The Tunnels of False Hope

devoted so much  to war preparations, by some estimates 40 per cent of
its budget, Hamas created the capacity for a major strike on
…..the capacity to launch a  co-ordinated attack involving thousands
of the approximately 15,000 fighters…..

Imagine the 26/11 attack in Mumbai (2008) multiplied 100 times, this would be a veritable nightmare for Israel with hostage situations continuing for days and body-count in the 1000s. As an attack it would rate ahead of 9/11, 7/7 and all others. The ummah would be chanting the names of the Hamas fighters for the next thousand years.  

The problem is that while bending Israel, such an attack will probably not break it. In the larger scheme of things, tunnels, even sophisticated ones constructed more than 60ft below the ground can be blown up (again). Israel will be thinking out a cavalry of defensive measures (for example, strictly regulate the cement that passes through its checkpoints).

As of now Hamas has only two solid allies in the Sunni Middle-East: Qatar and Turkey. Shia Hezbollah sat out this war when it could have lent a hand. Shia Iran will not probably mind bank-rolling a few more misadventures but its own boundaries have suddenly become shaky. Israel may well choose to play a tit-for-tat game in Kurdistan – it supports full independence for the Kurds. Jordan and Egypt are definitely hostile to Hamas (and they matter the most as Israel’s neighbors). Syria is in utter chaos and will never recover to be a threat to Israel (if it ever was). All this will be a serious cause of concern for Hamas going forward.
Hamas also can not depend on anti-semitism in the West to be able to get to score free-kicks. The West may not like Jews, but it likes Muslims even less, forget islamists such as Hamas. To a non-muslim Westerner (majority Christian background), there is not much distinction between the Taliban (Malala shooters), Boko Haram (Chistian girl kidnappers), and the ISIS (Christian church destroyers).

How about China, Russia, India? Simply put, they all have their own Palestines and they hate islamists. Only in Latin America (and especially Brazil) do we see unequivocal support for Hamas/Palestine. 
Israeli security thought it had adequate intelligence about Gaza. It
was in for a surprise. It was not just the labyrinth of tunnels
discovered, much more extensive than expected, but the stockpiles:
thousands of weapons, Russian anti-tank missiles, explosive devices, and
large amounts of tranquillisers, handcuffs, syringes, ropes. The tools
of capture on a large scale.

Some of the tunnels are very deep,   big enough to hold vehicles.
They were dug with electric jackhammers, mostly about 20 metres below
ground, and reinforced with concrete made on site, in workshops adjacent
to the tunnels.

The tunnels served as command centres, infiltration points into
Israel, weapons stores, rocket-launcher hiding sites, and the means to
move and conceal fighters during urban combat. The tunnels dug into
Israel were created in parallel pairs, with multiple shafts to the
surface for multiple entry points. Inside urban Gaza, the labyrinth
could allow fighters to move unseen between homes and alleys.

Gaza had been wired for war. On a scale more advanced than Israeli
military intelligence realised, which is why the Israel Defence Forces
lost more than 40 soldiers in the first phase of Operation Protective

Areas of cities were laced with hundreds of booby-traps. The
commander of the IDF Gaza Division, Brigadier-General Mickey Edelstein,
said that in a single street in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, his
soldiers had found booby-traps in 19 of 28 homes. Three Israeli soldiers
were killed by an explosive device when they entered a building
designated as a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees. The IDF has conceded it was surprised by the scale of the bomb
traps across Gaza.

Israel is thus engaging in very limited ground combat in Gaza, given
the whole area is a booby-trap of explosives, ambush and civilian
targets. The largest known military control centre for Hamas was placed
in the basement of a hospital.

The IDF’s use of bombing has created a heavy civilian cost.

‘‘Hamas planned these tunnels for years, and planned to use them to
kidnap soldiers,’’ chief spokesman for the IDF Brigadier-General  Moti
Almoz told a recent media briefing.

Actually, since then it has emerged that Hamas had a much broader
agenda. Kidnappings can deliver psychological blows to Israel but not
strategic ones. Hamas wanted strategic blows. It wants jihad. ….

devoted so much  to war preparations, by some estimates 40 per cent of
its budget, Hamas, with Iran, created the capacity for a major strike on

Israeli intelligence is assembling evidence from the tunnel labyrinth
and from captured Hamas members, that the scale of the effort was to
have the capacity to launch a  co-ordinated attack involving thousands
of the approximately 15,000 fighters Hamas has trained in Gaza.

Hamas had also doubled its rocket arsenal between 2012 and this year,
with hundreds of missiles with the range to reach Jerusalem and Tel
Aviv, according to head of IDF military intelligence research
Brigadier-General Itai Brun. Bigger missiles had been on their way in
March, supplied by Iran and sourced in Syria. But the cargo ship Klos-C,
an Iranian vessel under a Panamanian flag, carrying a load of M-302
surface-to-surface missiles, was intercepted by Israeli Navy special
forces in the Red Sea.

With each revelation in recent weeks, the mood in Israel is that
Operation Protective Edge has averted a catastrophe for the country, a
mass terror attack, emerging from underground, incubated by the
implacable hatred of Hamas.

The sheer scale of the war infrastructure revealed guarantees that
Israel is far from done with this operation. It does not yet know the
full scale of what was built and it wants this springboard of war and
attrition destroyed. Tunnels have also been discovered in the West Bank,
some stocked with bomb-making materials.

This is why the Israel government and  public reacted with fury when
US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested last week that Israel agree
to a ceasefire which included a cessation of its operation to find and
destroy tunnels. The proposal was deemed preposterous. (Numerous
references to Kerry’s facelift reflected the scorn with which his
intervention was held.) 

Even famously pacifist Israeli author Amos Oz
has been moved to condemn Hamas for creating a web of warfare through
the civilian population of Gaza. At the other end of the political
spectrum  Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the
nationalist Jewish Home party, said of the war preparations uncovered:
‘‘Without the ground operation, we would have woken up one day to an
Israeli 9/11.’’

Such is the nature of the Israel-Palestinian debate that many people
regard all this as Israel reaping what it sows. Even as Israel strikes
against a war machine, it is blamed for creating the conditions which
created the threat.  

The result of this logic trap – and the differing
standard applied to killings by Jews and killing by Muslims – is that
more media coverage and outrage has been directed at Israel for the
unintended deaths of children in Gaza than has been directed at the
butchery of Muslims by Muslims, on a massive scale, in  Iraq and
elsewhere. In Syria alone, three years of  war have seen between 120,000
and 170,000 people killed, including more than 11,000 children. This
violence has spilled into Iraq, with atavistic massacres of prisoners by
jihadis from Islamic State.

The deep animosities which are the ultimate source of this bloody
absolutism could even be heard on the streets of Sydney last week, in
the chants of demonstrators, some waving the black flag of the Islamic
State: ‘‘Palestine is Muslim land … Jew and Christian will not stand
… From Lakemba to Gaza … You can never stop Islam.’’






A ring side view of the war

….the boom of artillery fire was briefly
drowned by the whoosh of Hamas rockets taking flight…..In the
street outside, whistles and cheers rose. Why the jubilation, I asked?
Surely the rockets were a prime reason for Gaza’s catastrophe?
…..You don’t understand, I was told. The Arab countries dare not throw
so much as a tennis ball at Israel. But Gaza can launch 100 rockets a day…..

Now that the dust is settling down, difficult questions will be asked and will need honest answers. There will be very few unbiased people in this fight.

We fully expect (and so does the world) that there will be another war just around the corner. It is important (as they say) to keep learning the lessons that hopefully will postpone, delay, and slow down the conflict. It will be vital to keep reaching for the middle ground, even if it looks impossible and sounds foolish.
I thought that killer drones were silent and practically invisible –
until I counted seven of the silver objects circling in the summer sky
overhead, buzzing endlessly like angry bees.

If you believe that all guns sound the same and one explosion is much
like another, then Gaza’s ceaseless symphony of war will provide an
education. Soon, you will be able to distinguish the staccato
thunderclaps of a naval bombardment from the deep and steady boom of an
artillery barrage.

You will learn that Hollywood is wrong and bombs do not whistle when
they fall – and you rarely see, or even hear, the jet fighter that
destroys the building in the next street. At first, this rib-shaking
explosion and its mini-mushroom cloud of black smoke appear to have
erupted from nowhere.

You will discover that salvos of Hamas rockets take off with a
prolonged “whoosh”, leaving trails of white smoke in the sky; that a
falling bomb does not explode on impact but drills a gaping void in the
centre of a building, smashing its way methodically through one storey
after another, before detonating under the foundations. Then you will
learn that when human beings are shredded and eviscerated, the street
runs with blood.

From previous wars, I knew that explosions have a strangely
capricious quality. But it was still a surprise to come across a single
surviving door, standing intact and defiant on a sea of rubble that had
once been a home. At another scene of destruction, a new television lay
beneath a mountain of white concrete, apparently unscathed; nearby, a
large bathtub had been hurled upwards to perch precariously on top of a
heap of debris.

After a few days in Gaza, however, you stop being surprised by the
extraordinary. Dinner takes place outdoors to the accompaniment of
explosions. Soon, you mentally phase out all but the most thunderous
blasts, just as someone who lives near a busy street will tune out the
sound of traffic.

But what if every blast is thunderous? That happened on Tuesday
morning when an ear-splitting, heart-pounding, wall-shaking bombardment
broke over Gaza City from midnight until 5.30am with barely a pause. 

those hours, I had some sense of what London must have sounded like
during the Blitz.

Most of all, you learn that conflict in Gaza is fundamentally
different – more intense, more soul-destroying and more perilous for
ordinary people – than just about anywhere else in the world.

Why is that? First and foremost because Gaza serves as Exhibit A for
the dictum that you can run, but you can’t hide. In other wars I have
covered, civilians who find themselves in the path of battle simply take
what they can and move. They walk to safety, travelling as far as they
need to go.

