Dr Ilan Pappe: The Steal of the Century: Robbing Palestinians of Their Past and Future

September 29, 2020

Editorial remarks: Israeli historian and political activist Dr Ilan Pappe (aka Ilan Binyamin) in the following essay analyses President Trump’s plan instigated by the Israeli rulers to isolate further and thus make it easy to neutralize the political demands of Palestinians for their legitimate national rights under the UN Charter and international law. His essay is a must-read for freedom-loving people who want to understand the hidden aims of the so-called “Deal of the Century” that the Trump Administration unleashed to consolidate and perpetuate Israel’s stranglehold over the captive population of Palestine and make it easy for Israel to colonize what is still left of classic Palestine. —Nasir Khan 

The Steal of the Century: Robbing Palestinians of Their Past and Future

by Ilan Pappe | Sep 25, 2020

The Netanyahu-Trump strategy constitutes a real existential threat for Palestine and the Palestinians. It is an attempt to de-politicize the Palestine issue and reframe it as a humanitarian and economic problem that can be solved by Arab funding and American blessing.

The Steal of the Century: Robbing Palestinians of Their Past and FutureAn Israeli flag flutters at Mount of Olives with the Old City of Jerusalem and its Dome of the Rock mosque in the center, March 27, 2019 (AFP Photo)

Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” and Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy on the ground constitute a real existential danger for Palestine and the Palestinians. It is a combined assault on Palestine and its people that potentially can be as destructive as the 1948 Nakba. It is an attempt to de-politicize the Palestine issue and reframe it as a humanitarian and economic problem that can be solved by Arab funding and American blessing.

In order to understand the magnitude of this danger and its acuteness, it has to be examined within two wider contexts. The first is historical and the other more prescriptive in nature, looking into the immediate future.

The “Deal of the Century” is an American affirmation to Zionism as a legitimate settler colonial movement that still, in the 21st century, is motivated by a logic which was aptly defined by Patrick Wolfe as “the elimination of the native.”[1]

Since the so-called peace process began as a Pax Americana, somewhere in the late 1960s, the USA failed to be an honest broker.

Historically, the deal is a culmination of previous American and Israeli policies towards the Palestine question. Since the so-called peace process began as a Pax Americana, somewhere in the late 1960s, the USA failed to be an honest broker.

On paper, successive administrations and their assigned envoys were committed to guidelines based on international law and therefore acknowledged the illegitimacy of Israeli settlements and annexation attempts, and even condemned publicly the structural violation of human rights in the occupied territories. In practice, these reservations were never translated into actual policy or pressure on Israel to change its criminal behavior on the ground.

The end result of this approach – which can be defined as talking the talk, but not walking the walk – was a public adherence to the relevance of international law as a moral guide for American policy towards occupied Palestine, while at the same time providing immunity – mainly through inaction – to the deepening Israeli colonization of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (the latter until it was evicted in 2006).

Until the end of the previous century, the dominant political parties in Israel employed a similar approach and coordinated quite closely their policies with Washington.

Since the beginning of this century, and in particular in the Netanyahu era (that commenced when he was elected for the second time in 2009), the gap between the talk and the walk both in the USA and in Israel has almost disappeared. The actions on the ground were now fully endorsed publicly by both the American administration and the Israeli government. The “Deal of the Century” summarizes previous American policies and repackages them as an official blessing for Israel’s unilateral actions in historical Palestine.

The “Deal of the Century” summarizes previous American policies and repackages them as an official blessing for Israel’s unilateral actions in historical Palestine.

These American actions in the last decade included the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the transfer of the American Embassy from Tel-Aviv to West Jerusalem. This was followed by official recognition of the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and public acknowledgement of the legality of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The “Deal of the Century” provides American immunity for Israel’s future policies within historical Palestine which are meant to draw the final political map of the country through coercion and the establishment of irreversible facts on the ground.

The nature of this future solution is quite clear. Its main features were already revealed by an aggressive and racist Israeli legislation in the Knesset that began in 2010. The legislation discriminates against Palestinians on both sides of the green line in every aspect of life be it in occupational opportunities, residence, or basic civil rights. This in addition to the already existing expropriation of land, collective punishments, and severe restriction of movement and any normal human activity in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The legislative spree culminated in the adoption of the Israeli nationality law in the summer of 2018.[2] This apartheid law stated clearly that only the Jews can be recognized as a national group with the right for self-determination within Israel; however, what is “Israel” is defined in another clause that encourages future governments to continue Jewish colonization in the Land of Israel (that is Israel and the West Bank). The final borders are not mentioned in the law as it is expected that future Greater Israel would stretch also over parts of the West Bank – and in all these parts Israel would not allow any manifestation of Palestinian nationalism.Trump Netanyahu Israel Palestine

The evacuation of Iraq al-Manshiyya, near today’s Kiryat Gat, Israel, in March, 1949 (Credit: Collection of Benno Rothenberg, the IDF and Defense Establishment Archives)

This law demoted the Palestinian citizens inside Israel (and potentially anyone who would be added to this community, through annexation of parts of the West Bank and Greater Jerusalem) into a group with linguistic features and not a national community—more precisely in the language of the law “Arabic speaking people” and a promise that their language will enjoy a “special status” within the state of Israel.

This law is a fundamental law, and since Israel has no constitution, it has a constitutional status. As such it legitimizes in hindsight de facto policies of apartheid and colonization and at the same time envisages the future Israel as an official apartheid state.

Large sections in the international civil society noted these actions and condemned them. In recent years, three discrete processes have eroded Israel’s international image. They included the emergence of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the shift to the extreme right of the Israeli political system, and the rise of a new generation of pro-Palestinian politicians and civil society in the West.

