem and a little bit of reflection before opening his mouth would be a good first step toward curing this affliction of the mouth.

 

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Editorials

Democratic Society and Importance of Criticism

Lately, I have focused extensively on offering public criticism of some powerful institutions both inside Pakistan and United States. Of course, no one asked me for it, but as someone invested in issues of democracy and social justice, I find it apt to share my views and insert my voice in the public debates about contemporary issues. I am, however, not a journalist; I am a literary and cultural critic by training and a public scholar by choice.

There is an important moment in the famous Foucault-Deleuze interview, where Foucault insists that the role of the intellectual, and I am paraphrasing here, is to provide a persistent and relentless critique of power. Power, for both Foucault and Deleuze, is not hierarchical as envisioned in the classical Marxist tradition but rather more “diffuse” ever-present around us. We all are, in one degree or another, caught up in this web of power, a web that does not give us a chance at reaching outside or the other side of power. Our existence, in a way, is always discursive.

So, when I criticize power from within my discursive space as an intellectual, I am within the fold of power myself, but my puny voice, it seems, still baffles those invested in normative drive of power, for they retaliate in so many subtle and unsubtle ways. Those using  subtle ways suggest that I am, somehow, a “disgruntled” former military officer trying to take a swipe at the mighty Pakistan army; the less subtle ones have informed me that my long hair and my life in the US, somehow, disqualifies me to be a critic of power in Pakistan. And this is being implied when all the powerful institutions in Pakistan–civil and military–are in the most intimate relationship with powers that be in the United States.

In the last few weeks, I have written a criticism of Israel, an indictment of Pakistan Army, a self-reflection on my Army career, and an introductory entry to an important Jewish peace organization. These entities sometimes do not have much in common but the only way I can plot a connection amongst them is by my views of power and its impact on our lives. My critique, of course, is narrow and often not very detailed: it does not need to be, for it is these little cuts, these small ruptures in the armor of power that matter the most. I think this is what Foucault meant by the term “persistent critique” of power: not a giant heroic blow but these small cuts and swipes to unsettle power, to make it stop to lick a thousand tiny wounds, to stop it from normalizing itself, from becoming natural.

The response has been mixed: quite a few young and hopeful readers have added their voices to mine and given me their strength: I see a rhizome in the making. But the minions of power, ever so gently, have also responded with their rationalizations and ad hominem attacks. It is almost comical: like an elephant responding to a bee sting. But then that is the problem with power: it must totalize itself to become normative and our small acts of defiance hinder that process.

These small instances of criticism are crucial to develop a more humane and responsive system of life and governance. These “micro-resistances” (Deleuze) are important just as it is important to squash those micro-fascist tendencies in our minds that force us to respect power and those who wield it.

So, in all humility, I offer my gratitude to all those who find some merit in my public writings, and to all those who are flustered and disturbed by them, I say: Peace!!!

Remember, we are a swarm and we are many!!!

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Editorials

About Jewish Voice for Peace

For the past few years, I have been a constant visitor to the Jewish Voice for Peace website and their affiliated blog, Muzzle Watch. I did not find JVP accidentally: I found them after a detailed search of justice and peace oriented Jewish organizations. My search was prompted by the brutal invasion and bombing of Gaza by the Israeli defense Forces in 2008. Just like so many Americans seeking Muslim organizations and scholars who are not necessarily hostile to America and Israel, my quest was to find an organization that had a balanced and just approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issues.

I was already aware of the unflinching rhetoric of The American Israel Public Affairs Council (AIPAC) and was also aware of the deeply racist rhetoric of Campus Watch, a group led by Daniel Pipes that claims to monitor speech on Israel on university campuses. For someone who often writes against Israeli policies, these two are pretty intimidating groups as they wield enormous symbolic and material power and are not shy in attacking anyone they can label an anti-Semite or a terrorist. Of course, I have never felt intimidated by them as I choose to write about justice and fairness for all humanity and could not care less as to what these two organizations said about me. Thankfully, though, I am too small a fry to give any trouble to these two institutions and have been able to continue my public scholarship without much notice from them.

