4. Ghazal from Ghalib

translated by M. Shahid Alam

Only a few come back to us in roses and tulips.
Many more lie buried, dust on their sleeping eyelids.

By day, the daughters of Pleiades play out of sight.
At night, they lift their veils in ravishing display.

My eyes pour blood on this night of savage partings:
two lamps I have lighted to sanctify love’s sorrow.

I will make them pay for the years of torment, if
by chance, these darlings play houris in paradise.

He shall have sleep, perfumed air, silken nights,
if you untie your jasmine-scented hair in his arms.

I have no use for your coy approaches to the divine.
Past your schools and creeds, we worship God alone.

If Ghalib were to keep this up (he cries inconsolably),
every man, woman, child will soon be leaving town.

first published in Prairie Schooner, Spring 2011

For more ghazals from Ghalib, click here.

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is the author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2009) and Challenging the New Orientalism (IPI, 2007). Visit his website at http://qreason.com. Write to him at alqalam02760@yahoo.com.

US, the Arab Revolt and al-Qaida

M. Shahid Alam

On December 24 2004, I wrote an essay, “America and Islam,” for which I received much heat from Zionist and right-wing bloggers in the United States.

The article made the point that the leaders of al-Qaida believe that they have to carry their war to the home ground of the ‘far enemy’ – the United States, Israel and Western powers – in order to free the Muslim world from foreign domination. This anyone can verify from the numerous communiqués of al-Qaida.

To say this is not to endorse the terrorist methods that al-Qaida employs. This was my moral position then: and it is my moral position now. At the same time, we should not shrink from recognizing that the total wars waged by many states, including the United States, since WWII differ from the methods of al-Qaida only in the infinitely greater scale of the destruction they wreak upon civilians.

The article made another critical point. It argued that al-Qaida, in some measure, reflects the political and moral failings of Muslim societies. If Muslims had shown more spine in resisting local tyrannies through non-violent means, their courage would have scotched the violent extremism of groups like al-Qaida.

Continue reading “US, the Arab Revolt and al-Qaida”

Pakistan: A Deficit of Dignity

M. Shahid Alam

Pakistan’s rulers and ruling elites may well be thinking that the wave of people’s indignation that started in Tunisia and is now working its way through Egypt, Jordan and Yemen will never reach them. Perhaps, they are telling each other, ‘We are safe: we are a democracy.’

The Arabs who are pouring into the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen are not protesting only against their dictatorships. Simultaneously, they are also protesting against governments that have sold their dignity and bartered the honor of their country. Nearly, all the Arab rulers are self-castrated eunuchs in the courts of foreign powers, who have turned their own countries into police states, and who jail, maim, torture and kill their own people to please their masters.

The Arabs are venting their anger against elites who have stymied their energies by turning their societies into prisons. In complicity with foreign powers, these elites have ruled by fear, blocking the forward movement of their people because this movement collides with the imperialist ambitions of Israel and the United States.

It is true that Pakistan has had ‘elected’ governments alternating with military dictatorships. Increasingly, however, these governments, whether civilian or military, have differed little from each other. The priority for both is to keep their power and US-doled perks by doing the bidding of the United States and Israel.

Starting in the early 1990s, Pakistan hurriedly embraced the neoliberal paradigm that emanated from Washington. Hastily, successive ministers of finance and privatization – all of them IMF appointees – went about dismantling Pakistan’s industries, selling off for a song its state-owned enterprises, and empowering Pakistan’s elites to engage in unchecked consumerism.

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People Power in the Middle East

M. Shahid Alam

From his weekly perch at CNN, Fareed Zakaria, speculated last Sunday (or the Sunday before) whether George Bush could take credit for the events that were unfolding in Tunisia, whether this was the late fruit of the neoconservative project to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East.

It is quite extraordinary watching Zakaria – a Muslim born and raised in India, and scion of a leading political family – mimic with such facility the language of America’s ruling classes, and show scarce a trace of empathy for the world’s oppressed, despite his propinquity to them by reason of history and geography. He does have a bias for India, but here too he only shows a concern for India’s strategic interests, not the interests of its subjugated classes, minorities and ethnicities. This I offer only as an aside about how easy it is for members of the upper classes in countries like India, Pakistan or Egypt to slip into an American skin whenever that dissimulation offers greater personal advantages.