Officially Israel reacted to this shift in global public opinion by targeting, already in 2016, the Palestinian collective memory and narrative. The Israeli political and strategic leadership regards historical memory and historiography as tools that can be weaponized against the further erosion of Israel’s already deteriorating public image internationally. This action, is a further attempt to manage this shifting landscape by de-politicizing the Palestine issue, much in the same way as the current US administration has done with its “Deal of the Century.”

The assault on the narrative is executed through the closure of the Israeli archives that host documents on the Nakba. As reported in a 2019 Haaretz expose, Israel’s restriction of access to archival material is part of an official operation headed by Malmab (the Hebrew acronym for Director of Security of the Defense Establishment), the Israeli Defense Ministry’s secretive security department. It is a clandestine unit, whose activities and budget are classified and whose existence was first exposed by Israeli historian Avner Cohen in an effort to shed light on Israel’s nuclear policy.

In the course of the investigation, Haaretz found that Yehiel Horev, who headed Malmab for two decades until 2007, had begun working on removing documents from the archives when he was at the helm of the secretive department, a practice continued today by his successors. Speaking to the newspaper, Horev argued that shuttering the archives was justified on the grounds that uncovering Nakba documents would, in the newspaper’s wording, “generate unrest among the country’s Arab population.”

The argument is farcical on two counts: first, Israel’s Palestinian minority, whom Israeli officials refer to as “the Israeli Arabs,” have, since the mid-1980s, been among the most active and conscious groups to engage with—and protect—the memory of the Nakba. The Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced (ADRID), which represents the internal Palestinian refugees inside Israel, alongside local Palestinian scholars and activists, has sustained public interest in the Palestinians’ narrative of the 1948 events.

They did not need Israeli documentation to confirm their own experience of ethnic cleansing. Secondly, as Haaretz pointed out, many of the documents now being re-classified had already been published, notably by critical Israeli historians. Horev was confident that the inability of these historians to revisit their documentation will “undermine the credibility of these [critical] studies about the history of the refugee problem.”

As noted in the beginning of this article, settler-colonial movements such as Zionism are informed by what Patrick Wolfe defined as “the elimination of the Native.”[3] Implicit in Israel’s existence as a settler-colonial state is the expectation that it would want to hide evidence of its acts of elimination, particularly in an era that looks unfavorably on colonialism and in the context of a country that purports to be “the only democracy in the Middle East” and a “Jewish and democratic state.”

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the attempt to erase its memory are part and parcel of the same act of elimination. As Wolfe points out, settler colonialism is not an event, but a structure and therefore the elimination attempts had been there before 1948 and continued since then until today.

The vision of a de-Arabized Palestine fed the familiar violent junctures in the country’s modern history.

In more concrete terms, the vision of a de-Arabized Palestine fed the familiar violent junctures in the country’s modern history: the ethnic cleansing of 1948; the imposition of military rule on various Palestinian population groups in the last 70 years; the assault on the PLO in Lebanon in 1982; the operations in the West Bank in 2002; the siege of Gaza; and the Judaization projects everywhere inside historical Palestine, to name just a few from a rather long list.

Now we can add to this the new project of the “Deal of the Century” and the intended annexation of part or the whole of area C (roughly 60 percent of the West Bank). It is a combination of an attempt to frame the Palestinians as people with no collective political rights and at the same time expand the Judaization of the West Bank.  Shuttering the archives through the removal of declassified material is part of the same strategy to “shut down” the Palestinian question altogether.

A de-politicized Palestine is not allowed to subscribe to a historical narrative that can fuel political demands for a state, self-determination, or the right of return, which the Trump administration has already advanced by closing the PLO mission in Washington, moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, suspending US funds to UNRWA, and portraying as legal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

As so many times in the past, the Israeli interpretation of the “deal” is as important as the deal itself. In the eyes of the Israeli government that “deal” legitimized in advance a future annexation of area C to Israel. In July, this year, Netanyahu declared that he would implement that part of the deal this summer.

This interpretation ignores a meaningless lip service paid in the “deal” declaring the remaining areas of the West Bank with the Gaza Strip as a future Palestinian state. The Netanyahu, or Likud, governments in the future will not accept the part referring to the Palestinian state in the “deal,” while their main rivals, the Blue-White party or any other anti-Netanyahu coalition might pay this lip service and support the idea of such a mini-state, as a matter of style but not of substance.

It is not clear whether the Trump administration until the next US election will allow a full annexation of area C or part of it. This part of the plan was stalled recently with the two peace agreements between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. They were signed in return for an Israeli promise to postpone the annexation. However, on the ground the areas earmarked by Netanyahu for immediate official annexation this summer, have already been ethnically cleansed by the Israelis.

They include the Jordan Valley; the area around the settlement Givat Hamatos (“the Aircraft Hill” in Hebrew) that lies south of Jerusalem, which drives a wedge into the West Bank that disconnects its southern part from Jerusalem and the settlement block inside area E-1, east of Jerusalem, which cuts physically and irreversibly the West Bank into two, severed, geo-political entities. Thus, when official annexation is declared, it will be a symbolic, rather than transformative, act.

Bisecting the land, carving it into small Bantustans, and assaulting the narrative and the collective identity are part and parcel of the same steal of the century.

Bisecting the land, carving it into small Bantustans, and assaulting the narrative and the collective identity are part and parcel of the same steal of the century concocted in Washington and Tel-Aviv.

Two new developments, which may seem on the face of it as having a potential to change the course of history, might prove at the end of the day to be insignificant as far as the plight of the Palestinians is concerned. The first is growing social discontent and demonstrations in Israel against Prime Minister Netanyahu that draw weekly 10,000 to 20,000 demonstrators near his official residence and the second is the prospects of a democratic administration in Washington after the next presidential elections in November 2020.

