Sunday, July 20, 2014

Four boys on a beach

A sea has no roof
whither warning bombs knock

Just fisherfolk digging happiness
upon sands of time

Beaches of Gaza
with no Iron Domes

Only shore-fulls of sea shell
with sea secrets in them

Merging point of waves
and four little boys

Running on spindly legs
after a soft white ball

Upon small smooth pebbles
carried by the tide

Near a stubborn sea
where fishing is a crime

Leaning against sky
toes deep in sand

Whisper whisping
chasing a tattered ball

Birds, like bumble bees
chirruping on their breath

Suddenly a sea storm
and drumfire from hell

Like sea burnt wood
legs bent at odd angles

Pirates drawn by laughter
horridly asphyxiating happiness

The ball and the beach exist
only the boys don't


Tribute to Mohammed 9, Ahed 10, Zakaria 10, and Mohammed Bakr 11, the four boys killed on the beach in Gaza on July 16, 2014.

The art work is by Jerusalem-based Amir Schiby who has generously allowed me to use the image.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It's Zionists, not Jews

Rude words do not hurt the rulers of Israel, Tariq Ali, one of Britain’s foremost thinkers and public intellectuals, famously remarked many years back. Nothing much has changed in the summer of 2014. No matter how sharp the amount of critique and damnation, the Zionist gangsters would still go about doing what they are best at: Propaganda, provocation and the slaughter of innocent Palestinians. Only the other day Israel’s PM was quoted by the press as saying that full Palestinian sovereignty was impossible, meaning Israel intends to continue its grotesque occupation. Yes they will quickly accept an Egypt-brokered ceasefire (and use it as a PR exercise against Hamas), but they will retain the right to go deranged again.

The magnitude of shock at what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is huge. People are outraged at what is going on in Gaza in broad day light with the indirect – and some would say direct – complicity of the US, bastion of the free world. Many are aghast at the quiescence of the Muslim world, perhaps expecting dramatic statements from Islamic countries. There is anger and disgust. Admittedly it looks bleak. Like a monster out there, Israel is trampling lives, caring nothing about ethics and international conventions. And no one seems to be in a position to help. Even as an occupying power, Israel, by global statutes and law, is supposed to protect the life and property of the areas it occupies. Instead it has put on display brute force to pummel Gaza, a 360 sq km area, surrounded from all sides by the occupation. Whatever Israel is aiming to achieve in the open-prison is truly abominable.

It is therefore natural for people with conscience to feel flustered at what’s going on. Not surprisingly a beautiful sense of solidarity has developed -- from Paris to Perth -- where random people are stepping out to express support for Gaza. Peaceful vigils are being held across world capitals. Angry poetry has appeared and impassioned songs are being sung. Social media – the powerful aphrodisiac of our times – is ablaze. There are heated agreements and disagreements and brilliant commentary taking place. Efforts at raising the awareness about Palestine is peaking. But in this spirited atmosphere there is also indiscretion. And it is sad.

Many aberrations have come on the scene. Because social media has the power to amplify things in real quick time, a lot of folk have come up with messages glorifying neo-Nazi themes and Adolf Hitler-style nutty stuff. This, many in the puerile crowds feel, is justified. But that is a problem area. Lionizing anti-Semitic figures and imagery is both stupid and insensitive. Hitler, history would inform you, was the culmination of a thought so virulent and horrible that millions of innocents had to pay for their lives for just being themselves. Likewise Holocaust was an ugly blot on mankind, the accounts of which should be a lesson for everyone.

Please resist linking Zionism (the terrible ideology practiced by the state of Israel) with Judaism. What Israel is doing in Palestine is a direct outcome of its occupational policies because of Zionism, a despicable colonialist and racist idea that denies rights to Palestinians and advocates their dispossession and expulsion. It is from the pot of Zionist hubble-bubble, filled with the blood of innocents, that Israel draws its strength from. We must criticise and denounce this fascist thought. And yes, anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism.

There would be Jews (as there are people of other faiths and people with no faith) who support Israel’s Zionist policies but to generalize it and make this an Islam versus Judaism conflagration is both incorrect and irrational. It speaks a lot about our lack of knowledge and understanding of issues. How rational do you think it is to link all Muslims with terrorism, even if a fraction may support extreme rightwing baloney? Those who blame the entire Jewry for the crimes committed by the state of Israel are falling into the same trap.