In January, I was in South Sudan at the outset of that country’s
civil war. When the town of Bor was besieged and bombarded, most of its
people crossed to the far bank of the White Nile and set up a vast
refugee camp.

This was a dangerous journey and the conditions that awaited them
were terrible. But at least they were safe on arrival. Once on the west
bank of the river, only the distant boom of artillery reminded the
refugees of the perils from which they had fled.

The 1.8 million people of Gaza have no such option. Their world
measures 25 miles in length and seven in breadth at its very widest
point – and just about every location within that tiny area has come
under attack. Thanks to the partial blockade enforced by Israel and
Egypt, Gaza’s inhabitants cannot leave: they have no means of escape.

The best that families can do is take refuge in the nearest United Nations property, usually a school, and hope for the best.

During my 12 days in Gaza, the number of people displaced in this way
grew by leaps and bounds. When I arrived, some 30,000 refugees were
sheltering in UN premises; by Friday, that total was close to 240,000 –
or 13 per cent of the territory’s entire population.

And that does not count the hundreds of people sleeping in the open
outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, nor the tens of thousands more who
have packed into the homes of relatives.

Remember one other fact: about half of Gaza’s people are under the
age of 18. No one fights in Gaza without maiming, killing, displacing or
traumatising legions of children. This not a campaign waged in empty
desert, mountain or plain – forget Iraq or Afghanistan – but a battle
fought in narrow alleyways crowded with infants and families.

So when Israel sends troops and tanks into Gaza, understand what that
means. First of all, the inhabitants of the targeted area receive an
order to leave, delivered by voicemail, text message or a leaflet
fluttering from the sky. I happened to arrive a few hours before the
ground invasion began and the 100,000 people of the towns of Beit Hanoun
and Beit Lahiya, lying squarely in Israel’s intended line of advance,
were receiving these alerts.

Israel says that its prime concern is the safety of the people: only
by emptying an area can its troops fight Hamas without killing even more
civilians. The warnings also offer clear reassurance that everyone will
be able to return once the operation is over.

I do not question the sincerity of Israel’s argument and I recognise
the dilemma of its battlefield commanders. 

I would simply offer three

First, these eviction orders presently apply to everyone inside an
Israeli-controlled buffer zone stretching for two miles along Gaza’s
northern and eastern borders. That amounts to 44 per cent of the
territory’s entire surface area. So almost half of Gaza has been
deliberately – if temporarily – cleared of its people.

Second, events have demonstrated the stark truth that nowhere is
safe. Twice, Israeli forces have bombarded UN schools housing the
displaced; in Jabaliya on Wednesday, they killed at least 16 people,
including children in their sleep.

Third, if Israel’s leaders act on their threat to expand the ground
operation and send their troops and tanks still deeper into Gaza, even
more Palestinians will be forced from their homes. Suppose Israel
decides to increase the area under military control from 44 per cent to,
say, 50 or 60 per cent. Every street and every block that Israeli
forces capture will represent thousands more refugees.

Where will they all go? Every available UN school is already packed.
Whatever threadbare system exists for sheltering the fugitives is, in
the words of Chris Gunness, the local UN spokesman, “overwhelmed” and
“at breaking point”.

Make no mistake: if Israel escalates this operation still further,
then the people of Gaza will be herded and corralled into
ever-shrinking, and ever more squalid, pockets of supposed safety.

What cause could possibly justify such suffering? This brings us to
the second reason why Gaza’s tragedy is different. Even by the standards
of wars down the ages, this one is singularly futile.

Israel, on its own account, is not fighting to destroy Hamas or solve
the humanitarian and security problem posed by Gaza. No, the purpose of
its campaign is to punish the radical Islamist movement for firing
rockets at Israeli cities, destroy its tunnels and delay the moment –
note the word delay – when Hamas will be able to resume launching
missiles. This is a struggle not for victory, but for temporary tactical
advantage in a campaign that Israel expects to have to repeat, time and
again, into the indefinite future.

And Hamas? Its rocket barrage is primarily intended not to solve a
problem, but to achieve psychological solace. Over dinner in a
Palestinian home last week, the boom of artillery fire was briefly
drowned by the whoosh of Hamas rockets taking flight nearby. In the
street outside, whistles and cheers rose. Why the jubilation, I asked?
Surely the rockets were a prime reason for Gaza’s catastrophe?

You don’t understand, I was told. The Arab countries dare not throw
so much as a tennis ball at Israel. But Gaza – little, impoverished,
blockaded Gaza – can launch 100 rockets a day. Never mind that Israel’s
“Iron Dome” missile shield minimises the damage they cause. What matters
is that they are fired at all.

My hosts, I hasten to add, did not share this view – and Palestinians
are enduring their nightmare with profound courage and stoicism. Even
in the midst of privation and terror, they greet visitors with dignity
and courtesy. Yet they are trapped in a vortex of suffering – and one
that has no discernible end.






A (muslim) man looks for the (secular) truth

..“In order for Israel to become part of the alliance against religious barbarism… it’ll have to dispense with the occupation… can’t govern other people against
their will….It can’t continue to steal their land in the way that it
does every day…… And it’s unbelievably irresponsible of Israelis….to continue to behave in this unconscionable way”

Pro-Palestine or Pro-Israel? A silly question (yet one with deadly import) in the middle of a vicious tribal war. The real question: do we identify with Muslims or Jews as victims, from this key point all other conclusions (blindly) follow.

But then we are not really interested in the (rhetorical) questions. We are looking for honest answers. And as they say, the truth is the first casualty in war. We are tired of all the lies that are flying around.

What do we mean by secular truth? Well, if you are from South Asia you know that there is (at the least) a Hindu truth and a Muslim truth – this is the 1-line definition of the 2-nation theory. There are as many versions of truth as there are divisions between people. A secular truth springs from the concept that no special privilege is to be given to religion or to the religious. No special justifications, narratives, victims,…etc. based on religion.

Regardless of which camp we belong to, we all agree that the killings (of civilians on both sides) must cease. But as Palestinians correctly point out, even with a cease-fire in place the oppression will not cease. They expect (at the least) border restrictions by Egypt and Israel to be lifted for good, compensation money for re-building, and war crimes trials against Israel.

Then again, as many non-muslim groups will point out how they have encountered one Nakba after another at the hand of unrepentant muslims. If Palestinians do not identify with the Sindhis (Hindus) of India why should they expect solidarity in reverse? How about the hundreds of Ahmadis and Christians from Pakistan who are currently claiming asylum in Sri Lanka due to persecution back home (which is no less deadly  than Gaza). Should the Islamic “civil rights” organizations in the USA (many of whom have a substantial desi presence) worry about such trivialities, or do they have a single point agenda??

We have seen on BP a number of masterly, eloquent articles by Dr Omar Ali and Prof Ali Minai on the Gaza conflict. Here is one more by Ali Rizvi that we really liked, one which deals with the truth in an unvarnished manner.

We do want to comment on one metric that has proven to be very popular:  in terms of per capita massacre (meaning people killed per unit population), Gaza is worse than…Syrian war, World War I…etc. We respect the argument but we still feel it trivializes war  and conflicts.  
The idea should be that even one life is so precious that it should not be lost in vain. The better argument is for non-violence. Mandela was for violence before he turned to non-violence and defeated apartheid.

Non-violence is the true weapon of the weak and it is also the best. But you have to believe in it, sincerely and in full measure. Are any of the middle-eastern tribes even willing to give it a try? All the evidence points to the fact that they would not only not try it, they would completely reject it. 

The truth is that Palestinians still yearn for a full-on military victory against Israel, one that will push every single Jew into the sea. That may yet happen, if Iran hands over an A-bomb to Hamas (this is the scenario in which the entire Middle East blows up, including the Temple and the Mosque). For all of you arm-chair warriors, think about such a doomsday scenario, as you plan ahead for the next war (it will happen for sure).

1. Why is everything so much worse when there are Jews involved?

Over 700 people have died in Gaza as of this writing. Muslims have
woken up around the world. But is it really because of the numbers?

Bashar al-Assad has killed over 180,000 Syrians, mostly Muslim, in
two years — more than the number killed in Palestine in two decades.
Thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Syria have been killed by ISIS in the
last two months. Tens of thousands have been killed by the Taliban.
Half a million black Muslims were killed by Arab Muslims in Sudan. The
list goes on.

But Gaza makes Muslims around the world, both Sunni and Shia, speak
up in a way they never do otherwise. Up-to-date death counts and
horrific pictures of the mangled corpses of Gazan children flood their
social media timelines every day. If it was just about the numbers,
wouldn’t the other conflicts take precedence? What is it about then?

If I were Assad or ISIS right now, I’d be thanking God I’m not Jewish.

Amazingly, many of the graphic images of dead children attributed to Israeli bombardment that are circulating online are from Syria, based on a BBC report.
Many of the pictures you’re seeing are of children killed by Assad,
who is supported by Iran, which also funds Hezbollah and Hamas. What
could be more exploitative of dead children than attributing the
pictures of innocents killed by your own supporters to your enemy
simply because you weren’t paying enough attention when your own were
killing your own?

This doesn’t, by any means, excuse the recklessness, negligence, and sometimes outright cruelty
of Israeli forces. But it clearly points to the likelihood that the
Muslim world’s opposition to Israel isn’t just about the number of

Here is a question for those who grew up in the Middle East and other
Muslim-majority countries like I did: if Israel withdrew from the
occupied territories tomorrow, all in one go — and went back to the 1967 borders — and
gave the Palestinians East Jerusalem — do you honestly think Hamas
wouldn’t find something else to pick a fight about? Do you honestly
think that this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they are
Jews? Do you recall what you watched and heard on public TV growing up
in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt?