The demonstrations are a cry of protest by the center left Zionist camp that somehow cannot resign itself to the fact that the Jewish electorate for years now prefer the right-wing coalition. The particularly corrupted character of Benjamin Netanyahu on the one hand, and his constant attempt to evade being brought to justice, is one agenda of the demonstrators. They were joined by the middle class who was not adequately compensated by the lockdowns during the Covid-19 crisis. Together they hope to bring down Netanyahu either through the legal system or in elections. It is noteworthy that most of the demonstrators have no issue with Zionism or with the oppression of the Palestinians. Even if they would have some impact on the Israeli political system, it would have very little relevance to the situation of the Palestinians.

Will a democratic administration in the USA reverse such an attitude and policy? It’s hard to tell, as previous administrations, while not adopting the same Trumpian discourse, have done very little to oppose Israeli unilateralism on the ground. If this continues to be the American policy, the current American policies constitutes a dangerous development that will affect the region as a whole. The deal conveys a clear disregard for international law and to basic universal justice.

This disregard for international law on the one hand, and the exclusion of Israel from the conversation on civil and human rights in the region, on the other, will disable the USA and the West from playing any useful part in addressing the dismal reality of these rights currently in the region. It is important to remember that past Western colonialism and imperialism as well as Western support of autocratic rule contributed as much as the local regimes and opposition groups that abuse the rights of their own people do today.

It seems the global civil society despite its past achievements and commitment to justice in Palestine needs to work even harder, in solidarity with a Palestinian national movement that desperately seeks – so far unsuccessfully – unity, to foil the next American-Israeli effort to destroy Palestine and the Palestinians.


[1] Patrick Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native,” Journal of Genocide Studies 8, no. 4 (2006), pp. 387–409.

[2] Ilan Pappe, “he Israeli Nationality Law: a Blueprint for a Twenty Firs Century Settler-Colonial State”, Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies, 18/2 (October 2019), pp. 179-191.

[3] Wolfe, ibid.


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About The Author

Ilan Pappe

Ilan Pappe

Dr. Ilan Pappé is Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter in England. Ilan Pappé obtained his BA degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1979 and PhD from the University of Oxford in 1984. He founded and directed the Academic Institute for Peace in Givat Haviva, Israel between 1992 to 2000 and was the Chair of the Emil Tuma Institute for Palestine Studies in Haifa between 2000 and 2006. Professor Pappé was a senior lecturer in the department of Middle Eastern History and the Department of Political Science in Haifa University, Israel between 1984 and 2006. He was appointed as chair in the department of History in the Cornwall Campus, 2007-2009 and became a fellow of the IAIS in 2010. His research focuses on the modern Middle East and in particular the history of Israel and Palestine. He has also written on multiculturalism, Critical Discourse Analysis and on Power and Knowledge in general. Ilan Pappé is the author of 20 books of which the groundbreaking “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” is the best known. @pappe54



Arab despotic regimes and Palestinians under occupation

September 15, 2020

-Nasir Khan

Jeremy Bowen is an experienced journalist who has covered the Middle Eastern region for long. In his latest article, he discusses the ramifications of the peace deals of Israel with the two Gulf kingdoms. Other Arab regimes may also fall in line with the ongoing process which the Trump administration started to obliterate the “Palestinian Question” once and for all as the Zionist rulers of Israel and their international supporters had demanded and worked for.
Contrary to some political observers’ reactions who have downplayed the importance of these deals, Jeremy Bowen shows how they are not merely a window-dressing but substantial that would have long-term effects on the geopolitics of the whole of the Middle East.
Callously, the US imperialists have left the captive people of Palestine to the bayonets and bullets of the Israeli military machine. Where will that lead to is the question political writers and activists who stand for the UN Charter, international law and the rights of the Palestinian people should be asking.
As the Arab despots are throwing away their cloaks of hypocrisy and coming out in their true colours, the struggle of the people of Palestine for freedom and national liberation will enter a new stage. 


A comment on the capitalist system

September 13, 2020

— Nasir Khan

No one should discount the importance of noble feelings to seek solutions that people need. But in a political and social order that is based upon class divisions, and even caste system in countries like India, where racial supremacy of some over others is believed to be the ‘law of nature’, the masters will remain masters and the ‘lower’ classes will remain at the mercy of their masters. The wheels of class domination and oppression will not stop circling. 

Peoples’ prayers and appeals to some heavenly powers or warmongering imperialists and brutal colonialists will not change the status quo.  

The challenge to the existing oppressive system in a consistent and systematic way comes only from the revolutionary path of Marxism-Leninism. That’s why imperialists, fascists, Zionists, Islamists, Hindutva supremacists and all reactionaries have been and are the relentless enemies and falsifiers of Marxism.

To generalise or not to generalise

August 13, 2020

—Nasir Khan

“An idea is always a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize means to think.”

— German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

Hegel is spot-on the interrelationship of thinking and generalising. We all think about various things in our daily lives. Out from our observations and experiences, we also draw some general conclusions or generalise that is more of an evaluative process.

We also meet people who hold an opinion or view to be only a ‘generalisation’; therefore, by calling it a generalisation what they imply is that it should be cast aside as ‘non-factual’ or ‘illusory’. However, that’s a simplistic view. On the contrary, in the hands of thinkers and critical observers, their views are based on empirical data and a rational analysis of such data. As a result, for them to offer generalisations is an essential part of communicating some facts that are part of a cognitive process. Thus by generalising, a specific instance is extended to cover a wider range of similar cases.

No wonder, all thinkers and mentally mature people generalise. That helps us to see their views as sound and verifiable. But all generalisations do not meet this criterion. By adducing evidence, we can show the erroneous assumptions on which such generalised views may be based.

For instance, we have seen that whenever the US rulers have invaded any country, they have killed very many innocent people and caused much damage as they did in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. etc. From these instances, we as observers of international events conclude that US militarism is dangerous and murderous. That is our generalisation about the US militarists. But if they stop doing what they have been doing for so long, we may change our generalised view about them. However, the prospects of any such change in American policies seem remote.


