Who's Afraid of Uncle Sam?

In June 2003, President General Pervez Musharraf visited the US. On his return, in an exclusive interview to GEO-TV, a private Pakistani television channel, he declared that it was high time Pakistan considered recognizing Israel. Before he embarked on his trip, Western diplomats in Brussels indicated that Pakistan might consider taking a decision to accord recognition to Israel after President Musharraf's upcoming Washington visit. Coincidence? Pigs might fly. Musharraf came back from Washington with another errand as well: the dispatching of troops to police America's occupation of Iraq (see M. Shahid Alam's extremely interesting and detailed piece on Counterpunch and other sites: "Who Benefits? Pakistan 'recognizes' Israel"). The prize? Three billion dollars in aid over the next five years.

We can all guess what the punishment for disobedience might have been for a military man precariously holding on to the reins of power in a volatile "frontline state" where foreign policy — dictated by realpolitik — and popular opinion have historically been at odds. From the time the Pakistani State aligned itself firmly with the US by joining in mutual security pacts from the mid-50s onward, the conflict between state priorities and public sentiment was reflected in the pro-imperialist state policy towards Nasser's Egypt, especially the issue of the Suez Canal, and again in its official attitude towards the Algerian struggle for independence. But it was not simply so on issues dealing with the Muslim world — public opinion was at odds with official policy when it came to Vietnam, the Congo, and other issues arising out of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles of Afro-Asian peoples. Kashmir and Israel/Palestine have in fact been the only issues where this has not been the case.

In his interview to GEO-TV, Musharraf claimed that there was no harm in recognizing Israel. In fact, he claimed Pakistan was lagging behind other Arab and Muslim countries by hanging on to what amounted to a quaint vestige of a prior era. Why should we be "more Palestinian than the Palestinians or more Catholic than the pope?" he asked disingenuously. His intention, he stated, was to open a dialogue on this issue in Pakistan, as well as with Saudi Arabia — the other Muslim state which continued to refuse Israel recognition — and other Muslim countries.

Musharraf's words sparked a public debate — one which is still continuing. There was a predictable yet vociferous public outcry by the opposition parties as well as the Mutahhida Majlis-i Amal (MMA), a coalition of several religious parties which constitutes the majority in the present government, which threatened to mobilize a nation-wide agitation to overthrow the government. This incident once again lodged Musharraf firmly between a rock and a hard place, leading to the obligatory back-peddling by the Pakistani administration on the issue. Many federal ministers issued statements "clarifying" that Musharraf had not meant that Pakistan would in fact recognize Israel now or in the near future and that he was referring only to the "roadmap for peace." Others, such as Federal Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hyat, argued for a "joint decision" between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on the issue, reiterating Musharraf's statement to that effect. The argument was that if we continue to have diplomatic ties with India after 55 years of confrontation, then why not have them with Israel when "Islamabad had neither any direct confrontation nor conflict of interests with Israel while some of the main Arab countries had already recognized it."

As M. Shahid Alam points out in his astute analysis, several commentators in Pakistan "with a naivete that must be rare for self-proclaimed realists" have offered up a long list of advantages that Pakistan would accumulate from recognition. "The list," writes Alam, "includes a reduced risk of a strike against Pakistan's nuclear assets, access to Israel's military technology, and throwing a spanner in Israel's growing special relationship with India." One such commentator outlined the supposed "benefits" to Israel: "First, the establishment of diplomatic ties with Pakistan — a major Muslim state — would be a major achievement for the Jewish state. Second, by enhancing its diplomatic presence in Pakistan, Israel will also be able to play an important role in the geo-politics of South and West Asia." Moreover, "an increased Israeli diplomatic presence especially in West Asia will also put ample diplomatic cross pressures on Israel to take into account the implications of its policies towards the Palestinians for its larger and complicated diplomatic presence in that region." The writer clearly lives in a fool's paradise, where fascist colonial states which have the backing of the world's only superpower 'miraculously' yield to diplomatic pressure (see http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/EF18Df03.html).