Yes, there’s an unfair and illegal occupation there, and yes, it’s a
human rights disaster. But it is also true that much of the other side
is deeply driven by anti-Semitism. Anyone who has lived in the
Arab/Muslim world for more than a few years knows that. It isn’t always
a clean, one-or-the-other blame split in these situations like your
Chomskys and Greenwalds would have you believe. It’s both.

2. Why does everyone keep saying this is not a religious conflict?

There are three pervasive myths that are widely circulated about the “roots” of the Middle East conflict:

  • Myth 1: Judaism has nothing to do with Zionism.
  • Myth 2: Islam has nothing to do with Jihadism or anti-Semitism.
  • Myth 3: This conflict has nothing to do with religion.

To the “I oppose Zionism, not Judaism!” crowd, is it mere coincidence
that this passage from the Old Testament (emphasis added) describes so
accurately what’s happening today?

“I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods.” – Exodus 23:31-32

Or this one?

“See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of
the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers — to Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob — and to their descendants after them.” – Deuteronomy 1:8

There’s more: Genesis 15:18-21, and Numbers 34 for more detail on the
borders. Zionism is not the “politicization” or “distortion” of
Judaism. It is the revival of it.

And to the “This is not about Islam, it’s about politics!” crowd, is this verse from the Quran (emphasis added) meaningless?

“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies.
They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to
them among you–then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides
not the wrongdoing people.” – Quran, 5:51

What about the numerous verses and hadith quoted in Hamas’ charter? And the famous hadith of the Gharqad tree explicitly commanding Muslims to kill Jews?

Please tell me — in light of these passages written centuries and
millennia before the creation of Israel or the occupation — how can
anyone conclude that religion isn’t at the root of this, or at least a
key driving factor? You may roll your eyes at these verses, but they
are taken very seriously by many of the players in this conflict, on
both sides. Shouldn’t they be acknowledged and addressed? When is the
last time you heard a good rational, secular argument supporting
settlement expansion in the West Bank?

Denying religion’s role seems to be a way to be able to criticize the
politics while remaining apologetically “respectful” of people’s
beliefs for fear of “offending” them. But is this apologism and “respect” for inhuman ideas worth the deaths of human beings?

People have all kinds of beliefs — from insisting the Earth is flat
to denying the Holocaust. You may respect their right to hold these
beliefs, but you’re not obligated to respect the beliefs themselves.
It’s 2014, and religions don’t need to be “respected” any more than any
other political ideology or philosophical thought system. Human beings
have rights. Ideas don’t. The oft-cited politics/religion dichotomy in
Abrahamic religions is false and misleading. All of the Abrahamic
religions are inherently political.

3. Why would Israel deliberately want to kill civilians?

This is the single most important issue that gets everyone riled up, and rightfully so.

Again, there is no justification for innocent Gazans dying. And
there’s no excuse for Israel’s negligence in incidents like the killing
of four children on a Gazan beach. But let’s back up and think about
this for a minute.

Why on Earth would Israel deliberately want to kill civilians?

When civilians die, Israel looks like a monster. It draws the ire of even its closest allies.
Horrific images of injured and dead innocents flood the media.
Ever-growing anti-Israel protests are held everywhere from Norway to
New York. And the relatively low number of Israeli casualties (we’ll get
to that in a bit) repeatedly draws allegations of a “disproportionate”
response. Most importantly, civilian deaths help Hamas immensely.

How can any of this possibly ever be in Israel’s interest?

If Israel wanted to kill civilians, it is terrible at it. ISIS killed
more civilians in two days (700 plus) than Israel has in two weeks.
Imagine if ISIS or Hamas had Israel’s weapons, army, air force, US
support, and nuclear arsenal. Their enemies would’ve been annihilated
long ago. If Israel truly wanted to destroy Gaza, it could do so within
a day, right from the air. Why carry out a more painful, expensive
ground incursion that risks the lives of its soldiers?

4. Does Hamas really use its own civilians as human shields?

Ask Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas how he feels about Hamas’ tactics.

“What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?” he asks. “I don’t like trading in Palestinian blood.”

It isn’t just speculation anymore that Hamas puts its civilians in the line of fire.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri plainly admitted on Gazan national TV that the human shield strategy has proven “very effective.”

The UN relief organization UNRWA issued a furious condemnation of Hamas after discovering hidden rockets in not one, but two children’s schools in Gaza last week.

Hamas fires thousands of rockets into Israel, rarely killing any
civilians or causing any serious damage. It launches them from densely
populated areas, including hospitals and schools.

Why launch rockets without causing any real damage to the other side,
inviting great damage to your own people, then putting your own civilians
in the line of fire when the response comes? Even when the IDF warns
civilians to evacuate their homes before a strike, why does Hamas tell them to stay put?

Because Hamas knows its cause is helped when Gazans die. If there is
one thing that helps Hamas most — one thing that gives it any
legitimacy — it is dead civilians. Rockets in schools. Hamas exploits
the deaths of its children to gain the world’s sympathy. It uses them
as a weapon.

You don’t have to like what Israel is doing to abhor Hamas. Arguably,
Israel and Fatah are morally equivalent. Both have a lot of right on
their side. Hamas, on the other hand, doesn’t have a shred of it.

5. Why are people asking for Israel to end the “occupation” in Gaza?

Because they have short memories.

In 2005, Israel ended the occupation in Gaza. It pulled out every
last Israeli soldier. It dismantled every last settlement. Many Israeli
settlers who refused to leave were forcefully evicted from their homes, kicking and screaming.

This was a unilateral move by Israel, part of a disengagement plan intended to reduce friction between Israelis and Palestinians.
It wasn’t perfect — Israel was still to control Gaza’s borders,
coastline, and airspace — but considering the history of the region,
it was a pretty significant first step.

After the evacuation, Israel opened up border crossings to facilitate commerce. The Palestinians were also given 3,000 greenhouses which had already been producing fruit and flowers for export for many years.

But Hamas chose not to invest in schools, trade, or infrastructure. Instead, it built an extensive network of tunnels to house thousands upon thousands of rockets and weapons, including newer, sophisticated ones from Iran and Syria. All the greenhouses were destroyed.

Hamas did not build any bomb shelters for its people. It did, however, build a few
for its leaders to hide out in during airstrikes. Civilians are not
given access to these shelters for precisely the same reason Hamas tells
them to stay home when the bombs come.

Gaza was given a great opportunity in 2005 that Hamas squandered by
transforming it into an anti-Israel weapons store instead of a thriving
Palestinian state that, with time, may have served as a model for the
future of the West Bank as well. If Fatah needed yet another reason to
abhor Hamas, here it was.

6. Why are there so many more casualties in Gaza than in Israel?

The reason fewer Israeli civilians die is not because there are fewer
rockets raining down on them. It’s because they are better protected
by their government.

When Hamas’ missiles head towards Israel, sirens go off, the Iron
Dome goes into effect, and civilians are rushed into bomb shelters.
When Israeli missiles head towards Gaza, Hamas tells civilians to stay in their homes and face them.

While Israel’s government urges its civilians to get away from rockets targeted at them, Gaza’s government urges its civilians to get in front of missiles not targeted at them.

The popular explanation for this is that Hamas is poor and lacks the
resources to protect its people like Israel does. The real reason,
however, seems to have more to do with disordered priorities than
deficient resources (see #5). This is about will, not ability. All
those rockets, missiles, and tunnels aren’t cheap to build or acquire.
But they are priorities. And it’s not like Palestinians don’t have a handful of oil-rich neighbors to help them the way Israel has the US.

The problem is, if civilian casualties in Gaza drop, Hamas loses the
only weapon it has in its incredibly effective PR war. It is in
Israel’s national interest to protect its civilians and minimize the
deaths of those in Gaza. It is in Hamas’ interest to do exactly the
opposite on both fronts.

7. If Hamas is so bad, why isn’t everyone pro-Israel in this conflict?

Because Israel’s flaws, while smaller in number, are massive in impact.

Many Israelis seem to have the same tribal mentality that their Palestinian counterparts do. They celebrate the bombing of Gaza the same way many Arabs celebrated 9/11. A UN report recently found that Israeli forces tortured Palestinian children and used them as human shields. They beat up teenagers. They are often reckless with their airstrikes. They have academics who explain how rape may be the only truly effective weapon against their enemy. And many of them callously and publicly revel in the deaths of innocent Palestinian children.

To be fair, these kinds of things do happen on both sides. They are
an inevitable consequence of multiple generations raised to hate the
other over the course of 65 plus years. To hold Israel up to a higher
standard would mean approaching the Palestinians with the racism of
lowered expectations.

However, if Israel holds itself to a higher standard like it claims — it needs to do much more to show it isn’t the same as the worst of its neighbors.

Israel is leading itself towards increasing international isolation
and national suicide because of two things: 1. The occupation; and 2.
Settlement expansion.

Settlement expansion is simply incomprehensible. No one really
understands the point of it. Virtually every US administration — from
Nixon to Bush to Obama — has unequivocally opposed it.
There is no justification for it except a Biblical one (see #2), which
makes it slightly more difficult to see Israel’s motives as purely

The occupation is more complicated. The late Christopher Hitchens was right when he said this about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories:

“In order for Israel to become part of the alliance against whatever
we want to call it, religious barbarism, theocratic, possibly
thermonuclear theocratic or nuclear theocratic aggression, it can’t,
it’ll have to dispense with the occupation. It’s as simple as that.

It can be, you can think of it as a kind of European style, Western
style country if you want, but it can’t govern other people against
their will.

It can’t continue to steal their land in the way that it
does every day.And it’s unbelievably irresponsible of Israelis,
knowing the position of the United States and its allies are in around
the world, to continue to behave in this unconscionable way.