The goals of Hindutva fascists in India

July 23, 2020

– Nasir Khan
In the following article, Indian author A.G. Noorani gives a brief account of the politics of Hindutva in India. Many people are not aware that Hindutva is not the same as Hinduism. Hinduism is an ancient religion that evolved in India, but Hindutva is an extremist religious-nationalist ideology that is opposed to the idea of a democratic India, based upon the principle of secularism, equality of all its citizens, irrespective of their religion, creed and caste.
Hindutva rejects the ideas of such equality of all its citizens but, instead, aims at transforming India into a Hindu polity – Hindu Rashtra – where only Hindus will be supreme. In such a state, 200 million Muslims and 30 million Christians will be made second-class citizens. Hindutva as an extremist nationalist ideology uses the cover of Hinduism to justify atrocities against Muslims, Christians and Dalits. It founders and mentors have copied and developed further the authoritarian and military model of fascism that was practised by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.
Since 2014, the BJP government had power in India under the premiership of Narendra Modi, who has the notorious record of being an ardent anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan leader for decades. After BJP’s sweeping electoral success in May last year, the Modi regime started implementing the political programme of Hindutva fascists. After imposing direct Indian rule over Jammu and Kashmir, his party led the terrorist campaign against Muslims in Delhi, where Hindu militants and gangsters plundered the shops owned by Muslims and then torched their homes and properties. They killed over 50 Muslims in Delhi alone. All this took place under PM Modi’s nose. That was Hindutva in action.

Why We Need to Know and Understand Hindutva – A G Noorani

December 10, 2016 0

Members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh take part in the daily morning drill.
Members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh take part in the daily morning drill.

Hindutva is the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party — the party in power and political front of the RSS — has sworn by it since 1996. What is more, Hindutva provides ample warning for what is in store for the future of India’s democracy and secularism. It splits the nation into ‘us’ and ‘them’, and discards Indian nationalism in favor of Hindu nationalism


[dropcap]H[/dropcap]INDUTVA sums up the ideology that moved champions of Hindu nationalism for decades before Partition. In 1923, V.D. Savarkar coined the term in his essay, Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? As an atheist, he took pains to emphasize that Hindutva was not synonymous with Hinduism. It is important to understand the term, in all its nuances, because of its past and present significance.

Hindutva is the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party — the party in power and political front of the RSS — has sworn by it since 1996. What is more, Hindutva provides ample warning for what is in store for the future of India’s democracy and secularism. It splits the nation into ‘us’ and ‘them’, and discards Indian nationalism in favor of Hindu nationalism.

Savarkar wrote, “… Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an ‘ism’ it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or system. But when we attempt to investigate the essential significance of Hindutva we do not primarily — and certainly not mainly — concern ourselves with any particular theocratic or religious dogma or creed”. His concern was politics; the political mobilization of Hindus into one nation.

If not religion, what, then, is the basis for the divide? With crystal clarity, he wrote, “To every Hindu … this Sindhusthan is at once a pitribhu and a punyabhu — fatherland and a holy land. That is why in the case of some of our … countrymen, who had originally been forcibly converted to a non-Hindu religion and who consequently have inherited along with Hindus, a common fatherland and a greater part of the wealth of a common culture — language, law, customs, folklore and history — are not and cannot be recognized as Hindus.

For though Hindusthan to them is fatherland as to any other Hindu yet it is not to them a holy land too. Their holy land is far off in Arabia or Palestine. Their mythology and god-men, ideas and heroes are not the children of this soil. Consequently their name and their outlook smack of a foreign origin”.

Modern hatreds are supported by ancient (real or not) wrongs.

The divide cannot be bridged except by obeying Hindutva’s demand for conversion to Hinduism. Savarkar exhorted, “Ye, who by race, by blood, by culture, by nationality possess almost all the essentials of Hindutva and had been forcibly snatched out of our ancestral home by the hand of violence — ye, have only to render wholehearted love to our common mother and recognise her not only as fatherland (Pitribhu) but even as a holy land (Punyabhu), and ye would be most welcome to the Hindu fold”.

Gandhi’s assassination put paid to Savarkar’s ambitions, but the RSS picked up the baton. Its supremo, M S Golwalkar, drew inspiration from Hindutva and coined its synonym, ‘cultural nationalism’, in contrast to ‘territorial nationalism’ in his book, A Bunch of Thoughts (1968). Everyone born within the territory of India is not a nationalist; the nation is defined by a common ‘culture’ (read: religion).

Golwalkar wrote, “… here was already a full-fledged ancient nation of the Hindus and the various communities which were living in the country were here either as guests, the Jews and Parsis, or as invaders, the Muslims and Christians. They never faced the question how all such heterogeneous groups could be called as children of the soil merely because, by an accident, they happened to reside in common territory under the rule of a common enemy … The theories of territorial nationalism and of common danger, which formed the basis for our concept of nation, had deprived us of the positive and inspiring content of our real Hindu nationhood …”

This explains the RSS’ ghar wapsi (‘return to your home’) campaign, simply a repeat of the past shuddhi (‘purification’) movement. Nothing has changed; an unbroken ideological thread binds Savarkar’s Hindutva, Golwalkar’s ‘cultural nationalism’ and the RSS-BJP policies today. On Sept 24, 1990, BJP president L K Advani launched “a crusade in defense of Hindutva”, which culminated in the demolition of Babri Masjid, in his presence, on Dec 6, 1992.