How and why that should be the case is not explored — considering that the "special relationship" growing between Israel and India is a result of a considered strategy of containment of a "common enemy." Israel and India established a joint commission at the ministerial level back in 1999, and Israel responded to India's requests for arms during the Kargil war by supplying unmanned aerial vehicles for high altitude surveillance and laser guided systems, amongst other things. Jane's Defence Weekly reported in August 2001 that Israeli security officers were regularly visiting the Kashmir border. The February 3rd edition of the Jerusalem Post reported that India was sending four battalions of nearly 3000 soldiers to Israel for specialized anti-insurgency training (see "US plays matchmaker to India, Israel"). The Jerusalem Post of February 28th carried an article by a Professor Martin Sherman making the case for the strategic alliance of Israel and India, noting that, among other things, this relationship gave Israel access to the Indian Ocean and that, in fact, "in 2000, Israeli submarines reportedly conducted test launches capable of carrying nuclear warheads in the waters of the Indian Ocean off the Sri Lankan coast." Sherman also noted that this alliance would create a "potent stabilizing force in the region," and help counter "the force of radical extremism so hostile to American interests in Western and Central Asia," as well as help counterbalance the Chinese challenge to US hegemony.

What these arguments fail to take into account is that recognition is a one-off act that "once accomplished, carries little or no leverage," says Alam. "What," he continues sardonically, "did Palestinians get from their recognition of Israel?" The liabilities and political fallout of this action, on the other hand, are likely to be huge and irreversible including an increased public discontent in Pakistan against the pro-imperialist and opportunist politics of its administration, intensification of the Islamist threat which feeds off this discontent, heightened Israeli intelligence-gathering in Pakistan — in realpolitik terms, a threat to Pakistan's security — and the possible alienation of Iran.

The fact is that recognition has not been a requirement for most of the supposed "benefits" associated with it. The failure of Pakistan to recognize Israel over the last 55 years has not thus far prevented the two states from maintaining unofficial/under-the-table political and economic relations. In a report entitled Beyond the Veil: Israel-Pakistan Relations, and published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, P. R. Kumaraswamy argues that the "absence of formal diplomatic relations has not inhibited Israel and Pakistan from maintaining regular contacts, dialogues and meetings. On numerous occasions, they have adopted identical positions on important developments in the Middle East. Furthermore, they have worked out limited understandings on sensitive security issues, including the nuclear issue." Most recently, The New York Times reported that a Pakistani businessman with links to the Pakistani military was involved in a deal to buy sophisticated trigger switches for Pakistan through an Israeli businessman living in South Africa. The Israeli Asher Karni is under arrest in the US for illegally exporting these devices from the US (see 'Pakistani linked to illegal exports has ties to military', NYT, Feb 20 2004.) Why the pressure to recognize Israel, then, especially now?

Israel has always wanted complete and unconditional recognition from Muslim/Arab countries. As Shahid Alam elaborates: "In order to establish a lasting hegemony, Israel demanded unconditional recognition from its Arab neighbors. The first breakthrough came in 1978 when Egypt recognized Israel in return for an annual US payment of two billion dollars. The second breakthrough came in 1993, after the end of the Cold War, when Arafat and his aging cronies bartered the Palestinians' historic claims to seventy-eight percent of historic Palestine for the right to police Occupied West Bank and Gaza. Most Arab states would have happily followed suit — and a few did — but for the growing Islamist opposition at home." Recognition is symbolically important for the Zionist state, established as it was through an intrinsically illegitimate act of colonization. Recognition by Pakistan is doubly so because Pakistan (along with an India of the past) has been responsible for keeping the Palestinian issue alive in international foray, and because Pakistan is the only Muslim country which is a nuclear power.