And I’m
afraid I know too much about the history of the conflict to think of
Israel as just a tiny, little island surrounded by a sea of ravening
wolves and so on. I mean, I know quite a lot about how that state was
founded, and the amount of violence and dispossession that involved.
And I’m a prisoner of that knowledge. I can’t un-know it.”

As seen with Gaza in 2005, unilateral disengagement is probably
easier to talk about than actually carry out. But if it Israel doesn’t
work harder towards a two-state (maybe three-state, thanks to Hamas)
solution, it will eventually have to make that ugly choice between
being a Jewish-majority state or a democracy.

It’s still too early to call Israel an apartheid state, but when John Kerry said Israel could end up as one in the future,
he wasn’t completely off the mark. It’s simple math. There are only a
limited number of ways a bi-national Jewish state with a non-Jewish
majority population can retain its Jewish identity. And none of them
are pretty.

Let’s face it, the land belongs to both of them now. Israel was
carved out of Palestine for Jews with help from the British in the late
1940s just like my own birthplace of Pakistan was carved out of India
for Muslims around the same time. The process was painful, and
displaced millions in both instances. 

But it’s been almost 70 years.
There are now at least two or three generations of Israelis who were
born and raised in this land, to whom it really is a home, and who are
often held accountable and made to pay for for historical atrocities
that are no fault of their own. They are programmed to oppose “the
other” just as Palestinian children are. At its very core, this is a
tribal religious conflict that will never be resolved unless people
stop choosing sides.

So you really don’t have to choose between being “pro-Israel” or
“pro-Palestine.” If you support secularism, democracy, and a two-state
solution — and you oppose Hamas, settlement expansion, and the
occupation — you can be both.





No country for young Sikhs (or old)

Last week (July 26) we had three Sikhs dead in Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh, India). Due to the way these action-reactions occur in South Asia (in the words of a very famous and powerful person), this week we encounter a repeat action in Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunwa, Pakistan).

We extend our deepest sympathies to all minority communities without a safe haven to call their own. The list even includes Hindus (Pandits) in India, Muslims (Biharis) in Bangladesh, and many others…….

No one should have to die before their body and/or mind dies a natural death.
Members of the Sikh community in Peshawar came under attack on Wednesday, with one killed and two injured in a firing incident.
officials said unidentified armed men opened fire at members of the
Sikh community when they were at Shabab market in the Hashtnagri area.

reported that Jasmot Singh, Bahram Singh and Manmit Singh were attacked
when they were at their respective shops in the market. The victims
were rushed to the Lady Reading Hospital immediately after the attack,
where one died.

Members of the Sikh community took to GT
Road to protest the attack on their community, with some burning tires
and vowing not to leave till they were given justice.

A large number of protestors shifted the
body of the deceased Sikh man to GT Road and demanded that the
government give them security. One member said that this is not the
first time the community has been attacked and that the government
should tell them an alternative if it cannot give them security.

a number of kidnappings from among the Sikh community in
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and other tribal areas, some members have
decided to wind up their shops in KP and relocate to Rawalpindi.

In a report
published earlier this week, one Sikh man Saroop Singh said,
“Hasanabdal is a much safer place for the Sikhs to live, as it is one of
our holiest sites. Our families feel much secure there, living among
other Sikhs in Gurdwara Punja Sahib. Peshawar is not safe,” said Singh.


Link: gunmen-shoot-at-sikh-men-in-peshawar-market-one-dead




How about Indians, Iranians…?

The following sounds like a hoax…but these are Saudis, so you never know.

A ban has been announced on Saudi gentlemen marrying ladies from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad and Myanmar.

People who have deep knowledge as to matrimonial connections can perhaps sniff out the common link. Is it the case that the denizens of those countries are deliberately under-cutting the marriage market for Saudi ladies? If that is indeed the case, is it not better to treat such concerns by means of immigration controls, rather than taking resort to blanket bans which carry the whiff of racism?

BTW most comments on the Dawn website stress on the following:
(1) Pakistanis are much more intelligent, more beautiful and more worthy than Saudi counterparts, and
(2) No Pakistani woman in her right mind would like to marry a Saudi and become a life-time slave

Top comment: Proof Arab discrimination against fellow Arabs.

Capturing the entirety of emotions, history, literature and politics hiding behind that one single statement (from a South Asian POV) will perhaps require the efforts of 10,000 (doctoral) students over 10,000 years. Seriously.

Finally this section of the order – If the applicant
is already married, he should attach a report from a hospital proving
that his wife is either disabled, suffering from a chronic disease or is
sterile –
wouldn’t it be loverly if this can be incorporated as part of Sharia code everywhere?

Saudi men have been prohibited from marrying women from Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Chad and Myanmar, says a report in Makkah daily quoting
Makkah Police Director Maj Gen Assaf Al-Qurashi.

According to unofficial figures, there are about 500,000 women from these four countries currently residing in the kingdom.

a move apparently aimed at discouraging Saudi men from marrying
foreigners, additional formalities have been placed before issuing the
permission for marriage with foreigners. Saudi men wishing to marry
foreigners now face tougher regulations.

Those wanting to marry
foreign women should first obtain the consent of the government and
submit marriage applications through official channels, Maj Gen Qurashi
was quoted as saying.

official said applicants should be over 25 and attach identification
documents signed by the local district mayor as well as all other
identity papers, including a copy of his family card. “If the applicant
is already married, he should attach a report from a hospital proving
that his wife is either disabled, suffering from a chronic disease or is
sterile,” he said.

Maj Gen Qurashi said divorced men would not be allowed to apply within six months of their divorce.





The Second Republic: back-story, future thoughts

…how bad things are between Washington and Delhi…this reluctant partnership might be best left to wither…scant evidence of being the man who will
shake up the economy……scuttling of a WTO deal…..calls into question……ardor for free trade……

This is a strange truth that no fiction can beat. The person who correctly visualized the future amidst the hellish fog that was Partition(I) was an Islamist philosopher-king named Abul Ala Maududi.

A lot of truth and wisdom in the above quotation…except for one thing. What would the future hold for Islam and muslims (especially those in South Asia), which in those glorious post-partition days held the promise to sweep out capitalism, communism, “materialistic atheism,” racialism and nationalism?  

An honest analysis would point out that Maududi had the right instincts (partition will divide and weaken muslims) but the wrong principles (unite muslims by killing other muslims).

Maududi was born in 1903 in Aurangabad, a city named after Aurangzeb, who was famous for his not-so-soft heart towards the majority of his citizens. Indeed, when the two nation theory talks eloquently about their villains being our heroes, Aurangzeb is Exhibit (A).

Hindus (left-liberals) hate the Last of the Great Badshahs and would like to believe that his actions destroyed the “secular” Mughal Empire. Hindus (conservatives) hate him and would like to dial back the clock to the Arab invasion of Sindh.

Muslims OTOH venerate Sultan Alamgir for having (violently) corrected the apostasies of his ancestors. They would like to believe that the green flag was planted across al-Hind for good, only to be undone by the treachery of a single (bengali) muslim: Mir Jafar.

Maududi opposed the formation of Pakistan because he instinctively understood that the power base for muslims in South Asia would be divided. However he was an exception. Muslims were a minority and out of power for 200 years, but they sincerely believed (and so did everybody else) in the one Muslim = 10 Hindus equation (Sikhs were a different story).
The magic lines floated in the air: “Sylhet nilam vote-er jorey, Cachar nebo lathir jorey” – we muslims have won Sylhet district (Bangladesh), through elections and we will win Cachar district (Asom) using force. When the partition was formalized the confident leaders of Pakistan reassured the troops noting that muslims will be kings in Pakistan and king-makers in India. The confidence that comes from a hard battle won through a mix of votes and force seemed to settle all doubts.

Still Maududi worried about the division. One possible reason: his beloved home-land, Hyderabad (a princely state ruled by the Nizam) was unlikely to be a part of Pakistan and would be surrounded by the enemy on all sides. He may have worried about the unreliability of “impure” bengalis, of the possibility of millions of Mirjafars. He certainly worried about the un-islamic character (as he saw it) of  the man leading the charge for partition.  

Nevertheless Maududi had a change of heart and was confident enough to launch the first muslim-on-muslim riots in Pakistan in 1953. He was sentenced to death for his role in killing Ahmadis but the order was reversed. When this happened, the fate of Pakistan as a homeland for all muslims in South Asia was doomed.

If Muslims were out of power for 200 years, Hindus were under the colonial boot for a 1000 years. Plus there was the primacy of caste, there was really never one Hindu nation, just a thousand squabbling tribes. The only way to unite them was through careful inculcation of hate against muslims (not a difficult job, muslims helped out as well) and to create a fear factor around mad, bad Pakistan (not a difficult job, Pakistan helped out as well).

And so it is that finally in 2014, the nightmare that Maududi had envisioned, finally came into existence. The second republic is now born, there will be no muslim armies marching to take over the Red Fort.
These are early days but there are a few emerging clues as to the how the born-again nation will react (and reach out) to the world. Indeed the alarm bells have started ringing in unexpected places, while sworn enemies have remained quiet. What to make of all this?

What is quite clear is that the Hindu Desh wants to be friends with the family (Nepal, Bhutan, and…Sri Lanka…very tricky that one). They would even not mind breaking bread with the enemy (the Islamic nations in South Asia). We are talking of sincere, we do not want to be big brother, courteous hand of friendship, not the contemptuous, we are way bigger than you aloof attitude of the Congress wallahs. How can this be possible?

Well it is certainly not an unprecedented thing to have happened. Indo-Pak relations for example, have been generally more cordial when (on rare occasions) the Hindu Brotherhood has been at the high table. Thus Atal Bihari Vajpayee is rated highly by Pakistanis. The fire-breathing LK Advani went on a praise Jinnah tour, while Jaswat Singh came out with a Nehru villain book. Due to the curious nature of the politics of the sub-continent, Nehru the secularist is a villain for both conservative Hindus and Muslims – TNT version 2.0!!! The last screw in the coffin will be turned when Gujaratis of today will bow before Sardar Patel and say bye to Gandhi.