Since 1996, the BJP’s election manifestos for Lok Sabha elections pledge to espouse Hindutva in these terms: “The cultural nationalism of India … is the core of Hindutva.” This explains the Modi government’s systematic purge of educational and cultural institutions. It is a quarrel with history. As scholars Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph remarked, modern hatreds are supported by ancient, remembered wrongs, whether real or imagined. The RSS-BJP combine rejects the concept of composite culture that Jawaharlal Nehru and others propounded.–Courtesy Dawn

Religious fanatics control educational system in Pakistan

June 24, 2020

Nasir Khan

Pakistani physicist Dr. Hoodbhoy’s dismissal proves once again that there is no place for any enlightened academic or scientist in Pakistan who does not follow the official line of the horrid ignorance that is imposed in the name of Islam. The Islamist right-wingers have the final say what is to be taught in the educational institutions.  Thus ignorant people have a decisive voice in shaping the educational policies of the educational institutions. They decide what a teacher of science or other subjects should say and not say.

We have heard and witnessed over the decades that Pakistani ruling elites and exploiters of Islam proclaiming time and again that in Pakistan everything taught should be according to the teachings of the Quran. But the irony is that these people even don’t know this basic fact that the Quran is a sacred book of Muslims, not a guide or manual on physics, chemistry, geology, history, geography or cosmology, etc. 


Religion vs. Reason

by Khaled Ahmed June 22, 2020  

File photo of Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy. Attila Kisbenedek—AFP

Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy’s dismissal from Lahore’s FCC University is a win for irrationality

Professor Dr. Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, currently teaching physics and math at Lahore’s Forman Christian College University, has been informed that his contract will not be renewed in 2021. The same week, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar announced that all universities of the province would be required to teach the holy Quran as a compulsory subject, with students allowed to graduate only after the course has been completed.

Hoodbhoy, born in 1950, is a Ph.D. in nuclear physics; he objects to acts of state and society against reason. His book Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality explains the source of his trouble with the ideological state of Pakistan. It is not that he hates religion; he objects to acts of irrationality in the name of religion. The two scientists he most admires, Ramanujan and Abdus Salam, were deeply religious.

He protested, however, when Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer’s own police guard murdered the politician after Taseer defended a Christian woman accused of insulting Islam’s Prophet under Pakistan’s draconian anti-blasphemy law. Having lived under General Ziaul Haq’s Islamic martial law, he was put off by a 1987 conference on “scientific miracles” in which Muslim scientists mixed religious miracle with scientific discovery. Pakistani scientists, encouraged by a funding of Rs. 6,600,000 (half provided by Saudi Arabia), flew off the handle and talked rubbish about science and demeaned the divine writ of the Quran.

Pakistan’s chief scientist, Salim Mehmud, tried to give himself a leg-up by making a hash of the theory of relativity after linking it with the “mairaj” (ascension) of Islam’s Prophet. Another scientist, lucratively employed at The Holy Quran Research Foundation, proposed that taming “jinns could solve the country’s energy-related problems” as the creatures are made of fire. Many others, lured by the limelight, delivered of themselves gems of medieval gibberish in the name of Islamic science.

Hoodbhoy has examined the roots of these ridiculous attitudes among Muslim scientists and come up with a well-researched book about the maltreatment of the scientific principle in Muslim societies. He asked Nobel Prize laureate Abdus Salam to write its preface because the professor had already made a plaintive appeal to the Muslim world to spend money on scientific advancement instead of “conquering” science through dogma.

Hoodbhoy tells us that scientific facts are contingent on reality. They are empirically proven but subject to change upon further discovery. In his view, it is wrong to link the eternal truth of Islam to this evolving understanding of natural phenomena. Science relies on observation and logic whose predictability is not destroyed by the new understanding of quantum physics. For a believer, it is important to separate divine knowledge from empirical fact, but this separation should not impinge on the ferocious Islamic polemic against secularism.

Science in Islam was destroyed because it was never applied enough to involve the common man. Kings often employed scientists, but they were at times killed after the death of their patron. Al-Kindi was lashed 50 times in front of an illiterate approving crowd; Al-Razi was hit on the head with his own book on rationalism till he lost his eyesight; Ibn Sina’s entire life was spent running away from one prince after the other for fear of being killed for heresy; Ibn Khaldun, the great social scientist discovered by the West, was condemned by Taha Hussain as a non-believer pretending to be a Muslim.

In his book, Hoodbhoy quotes Syed Ameer Ali on Islamic thinkers who thought the scientific method anti-Islamic: Al-Ashari, Ibn Hanbal, Al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyya. He examines the case made by leading Asharite Imam Ghazali against the study of logic and mathematics and thinks that this was to become the greatest intellectual hurdle against the learning of science. He criticizes contemporary Islamic scholar Hussein Nasr for blaming the sciences for the misdirection of the Muslim mind. His critique of Ziauddin Sardar for introducing the polemic of secularism into the sciences is balanced and fair.

Hoodbhoy steps beyond the pale of anti-scientism in today’s new intellectual trend when he gives statistics about the poverty of science learning in the Muslim world. The gap between India and Pakistan is significant because it goes beyond the argument of population ratios. One has to helplessly concede that where Muslims control societies, the one branch of knowledge that becomes neglected is the sciences. Prof Salam’s advocacy of the pure sciences becomes meaningful when one realizes that professional disciplines far outstrip the disciplines that teach science.

Hoodbhoy is not the only dissenting voice to have been dismissed from the echelons of academia in recent weeks. Author Mohammad Hanif posted on Twitter that he, too, had been let go from Karachi’s Habib University. Similarly, Prof. Ammar Ali Jan, also affiliated with FCCU, has also claimed on the social network that he had been released as visiting faculty over his public activism that was making the varsity “controversial.”

Pervez Hoodbhoy’s book has diagnosed what is happening to the Muslim mind toward the end of the 20th century. This mind is not only producing strange reactions to the sciences in general; it is also trying to tackle the question of governance without separating the state from religious belief. The new coercive order spreading over Muslim society is not political but intellectual. The tragic fact however is that this experiment is too late in the day and quite redundant in the light of what the institution of the state has gone through in Islam’s own history and in other civilizations.