The extent of Israel's keenness is evidenced by the fact that the Israeli administration has lauded Musharraf's "initiative," has "promised" "neutrality" and "even-handedness" in its relations between India and Pakistan as an "incentive" (this of course is nothing less than a backhanded threat) and has continuously issued statements declaring itself open to initiating diplomatic ties with Pakistan.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the geopolitical map changed significantly — India, once a die-hard supporter of the Palestinian cause, has explicitly shifted its foreign policy in favor of Israel. Ninan Koshy notes that "it was in the context of the 'war on terror' that the strategic relationship of India with Israel and the US developed dramatically through defense and security cooperation. It was just natural that both Israel and the US found a partner in the Indian government because of its ideological commitment to militaristic policy. Conveniently for them, at work in New Delhi was the calculated dismantling of the entire rationale of nonalignment and the edifice of an independent foreign policy." Koshy notes that it was an "ironic coincidence" that the Indian National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra was "closeted in his office in New Delhi on September 11, 2001 with his Israeli counterpart Major General Uzi Dayan" and engaged in a "national security dialogue" at the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon (see "US plays matchmaker to India, Israel").

Next came the visit of Shimon Peres to New Delhi in January 2002. An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson said during this visit that "India finds it increasingly beneficial to learn from Israel's experience in dealing with terrorism since Israel, too, has long suffered from cross-border terrorism." The implications of this statement are far too obvious to need a deconstruction, and they point to the 180-degree turn in India's foreign policy with regard to the Israel-Palestinian issue. An invitation to Sharon was reportedly extended by India via Peres. Meanwhile Mishra articulated the terms of the new tripartite alliance by declaring that only a "core" consisting of democracies like India, Israel and the US could effectively battle terrorism especially since they were its "prime targets." India's Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani declared in an interview to Fox News on July 9, 2002 that "Terrorism insofar as we have seen it on September 11 or December 13 has a common source and that common source has described the US, Israel and India as its three main enemies." December 13, 2002 was the day the Indian Parliament was attacked, purportedly by Pakistan-backed Kashmiri "terrorists." Koshy cites Advani as saying that "Distinctions sought to be made between freedom fighters and terrorists propagate a bizarre logic" and as attacking the liberal view that terrorism could only be eradicated by addressing its root causes, all ideas which fell on fertile ground in the US.

The real axis of evil that has all-too-quickly taken shape in the post- 9/11 era is thus that between the US, Israel and India, serendipitously bringing together the Right Wing/Fascist governments/ruling forces in all three countries: the neo-con/religious right in the US, the Likud in Israel, and the Hindu Fascist BJP in India, around a shared anti-Muslim agenda which goes by the name of the "War on Terror." This alliance has allowed Israel to perpetrate some of the most horrific and intense violence on Palestinians in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, and fascist forces in India to unleash a state-sponsored pogrom against Indian Muslims in Gujarat in February 2002. Neither of these actions has, of course, drawn any public castigation from the US administration. In fact, in the National Security Strategy of the US — a policy document which bears George W.'s personal stamp according to specialists — states that the "United States has undertaken a transformation in its bilateral relationship with India. We are the two largest democracies. We share an interest in fighting terrorism and in creating a strategically stable Asia. We start with a view of India as a growing world power with which we have common strategic interests." Again, what those strategic interests are requires no sub-textual analysis.

To return, in conclusion, to our man of the hour, the itinerant and unflappable President-General Pervez Musharraf: On January 20th, 2004, he made a speech in the Turkish Grand National Assembly in which he formally recognized the existence and sovereignty of the state of Israel while addressing the threat of radical Islam in the world today. The analysis in Forecast Pakistan on January 22, 2004 stated that as "with India, Musharraf will portray Palestinian groups as against Israel's security needs and against moderate Islam and peaceful coexistence." Musharraf is quoted as saying: "We will not let them [these terrorists who sully the name of Islam] hold our societies hostage to their nefarious designs" (see "Musharraf prepares to recognize Israel — Turkey to use OIC for endorsement"). What marvelous irony, given the CIA, ISI and Pakistan army's role in nurturing them over the years. But such are the demands of history, and politics, as we know, makes for strange bedfellows (and sometimes all it means is that a longstanding de facto relationship must be sanctified by public vows of marriage). Musharraf's main agenda for this trip was to work out the modalities of establishing formal relations with Israel, since it has opted for the Turkish model (for a rundown of the different models which recognition of Israel has taken, see "Israel and Pakistan: A report.") The other part of the agenda was to convince Turkey, as chairman of the next OIC foreign ministers conference, to push for a "consensus" on recognition of Israel which includes Saudi Arabia. This would make it much easier for the Pakistani administration to recognize Israel, and hopefully neutralize opposition at home (the Forecast Pakistan report cited above outlines the strategy by which the MMA and the Jamaat-i Ulama-i Islam [JUI-F] along with the Jamaat-i Islami are planning to manage public opinion and the opposition to this move).

