Incorrigible Optimists

There is too much of optimism, largely unfounded, about Palestine among Indian Muslims, writes Mohd. Zeyaul Haque
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Over the last 63 years the cause of Palestinian statehood has made a lot of progress. From a “state of the mind” (which, of course, refers to some mental attitude, rather than a sovereign territory), Palestine has moved “closer” to becoming a “virtual state.”

Now, let me explain a little more. First, by framing my statement in this fashion I am trying to be closer to the generally buoyant mood of my fellow Indian Muslims on the issue. The UN General Assembly is likely to consider a proposal by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is more president of a Bantustan called “West Bank” than that of whatever is left of the historical Palestine after relentless Israeli illegal annexation and settlement building for the last 44 years.

A look at the present map, especially of the West Bank, would clearly show that the idea of a sovereign state of Palestine is a huge joke played upon the Palestinians, other Arabs, Muslims of other areas, and almost all people of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The whole former colonial world knows that the former colonising countries of Europe and their ally United States have played a huge joke on the Arabs. Hence, like always, the entire Afro-Asian and Latin American world will vote for a Palestinian state even if it is no more powerful than a small town municipality. This is so because they cannot do anything more than that. The UN General Assembly has always backed Palestine heavily because it has a preponderant majority of formerly colonised countries that know the sorrow of a colonised people, identify themselves with the Palestinians, and empathise with them.

However, they are still as powerless as ever, despite their huge numbers. The United States, as a matter of habit or a reflex action, ends up vetoing in the Security Council everything that can provide the slightest relief to the Palestinians. And that puts an end to everything. The European Union stands behind the US in its blatantly unfair and unjust stance on the issue. Even Russia and China, which often try to resist US-EU blackmail on issues of their national interest, mostly stand aside and watch.

That being the case, how do we justify so much of optimism on a Palestinian state coming up anytime too soon as we so often hear Indian Muslims talking about? In fact, this incorrigible optimism, that borders on romanticism, is an old trait in our way of looking at things.

Our people tell us that optimism is part of the Islamic perspective on life: La taqnatu min rahmitillah (Don’t despair of God’s mercy). However, there has to be some distinction between optimism and naivety. What Indian Muslims (and quite a few Arabs and others) have been showing so far can be described as an extremely simplistic stance.

Yours Truly has always found it disturbing the way we have rushed to believe the nice words of people like George W. Bush and Barack Hussein Obama. There are quite a few among us who are always prepared to delude themselves and others about America’s good intentions regarding Palestine. Such delusions take various forms, including hilarious and ludicrous.

When George W. Bush came to the While House in his first term, one of the worthies of Urdu journalism, who has been the editor of a newspaper for several decades, sought to enlighten like-minded listeners at a talk on prospects for a Palestinian state in the near future.

This editor told the gathering that it was a good omen for relations between the US and the Muslim world, and that prospects for a Palestinian state had brightened “because there is no Jew in the new Administration.” Perhaps he had not heard of key figures like Carl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz and others. Nor did he seem to be aware of the agenda-setters at PNAC, half of whom were not only Jews, but quite often hard core Zionists, and directly related to the Israeli security establishment. (By now, at least, this worthy editor should have known the PNAC agenda behind the crusade against Muslim countries.)

The audience seemed to agree with what he said, including the interpretation that Mr Bush would be the champion of Muslim causes as against Al Gore, the villain of the piece.

Quite obviously, the choice between Mr Gore and Mr Bush was not between the villain and the hero, but between a pair of villains as suggested by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev at the time of the electoral battle between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon for US presidency. When asked about his choice between the two, he said there was no choice between the shoe on the left foot and the shoe on the right foot.

Never prepared to learn from past follies, our people had another round of elation and celebration when Obama came to the White House. Obama was the hero now and George W. was consigned to the rogue’s gallery in the company of Gore and assorted villains.

Yours’ Truly must admit that what was a euphoric moment for the qaum was the dark hour for him. The qaum was not celebrating the progress of an African American from his humble Uncle Tom’s Cabin to the majestic White House (which could be understandable), but Mr Obama’s middle name, “Hussein.” One senior Muslim journalist told like-minded guys, “After all, Obama is the son of a ‘Muslim’ father. He would take care of Muslim causes.” He did not seem to mind the fact that the Senior Obama used to describe himself as an agnostic. From this journalist’s reckoning, one can be both an agnostic and a Muslim.

One of the senior journalists (who also writes in Urdu) told Yours Truly assertively that Mr Obama was a closet Muslim, adding: “You will see. Let the time come.”

Now, compare this naivety to the clear-headed title of an article in New York magazine that calls Mr Obama “The First Jewish  President” (reminiscent of the black Nobel Laureate Tony Morrison’s article calling Bill Clinton “The First Black President” for his sympathetic stance on Blacks).

Mr. Obama has come out in full support of Israel’s rejectionist position on Palestine. It is worth reading Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara about Obama contradicting everything he said earlier on Palestine: “But that’s not the Jewish position. It’s a radical Zionist position. Many Jews, including US and Israeli Jews, do not embrace such extremist views.”

How come Mr Obama has made such an about-face, vaporising the hopes raised in his Cairo speech a couple of years ago? Bishara says: “…Obama’s career was built on his relationships with generous Jewish contributors in Chicago.”

In an article in the latest issue of Time magazine an Israeli cabinet minister, Uzi Landau, uses the menacing language of a street goonda to threaten the Palestinian Authority President: “Abbas will regret this”, and “Israel will respond accordingly” if the Palestinians bring the issue to the General Assembly. With Obama firmly behind Israel, the threat could mean anything.

So much of US-Israeli bullying is coming not to thwart a proper state, but a virtual one. The difference between the real and the virtual is that between sleeping with a woman and watching a pornographic movie. In the first case the woman is real, in the second she is a “virtual” woman, a phantom inside your head.

Finally, a word to our qaum in India. Please don’t delude yourself. Don’t be credulous. Learn to wait. The time for celebration has not come yet. It will take some time coming.