The Media Has Conveniently Forgotten George W. Bush’s Many Atrocities

June 7, 2020

bush 9-11 guantanamo torture war

James Bovard, June 4, 2020

Former president George W. Bush has returned to the spotlight to give moral guidance to America in these troubled times. In a statement released on Tuesday, Bush announced that he was “anguished” by the “brutal suffocation” of George Floyd and declared that “lasting peace in our communities requires truly equal justice. The rule of law ultimately depends on the fairness and legitimacy of the legal system. And achieving justice for all is the duty of all.”

Bush’s declaration was greeted with thunderous applause by the usual suspects who portray him as the virtuous Republican in contrast to Trump. While the media portrays Bush’s pious piffle as a visionary triumph of principle, Americans need to vividly recall the lies and atrocities that permeated his eight years as president.

In an October 2017 speech in a “national forum on liberty” at the George W. Bush Institute in New York City, Bush bemoaned that “Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.” Coming from Bush, this had as much credibility as former president Bill Clinton bewailing the decline of chastity.

Most media coverage of Bush nowadays either ignores the falsehoods he used to take America to war in Iraq or portrays him as a good man who received incorrect information. But Bush was lying from the get-go on Iraq and was determined to drag the nation into another Middle East war. From January 2003 onwards, Bush constantly portrayed the US as an innocent victim of Saddam Hussein’s imminent aggression and repeatedly claimed that war was being “forced upon us.” That was never the case. As the Center for Public Integrity reported, Bush made “232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda.” As the lies by which he sold the Iraq War unraveled, Bush resorted to vilifying critics as traitors in a 2006 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Bush’s lies led to the killing of more than four thousand American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. But since those folks are dead and gone anyhow, the media instead lauds Bush’s selection to be in a Kennedy Center art show displaying his borderline primitive oil paintings.

In February 2018, Bush was paid lavishly to give a prodemocracy speech in the United Arab Emirates, ruled by a notorious Arab dictatorship. He proclaimed: “Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results.” He openly fretted about Russian “meddling” in the 2016 US election.

But when he was president, Bush acted as if the United States were entitled to intervene in any foreign election he pleased. He boasted in 2005 that his administration had budgeted almost $5 billion “for programs to support democratic change around the world,” much of which was spent on tampering with foreign vote totals. When Iraq held elections in 2005, Bush approved a massive covert aid program for pro-American Iraqi parties. The Bush administration spent over $65 million to boost their favored candidate in the 2004 Ukraine election. Yet, with boundless hypocrisy, Bush proclaimed that “any (Ukrainian) election…ought to be free from any foreign influence.” US government-financed organizations helped spur coups in Venezuela in 2002 and Haiti in 2004. Both of those nations, along with Ukraine, remain political train wrecks.

In that October 2017 New York speech, Bush proclaimed: “No democracy pretends to be a tyranny.” But ravaging the Constitution was apparently part of his job description when he was president. Shortly after 9-11, Bush turned back the clock to before 1215 (when the Magna Carta was signed), formally suspending habeas corpus and claiming a prerogative to imprison indefinitely anyone he labeled a terrorist suspect. In 2002, Justice Department lawyers informed Bush that the president was entitled to violate the law during wartime—and the war on terror was expected to continue indefinitely. In 2004, Bush White House counsel Alberto Gonzales formally asserted a “commander-in-chief override power” entitling presidents to ignore the Bill of Rights.

Under Bush, the US government embraced barbaric practices which did more to destroy America’s moral credibility than all of Trump’s tweets combined. Bush’s “enhanced interrogation” regime included endless high-volume repetition of a Meow Mix cat food commercial at Guantanamo, head slapping, waterboarding, exposure to frigid temperatures, and manacling for many hours in stress positions. After the Supreme Court rebuffed some of Bush’s power grabs in 2006, he pushed through Congress a bill that retroactively legalized torture—one of the worst legislative disgraces since the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. During his years in the White House, Bush perennially denied that he had approved torture. But in 2010, during an author tour to promote his new memoir, he bragged about approving waterboarding for terrorist suspects.

Is Bush nominating himself to be the nation’s racial healer? When he was president, Bush inflicted more financial ruin on blacks than any president since Woodrow Wilson (who brought Jim Crow barbarities to the federal government). Bush trumpeted his plans to close the gap between black and white homeownership rates and promised in 2002 to “use the mighty muscle of the federal government” to solve the problem. Bush was determined to end the bias against people who wanted to buy a home but had no money. Congress passed Bush’s American Dream Downpayment Act in 2003, authorizing federal handouts to first-time homebuyers of up to $10,000 or 6 percent of the home’s purchase price. Bush also swayed Congress to permit the Federal Housing Administration to make no–down payment loans to low-income Americans. Bush proclaimed: “Core American values of individuality, thrift, responsibility, and self-reliance are embodied in homeownership.” In Bush’s eyes, self-reliance was so wonderful that the government should subsidize it. And it didn’t matter whether recipients were creditworthy, because politicians meant well. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign trumpeted his down payment giveaways, a shining example of “compassionate conservatism.”

Thanks in large part to his policies, minority households saw the fastest growth in homeownership leading up to the 2007 recession. The housing collapse ravaged the net worth of black and Hispanic households. “The implosion of the subprime lending market has left a scar on the finances of black Americans—one that not only has wiped out a generation of economic progress but could leave them at a financial disadvantage for decades,” the Washington Post reported in 2012. The median net worth for Hispanic households declined by 66 percent between 2005 and 2009. That devastation was aptly described in a 2017 federal appeals court dissenting opinion as “wrecking ball benevolence” (quoting a 2004 Barron’s op-ed I wrote). But almost none of the media coverage of the ex-president reminds people of the economic carnage of this Bush vote-buying binge.