The consequence(s) of all this will be clear in due time, but some fictions have become facts on the ground. India is now officially declared to be a Hindu-first and Hindi-first nation. The only feeble resistance to this will come from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Bengal (which form part of the un-India in this model) and the Kashmir valley and a few North-Eastern states. Asom, Punjab and Telengana- deeply disturbed spots all at some time or other- are now very much part of the national narrative.
India already has open borders with Nepal and Bhutan, what is a (still remote) possibility now is an open border with Bangladesh. Only Modi can achieve this miracle. It is already the case that 10 million Bangla migrants are settled in India, and cattle-beef and food stuff goes the other way. The Hindus will at some point of time completely migrate out of Bangla, this will in turn help reduce tensions. Now the only people who will get killed are bengali muslims….in India (by Hindus, Sikhs, Tribals,…) and in Bangla (by other muslims).

The road to peace with Pakistan goes through Kashmir. The indications are that the original package will be revived: self-rule (but not independence) and a new twist: Union Territory for Pandits. Pakistan may agree to this, even if Kashmiris see a future Israel-Palestine play (they would be correct). But given the realities, Kashmiris may have no choice but to obey. A deciding factor will be China, it is doubtful that Pakistan Army will not raise objections if Beijing advises to the contrary. China is seriously bothered by the insurgencies in Xinjiang and will like to shut down all islamist adventures in the neighborhood.
What about the USA and the West? Well….they are the last in the queue and they are very upset indeed. Modi will drive a hard bargain in the political sphere. He is a serious student of history and will not be caught sleeping while the opposition gets to champion the cause of the “little farmer.” He will use the carrot of defense sector privatization (49% FDI) and the opening of the insurance market (if he can get the Congress to go along in the Rajya Sabha). Before any Indian markets are opened, he will insist on a generous visa regime from USA and Europe. That may be a non-starter due to domestic complusions in those countries (excepting Germany).  

The expectation is that among the big powers Germany, China, France, Russia and Japan will be the new close friends….just because they can give India what she wants…energy, technology, and soft loans. 

It is unclear what is that special trick that will click it for India-USA (and India-UK). American technology is considered high cost and Americans do not like to share (unlike Russia and France). More H1-Bs may be the answer, but it is easier perhaps to persuade Google and IBM to move more of  their operations to India (shocking if true: one third of Apple techies are Indian).

…..Should We Just Forget
About India?

Here’s how bad things are between
Washington and New Delhi these days: It’s news that Kerry even made the trip.
Why this reluctant partnership might be best left to wither.

So low is the bar in U.S.-India
relations right now that the best thing that can be said about John Kerry’s
two-day hop-over to New Delhi was that he went there at all. A relationship
that burst into true blossom under George W. Bush, one that held for many
Americans the promise of a mold-breaking alliance for the 21st century, lies
shabbily dormant. Indeed, the only memorable episode in Kerry’s visit was his
scolding by India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, for the NSA’s spying on
her political party.

Should America care? India has little or nothing to contribute to American
efforts to tackle the crises in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq. It is a reluctant
partner, at best, in Washington’s efforts to rein in Iran and will have no
truck with the West in any showdown with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Its incessant push for permanent membership of the United
Nations Security Council, while understandable for a country that is the
world’s second-most populous, isn’t exactly in America’s interests: New Delhi
and Washington frequently find themselves on different sides of votes on U.N.

The two countries converge in their legitimate fears of Chinese aggression
and expansion in Asia, but even here, India has been loath to embrace any
formal alliance that would act as a check on Beijing, for fear of provoking the
Chinese into military incursions into Indian territory that New Delhi is
shamefully unprepared to counter. Besides, in recent weeks, India has been
party to the setting up of a BRICS Bank, with Brazil, Russia, China, and South

This institution was conceived as a way to break America’s global
financial hegemony—a word beloved in bureaucratic Delhi, where America is still
regarded with a suspicion that is as potent as it is irrational.

The BRICS Bank
looks, for all its founding rhetoric, like a platform for Chinese hegemony
instead. Once more, China appears to have taken India for a ride. But that is
another story.

India offers America nothing of concrete strategic value that Washington
cannot, currently, live without. Not only does it balk at an alliance of any
kind, its political and intellectual elites are wedded still to nonalignment,
that antediluvian credo from the years of the Cold War. 

Intellectual worthies
in New Delhi have cooked up something called “Non-alignment 2.0,” by which
“India must remain true to its aspiration of creating a new and alternative
universality.” For those masochists who want to acquaint themselves better with
this Cold War mummy come to life, I suggest a visit to this website. It will swiftly become clear
that there is no room in this starry-eyed arrangement for a compact with

Forget matters strategic, you may say; banish from your head all thoughts of
a military or security handshake. What about economics? Doesn’t India matter to
America as a market, a place for wise and profitable investment? Here again,
Americans must resign themselves, for the moment, to disappointment.

For all Narendra Modi’s free-market rhetoric in the run-up to the
elections, for all the assurances given to investors in back rooms, he has
offered scant evidence, in his two months in power, of being the man who will
shake up the Indian economy and make his country a more rational place in which
to do business. His national budget was only marginally less squishy and Fabian
than other, recent Indian budgets, and Thursday’s capricious scuttling by India
of a World Trade Organization deal that would have vastly streamlined the global
trade system calls into question Modi’s professed ardor for free trade.

American private enterprise has always tread cautiously in India, and there
is every indication that it will have to continue to tiptoe its way through,
around, and over the cactus grove of Indian regulations. 

The job of the Obama
administration (and that of a likely Hillary administration) will be to
persuade India to change its ways. That will be immensely difficult if Mr. Modi
continues to backtrack on economic reform. (Why is he doing so? Is it his
belief that, having won an emphatic but contentious election, he needs to
“buy” social harmony by embracing the sops and subsidies he inherited from the
previous quasi-socialist government of Manmohan Singh?)

So, as things stand, America gets neither strategic comfort nor a fair
economic opportunity from India. Perhaps it’s time for Washington to shrug its
shoulders and move on, leaving a warmer relationship with India to a time when
Indians have made up their muddled minds about the kind of country theirs is—or
ought to be.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Nepal, which
commenced yesterday, highlights yet again his government’s focus on
India’s immediate neighbourhood. Having made Bhutan his maiden foreign
port of call after assuming office, Modi is the first Indian PM to
undertake a bilateral Nepal visit since I K Gujral in 1997. 

Despite deep cultural bonds, over the years suspicion and distrust have
come to tarnish the bilateral relationship. Modi would do well to
address the criticism that New Delhi’s engagement with Kathmandu has
been marked by inequality and interference.

Generosity ought to be the pillar of India’s
outreach to Nepal and other Saarc neighbours. This would help dispel the
perception among the latter that New Delhi harbours a big-brotherly
attitude when it comes to dealing them. A vibrant Saarc combined with
the gains made at the recent Brics summit will hold India in good stead
in an increasingly multi-polar world defined by dynamic geopolitics.

Having said that, it would be imprudent for New Delhi to focus solely
on relations with its neighbours or other emerging economies at the
cost of ties with the West. India needs technology and investments from
the EU and US to kick-start its economy and tackle unemployment.
Moreover, terrorism is an international scourge New Delhi can’t tackle
alone. Hence, it simply can’t burn bridges with the West. 

In this
regard, the collapse of WTO discussions last week hurts India’s
reputation. India has been identified as the country that undermined a
settled deal — which it had committed to support last December in Bali.

A perception that India is an unreliable partner can make potential
western allies hesitant to commit political and financial capital to
nurture a strategic relationship. This is the last thing Modi needs as
he attempts to revamp India-US ties at his meeting with President Obama
later this year. New Delhi must strive for a golden mean and maintain a
balance between its relationship with the West and greater South-South
cooperation. This will raise India’s profile at the international high


time an election verdict is analysed, it is easy and convenient to
describe it as a new beginning. This is always true because any process
of winning and losing, of choosing and rejecting, inevitably involves
fresh starts.

Some elections also indicate a closure. While the Lok Sabha election
of 2014 is certainly a beginning — though exactly what it has begun is
something we will really and realistically figure out only in the coming
years — we do know what it has ended. It has brought to a close a
20-year cycle of politics that has dominated one-and-a-half generations
of Indians.

In the early 1990s, three social trends came to capture political
imagination in India. There was the BJP’s ascent on the back of
Hindutva, of Hindu anger, prejudice and assertion.

There was the Mandal project that symbolised the political
empowerment of the OBCs, particularly in north India, a phenomenon later
extended to Dalit pride by Mayawati and the BSP. Finally, there was
liberalisation and economic reform, the explosion of expectations and
the politics of growth. Mandir, Mandal and Market: So often in the
1990s, political assessments in India resorted to that lazy phrase.

Narendra Modi’s dramatic rise to power in 2014 and the impressive
mandate he has won have made that three-way split and that careful
separating of one motivation from another completely redundant. He is a
Hindu leader and mascot. He is an OBC from a traditionally
underprivileged caste background.

He is also the most passionate advocate of market-based
solutions, of enterprise and of the energies of the citizen — as opposed
to the eviscerating qualities of statism — that mass politics in India
has seen in a long, long time.

There is no point arguing whether Modi would be Right-wing or
capitalist in a western economic context, and whether he agrees with
every semicolon of Milton Friedman and every paragraph of Margaret
Thatcher. He doesn’t; but he shares their essential instincts and buys
into their broader logic much more than any other mainstream and
electable political leader in India today.

While Modi has made those abstruse debates about an ideological
battle between three (or more) ideas of India seem silly if not
irrelevant, what has he actually introduced and brought to the table?
The principal appeal of Modi in contemporary India is not religion or
caste or even hyper-nationalism.

