Thursday, September 29, 2011

The US-Israeli no-win solution

President Obama performed beyond the expectations of his supporters; like a faithful wind-up toy. ‘Tis the season to be afraid of the reach and retribution of the Israeli lobby; after all the presidential election is right around the corner. Jewish writers have pointed out that Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, could not have done better. And like the consummate politician, Obama is counting on public memory to be ultra-short and forget his famous Cairo speech and others of the same content, in which he spoke convincingly of a two-state solution in the Middle East. Maybe he doesn’t expect the world to forget, as long as he’s re-elected, for integrity and justice don’t hold the key to victory; AIPAC, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, does. Obama threatened to veto the bid for Palestinian statehood if it came to the UN Security Council.

America worked feverishly to prevent Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ presentation of the statehood bid to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, with threats of aid cuts and more taxes by Israel.

In his speech afterward to the UN General Assembly, Mahmoud Abbas got a hero’s welcome. Repeated applause and wolf-whistles permeated the otherwise formal air, crowned with a standing ovation when he referenced a copy of the statehood bid. The American delegation looked grim and uncomfortable.

After Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to an eerily silent hall and called the UN a “theater of the absurd”. The Israeli delegation tried hard to applaud loudly, but had a solo run.

That only the United States, Canada, Israel and Botswana were against and 189 countries for Palestinian statehood, matters little to a self-steeped sole super-power and the always-arrogant Netanyahu.

Obama parroted Netanyahu in demanding that the Palestinians negotiate with Israel instead of going to the UN for a statehood bid. In protesting to him, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan read back to Obama, Obama’s own address to the UN a year previously in which he spoke of Palestinian statehood.

Negotiations between Israel and Palestine had broken off in 2010 as Jewish settlements had continued. Netanyahu’s demand now is that Israel be recognized by the Palestinians. The fact that in a two-state solution recognition is implicit shows the mala-fide that this is based on.

Mahmoud Abbas got a wonderful welcome on his return to Palestine even though some do not subscribe to the two-state solution and Hamas felt that the 1967 borders were not the acceptable bargaining limits. BDS or Boycott, Divest and Sanctions is a campaign that began in 2005 against Israel’s apartheid. It aims for a one-state solution in which Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel have full equality, ending of the occupation of all Arab land and dismantling of the Wall, and promoting the return of Palestinian refugees as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

It is not just the hegemony of Zionism but the steadily changing demographics in Israel that seriously threaten it, that make BDS more of a pipe-dream than ever. ABC’s Ben Knight in an article “Make no mistake, Israel’s existence is under threat” writes of how secular Jews pay taxes, serve in the army and have an average of two children per couple, while the ultra-orthodox don’t pay taxes, don’t defend Israel and have an average of eight children per couple. Ben Knight reports that there are three types of state-funded schools in Israel: regular schools, Arab-Israeli schools and ultra-orthodox religious schools. In 1960, Knight writes, only around 15 per cent of Israeli children were enrolled in religious or Arab schools. That figure is now around 50 per cent. In 30 years, it will be almost 80 per cent. That is a frightening statistic for the nation of Israel, he says.

Additionally, Ben Knight reports that the ultra-orthodox study the Bible all day, every day; no math or science. Funny that the report that some madrassahs in Pakistan do not teach math and science causes the West to go into self-righteous convulsions.

Ben Knight sums it up thus: “if the figures are to be believed, in less than 30 years, Israel will have a population where the majority either can't, or won't join the workforce – putting an increasing, and impossible burden on the secular minority to pay the taxes and serve in the army.” Knight claims that the Palestinian issue aside, “Israel's demographic time bomb is still ticking away.”

However much of a blind eye the Israeli government may have turned to this ticking demographic time bomb, it is entirely impossible that it will entertain a one-state solution.

However divided the opinion maybe regarding the best solution for the Palestinians, this much crystallized in the recent UN General Assembly session. That America’s first black president disrespected the blood, sweat and tears of his people, just sixty years ago, and unleashed apartheid on another. Though isolated, arrogant and blatantly unjust, Israel and its Zionist diaspora hold US presidential hopefuls, congressmen, politicians and the media in a death grip. That the Palestinians don’t get statehood or equal rights within the state of Israel; it is the typical heads I win, tails you lose philosophy.