It is possible to condemn police brutality and, even more importantly, the evil laws and judicial doctrines that enable police to tyrannize other Americans without any help from a demagogic ex-president who ravaged our rights, liberties, and peace. As I commented in an August 2003 USA Today op-ed, “Whether Bush and his appointees will be held personally liable for their [Iraq War] falsehoods is a grave test for American democracy.” The revival of Bush’s reputation vivifies how our political media system failed that test. As long as George Bush doesn’t turn himself in for committing war crimes, all of his talk about “achieving justice for all” is rubbish. Author:

James Bovard

James Bovard is the author of ten books, including 2012’s Public Policy Hooligan, and 2006’s Attention Deficit Democracy. He has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Washington Post, and many other publications.

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Not the One but the Many

May 27, 2020

In his poems and articles, Badri Raina often reflects upon the social and political conditions in his native land, India. He knows how Hinduva’s fascist nationalists have hijacked the secular direction of the Indian polity which accorded full recognition to ethnoreligious diversity of the state after the end of the British colonial rule in 1947.

Many left-wing people also became convinced that India’s constitution will protect the minorities of India under an independent judiciary. But such hopes were shattered when the Hindutva emerged as a dominating force that had broad support in the Hindu population.

Badri Raina’s new poem is a reflection of his long-held views and struggles. However, the ideas he advances in this poem are also applicable to many countries where morbid rightists use the cover of religion and populist demagoguery to further their sectarian objectives.

—Nasir Khan

Not the One but the Many

By Badri Raina

May 24, 2020
One swallow does not a summer make,

Nor one race or caste a nation;

And no nation, however exceptional,

Tantamounts to creation.

What cruelties we perpetrate

To make one size fit all,

When various are our expressions,

And multifarious Nature’s call.

Think what calamity would ensue

If birds were just one bird,

And flowers all of a single hue,

And all humans just a herd.

God gave us variety,

We seek a domination

Of  the syllables that fell to us

As universal conversation,

The bird that sings a different tune,

And wears a different plume

We see as threat to our clime,–

An estrangement and doom.

The brain, one thought, would evolve

To embrace abundance;

Alas our blinkers are fortified

The more we advance.

UK: Where is Keir Starmer leading the Labour Party?

May 12, 2020

Nasir Khan

Keir Starmer is playing political games to gain electoral support from the large British Indian community to further his political career. To this end, he has chosen to side with the ultra-rightist Hindutva regime of PM Modi.

On 5 August 2019, Modi set aside the constitutional guarantees of the semi-autonomous status to the State of Jammu & Kashmir which the Indian rulers had given to this state after the Partition of India in 1947. When Modi’s PJP won a large electoral majority in the Indian national elections in May last year, he set in motion a total blockade of Jammu & Kashmir to impose direct Indian rule there. That was in flagrant violations of the eh UN resolutions and also the guarantees that Indian rulers had given to Kashmiris in 1947.

However, the people of Kashmir never compromised their demands and their national right to self-determination. Their movement for freedom from the Indian rule became an open revolt in 1989. Since then, Inda has done all to crush by its military power the freedom movement of the people of Kashmir, who are mostly Muslims. Indian army has killed over one hundred thousand Kashmiris.

At a time, when the colonised people of Kashmir need the support and solidarity of all freedom-loving people, trade unions and labour organizations, the direction taken by Keir Starmer is the opposite of what a Labour leader should have done.
The steps taken by the British Muslims are fair and must be a reminder to this Labour leader that his policy to appease the Hindu voters is downright opportunistic and degrading. He is pushing the Labour Party in a direction that will make it look like an extended arm of Isareli Zionists and Hindutva fascists.

Ordinary working-class people have been the backbone of the Labour Party. We who have stood by the Labour Party, as I have done for over half-a-century, are deeply anguished to see Keir Starmer turning a blind eye to what the ordinary members of the Labour Party have stood for. It is high time that such people raise their voice collectively and also stand with people who oppose Starmer’s political overtures to the brutal oppressors of Kashmir and also Palestine.

Over 100 mosques threaten to boycott Labour over Kashmir

By 5Pillars

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Keir Starmer

Over 100 British mosques and Islamic centres have signed a letter to Labour leader Keir Starmer saying they would support a call for Muslims to abstain from voting for Labour unless it supports Kashmir’s right to self-determination.

The letter came after Starmer described the Kashmir dispute as a “bilateral issue” between India and Pakistan after a meeting with an Indian lobby group at the end of last month.

Starmer’s comments caused outrage among Muslims and eventually led to several Labour Muslim MPs reiterating their support for Kashmiri rights.

The Labour leader has since said that the party’s position on Kashmir has not changed and that it recognises previous UN resolutions on the rights of the Kashmiri people.

Here is the letter from the mosques in full:

We, the undersigned members of the Muslim community living in the UK (many of whom have families in South Asia), are writing to express our utter shock at the contents of your letter in which you clearly express unflinching support for the Indian Government’s position on Kashmir.

This, at a time when the very same Indian Government is engaging in anti-Muslim rhetoric and failing to protect the Indian Muslim community from populist violence, and enacting laws that will potentially render 40 million Muslim citizens in India stateless, which as you well know contravenes international law.

Muslim coronavirus patients are being turned away from hospitals. Kashmir itself has been in lockdown for more than eight months now. India, under the premiership of Narendra Modi, is stepping away from being one of the world’s largest democracies and hurtling instead towards becoming a fascist-led authoritarian state where minorities, Muslims and others, no longer feel safe or protected. It is the members of this very same hate-fuelled ideology who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.