Anyway, my search for a Jewish organization that could give me some hope for the future led me to the enlightened and courageous workers and leaders of JVP. I must admit that I do not know any of the organizers personally, and even though I have occasionally sent them my meager financial contributions, I only know JVP from what I have read on their website and blog.

My purpose in sharing this knowledge is to inform my Pakistani readers that there are vibrant, humanistic, and fair groups like the JVP who, while honoring the Israeli right to exist as an independent nation, are also highlighting the plight of Palestinian population. Furthermore, JVP is not your average fringe group but has become an increasingly important voice in the United States on issues related to peace, settlements, Occupied territories, Israel, and Palestine.

Their blog, Muzzle Watch, serves the important function of tracking and reporting all acts of silencing academic and activist voices that are critical of Israel and, in a way, forms a counterpunch to the claims and antics of Campus Watch.

I provide below an excerpt of their mission statement:

Jewish Voice for Peace members are inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals.

JVP opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression.  JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.

For details, please visit their website and support their important mission. As for me, I would just like to thank all those associated with JVP for creating this more humane, just, and hopeful alternative to the entrenched and established organizations that see only one side of the picture and represent only what suits their limited agenda.

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Editorials

Netanyahu: Offering Old Cliches in a New Wolrd

The Likud Party led by Benjamin Netanyahu wins...
Image via Wikipedia

Last week witnessed, yet again, a visit by yet another Israeli prime  minister to the capital of the United States to offer the same age-old cliches to a group of fawning American lawmakers. It seems when it comes to the actions and the statements of the state of Israel, one ought to apply an out-of-the-world logic to understand it. Our earthly logic and the international treaties and policies, it seems, do not apply to the state of Israel.

Like all of the US lawmakers, I often try to inhabit this otherworldly space to understand the things that come out of the august mouths of Israeli leaders and those of their American counterparts, but lately I have, due to my deep investment in the world I live in, not been able to inhabit this deep space plane of existence. But to reduce this divine logic to our earthly consciousness is an interesting exercise.

So this is how the Israeli statements go:

  • A 1967 border between Israel and Palestine is indefensible.
  • It will leave thousands of Israelis outside the official territory of the state of Israel.
  • The Palestinians cannot be granted the right of return as it would “dilute” the Jewish state.

And the US lawmakers, who usually cannot take a leak without mentioning “Freedom” and “Rights” and “Human Dignity”, applaud these bizarre and out of touch statements of a leader whose nation has starved thousands of people for the last three years in what could be termed as the last existing concentration camp, Gaza.

So here is what all these cliched and hackneyed statements by Mr. Netanyahu imply: Since the original border of Israel is somehow indefensible, Israel, therefore, has the right to conquer and keep territories outside that border in a sort of imperial eminent domain. And since against the Geneva Convention on changing the demographics of a captured territory Israel has allowed illegal settlements to flourish in this occupied territory–required for a defensible Israel–the only way of keeping this illegally acquired territory is to make the act of their capture, somehow, legal. And even though the UN charter clearly states that all refugees will have a right to return to their original place of domicile, the Palestinians somehow must give up this universal right to accommodate their oppressors.

And we must accept this because Israel, as we are repeatedly told, is the only true democracy in the region. Needless to point out, this same democracy is based in an ethnic and religious view of the nation according to which all those outside this particular definition are not really full citizens and must always inhabit a second class status within the democratic state of Israel.

But while Mr. Netanyahu spouts these age-old cliches and while the US congress giggles like a bunch of unimaginative teenagers, the world around Israel is changing quickly. Besides the spring uprisings, this was also the first year when people from all neighboring countries flocked to the Israeli borders in large numbers to protest the racist and inhuman policies of the state of Israel. These instances of popular protest are likely to increase in the future and as the neighboring states become more and more democratic, Israel will have to contend with “democratic” Arab states whose leaders must, on the surface, represent the popular will and not just the US and Israeli interests in the region. The change is already there: the opening of Rafah border crossing by Egypt is a sign that the neighboring Arab states can no longer be a party to the long slow starvation of Palestinian people in the name of security.