Let’s not forget that some of the biggest proponents of Palestinian rights in the whole wide world are people of Jewish origin. The likes of Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Ilan Pappé, Uri Avnery, Howard Zinn, Albert Einstein and a whole host of intellectuals and opinion makers have denounced Zionism for what it is: A violent, racist, rabid and discriminatory dogma.

A world of people – Jews and gentiles alike – decries this dangerous phenomenon. Let’s not provide ammunition to the Zionist state of Israel by likening it to Judaism. By eulogizing Nazism (an agenda not too dissimilar to Zionism) you are doing a huge disservice to the memory of millions who perished due to this ideology. You are doing disservice to the gallant people of Palestine at the same time.

The quest for justice is never expressed in the language of hate. Else it ceases to be legitimate. There must be a difference in the way our solidarity -- that incredible attitude of resistance -- is framed and the way Israel conducts itself.

The arc of the moral universe is long, Martin Luther King Jr once said. But it bends towards justice.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

For Gaza

It breaks my heart. Images of a toddler burnt to death by an Israeli hell-fire missile, being held aloft by her father, is the worst thing that can happen to you on a weekend. The spectacle of ugliness that Israel has let loose in Gaza this week proves one thing: That no matter how much we progress as individuals and societies, no matter how advanced we grow in science, technology and arts, no matter how much we evolve culturally -- at a fundamental level humans have a tendency to be merciless, evil and wicked.

I do not wish to get into a blame game. It is not for me to decide who provoked whom in this latest orgy of violence although it is there for everyone to see. Taking lessons from history is passé. Talking about agreements and accords and reconciliation is what losers do. In a real world the mighty smack the weak real hard and then slowly look up to see whether the onlookers – the civilized and the democratic world – meet their gaze or look the other way. As we have seen in the last few days, the moral sense, that still small voice in us is dead. We simply look away.

This is a disproportionate fight. A war takes place between two equals. Hell fire missiles and cluster bombs dropped from an Israeli F-16 Fighting Falcon or a Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle on a crowded alley in Gaza is not an act of war against Hamas. It is a crime against humanity. You can’t hoodwink the world into believing that we knock on the roof of a building by a warning bomb and then pierce the daylights out of the petrified inhabitants in less than a minute. This is no war. This simply is the basest form of barbarity on display.

What shocks you is not the mass murder of children, women and the elderly that Israel gets away with. For that matter there are the world's nutcases and non-state actors like ISIL, TTP and other such monstrosities who have slayed people without mercy. Here it is the sheer audacity with which a state that is recognized by the UN and 160 countries goes onto a territory and systematically kills whoever they want to, blowing little children into smithereens, as if they were target mannequins, in full view of world media, and then behaves as if it were the victim. The sanctimoniousness of Israel shocks you.

It is like that Aesop’s fable where the lamb is drinking water downstream while the wolf stands upstream. In a mood to finish off the poor thing, the wolf walks upto the lamb and accuses it of making the water unclean. “But sir, I am drinking downstream”, the lamb respectfully suggests. At this the wolf loses patience and hollers that the lamb’s offences must have been committed by someone in his relation and that it does not propose to delay its meal by enquiring any further. It promptly lunges at the lamb and eats it. The unjust, raconteurs say, never listen to innocents.

In an ideal world, the degree of apartheid, blockades and blatant racism that Israel practices against the people of Palestine should have earned it a place in infamy. Like the apartheid-era South Africa, all nations of the world should have boycotted Israel unless it would stop treating fellow human beings like sub-humans and give up their racial ideology. But in a real world you have the Zionist state's spin doctors making you believe that this is a Hamas-Israel war with the big daddy -- United States -- ready with a veto at the UN.

In reality everyone has failed the poor Palestinians. They just have raw courage and their catapults and scarves. And a universal solidarity against some of the planet’s meanest, cruelest and the most abominable war-machinery.

It is Ramadhan. This is usually the time for piety, contemplation and mercy. It is so very infelicitous that while the rest of the world celebrates the goodness of this holy month, the people of Gaza have to endure missiles and death at Suhoor and Iftar.

Our prayers and thoughts with the brave men and women of Palestine. Your suffering invokes a very private pain in Kashmiris and other subjugated peoples.

May your valor outlast the injustice.