It is class. The narrative of a self-made man, of the son of a
father who sold tea at a railway station and a mother who went house to
house washing dishes to pay school fees for her children, is a
compelling and extraordinarily powerful one.

The Congress leadership and the media completely missed how the
Modi narrative was resonating with the people. Mani Shankar Aiyar’s
puerile comment that the Congress would open a tea stall for Modi came
to showcase his party’s — and his peer group’s — complete alienation
from a certain popular urge and aspiration.

Aiyar saw it as a clever-clever line; the message it sent was one
of an unfeeling elite, happy to mock lesser citizens. It made being a
chaiwallah a badge of honour for Modi.

It established him as the underdog — a role he plays best, and
has played in successive elections in Gujarat, even while being chief

If this election was about Modi capitalising on a class revolt,
that expression has to be understood. The reference here is not to class
in a Marxian sense.

It is simply to primarily young, small town, semi-urban people —
or even rural folk, exposed to or associated with city life and the city
economy — usually from non-English speaking backgrounds. They are
hungry to learn the language, though — not to read Milton and join the
Anglosphere but simply to get a job.

They are too well-off to be satisfied by the rural employment
guarantee programme but too poor to be genuinely middle class. They see
themselves as socially underprivileged and perceive their progress to be
thwarted by an elite that has shut the gates and framed complicated,
impossible rules for entry — for professional advance as much as
political office — that usher in only the initiated. Remarkably
hamhanded in their politics, the Congress and the UPA allowed themselves
to be seen as the embodiment of this elite.

Modi’s voters make for a complex set of emotions.

There is undeniable ambition here, completely justified for
talented people who have simply not been given the opportunities they
deserve. There is also a degree of resentment and an anger, sometimes
overdone. Yet, it is equally true that this cohort, this middle India,
represents a far greater section of the Indian population than the
narrow apex of the pyramid that surrounds the Nehru-Gandhi family,
constitutes its reference points and writes its policies and legislation
in chambers in Delhi.

In that sense, this class divide is not between Bharat and India — it is between Delhi and the rest of the country.

Such a binary has caused upheaval in other societies as well. In
several countries of Africa and Asia, the first generation of genteel
post-colonial leaders and elites usually gave way to more angular native
(or nativist) politicians who grasped popular hopes and fears more
easily simply because they had lived these themselves. India has been
lucky and has landed on its feet. It has accomplished a similar change
through the voting machine.

Where other second-generation leaders of post-colonial societies
can be populist and even dictatorial, Modi is cut of a different cloth.

He has been schooled in Indian democracy and sculpted by a decade
of tests in governance and storms in politics. These have made him an
economic change-agent, not an economic waster; these have made him
authoritative, but not authoritarian. Fifty years after Jawaharlal Nehru
died, in the very month, Narendra Modi may as well have inaugurated
India’s second Republic. – See more at:

In the early 1990s, three social
trends came to capture political imagination in India. There was the BJP’s
ascent on the back of Hindutva, of Hindu anger, prejudice and assertion.

There was the Mandal project that
symbolised the political empowerment of the OBCs, particularly in north India,
a phenomenon later extended to Dalit pride by Mayawati and the BSP. 

there was liberalisation and economic reform, the explosion of expectations and
the politics of growth. Mandir, Mandal and Market: So often in the 1990s,
political assessments in India resorted to that lazy phrase.

Narendra Modi’s dramatic rise to
power in 2014 and the impressive mandate he has won have made that three-way
split and that careful separating of one motivation from another completely
redundant. He is a Hindu leader and mascot. He is an OBC from a traditionally
underprivileged caste background.

He is also the most passionate
advocate of market-based solutions, of enterprise and of the energies of the
citizen — as opposed to the eviscerating qualities of statism — that mass
politics in India has seen in a long, long time.

There is no point arguing whether
Modi would be Right-wing or capitalist in a western economic context, and
whether he agrees with every semicolon of Milton Friedman and every paragraph
of Margaret Thatcher. He doesn’t; but he shares their essential instincts and
buys into their broader logic much more than any other mainstream and electable
political leader in India today.

While Modi has made those abstruse
debates about an ideological battle between three (or more) ideas of India seem
silly if not irrelevant, what has he actually introduced and brought to the
table? The principal appeal of Modi in contemporary India is not religion or
caste or even hyper-nationalism.

It is class. The narrative of a
self-made man, of the son of a father who sold tea at a railway station and a
mother who went house to house washing dishes to pay school fees for her
children, is a compelling and extraordinarily powerful one.

If this election was about Modi
capitalising on a class revolt, that expression has to be understood. The
reference here is not to class in a Marxian sense.

It is simply to primarily young,
small town, semi-urban people — or even rural folk, exposed to or associated
with city life and the city economy — usually from non-English speaking
backgrounds. They are hungry to learn the language, though — not to read Milton
and join the Anglosphere but simply to get a job.

They are too well-off to be
satisfied by the rural employment guarantee programme but too poor to be
genuinely middle class. They see themselves as socially underprivileged and
perceive their progress to be thwarted by an elite that has shut the gates and
framed complicated, impossible rules for entry — for professional advance as
much as political office — that usher in only the initiated. Remarkably
hamhanded in their politics, the Congress and the UPA allowed themselves to be
seen as the embodiment of this elite.

Modi’s voters make for a complex set
of emotions.

There is undeniable ambition here,
completely justified for talented people who have simply not been given the
opportunities they deserve. There is also a degree of resentment and an anger,
sometimes overdone. Yet, it is equally true that this cohort, this middle
India, represents a far greater section of the Indian population than the
narrow apex of the pyramid that surrounds the Nehru-Gandhi family, constitutes
its reference points and writes its policies and legislation in chambers in

Link(1):  john-kerry-just-visited-but-should-we-just-forget-about-india

Link(2): modis-focus-on-indias-neighbours-is-welcome-but-he-must-not-ignore-the-west/

Link (3): modi-may-be-inaugurating-india-s-second-republic



The Yellow River turns Red

…..breaking the levees and
diverting the river south into an older channel, he could effectively
cut off the rail route to Zhengzhou…..Previous military destruction of the levees had
helped armies in A.D. 1129 and 1642
……the decision took a great civilian toll and had only
moderate military success….Official estimates….800,000 Chinese died…..


It is only in recent times (and even then only amongst a few Chinese and Western academics and opinion makers) that the complete monstrosity of Mao’s actions have been discussed and appreciated. We would speculate that a majority of the academic left world-wide would still back Mao, if a bit less enthusiastically than in the past. The logic is presumably that as a Great Nation builder he had to do what he had to do. 

Arundhati Roy is quite the patron saint on the left (against evil american domination) and in the ummah (against evil Hindu domination) and can be used as a benchmark. She has published several articles deploring the fact that China has deviated from the true path as promised by the People’s Party and is now capitalist in all but name. But as far as the “excesses” or “mistakes” committed during the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward is concerned, she is curiously (and unusually) silent.

To the best of our knowledge AR reserves none of the vitriol for Mao and his merry band of followers, that she habitually displays towards Gandhi and Gandhians. To take one memorable and recent example, AR wants all the institutions (and roads, ships, bridges,…) named after Gandhi to be erased (metaphorically) because Gandhi was casteist. We have never heard any appeal from her that Mao’s names also similarly be deleted from (Indian) history books. And given her deep admiration for Mao wannabe and genocide loving Charu Majumdar, we doubt any such appeal will be forthcoming.

Then there is the middle-class, right of center population in India (and we expect in other post-colonial nations). On many occasions, we have been taken aback by the full-on admiration of Mao and his methods.

India, in the opinion of such elites, would have already been a great country (like China) if we just had the fortitude to eliminate a few hundred millions of the (undeserving) poor. In contrast, Mao killed only 45 million. As they say of true believers, if you gave these people a free hand, they would out-Mao the Great Man himself.

Indeed, given the undiluted admiration that both the Indian Left and the Right feel for Mao (and their mutual disdain for Gandhi), we feel it would be appropriate to re-badge all the Gandhi-shrines as Mao-memorials. If nothing else this would privilege honesty over humbug (as AR would say).

The question that remains unresolved in our mind is this: was Mao really such an unique monster, or is the Han Chinese gene predisposed towards genocide (so to speak). Is it the case that they would willfully use genocide as part of state-craft (and war-craft)? If this is true, it would be very bad news for the Uighurs and the Tibetans today. They may as well go out and commit mass suicide tomorrow (the Chinese authorities would be glad to pay for all expenses).

To be sure, many generals would not think much about sacrificing a few thousand villages in order to get a decisive advantage in a war against a dreaded enemy. But, even while following a scorched-earth strategy we doubt that they would kill off all the villagers as well. And this is not just a one-off case. This strategy has been supposedly acted upon many times going back a thousand years. Perhaps the well informed military historians on this forum can point to other nations who have carried forward this glorious tradition of care-free elimination of millions of their own people.
The Huang He (Yellow River) has been called “China’s Sorrow.” The
name pays tribute to the millions killed by the river’s churning, muddy
waters in a long history of dramatic diversions and massive floods. 

of the most notable recent events in the river’s troubled history
occurred in June 1938, when the Nationalist Chinese Army diverted the
river to block invading Japanese troops. In both number of deaths and
geographic scale, this event was the largest act of environmental
warfare in modern history.

The story of the diversion begins with the railroads, says Steven
Dutch, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. In July
1937, Japan moved troops into China and began seizing power in the
northern territories, beginning the Second Sino-Japanese War. 

By June of
the next year, Japanese troops had moved inland from occupied Shanghai
to Nanjing, Xuzhou and Kaifeng. Though many maps of the invasion show
Japanese control was widespread across these regions, Dutch says that
Japanese effective control was mostly along the rail corridor. In other
areas, Japanese power was less homogenous, interrupted by large areas
controlled by Chinese troops, guerilla groups or bandits.