So far, this is an uphill struggle. An announcement by the Israeli agricultural minister Katz to Israeli military radio that he had been officially invited by the Pakistan government as part of a delegation to attend the UN crop-maximization meeting to be held in Pakistan in March 2004 led to a strong reaction within official circles in Pakistan. Katz had been unambiguous about the fact that the invitation was considered a step in the process of normalization of relations between the two countries: "The visit reflects a rapprochement between the two countries." The extent of the reaction against this news, however, led the Foreign Ministry to quickly deny that there had been any such invitation. The UN meeting was summarily canceled, without any new date set for it. Israel's Foreign Ministry has likewise backtracked, although a BBC report on the postponement of the UN meeting and the opposition to Katz's visit claimed that Katz himself still insisted that he was bound for Islamabad!

The recent exposé that Dr. A. Q. Khan — the "Father of the Pakistani bomb" — had sold nuclear secrets to Iran and North Korea, and the ensuing international drama has tightened the noose around Musharraf's neck. In retaliation for the endorsement of his pardon of A.Q. Khan by the US, he has already had to concede to another unpopular demand by the US — that it be allowed access to certain strategic areas to hunt for bin Laden. (For an analysis that argues that A.Q. Khan "exposé" was a set-up by the US to hide its own nuclear proliferation, see this article.). Musharraf is under intense pressure to recognize Israel — the justification for which is being couched in realpolitik terms. (As Shahid Alam points out, even within the logic of realpolitik, recognition guarantees nothing.) Ironically, and dangerously, the only thing that stands in the way of this travesty of justice is the threat of an uprising organized by the forces of the religious right in Pakistan. The Left in Pakistan is also unified in their demand that Israel not be recognized, but it has very little leverage in national politics. This, of course, is a result of the wholesale extermination of radical left forces under the administrations of both Bhutto and Zia, but that is a story for another time.

The decision not to recognize Israel was and remains an ethical one — it is one which gave credence and authority to Pakistan and other states which refused to recognize Israel, especially when it came to bringing charges against Israel for its occupation of Palestine and its persecution of Palestinians. For instance, the recent case brought against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The US has of course refused to recognize the court's jurisdiction, and Israel's official position is that the ICJ has no jurisdiction to discuss a matter which pertains to Israel's "basic right of self-defense." The UN General Assembly passed a resolution on December 8, 2003 in which it requested the ICJ to "urgently render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in and around East Jerusalem, considering the rules and principles of international law." The ICJ wrapped up its hearings on February 25, 2004 (for details and updates, see Electronic Intifada).

The question of whether or not to recognize Israel is also not based on any anti-Semitic opposition to a "Jewish state" per se. Since opposition to it is based on Israel's hard-line Zionist policies and the horrendous use of brute power against Palestinians while colonizing their land, and not on its "Jewish" identity, there should be no problem recognizing a state, in Alam's words, "between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean — if it could grant equal rights to all its peoples, Jewish and Arab alike, and grant Palestinian refugees the right of return to their homes. But a colonialist, racist and hegemonic Israel is another matter."

The fact that Israel is trying desperately to push Pakistan for recognition is a sign that Israel sees this as a symbolic victory, crucial to its national interest — a formal recognition by Pakistan will give Israel a legitimacy it has only dreamed of in the past, and will effectively neutralize the ethical opposition to its policies in the occupied territories. And it is precisely on those grounds and for that reason that recognition should be withheld.