As a cover for deepening US control over the Middle East – here is the latest civilizing mission for you – the neoconservatives in the Bush administration argued that the Islamic world produces ‘terrorists’ because it lives under autocracies. To solve the ‘terrorist’ problem, therefore, the US would have to bring democracy to the Middle East. This demagoguery only reveals the bankruptcy of America’s political class. It is a shame when the President of the United States and his neoconservative puppet-masters peddle such absurdities without being greeted by squeals of laughter – and shouted down as hypocritical, as farcical.

Who has been the leading ally and sponsor these past decades of nearly all the despotisms in the Middle East – those of royal pedigree and others seeking to become royalties?

Regardless, the real plan of United States failed miserably. It was dispatched to its grave by a people’s resistance in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Continue reading “People Power in the Middle East”

Spiritual Alchemy

M. Shahid Alam

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resetting broken bones is easy: if
it’s done right. Mending broken hearts
is harder: only time’s passage
remedies this. Fixing heedless hearts
is hardest: this takes spiritual alchemy.

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2009) and Poverty from the Wealth of Nations (Macmillan, 2000). Visit his website at Qur’anic Reason.

Is Pakistan’s ‘Monkey Show’ Coming Apart?

M. Shahid Alam

For too long now, the government of Pakistan – at its highest levels – has looked like a monkey show staged by the United States of America.

The USA picks the mercenaries from Pakistan’s wealthy and corrupt elites who are eager to play the part of the monkey. Once in office, they act upon cues that are called by the US plenipotentiary in Islamabad or elsewhere. The monkey master says, Give us transit rights; the monkey obliges. He says, Join our war against Afghanistan; the monkey obliges again. He says, We will bomb your people, you take the blame; the monkey obliges again. The monkey never disappoints.

All that the monkey master has to do to keep this monkey show going is to toss a few peanuts to the monkeys in the show for every act well-performed.

Of course, in order to try to fool the Pakistanis, the monkey master complains periodically that the monkey is not “doing enough.” The monkey replies that the master is not “giving enough” – peanuts, that is.

How long is this monkey show going to go on?

How long will Pakistanis stand for this humiliation?

Continue reading “Is Pakistan’s ‘Monkey Show’ Coming Apart?”

Some Unvarnished Truths About the US and Israel

by M. Shahid Alam

Was there ever a time when a leading organ of the US media could speak the unvarnished truth about the links between the United States and Israel?

Consider this quote from Time magazine of January 1952, embedded in an article that explained its choice of Mohammed Mossadegh as its Person of the Year for 1951. It had no compliments for Mossadegh, the man who was spearheading his country’s bid to take back its oil resources from the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. No surprise there.

Surprising, however, is Time’s candor on Israel. It minces no words. US support for the creation of Israel had alienated the Middle East: it had been a costly error, motivated not by national interest but petty considerations of presidential politics. Truman had supported the creation of Israel in order to court American Jewish votes. This was the plain truth: a US President had placed his electoral chances ahead of a vital national interest. Apparently, in those days, Time could write the plain truth without worrying about the tide of flak from the American Jewish community.

Continue reading “Some Unvarnished Truths About the US and Israel”

Zionism: Two Deficits

M. Shahid Alam

We do not fit the general pattern of humanity…”

David Ben-Gurion

…only God could have created a people so special as the Jewish people.

Gideon Levy

The fecundity of the Zionist project in producing claims of exceptionalism is not in doubt. Anyone who scans the voluminous Zionist literature will be suitably impressed by its repeated resort to claims of Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism. There is scarcely any aspect of Israeli or Jewish history that has not been embellished with some claim to uniqueness.