After Kaifeng, the next stop along the railroad was Zhengzhou, Dutch
says. This was the last major rail station before the Japanese could
move south and attack Wuhan — the most important city politically and
militarily in central China. Chinese General Chiang Kai-shek desperately
needed to end Japan’s deadly march inland. And so the Chinese military
turned to the deadliest force within reach — the Huang He.

The Huang He flows east out of the Chinese highlands across a plateau
of loess, or fine sediment, just northwest of Kaifeng. From this point,
the river meanders across a huge, flat alluvial fan. To the north and
south of the current channel stretch the long fingers of older abandoned
river channels, now empty or filled with smaller rivers. 

The Huang He
has flowed in at least nine different channels in the last 2,000 years,
on both sides of the Shandong Peninsula. For scale, Dutch says, imagine
the Mississippi River shifting back and forth between western Texas and
the Florida panhandle.

The enormous annual sediment load of the Huang He (providing the
characteristic yellow color of the Yellow River) has complicated human
efforts to control the river’s course through levees. These structures
have been raised higher and higher to keep pace with the bottom of the
river as it rises from sediment fill. 

As a result, by the summer of
1938, the river reach between Kaifeng and Zhengzhou flowed significantly
above the surrounding land. This, combined with its position at the top
of the alluvial fan, made the river here extremely favorable for

General Chiang Kai-shek knew that by breaking the levees and
diverting the river south into an older channel, he could effectively
cut off the Japanese rail route to Zhengzhou, Dutch says. This strategy
was not entirely new. Previous military destruction of the levees had
helped armies in the area in A.D. 1129 and 1642. The Chinese hoped that a
similar strategy would turn the military conflict in their favor and
protect the heartland of China from the Japanese.

Unfortunately, the decision took a great civilian toll and had only
moderate military success. Official Chinese estimates suggest that
nearly 800,000 Chinese civilians died. Even more were forced to flee
from their homes. Militarily, the Japanese suffered only minor losses of
troops and materials. 

Although the Chinese did gain time to relocate
their wartime capital — which had been moved to Wuhan after the fall of
Nanjing earlier in the invasion — within three months, Wuhan fell under
Japanese control.

Though little detailed information on the effects of the flooding is
available, similar events suggest the kind of destruction the people
living near the Huang He probably experienced in 1938, Dutch says. As
the enormous volume of the Huang He rushed down into one of the smaller,
quieter rivers occupying the old channel, the riverbanks could do
little to hold the waters from spilling out into the broad floodplain,
destroying crops and killing thousands in its path. Once the worst of
the flooding subsided, waterborne diseases likely added more fatalities.

Dutch suggests that one way to put the number of deaths in
perspective is population density. The fatalities were significant, but
this is understandable considering the huge number of people living in
areas impacted by the flood. Even though China had four times fewer
people in 1938 than live there today, the at-risk population was still
huge — nearly 15 million.

“Big floods are a fact of life in China,” Dutch notes, and
considering that there are now more people than ever in the region, it’s
easy to wonder whether a similar disaster awaits them today. But an
event such as the 1938 flood is less likely today, he says. Twenty-first
century geologists and disaster management officials in China have a
much better understanding of river dynamics and the impact of floods.
China also has a better infrastructure for issuing warnings, initiating
rescue operations and supporting relief efforts. Additionally, the
fatalities in 1938 were higher because the disaster occurred during war,
when the country’s infrastructure was already unstable.

One thing is certain: Human intervention cannot forever halt the
natural cycle of river change on the Huang He. Dutch says that although
the Chinese system of levees may work fine for the near future, “no
levee will hold the river in one place indefinitely.”






Clipping nails (wings) in Su-Varna-Bhumi

….replay of
the aftermath of the 2006 coup…military has already prepared its transition…..provisional
constitution drafted by the junta…military will re-install their colleagues in the
Democrat Party — “The Party of the Army”….Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, a member of the Election Commission told European diplomats only “moral” people will be
allowed to win the elections…..

[Ref. Wiki] The signature of King Mongkut (r. 1851 – 1868) reads SPPM (Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha) Mongkut King of Siam, giving it official status until 23 June 1939 when it was changed to Thailand. Thailand was renamed Siam from 1945 to 11 May 1949, after which it again reverted to Thailand.

Siam has been referred to in Indian texts as Shyam (Shyam means dark, also another name of Krishna) Desh (country). Similarly Burma is Brahma (Desh) and Cambodia is Kamboja (Desh).

Su (good, pure) + Varna (color) = Suvarna (Sanskrit) is Gold (Sona is the apavramsh word in common usage in North India). Bhumi (Sanskrit) is land or country.

In this Golden Land the sights and sounds are ultra-modern (but as they say with a touch of tradition) as the first-time visitor steps out of the Bangkok airport which is named Suvarna-bhumi (what else?).

The state of the society does not seem to be quite so golden…there have been twelve prominent coups since 1932 [ref. Wiki], and close to 30 successful/attempted coups as noted by experts (see Prof Paul Chambers quote below).
1) June 24, 1932: The Khana Ratsadon party overthrows the absolute monarchy of King Prajadhipok.
2) June 20, 1933: Phraya Phahon Phonphayuhasena overthrows Phraya Manopakorn Nititada.
3) November 7, 1947: Phin Choonhavan overthrows Thawal Thamrong Navaswadhi.
4) November 29, 1951: Military overthrows 1949 constitution and reverts to 1932 constitution.
5) September 21, 1957: Sarit Thanarat overthrows Plaek Pibulsongkram
6) October 20, 1958: Self-coup of Sarit Thanarat
7) November 18, 1971: Self-coup of Thanom Kittikachorn
8) October 6, 1976: Sangad Chaloryu overthrows Seni Pramoj
9) October 20, 1977: Kriangsak Chomanan overthrows Tanin Kraivixien
10) February 24, 1991: Sunthorn Kongsompong overthrows Chatichai Choonhavan
11) September 19, 2006: Sonthi Boonyaratglin overthrows Thaksin Shinawatra
12) May 22, 2014: Prayuth Chan-ocha overthrows Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan

Referring to Wiki, there are fortunate few countries to experience this many coups. Taking (10) as the (arbitrary) cut-off number we have only (A) Afghanistan, (B) Bolivia, (C) China, (H) Haiti, and…. (S) Switzerland!!!  There is not a single country which can match Thailand’s record with 1932 as the (arbitrary) cut-off date.

In comparison, we have the relatively mild record of Pakistan and Bangladesh in South Asia (most surprisingly Wiki does not refer to the Emergency – self coup – declared by Indira Gandhi 1975-1977, why so?)

1) August 15, 1975: Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad overthrows Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
2) November 3, 1975: Khaled Mosharraf overthrows the government set up by the August coup
3) November 7, 1975: Soldiers from the Bangladesh army overthrew and killed Khaled Mosharraf just a few days after he took power
4) May 30, 1981: Soldiers led by Major General Abul Manzoor assassinate the president Ziaur Rahman.
5) March 24, 1982: Hussain Muhammad Ershad overthrows A. F. M. Ahsanuddin Chowdhury

April 17, 1953 by Ghulam Mohammad against Khawaja Nazimuddin
October 27, 1958 by Field Marshal Ayub Khan against Iskander Mirza
March 25, 1969 by General Yahya Khan against Ayub Khan
July 4, 1977 by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Failed coup against Benazir Bhutto in 1995
October 12, 1999 by General Pervez Musharraf against Nawaz Sharif

Of course it must be also true that TRUTH lies in the eyes of the beholder (and the information minder). The current coup was actually not a coup…as decided by the military. Even better, they changed their mind a few days later!!! Nevertheless, something is deeply wrong in the land of Buddha and full of wise, sweet people (this is meant sincerely).

To us outsiders, the whole exercise represents a form of clipping….nails or wings….depending on your point of view. If the people power gets to be too vociferous or if they dare make unsuitable demands or if the leadership is not “moral” enough, then the military will step in again and again and wield its magic clippers. It is just as brutal as any other military dictatorship but of late an effort has been made to put lipstick on the pig (aka charm offensive).

Indo-China is following the Chinese path of prosperity…no doubt about that. One prominent exception, and a very admirable one is Indonesia which just rejected a military stooge and elected a man of the masses. Congratulations!!!

This post was originally published on Tuesday, after the Thai
military first announced martial law, under the title “Thailand’s army
says this definitely isn’t a coup. Here are 11 times it definitely was.”
Given the news that on Thursday, the Thai military publicly declared a coup, we have decided to republish it.

On Tuesday, Thailand’s military announced that the country was under martial law, and the government was reportedly not informed beforehand. Armed troops entered private television stations in Bangkok and surrounded the national police headquarters.

So, is this a coup? Not at all, a military spokesperson told the Associated Press. “This is definitely not a coup,” an army official said.

can forgive people for some skepticism, though, given Thailand’s modern
history. Since the Siamese revolution of 1932, which overthrew the
absolute monarchy of King Prajadhipok, Thailand has had a truly
exceptionally large number of coups.  

Paul Chambers, a professor at
Chiang Mai University’s Institute for South-East Asian Affairs, says
there have been almost 30 coup attempts (whether successful or
unsuccessful) since 1912.

“What sets this event off from previous
coups is an attempt to make it appear much more under the law,”
Chambers wrote in an e-mail to The Post. “But this is only a superficial
bit of semantics.”


In recent weeks, the
military junta in Thailand has been working hard on rehabilitating its
image. A battalion of soft-spoken diplomats has been dispatched on an
international charm offensive, lecturing policymakers and journalists on
their good intentions and popular support. Just don’t ask them to prove
it in an election.

Their efforts are aimed at promoting a distorted understanding of
events — an exercise that the United States and Europe seem all too
willing to accept. They want the world to believe that the May 22, 2014,
military coup is somehow a “normal” feature of Thailand’s political
culture, and as such, the junta should get a free pass.

