Not Knowing Where To Stand

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It is old news that Israel does it wants with impunity. For more than 40 years it has made a mockery of the so-called ‘international law' and extended the original Zionist project so that historic Palestine has now become, for all intents and purposes, a fast fading memory.

It is also old news that the United States is Israel's biggest supporter; that it too is patently unconcerned with the niceties of established legal frameworks and that it looks at Israel as its outpost in the volatile Arab world.

But despite these well and long established facts, what has transpired over the past 10 days or so is nothing short of mind-numbing.

It is impossible to know exactly how many Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and maimed, because access to verifiable information is so limited. But there is no question that the inhuman Israeli assault is the most deadly in decades.

Predictably the world's media has attempted to depict the conflict as a symmetrical one, as if Hamas - whatever its faults, and they are many - actually has the capacity to injure Israel in any meaningful way. What has been most unbelievable is the willingness of ‘enlightened' elements within the Muslim world, including Pakistan, to parrot the corporate media and condemn Hamas for initiating rocket attacks against Israel.

I have warned on these pages about the dangers of the polarisation that is growing within Muslim societies - between the educated, secular elite and the majority of the population, which for lack of a better alternative tends to be drawn towards religio-political movements.

The story of the educated elite mirrors the sad demise of secular nationalist and even radical political currents in the Muslim world, which in the current context is best exemplified by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), and in particular the Al-Fatah faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

Over a period of two to three decades, organisations like the PLO, which once commanded popular support and respect for their relatively principled politics, have lost all moral legitimacy among their own people and in the worst of cases have become the stooges of the very imperialist forces that they once resisted openly.

In their place, religio-political movements like Hamas in Palestine, and more generally militant groups that pledge commitment to ‘jihad', have proliferated and taken over the mantle of anti-imperialist nationalism.

It need not be repeated here that the rise of religio-political movements over the pas two to three decades was sponsored in the initial instance by US imperialism. Israel too initially held a soft corner for militant Palestinian groups who were then on the fringes of the national liberation struggles, but were seen as potential problems for the PLO.

The religio-political movements having made inroads into Muslim societies, and ruling classes and imperialism having ensured the progressive currents in these societies were either co-opted or crushed, calls emerged from the increasingly alienated secular intelligentsia for a reversal of the retrogressive trend. But who were they asking to take action? The same ruling classes that had engineered the rise of the religious right? Or even worse, could they possibly be asking the Empire to intervene?

Therein lies the problem. Without any meaningful contact with the ordinary working people of Muslim societies, secular intellectuals have been deprived of a constituency to whom they can speak. This is partially their own fault, of course.

As society has been radicalised along religious lines - often at a superficial level - the secular intelligentsia has adopted a reactionary posture, exhibiting an increasing intolerance towards religious and sometimes even non-religious cultural symbols. The contempt they harbour speaks of an inability to recognise the deeper sociological explanations for the right's ability to win the ‘hearts and minds' of working people.

And so it is that the secular intelligentsia, alienated both physically and culturally from the people, unwittingly comes to look at the Empire as the lesser of two evils. Washington and London's rhetoric is taken at face value. The need to at least contain, and preferably eliminate, Hamas, the Taliban, Hezbollah or any other Islamist group (the differences between them of course are substantial) tragically brings the secular intellectual into the same corner as the Empire.

This is the sad reality of what has transpired in the Muslim world in recent years. The Palestinian tragedy, at least in the current conjuncture, is more about the polarisation within Palestinian society than ever before. The same is true for Pakistani society, or Algerian society, or Egyptian society.

The clarity with which the secular, leftist intelligentsia should have responded to the so-called ‘war on terror', thereby offering the enraged people of the Muslim world an alternative anti-imperialist platform, has been conspicuous by its absence.

It is important, of course, not to attribute too much blame to subjective causes. The objective conditions remain stifling for secular, progressive forces. The parties that once unified popular forces have either disappeared or are ineffectual.

Cultural spaces in which the secular intelligentsia and artists thrived have been taken over. The international aid industry has introduced non-political ‘civil society' to the detriment of secular political forces. The media is more often than not a mouthpiece of the powers-that-be.

Nonetheless, it is in the face of such challenges that regeneration must take place. In occupied Palestine, one does not have the luxury to pontificate on the matter. Israel's colonial and racist policy of genocide must be opposed, and criticising Hamas will only make that organisation even more popular.

In other parts of the Muslim world, which have not yet been ravaged by imperialist war, the secular intelligentsia must take a firm stand against the complicity of its ruling class, and start the long and hard work of fomenting a meaningful and radical alternative to the religious right.

In Pakistan, this task is as urgent as anywhere else. The Pakistani establishment remains hand-in-glove with the Empire, even though all sorts of contradictions have emerged because of the so-called ‘war on terror'.

This is the principal crisis that we face and no amount of ranting and raving against Talibanisation will change this reality. In fact, the best way to counter Talibanisation is to prove to working people in deeds, rather than words, that the secular left offers the real resistance to Empire and its stooges.

Masroor manages the SourceONE, marketing and content manager in a global marketing field. If you would like to know more about email marketing or if you are looking for service providers in this domain, please contact us at www.mahaan.net. I can give you a list and comparison of some good companies providing affordable online marketing solutions. 

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