Sunday, January 18, 2009

Israel and Pakistan: A question of legitimacy

'The massacres in Gaza are the latest phase of a war that Israel has been waging against the people of Palestine for more than 60 years. The goal of this war has never changed: to use overwhelming military power to eradicate the Palestinians as a political force, one capable of resisting Israel's ongoing appropriation of their land and resources. Israel's war against the Palestinians has turned Gaza and the West Bank into a pair of gigantic political prisons. There is nothing symmetrical about this war in terms of principles, tactics or consequences. Israel is responsible for launching and intensifying it, and for ending the most recent lull in hostilities.

Israel must lose. It is not enough to call for another ceasefire, or more humanitarian assistance. It is not enough to urge the renewal of dialogue and to acknowledge the concerns and suffering of both sides. If we believe in the principle of democratic self-determination, if we affirm the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation, then we are obliged to take sides... against Israel, and with the people of Gaza and the West Bank.

We must do what we can to stop Israel from winning its war. Israel must accept that its security depends on justice and peaceful coexistence with its neighbours, and not upon the criminal use of force.

We believe Israel should immediately and unconditionally end its assault on Gaza, end the occupation of the West Bank, and abandon all claims to possess or control territory beyond its 1967 borders. We call on the British government and the British people to take all feasible steps to oblige Israel to comply with these demands, starting with a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.'
Signed by a bunch of humanities lecturers.

Can there be anything under the sun less potent and more self-defeating than these humanities lecturers and their footling letter? Far from rallying around the palestinian arab cause, more and more people round the globe are drifting away from it. Specifically, many of the nations that surround Israel are now either ambiguous about them, or becoming decidedly tired of the frozen-in-time platitudes of the sixty year intifada.

Quick question for the humanities guys (and gals, if you can call them that): the military question has been posed to the Israelis about twelve times over the last sixty years, and on every single occasion they have answered with victory. What possible point is there to call for them to lose when they just won't?

Packing a rucksack, flying to Israel and trying to murder Israelis might make a difference. Collecting money and buying guns and missiles for the intifada might make a difference. Spying and passing information to the intifada guys might make some slight difference. But writing a letter to the Guardian, which already despises Israel and wishes its destruction isn't going to make the slightest difference.

These are the main arguments, so far as I can discern them: Israel is the new South Africa, an apartheid state. Israel is the new Nazi Germany, because of its 'holocaust' against the palestinians. Israel is an illigitimate imposition upon muslim lands by America and Britain. Israel is not defending itself, it is attacking the palestinians and trying to exterminate them.

If you want a REAL parallel in history for Israel, the best one is Pakistan. Pakistan never existed before in the history of mankind - it was an invention of the dastardly British empire. Check if you don't believe me. For some reason, the British decided to create a muslim homeland, and cut it from whole Indian cloth. Its borders were completely arbitrary, and removed an enormous area of fertile land from ancient India. The creation of Pakistan generated hundreds of thousands of muslim refugees heading north west, and hundreds of thousands of Hindu refugees heading south east. Pakistan and India fought a series of wars, in which many many thousands died, mostly in the first, bloodiest encounter. So far so similar.

The differences start quite soon after the wars of creation, however. Crucially, the UN had nothing to say about the many hundreds of thousands of refugees between Pakistan and India; thats why we don't still talk about Pakistani refugees or Indian refugees, but we do talk about palestinian refugees. We just talk about Pakistanis and Indians. See how that works? The UN froze the Palestinian refugees in time, after they walked out (or were chased out) in 1948. There are still refugee camps in Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, SIXTY YEARS LATER, still paid for by the UN, still under the nominal control of UNWRA. How NOT to solve a problem.

The palestinian 'refugees' are used as a permanent reason for Israel not to exist. So despite the fact that Pakistan is less legitimate in every way than Israel, given that the former was created by the dastardly British; Israel, which was created by the United Nations General Assembly by a democratic vote, is now the one whose legitimacy as a nation is constantly denied.

During the war of Pakistans creation, many many thousands of Hindus were murdered as they tried to flee to India. During the war of Israels creation, fought the same year (1948), a few hundred palestinian arabs were murdered during the exchanges of population. Guess which country is constantly harangued by its 2009 critics for those six decades old dastardly deeds? I'll give you a clue. Nobody gives a shiny shit about nameless Hindus, just like they don't give a SS about nameless Congolese.

The original 1947 UN borders of Israel gave the Jews 55% of the territory of Mandate Palestine, and did not include Jerusalem at all. The latter was intended to be controlled by the UN as an 'international' zone. It would have been a very odd shaped country, and in no sense defensible militarily. But the Jews accepted it! There was great singing and rejoicing among Jews when the UN voted Israel into existence, even though it was such a piffling little thing. But instead of accepting this tiny, non-problematic Israel, the arabs decided to wipe it out. But they couldn't, and Israel grew quite dramatically, and gained at least somewhat defensible borders. Do you see how the arabs are serially responsible for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

On the other hand, the Indians, while abhorring what was done to their nation by the British in snatching a great swathe of territory to create a completely artificial muslim state where none had existed before, did not spend the next sixty years denying Pakistans existence, campaigning amongst witless British lecturers to support them in the destruction of the illigitimate pakistani entity and inventing all kinds of ludicrous 'crimes' with which to libel them. Perhaps they should have. Maybe Israel would have an easier time defending itself on the world stage if there was a direct muslim equivalent (which there is) constantly being debated.

Maybe there is declining support for the pali cause because the arguments they present are so overwhelmingly weak; they don't stand up to the merest scrutiny by vaguely objective people. Israel is a legitimate state. Pakistan may not be.

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