If things continue along this path, we are due to have a replay of
the aftermath of the 2006 coup. At the time, Western governments
eventually gave their support to the military’s plan to introduce a new
constitution that severely watered down representation and allowed them
to keep appointees permanently entrenched in the Constitutional Court
and Senate. It’s little wonder why the situation has culminated in
violence and repression once again several years later, and undoubtedly
what will happen if they remain unchallenged in 2014.

The military has already prepared its transition. A provisional
constitution drafted by the junta will be introduced containing less
than 50 sections. A cabinet will be formed in September as well as a
250-member “reform council,” all filled with people exclusively
handpicked by the coup, which will then be followed by an election where
the military will be able to re-install their colleagues in the
Democrat Party — otherwise known as “The Party of the Army.”

Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, a member of the Election Commission, has
already chillingly told European diplomats only “moral” people will be
allowed to win the elections.

The recent revelation that planning for this coup began four years
ago, with close coordination between the accused murderer former Deputy
Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban (and former Democrat Party member) and
General Prayuth Chan-ocha, should raise major red flags. This coup
wasn’t a last resort or necessity to solve political deadlock — it was a
premeditated, calculated agenda to steal control of the instruments of
power and demolish a popularly elected government.

What must be understood about Thailand’s seemingly endless cycle of
coups and repression is that this is not necessarily a political
struggle, but a struggle against history. There is an unstoppable and
growing political awakening taking place that is crashing up against
traditional elites who view their fellow citizens as feudal serfs.

Since 1932, Thailand has never seen a period of true political
stability due to this struggle. In her excellent book “Revolution
Interrupted,” the academic Tyrell Haberkorn describes Thailand’s history
as occasional periods of silence punctuated by violent cycles of coups
and repression. The protagonists may change, but the role of the Thai
Army is always the same.

Today we are in a silent period, where opposition to the coup has
been frozen through threats, intimidation, interrogations and show
trials. There are credible rumors of atrocities taking place far from
the public eye, while right in the center of Bangkok people have
reportedly been arrested for reading Orwell, holding sandwiches and carrying signs with slogans such as “Long live USA.” 

Such wildly repressive behavior is what we have come to expect from
the people who brought us the 1976 Thammasat University massacre and the
2010 Bangkok massacre. These acts of unaccountable violence and
repression by the military are likely to continue, as no member of the
Army has ever suffered a loss of “prestige” for toppling an elected
government or ordering troops to fire upon protesters.

How we react to the Thai coup matters. As the Australian academic
Nicholas Farrelly has argued, the actions of the U.S. government in
response to Thailand’s past coups has guaranteed “any stigma associated
with military government never overwhelmed international acceptance.”

It’s time for a new approach. The junta’s transition plan must be
rejected and understood for what it is: a blatant attempt by one
minority to dominate the majority. The soldiers must be told to return
to the barracks and stay there. The U.S. government as well as the
European Union must demand an immediate handover to an independent
civilian administration that is capable of overseeing free and fair
elections, leading to a new constitution by the people through elected
representatives, not coup-appointed figures.

Most important, targeted sanctions must be immediately applied
against members of the Thai army to restrict their travel privileges and
freeze their bank accounts, as well as those of the businesses and
corporations that sponsored the overthrow of the government. These
individuals committed a grave crime, and it is time they be treated as

The reason why we no longer see regular military coups in places like
Africa and Latin America is because it has become internationally
unacceptable. There’s no reason to expect any less from Thailand,
especially given the tide of history.

Robert Amsterdam serves as international counsel to the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy. He is a Canadian international lawyer and founding partner with Dean Peroff of the law firm Amsterdam & Peroff, with offices in Toronto, Washington and London. Amsterdam was born in 1956 in White Plains, New York, and moved to Ottawa, Canada at a young age where he grew up as a Canadian citizen. Amsterdam was awarded a B.A. from Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada) in 1975 and a LL.B. from Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada) in 1978. Amsterdam is currently based in London, United Kingdom.





Life and Death in Gaza

Israel’s attack on Gaza and the resulting mass slaughter of
civilians – especially children – has elicited a flood of opinion everywhere in
the world. Though there are many who have supported Israel’s actions, most of
the commentary has reflected the natural outrage of people everywhere. It is
hard to analyze rationally when babies are dying in their mothers’ arms and
ambulances carrying the injured are being bombed. Humanity itself seems to be
under attack. And yet, it is also true that we are where we are in part because
rational analysis has too often been superseded by emotional choices. The
consequences of this on the Palestinian side have been analyzed very eloquently
by Omar Ali in a recent
on Brown Pundits. I will focus on two other parties in this matter –
Israel, and the so-called “Muslim World”.
One of the greatest luxuries one can have in any conflict is
to choose one’s opponent. It is not a choice available in most cases, but
Israel has that luxury when it comes to the Palestinians, for reasons that are
too obvious to need discussion. It can choose the moderate, accommodating
Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad, or the hard-line,
militant Hamas. Almost all Israeli actions over the last few years seem
calculated to humiliate the former, thereby elevating the latter by default.
Perhaps, it can be argued, the plan was to delegitimize both – the PA by the
encroachment of settlements and refusal to negotiate, and Hamas by turning Gaza
into an impoverished hell-hole. If so, the plan has only half-worked. Hamas has
managed to periodically recharge its “reputation” by firing rockets into Israel
and, most importantly, engaging in combat with the IDF during a series of invasions
(2008, 2012 and now 2014): Every time Israel invades, hundreds of innocent
people die and Hamas emerges strengthened by having “stood up” to Israel, thus
frustrating Israeli attempts to diminish it. A more cynical reading of the
situation – and I plead maximal cynicism when it comes to international affairs
– is that Israel’s current government actually understands this dynamic very
well, and plays along with it for strategic reasons. Making Hamas the face of
the Palestinian cause and turning the purveyors of ineffectual rockets into Arab
“heroes” fits well into the right-wing narrative of Likud and its allies.
Palestinians cheering for Hamas are easily portrayed as irredeemable
anti-Semites out to annihilate Israel, and, as an added bonus, the periodic
conflicts often force the normally moderate PA to move towards Hamas – at least
temporarily – for political reasons, making the demonization of all
Palestinians even easier. It seems like a good strategy, but in fact, it is a
disastrous one for two reasons.
First, it eats away at one the greatest assets Israel has –
critical thinking. One thing that has enabled Israel to adapt and succeed
in its difficult environment is its tradition of messy, contentious, skeptical
argument within the society at large – a kind of intellectual dynamism that has
made its politics both chaotic and flexible. Now, under the systematic
influence of right-wing strategy, that diversity of thinking is being replaced
by a frighteningly uniform and blind nationalism based on an “us-versus-them”
attitude with de-humanization
of the other side
. Though there are still islands of critical
in Israeli society, once a process of mindless de-humanization gathers
steam, it seldom leads to anything good, and the de-humanizers often end up
de-humanizing themselves.
Second, empowering Hamas indirectly enhances the prestige of
Islamist movements as champions of Muslim causes and undermines whatever traces
of secular humanism may remain in most Muslim societies. It is neither in
Israel’s interest, nor in that of Europe or the US, to have this happen –
though it may well be in the interest of military-industrial complexes on all
sides. Which brings me to the attitude of the Muslim world.
Deploring and rejecting Israel’s actions in Gaza is natural,
and not
confined to Muslims
by any means. All too often, however, condemnation of
Israel has turned into glorification of Hamas. Nothing could be more dangerous
or counter-productive. Not only is Hamas following a strategy that exacts an
unnecessarily high cost in Palestinian suffering, it is part of a larger
movement – revivalist Islam – that represents the single greatest threat to
Muslim societies everywhere. When I see Pakistani friends who despise the
Taliban and want to “bomb them into the stone age” celebrating Hamas as brave
champions of freedom, I find it perplexing. If Hamas had the opportunity to implement
its desired state, it would be far closer to what the Taliban want than to a
secular democracy. Of course, there are differences. Unlike the Taliban and
ISIS, Hamas (and Hezbollah) are not nihilists. They have a “positive” agenda
too, and much more sophisticated political strategies. They are more akin to the
Jamaat-e-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood – but these groups are all on the
same spectrum. Over the last few years, countries like Pakistan and Iraq have
suffered terribly at the hands of Islamist extremists, and many people –
including most liberals – advocate tactics against these groups that are not
very different than what Israel is applying in Gaza today. In part, this
reflects the widely-held (and justified) view that the Palesitinians are
seeking their freedom, while the Taliban and ISIS are just seeking power.
However, we would do well to remember that Hamas is also seeking power along
with freedom, and that its power will not be used in ways that many of those
cheering it on today would find acceptable.
Another thing to keep in mind is that selective outrage is
usually ineffective. Israeli bombs have killed almost two thousand Palestinians,
which is a terrible toll – especially horrific because of the high number of civilians killed. But Bashar al-Assad has killed
more than a hundred thousand people
! People are being massacred almost
every day in Pakistan and Iraq for belonging to the wrong sect or religion.
The innocent girls kidnapped by Boko Haramis in Nigeria are still
, with even more abductions since. Militants are on the rampage in
Libya, the Central African Republic, and in various other parts of Africa,
often in the name of Islam. These too deserve an equal measure of outrage –
unless, of course, one finds being killed by Jews worse than being killed by
Muslims. Say it ain’t so.
On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, unfortunately, we seem to
be trapped in a nightmare. Unless one of the parties changes its stance
radically, we are likely to see escalating cycles of violence, initially with
mutually facilitated radicalization, and eventually reaching mutually assured
destruction. And while most of the deaths will no doubt occur on the
Palestinian side, Israel would do well to remember that there are ways of dying
other than losing one’s life.