We wish to remind you that Kashmir is not a bilateral issue, evidenced by the 11 UN Security Council Resolutions which declare Kashmir a disputed territory and that the people of Kashmir have the right to self-determination, something which was enshrined in India’s constitution under Article 370. The meeting at the Security Council last year on 16th August 2019 is further evidence that this is not just a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

It is one of the world’s oldest unresolved territorial conflicts that has the potential to lead India and Pakistan into a devastating nuclear war which would have global repercussions. You have not only completely disregarded the international element of the conflict but have also pointedly ignored the Labour Party’s own resolution, voted in at the 2019 conference, which states:

“[We] accept that Kashmir is a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir should be given the right to self-determination in accordance with UN resolutions. The Labour Party to stand with the Kashmiri people fighting against occupation, this is vital as we stand for social justice and ethical foreign policy.”

It would seem to us that holding foreign governments to account over their discriminatory policies and human rights abuses does not seem to be a foreign policy goal under your leadership. As a former barrister, you will clearly be aware of the seriousness of India’s violation of UN resolutions. In addition, you, as the new leader of the Labour Party ought to shoulder greater responsibility on this issue given that the partition which led to this conflict was overseen by a Labour government at the time.

Indian occupation forces in Kashmir

It seems to us that there is an ingrained view that the British Muslim vote has and always will be a secure one for the Labour Party, to be taken for granted with little consideration of the issues and concerns which matter to us as British Muslim communities. In view of the concerns raised above, we strongly urge you to reconsider the party’s position.

We hereby state in no uncertain terms that should you fail to modify your position on the issue of Kashmir and by extension, the plight and oppression of the large Indian Muslim minority within India, then we will consider the Labour Party to have simply taken advantage of the Muslim community.

We will, therefore, have no option but to support a call for the Muslim community to abstain from voting for Labour at all upcoming elections. We hope that this will not be necessary and that the Labour Party will continue to stand against human rights abuses wherever they may be. We urge you not to underestimate the strength of our feeling on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations (FORMO) – 17 organisations
Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust – 22 centres
Indian Muslim Federation UK
Muslim Association of Kent – 20 organisations
South East London & Kent Council of Mosques (SELKOM) – 7 organisations
Waltham Forest Council of Mosques (WFCOM) – 9 organisations
Al-Hira Masjid Newham
Academy of Inspiration
Al Ansar Masjid
Al-Emaan Centre (Keston Mosque)
Al Madina Mosque Barking
Al Noor Foundation
Anjuman-e-Islamia Newham
Apex Trust
Association of Muslim Lawyers
Attiq Malik on behalf of Liberty Law
Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society
Brent Central Mosque
BWA Muslim Cultural Centre (New Cross Mosque)
Chingford Islamic Society
Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery
Finsbury Park Mosque
Ghosia Masjid WFIA (Lea Bridge Road Mosque)
Great Barr Muslim Foundation Birmingham
Harrow Central Mosque
Hounslow Jamia Masjid
IG-Soc (“Connecting Muslims in Redbridge”)
Ilford Islamic Centre (Albert Road)
Ilford Muslim Society (Balfour Road)
International Business and Professional Corporation,
Redbridge Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre (JMIC)
Stoke Poges Lane Masjid
Kent Muslim Welfare Association (Gillingham Mosque)
Lewisham Islamic Centre
Leyton Jamia Masjid MCT
Leytonstone Masjid Majlis-e-Ulama-e-Shia-Europe
Masjid Abu Bakr
Masjid Al Humera Newham
Masjid-e-Owais-e-Qarni (Belgrave Road)
Masjid-e-Quba Newham
Masjid-e-Tauheed Manor Park
Masjid Falah
Masjid Tawhid
Muslimah Sports Association
Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC)
Neasden Mosque & Islamic Centre
Newbury Park Mosque
Newham Community Project
Newham North Islamic Association
North West Kent Muslim Association (Crayford Mosque)
Pakistan Welfare Association (PWA) Slough
Qur’ani Murkuz Trust (South Woodford Mosque) Redbridge Islamic Centre (Redbridge and Gants Hill) Redbridge Talks
Seven Kings Muslim Educational Trust
Shirley Muslim Association
Sri Lankan Diaspora UK
Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK, London
The Mosque & Islamic Centre of Brent
Ujala Foundation Slough
UKIM Masjid Ibrahim and Islamic Centre Newham

Two influential poets Ghalib and Iqbal

March 30, 2020

Nasir Khan

Mirza Ghalib (1797 – 1869) and Mohammad Iqbal (1877 – 1938) are two great poets in their own ways. Iqbal is also a politician, a populist, an ideologue of Islam where he expounds Islam along mystical and unclear paths (his ‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ being a clear expression of his confused thinking and lack of clarity despite his pedantic English that only few can understand or digest!). But his command of Urdu and Farsi in conveying his poetic message and ideas is impressive.

His poetry covers many areas and it can’t be labelled under any one theme. His revolutionary and progressive ideas are appreciable but his tilt towards religiosity, mysticism and Islamic nationalism in the latter part of his life was a big waste of the intellect of a good man. The Pakistani reactionary political establishment took full advantage of his shoddy Islamist ideology and transformed him into a mullah which he was not!

In contrast to Iqbal, Ghalib was only a poet and not a politician or messenger of any political revolution. In his verse, he conveyed his sublime ideas in a way unmatched in this language. His word has enriched the Urdu language by his poetic expression and his style of prose (see his letters). If we can extend the area of philosophy to general wisdom, deeper insights in human psychology and human condition then Ghalib stands far higher than Iqbal in such areas. He is a universalist, not bound by faith, creed or ideological nihilism as Iqbal seems to be. Iqbal’s origin as a Kashmiri Pandit, which, no doubt, I feel happy about as a Kashmiri myself, but that is not decisive when I assess him. I end this piece with a verse of the immortal Ghalib:

Ham kahan ke danaa the, kis hunar main yakta the
Be sababb hua Ghalib, dushman aasman apna

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