A note of apology

2018-01-08T23:39:28+05:00 Roba Bashir and Junaid S. Ahmad

Something deeply personal has been weighing on my mind and heart over the past few days. The Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership recalled its ambassador to Pakistan when said ambassador participated in a massive local solidarity demonstration in response to the unacceptable, renewed imperial-Zionist claims on the question of Jerusalem.

Why did the PA summon its ambassador in such an embarrassing haste? It was deeply troubled by the presence of anti-Indian elements within the demonstration, which angered poor Prime Minister Modi in New Dehli. Hence, in an effort to allay the irritation felt by an irate Modi, the PA sent a powerful message by recalling its ambassador, disciplining him, and issuing a public apology that cries of cowardice, and fits the ongoing pattern of political corruption - to the point of political suicide - so characteristic of the PA.

But this was too scandalous for me. Did the PA forget about the fact that Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to have visited, and so wholeheartedly embraced, the Israeli settler-colonial state? Not only was it just a symbolic visit by Modi to Tel Aviv, but a billion dollar plus arms deal was procured along with a deepening of geo-strategic and military cooperation between the two countries.

We now have the historic non-aligned India that had defended Palestine and Palestinian rights making a complete u-turn and becoming a full-blown enabler of the murder and dispossession of Palestinians. It bewilders me how the PA did not see the writing on the wall, how this is a very different India - especially since Modi had absolutely no time to visit Palestine and meet with this PA leadership so keen on dancing to the crypto-fascist Indian leader’s every tune, pleasing his every whim, in return for...absolutely nothing, but merely more humiliation.

In the middle of all of the regional developments taking place, where so many ‘moderate Arab regimes’, as well as other nations, have betrayed Palestinian aspirations, have been attempting to weaken and destroy any Palestinian resistance, Pakistan has been one of the few to have stood steadfast in its refusal ever to entertain the idea of recognizing Israel. There were a few weeks, no days, perhaps even as little as hours, where Gen. Musharraf during his rule may have merely suggested the possibility of considering diplomatic relations with Israel. But immediately after word got out, a national wave of outcry was unleashed, and Musharraf had to deny that he ever even suggested such a ridiculous idea, and had to quickly distract the population to some other topic: his cute dog!

Musharraf was very relieved that he could pretend like he never raised this idea. This was the only time of a brief few hours that any Pakistani leader ever uttered this intention of recognizing Israel. Nothing else before and nothing else will be suggested after. No Pakistani leader is interested in being publicly hanged!

Such is the sentiment in Pakistan. If there is one area where the state gets democracy and representation of the public will so right, it is on the question of Palestine. There is absolutely no compromise on its firm recognition of historic Palestine.

And this is why this short commentary of mine is essentially meant to be an apology to one of the most pro-Palestinian countries on the planet. Pakistan has been a society, which has treated me, a Palestinian, as not merely a guest, but as special, heroic personification of the struggle and resistance for which Pakistanis have consistently stood shoulder to shoulder with us. Me and my people’s struggle has always been recognized as a metaphor, as the symbol and embodiment of the larger anti-colonial, anti-oppression narrative that lives in the hearts and souls of Pakistanis craving justice, freedom, and sovereignty.

Since the day I arrived here now nearly a decade ago, Pakistanis faces’ have lit up when I have told them I am Palestinian. Pakistanis both within Pakistan and outside of the country, I have found, are always at the forefront of Palestinian solidarity work and activism. Leila Khalid, the famous Palestinian resistance fighter, once told me that nowhere on earth was she received so enthusiastically as when she visited Pakistan, where women in their hordes would blindly remove their jewelry and hand it over to her in support of the Palestinian struggle.

The feelings that Pakistan and Pakistanis have generated in me these years are so overwhelmingly emotional. That my homeland’s struggle lives tightly tucked in the hearts of every Pakistani has kept me optimistic in dark times, when other countries have been involved in duplicity and outright betrayal of Palestinians.

And this is why I apologize to Pakistan and every single Pakistani for the grotesquely foolish and cowardly act by the PA, done to appease an Indian leader who could care less if the Palestinians disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow. I want to assert, loud and clear, that this PA action and the thrust of its utterly embarrassing public statement does not represent the sentiment of we Palestinians. We Palestinians remain grateful to Pakistanis’ unwavering commitment to, and solidarity with, our struggle. Corrupt, incompetent, and collaborationist PA leaders will come and go. But Palestinian-Pakistani solidarity and cooperation for justice and liberation will continue unhindered by any impediment in its way.

The time is to recover the buried history of this active solidarity, of a period when Pakistanis went to fight in Palestine alongside Fatah when the latter was a serious resistance organization. That history cannot be erased. No leaders will ever be able to suppress this memory, be they named Modi or whichever PA leader is calling the shots today.

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