So it seems that Mr. Netanyahu’s deep space logic will soon stop making any sense to most of the world and to quite a few of his own citizens; this will happen because increasingly people have started feeling more comfortable with earth logic and want to see their leaders to make an effort in speaking in human-speak instead of an alien language that only makes sense to the starry-eyed US lawmakers and the zealots who rely on politics fear and hate to maintain the status quo.

So, wake up America: if freedom and human dignity is your main chant and leading mantra then please explain to me why it does not apply to the Palestinians?

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Commentaries

Egypt to Keep Rafah Crossing Open

In the latest turn of events from Gaza, Egyptian government has decided to keep the Rafah crossing, the only one on Egyptian side, open indefinitely. Their main argument is that the blockade has not worked and that Israel needs to find another way of dealing with Hamas.

This is certainly welcome news, for at least now Egypt, a major Arab nation in the region, despite its fears of Hamas, will no longer be a party to the illegal starvation and deprivation of Palestinian people.

It has been reported that Vice President Biden has also met the Egyptian leaders to seek a comprehensive solution to the problem. He might also want to clear this with Israelis, as the last time he visited Israel for the purpose of peace, he was given a surprise “gift” by the Israeli government.

But for now, at least some Palestinians can leave and some essential supplies can be brought in. Thank you Egypt for discovering your spine and for doing the right thing.

Addendum:

To view how people who stand for justice and peace are treated, visit the Jewish Voice for Peace blog to see what was said to their activists by Stand With Us members.

Categories
Commentaries

Israel: Killing Peace in International Waters

The news has barely hit the networks, but the spin has already begun: The BBC Video on the killing of peace activists by the IDF suggests in its tone as if it is an accident, as the IDF soldiers are highly trained and accustomed to these kind of operations. Another speculation is that, somehow, these peace activists took away the guns from these “highly trained soldiers” leading to excessive use of force. if the case was not so serious, one would just die laughing at this spin. This was no ragtag relief effort by a few volunteers; In fact, it was a highly organized and aptly supported venture by peace activists from all parts of the world. The group included, amongst other volunteers, the following supporters of food aid to the interned city of Gaza:

Haaretz reports that at least 10 activists have been killed. Al-Jazeera reportsthat as many as 16 activists are dead. The names of the dead are not yet known. The flotilla passengers included retired US diplomats Amb. Edward Peck and Col. Ann Wright, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, and former UN assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday, as well as humanitarian aid and human rights workers, several Members of Parliament from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Turkey, Malaysia, and Palestinian Members of the Knesset. (Jewish Voice for Peace).

The city of Gaza, one of the most densely populated places in the world, has been under Israeli blockade for over two years. This collective punishment, illegal under all international laws, has caused extreme suffering. And while the Israelis claim that the blockade does not seriously affect Palestinian lives,

the World Health Organization vigorously contests Israeli officials’ protestations that their siege of Gaza lets through enough food and material. In fact, there is widespread unemployment, poverty, lack of medicine and medical equipment, and hunger in Gaza, and 10 percent of residents (a majority of them children) are physically stunted from malnutrition. (Cited from Informed Comment).

How this is supposed to help bring peace and to improve perception of Israel in the rest of the world is beyond me. It has not made a dent into some of my neighbor’s views though. In their views, as always, “the IDF always knows what is going on” and “these people have been fighting for centuries” tends to explain the whole situation. It seems even now the age-old platitudes are enough to underwrite the racialized views of these people.

Obviously, the purpose of the blockage is to break the will of the people of Gaza, but it has not worked. It is time for Israel to realize that you cannot be an oppressors  and victims simultaneously.  The oppression and now these killings are not likely to work. Peace would, if you give it a chance.

(Image from Dawn.com)

Related Links:

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