It is a fact that its recognition by other Arab/Muslim countries has also come about because of arm-twisting by the US or military defeat at the hands of Israel, or crass opportunism on the part of the administrations. On the other hand, as Forecast Pakistan notes, Turkey's recognition of Israel has given the latter strategic leverage over "Syria, Iraq and beyond" and its peace with Egypt and Jordan enabled it "to weaken the Arab alliance and fight itself out of a geographical noose." Musharraf's claim that Pakistan should recognize Israel because other Arab or Muslim countries do carries no ethical or political weight. Recognizing Israel would have been problematic at any other point in time as well, given Israel's racist colonial policies. In this world historical moment, when Israel has pulled out all stops in terms of brutalizing and terrorizing the Palestinian people, and is in the process of permanently annexing their land and dividing their settlements into Bantustans through the construction of an apartheid wall, recognizing it is tantamount to telling the world that might makes right. Given that this is happening in the context of a new imperialism, and with its blessing, it is even more urgent that any and all affirmation and legitimacy be withheld from Israel. Anything less will be tantamount to sanctioning genocide. Unfortunately, Pakistan's ruling establishment have managed to paint themselves into a corner where Israel — directly, by way of its evolving relations with India, and indirectly by way of American pressure on Musharraf (pretty much unilateral now) — has all the cards.

