Why have the Pakistani liberals forsaken Gaza?

Published: August 11, 2014

Many have adopted the gruelling task of justifying an operation with 77% civilian casualties; to exhume Israel’s ‘self-defence’ argument, currently buried beneath a mountain of photographs of dead civilians. PHOTO: AFP

Now’s the moment for a liberal to decide if he truly stands for the principles of liberalism, wherever applicable, or if he’s simply saying the opposite of what his conservative uncle shouts at the dinner table.

Operation Protective Edge, involving a military superpower descending upon a small strip of land that Palestinians have magnanimously been allowed to squash together into, has gathered supporters from the unlikeliest quarters. There has been an intense debate over the asymmetrical nature of the ‘conflict’, parodied to perfection by the consistently liberal political comedian, Jon Stewart.

Others, like Bill Maher and Joan Rivers, jumped ship. They gladly adopted the gruelling task of justifying an operation with 77% civilian casualties; to exhume Israel’s ‘self-defence’ argument, currently buried beneath a mountain of photographs of dead civilians.

Provided that many of the grotesque pictures you see on social media are fake or misrepresented, the statistics are still far too much to bear. So uncomfortable, in fact, that Israel had to ban a radio ad by a human rights group from listing the names of dead Palestinian children.

I wondered if each could be assigned a roll number instead, or would that also bear a risk of unnecessarily humanising their victims?

I find myself beleaguered by the following comments set on ‘repeat’ mode on social media:

“What about Muslims in Syria and Iraq?”

On Twitter and Facebook, many liberals have now ignominiously and uncharacteristically adopted the right-wing’s favourite debating tactic: ‘Whataboutism.’

‘Whataboutism’ is the art of shaming one for being ‘overly’ concerned about tragedy X, by forcibly diverting your attention to tragedy Y. No, it’s not because they give a fig about ‘Y’. They just want you to stop talking about ‘X’, so it can safely blend into the general haze of world problems, avoiding focused attention that could lead to us actually solving the matter.

You want to talk about Israeli aggression? Well, you can’t until you condemn the humanitarian crises in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Uganda, North Korea, Guatemala and Zubrowka (the fictional republic from ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’) all in the same breath.

Not to mention that I don’t have to spend three hours a day trying to convince the world that ISIS being on a rampage is a bad thing; that generally goes without saying. Criticising Israel’s policies is far more controversial.

“They’re against Israel because of its Jewish identity.”

Considering the contagion of pro-Hitler comments across the internet, it’s hard to claim that the anti-Israel protests are not motivated in part by anti-Semitism. Yes, in part. One could also insinuate that the pro-Israeli bloc is being run by stark anti-‘Moslem’, Ay-rab haters; but that again, only partly.

An average Pakistani could be supporting Palestine for all the wrong reasons, ranging from anti-Semitism to blind Muslim fervour. That does not change the fact that the right reasons still exist, and that the atrocities in Gaza are, well, atrocious.

“Pakistanis should fix their own mess first!”

As a blogger, who has written extensively about our abysmal socio-political state, the oppression of minorities and the effects of patriarchy, I’m still very much annoyed by this dismissal.

It’s like what I always say:

“I realise it’s like the pot calling the kettle black, but in the pot’s defence, it is telling the truth! You may call it a hypocrite if you must, but certainly not a liar.”

There is something frighteningly vulgar about the nonchalance with which a dozen Palestinian civilians are fed to the cannons in a bid to secure each Israeli life. And one is under no obligation to condemn that simply to prove his allegiance to ‘liberalism’.

But we expect it from anyone who’s liberal values, concern for the oppressed, the disenfranchised and clear disdain for the excessive use of military force, are not limited to one side of the border.

The counter-culture clique, having discovered the beauty of un-tethering its minds from the status quo, must learn to be more than mere anti-conservative reactionaries. Recognise this as one of the only two instances a day when the broken right-wing clock is correct.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

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