Pakistan and the question of Palestine

Every time Pakistan gets closer than usual to the Americans, the sounds for recognition of Israel seem to leave their drawing room sanctuaries. The reasoning goes that Pakistan has no independent quarrel with Israel; Israel is a physical reality that should be recognised; Arab countries have extended recognition to Israel, why shouldn’t we? Israelis know a lot about water management and we could learn from them; and most ingeniously, Israel makes really cool weapons, so we should buy them. Each one of these arguments is based upon callous disregard for the plight of the bravest people on Earth — the Palestinians. The calls for recognising Israel without the settlement of the Palestinian question, speak of the venality, that can only be becoming of the post-colonial elites of the type found, among others, in Pakistan.

The latest spate of calls for recognition of Israel are not coincidental. This time, we find ourselves financially and otherwise indebted to Israel’s closest ally in the region — Saudi Arabia. Today, the right wing Likud government led by a racist Islamophobe like Benyamin Netanyahu, finds itself in a closer relationship to the house of Saud, than its Western patrons. No wonder that when the whole world, including the Americans, was condemning the brutal murder of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, Benyamin Netanyahu was defending the Saudi regime. The list of crimes against Palestinians and humanity by Benyamin Netanyahu is long, but he is our Saudi benefactors’ best friend. Why should we not be chirruping away on the benefits of recognizing his racist, criminal regime?

We should not, because the question of Palestine is not about a war between Islam and Judaism, as the anti-Semitic right wing in Pakistan and the world would insist. It is in fact, the defining issue at the heart of the anti-colonial struggle. The Palestinian struggle is the unfinished agenda of decolonization. To speak up for Palestine is to speak up against colonialism. To demand liberation for Palestine is to recognise the humanity of the colonized and the oppressed on equal footing with that of the colonizer. To abandon Palestine is to abandon hope, and a struggle for an emancipated post-colonial world. The stakes could not be higher.

The Palestinian struggle was never about religious differences and always about including all religions. It was, always against European Zionism and its racist denial of the very existence of the Palestinian history and identity. The Palestinians always represented for me the pride of the former colonised. In their deeds, the entire decolonized world recognised its ability to resist the imperialist West and its protégés.

Today we speak of abandoning the hope that Palestine represented. To me, and for billions of Arabs, Asians, Africans and South Americans, the hope that Palestine represented is not in the past, but rather in the present, and more urgent than ever. The hope of overthrowing venal leaderships serving the interests of the imperialists, and not the people. The white man may have been replaced by the brown or the black man, but the essence of imperialist oppression remains the same. The promise of Palestine is essential to maintaining the hope of ultimate liberation.

The latest spate of calls for recognition of Israel are not coincidental. This time, we find ourselves financially and otherwise indebted to Israel’s closest ally in the region-Saudi Arabia

Pakistan should not recognise Israel for the same reason that it did not recognise apartheid South Africa — that too was as much of a physical reality as Israel. Just because fragile Arab regimes existing at the pleasure of the West recognise Israel should not detract from the fact that Arab people hate their Western supported regimes that recognise Israel. Even Yasir Arafat’s signing of the Oslo Peace Accord was more of a sellout than a peace Accord, as per Edward Said. If we, in a fit of tactical stupor want to take the side of Arab regimes against the will of their own people, then we shouldn’t be surprised tomorrow, or even today, on the strategic loss of the Arab people’s goodwill towards Pakistan.

That we should give our money to support Israeli arms industry instead of the Chinese or the American is an argument that I am not even going to confront — so disgusting it is. But the water management one particularly pains me as a water resources researcher. Israelis have absolutely nothing to teach us when it comes to their water management predicated upon the theft of Arab water, and stupefying waste of energy. But that’s a topic for another time.

Meanwhile, we may have hit the rock bottom in our self-perception. The Palestinian cause is precisely the spiritual elixir that our sick body politic needs to self-heal. International solidarity with Palestinians, amongst others, will help us realise our agency to overcome the systemic perversities that weigh upon us. Fight back we will, and fight back we must, as we find the Palestinian in every one of us.

The writer is a reader in Politics and Environment at the Department of Geography, King’s College, London. His research includes water resources, hazards and development geography. He also publishes and teaches on critical geographies of violence and terror

Published in Daily Times, November 16th 2018.


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