A nation that was dehumanized by a Christian army in the horrors of the Holocaust, routinely murders and maims with American taxpayer funded Apache helicopters and Caterpillar bulldozers. No one “negotiated” with the Palestinians when they walked into their land and took it as their own. With the pathetic Republican presidential candidates on offer, Obama might win a second term. On the backs of Palestinians, not that he could care.

One day, some day there will be a land for the Palestinians. It takes time and wreaks havoc on the way, but justice like inevitability, surfaces.

Mahjabeen Islam is an addictionist, family physician and columnist. She can be reached at

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Owning Quran and the Hereafter

The mania and grandiosity of our politicians have hit heretofore unknown proportions. The power surge that they got from incredible wealth and owning armies of servants was bad enough; they seem to have transcended into the arrogance of owning religion.

Former Sind Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza does tell-all in and of itself was inflammatory; the repeated placement of the Quran on his head became a show-stopper. In the many anecdotal surveys since, he appears to have achieved his objective in that most people appear to accept the veracity of his claims.

During the press conference however I remember watching the Quran’s repeated trips from tabletop to head with alternating shock and chagrin. While God says in Surah Hashr (59:21): “If We had sent down this Qur'an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and cleaved asunder from fear of Allah. And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought”, Zulfiqar Mirza, fire in his eyes, would raise it and lower it as though it were just about any old book. So caught up in his invective was he that many a time his left hand would do.

I am certain that it was not the Urdu or English translation that Zulfiqar Mirza was swearing upon but the Glorious Quran itself. God speaks repeatedly of its stature to the extent that in Surah Waqiah (56:77-82) He says: Indeed, it is a Quran, most honorable, in a Book well guarded, which none shall touch but those who are clean, a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds, is it such a message that you would hold in light esteem?”

And from Zulfi-Leaks it was downhill all the way. After a two-week reprieve MQM’s Altaf Husain presented the “Many moods of Altaf Bhai” video-conference from London. My shock turned to horror as I saw the Quran, carelessly opened, waved in the air, its pages flying about and then plopped on his head despite claims that the Quran is not meant to be sworn on but read. One wonders whether Altaf Husain has read the Quran and how God describes its sanctity in it repeatedly.

The disrespect reached such serious levels that in the same press conference the man broke out into song and simulated dance, with our Holy Book lying in front of him. Does political self-defense make people entirely insane? What is that Urdu saying about drowning oneself in a handful of water? Any person in their right mind watching a replay of that video and seeing themselves behaving so shamefully and disrespectfully with the Quran lying carelessly in front of them should consider cyanide or the closest window.

As far as swearing on the Quran is concerned, scholars liken giving false testimony as one of the major sins in Islam akin to polytheism. This opinion is based on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stating that “testifying falsely is tantamount to polytheism” and quoting Surah Hajj (22:60) “therefore avoid the uncleanness of the idols and avoid false words” three times to support his statement.

In everything in life there is an initial reluctance, a breaking-in if you will. And after that you’re on oiled wheels as it were. And so it was with Zulfiqar Mirza. In television talk show after talk show, his inevitable companion was the Quran which did its usual head-to-table trips. So consumed was he with this new currency that he first persuaded and then almost physically insisted that the poor talk-show host place the Quran on his own head. If Pakistani cardiologists are not good enough for President Zardari, Zulfiqar Mirza has every rationale for rest, recreation and a psychiatric check at Brompton Hospital in England.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik bore Zulfiqar Mirza’s target practice with fortitude, that much must be said. And yet in all things Pakistani we never really reach rock bottom-the worst is always waiting. In a harried interview with reporters all around him Rehman Malik mightily claimed that he had not ordered the release of a single target killer. And if he had he said “may I not be able to recite the kalma at my death”. Whoa! Bargaining our eternity are we?

It is general Muslim belief, or fear, that faith can be so tenuous and Satan so ever-present that despite a righteous life, at the very end one could die a non-Muslim. Tomes and poems have been written on this fear, however irrational it may appear to the calm and spiritually placid. Belief in the Hereafter is an integral part of being Muslim (Surah Baqarah 2:62). To speak of its compromise with Rehman Malik’s casualness is also a mind jolt.

It has to be the corruption of absolute power. In a nation of mind-boggling poverty BMWs and Mercedes’ are used as official cars. It’s only the ever-widening gulf between the rich and poor in Pakistan and more so between the power-intoxicated politicians and the starving millions that make them look and sound psychotic.

Mahjabeen Islam is an addictionist, family physician and columnist.