Comments

are hindus happy in pakistan?
pakistan
dear , i am from india , as i am always a supporter for peace between india an pakistan. i want to put some issues here see i am not against any religion but i think in the coming time religion will loose its presence in day to day life , specially the negative thoughts which let people to go at each other. if we think what the future will be , i think we might be fighting with the stuff like global warming , reducing WMD , pollution and poverty. we may be looking outside the earth and may be exploring different world. and at that time all people on earth may be looking them self as humans (insaan) protecting themselves from outer world(aliens). see best thing for any country is that to remove internal problems by concentrating on them and solving them by some bold external issues(india or israel) india was land of hindus and hindu is not one religion its a mix of culture and thoughts all over india then came the mouslim invaders from turkey (babar,akbar) they converted many people to mouslim and then started misunderstanding between people they started fighting. mouslems ruled for 400 years then they were demolished by yet another religion sikhs(Maharaja Ranjit Singh) and till date when every educated person understand what is good what is bad there is no chance for any new religion and science will prove that we are humans and are descendent of apes. forget religion i personally think there exist no god ( no allah, no bhagwan, or christ) if he would have been there G.bush have been punished for his doing on iraqi womman and children and ofcourse american soldier who had died. so pakistan must look inside for good of its own people removing poverty no having good relation with every country with india and israel. we the people in india know how to respect moeslems as we have many moeslems much bigger than the entire population of pakistan and our president is APJ abdul Kalam is moeslem and i respect him very much. so i have respect for Manmohan Singh . u know if india and pakistan get united no need to even think about america as we indians never give much importance to america but russia. and if we are friends we will never even look at russia. and spend lot of money for the welfare of our own country good roads hospital and technology as we are witnessing technology revolution in india specially in biotechnology and medical sector and in IT we already proved our self and we will be happy for pakistan if they become our partner.
dear , i am from india , as i am always a supporter for peace between india an pakistan. i want to put some issues here see i am not against any religion but i think in the coming time religion will loose its presence in day to day life , specially the negative thoughts which let people to go at each other. if we think what the future will be , i think we might be fighting with the stuff like global warming , reducing WMD , pollution and poverty. we may be looking outside the earth and may be exploring different world. and at that time all people on earth may be looking them self as humans (insaan) protecting themselves from outer world(aliens). see best thing for any country is that to remove internal problems by concentrating on them and solving them by some bold external issues(india or israel) india was land of hindus and hindu is not one religion its a mix of culture and thoughts all over india then came the mouslim invaders from turkey (babar,akbar) they converted many people to mouslim and then started misunderstanding between people they started fighting. mouslems ruled for 400 years then they were demolished by yet another religion sikhs(Maharaja Ranjit Singh) and till date when every educated person understand what is good what is bad there is no chance for any new religion and science will prove that we are humans and are descendent of apes. forget religion i personally think there exist no god ( no allah, no bhagwan, or christ) if he would have been there G.bush have been punished for his doing on iraqi womman and children and ofcourse american soldier who had died. so pakistan must look inside for good of its own people removing poverty no having good relation with every country with india and israel. we the people in india know how to respect moeslems as we have many moeslems much bigger than the entire population of pakistan and our president is APJ abdul Kalam is moeslem and i respect him very much. so i have respect for Manmohan Singh . u know if india and pakistan get united no need to even think about america as we indians never give much importance to america but russia. and if we are friends we will never even look at russia. and spend lot of money for the welfare of our own country good roads hospital and technology as we are witnessing technology revolution in india specially in biotechnology and medical sector and in IT we already proved our self and we will be happy for pakistan if they become our partner.
dear , i am from india , as i am always a supporter for peace between india an pakistan. i want to put some issues here see i am not against any religion but i think in the coming time religion will loose its presence in day to day life , specially the negative thoughts which let people to go at each other. if we think what the future will be , i think we might be fighting with the stuff like global warming , reducing WMD , pollution and poverty. we may be looking outside the earth and may be exploring different world. and at that time all people on earth may be looking them self as humans (insaan) protecting themselves from outer world(aliens). see best thing for any country is that to remove internal problems by concentrating on them and solving them by some bold external issues(india or israel) india was land of hindus and hindu is not one religion its a mix of culture and thoughts all over india then came the mouslim invaders from turkey (babar,akbar) they converted many people to mouslim and then started misunderstanding between people they started fighting. mouslems ruled for 400 years then they were demolished by yet another religion sikhs(Maharaja Ranjit Singh) and till date when every educated person understand what is good what is bad there is no chance for any new religion and science will prove that we are humans and are descendent of apes. forget religion i personally think there exist no god ( no allah, no bhagwan, or christ) if he would have been there G.bush have been punished for his doing on iraqi womman and children and ofcourse american soldier who had died. so pakistan must look inside for good of its own people removing poverty no having good relation with every country with india and israel. we the people in india know how to respect moeslems as we have many moeslems much bigger than the entire population of pakistan and our president is APJ abdul Kalam is moeslem and i respect him very much. so i have respect for Manmohan Singh . u know if india and pakistan get united no need to even think about america as we indians never give much importance to america but russia. and if we are friends we will never even look at russia. and spend lot of money for the welfare of our own country good roads hospital and technology as we are witnessing technology revolution in india specially in biotechnology and medical sector and in IT we already proved our self and we will be happy for pakistan if they become our partner.
Dear Yaqoob - the question is not one of quid pro quo - i.e. the question of whether Pakistan should or should not recognize Israel has nothing to do with what Arabs in general might do. Arab countries have a notorious record vis a vis Palestinians themselves. The question of whether to recognise Israel is a question of principle and basic human rights - the principle being the issue of the Israeli abuse of Palestinian human rights, of Palestinians' right to _their_ land, their right to live a life of dignity without fear or humiliation such as that which has been visited on them unceasingly over the last 50-odd years by an aggressively racist state - Israel.
Hi, All you can give reasons that we should not recognize Israel may be correct (Islamist view). But you have to admit that on searching the internet...it is very difficult to find any israeli webpage abusing pakistan (although we do that against them). Secondly, find me any arab or palestinian web page praising pakistan. You will find NONE. I don't hate Israel. All I say is that Human Rights should not be voilated and that also applies to Palestinians, not to Israel alone. I have searched many times on internet to find any arab that has favourable view of Pakistan...so far their is NONE from arab side...it is only us who says that they are our friends. On the other hand Israel has several times praised Pakistan...and it has NEVER called it a rogue state. So I am not convinced that why shouldn't we recognize Israel.

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