Israeli exceptionalism has many uses. It defends, obscures, explains away the ‘abnormal’ character of the Zionist nationalist project. When the Irish sought national liberation, their goal was straightforward. They wanted to regain national control over their lives and their country from a foreign power. No one had to convince the Irish that they are descended from the gods; that they possessed a unique essence which set them apart from all other peoples; or that their history, religion, race, language, morality or culture set them above their colonial masters. Occasionally, driven by exuberance or hubris, nationalists have advanced exceptionalist claims, but the success of their movement has not depended on their acceptance. The Irish claimed sovereignty because they knew that they are a nation with their own territory. In order to create their own state, they did not have to establish that they are exceptional.

The Zionists confronted two handicaps that Irish nationalists did not face. The diverse and scattered Jewish communities of Europe – and even more so, the world – did not constitute a single people. Instead, the Jews of the world were loosely united by their religious heritage, but they shared their languages, cultures and genes with their neighboring communities. Moreover, no Jewish community had its own country, a substantial and contiguous territory where it formed a majority of the population. Despite these twin Jewish deficits – the absence of a nation and a national territory – the Zionists were determined to ‘liberate’ the Jews of Europe and endow them with their own state.

The Zionists would remedy the first deficit by denying its existence. They knew that the Jews were not a nation, but it would be unwise to begin their ‘nationalist’ movement with the admission that a Jewish nation did not yet exist. They also did not think that this deficit was a serious hindrance to their movement. With help from anti-Semites, whose attacks had been growing in recent decades, the Zionists were convinced that they could quickly convince enough frightened Jews that they are a nation. Instead of constructing a nationalism based on a common religion, however, the Zionists chose to cultivate a racial basis for Jewish nationalism. They embraced the anti-Semitic accusation that Jews of Europe are an alien race, not Germans or Russians, descended from the ancient Hebrews.

Continue reading “Zionism: Two Deficits”

3. A Ghazal from Ghalib

translated by M. Shahid Alam

If a thing’s delayed, there’s a thing delaying it.
Not you, your suitors slowed you down a bit.

It wasn’t right, pinning my troubles on you.
The furies, fate, kismet, each had a hand in it.

If you can’t remember, let me jog your memory.
I was your prized quarry: you grew fond of it.

Captive, I stay awake, thinking of you all night.
It’s true my shackled feet also hurt a bit.

I hadn’t asked for this blinding flash of light.
I wish He’d speak to me: my heart aches for it.

I bared my neck for her. She backed out of it.
She is a sharp shooter. An arrow too could do it.

Wrongly, we are tried on the report of angels.
Is there a man like us to say he saw us do it?

Ghalib, you do not have the crown of the ghazal.
It’s rumored there was Meer, with better claim to it.

First published in Beloit Poetry Journal, Fall 2001.

For more ghazals from Ghalib, click here.

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is the author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2009) and Challenging the New Orientalism (IPI, 2007). Visit his website at http://qreason.com. Write to him at alqalam02760@yahoo.com.

Zionist Dialectics: Past and Future

Excerpted from Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave: 2009).

by M. Shahid Alam

My God! Is this the end? Is this the goal for which our fathers
have striven and for whose sake all generations have suffered?
Is this the dream of a return to Zion which our people have
dreamt for centuries: that we now come to Zion to stain its soil
with innocent blood?”

Ahad Ha’am, 1921

This study has employed a dialectical framework for analyzing the destabilizing logic of Zionism. We have examined this logic as it has unfolded through time, driven by the vision of an exclusionary colonialism, drawing into its circuit – aligned with it and against it – nations, peoples, forces, and civilizations whose actions and interactions impinge on the trajectory of Zionism, and, in turn, who are changed by this trajectory.

It would be a bit simplistic to examine the field of interactions among the different actors in this historic drama on the essentialist assumption that these actors and their interests are unchanging. Instead, we need to explore the complex ways in which the Zionists have worked – and, often have succeeded – to alter the behavior of the other political actors in this drama: and, how, in turn, the Zionists respond to these changes. Most importantly, we need to explore all the ways in which the Zionists have succeeded in mobilizing the resources of the United States and other Western powers to serve their specific objectives.

Continue reading “Zionist Dialectics: Past and Future”