Reaching out to American Jews
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

President Musharraf is going to address the American Jewish Congress in September, while he is in New York for the UNGA. This is an extremely proactive move in the realm of foreign policy for Pakistan and as such it is a welcome development for it signals self-confidence in our own identity. Earlier, there was a tendency to regard any public contact with Jews as a sign of weakening in our commitment to the Palestinian cause and in our principled rejection of the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel. So even informal or chance meetings in international fora were shrouded in secrecy and no one admitted to them.
Once the Arab world broke rank with each other and some states recognized Israel, there were the beginnings of a debate in Pakistan as to why we were still holding out, especially since the PLO leadership seemed to have a clear preference for India. As the Indo-Israeli nexus grew, especially in strategic terms, some in Pakistan felt that by a simple act of recognition we could somehow overturn this relationship. This was and is wishful thinking, given that India and Israel have very real and strong interests - both economic and military - in sustaining and furthering their strategic cooperation, but then we are often overwhelmed by such dreaming. After all, presently we are dreaming that a miracle will take place in the subcontinent that will compel India into conflict resolution with us so that the peace process can endure -- but that is another issue.
Coming back to the Israel question, regardless of what some regard as lost opportunities, at this moment in time it would be counter productive domestically and of little use externally, to recognize the state of Israel. We need to wait until we see Israel move more clearly on the roadmap to establishing of a viable Palestinian state and an end to the occupation of Palestinian land. That is why the Foreign Office statement on August 29 on the issue is timely. Equally welcome is the decision to send a delegation to Gaza and Al-Quds in response to Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas's invitation. After being in the forefront of supporting the Palestinian cause, observing the state of affairs on the ground should provide additional support to the Pakistani position.
Also, it would be far less troubling domestically for all those OIC countries that have still not recognized Israel to do it eventually, collectively. Of course, while recognition does not imply an inherent friendship or alliance, it does imply an acceptance and that is why we refused to recognize the Apartheid state of South Africa even though most countries of the world had done so. Today, if we accept the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, which we consider to be contrary to UN resolutions, why would India not demand that we accept its occupation of Jammu and Kashmir?
Keeping this in mind, President Musharraf's decision to address the American Jewish Congress signifies Pakistan's expansion of its operational realm in terms of foreign policy. Too often we have been hamstrung by self-imposed limitations and a blinkered approach. Acknowledging the American Jewish community reflects the argument that it is the policies of Zionist Israel that Pakistan is not prepared to accept and there is nothing inherently anti-Semitic in Pakistan's stance on Israel. Also, where better to explain our case on Israel and Kashmir than before the group that lends major support to Israel and has now linked up with the Indian lobby in Washington? After all, preaching to the converted is not required. Instead, we need to take our case and argue it forcefully before the opposition. Whilst there are many rabid Zionists within the American Jewish community, there are a few rational voices as well and we need to reach out to them. At the very least, our case should not continue to go by default -- especially in the face of massive Indian inroads into the American Establishment and opinion makers.
Mr. Rosen, Chairman of the American Jewish Congress-Council for World Jewry, has stated that he had invited President Musharraf to address "the most pressing problem -- the need for Muslims to embrace modernity." Well, the President can also use the occasion to point out the need for Israel and Zionists to accept the reality that they cannot sustain the occupation of Palestinian lands and there was a need for these Zionists to also embrace modern ground realities rather than seeking to establish the grand expansionist plan for establishing Greater Israel on occupied land.
As for the Jewish Congress's expectations that Pakistan would recognize Israel, according to news reports, Mr. Rosen, in his memo to the top Jewish leaders, had pointed out that this could only happen in the wake of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. So the Congress knows the operational limitations of Pakistan on this crucial issue. And the Jewish community also knows that Israel cannot continue to live in a state of siege endlessly. Sooner or later it will have to allow itself to be treated as a normal member of the international community and for this it will need to accept the same international yardsticks to be applied to it as are applied to other states -- on all issues including nuclear proliferation.
Presently, Mr. Sharon is trying to fool the world with the Gaza pullout while Israel continues not only to harden its grip on Jerusalem but also to expand its occupation of the West Bank. But having moved on the pullout from Gaza, there can be no halt in the long haul to ending the occupation of all Palestinian lands. Gaza cannot be accepted as the end of the peace process to establish a viable Palestinian state. Instead, it has to be seen as a good beginning; and only in that sense can it be welcomed by the rest of the world which has given a commitment through the UN to the Palestinian people. A Bantuland for the Palestinians in the shape of the Gaza Strip will never be acceptable to the Palestinian people who have sacrificed generation after generation to seek liberation from Israeli occupation. Nor can the international community accept such a brazen violation of its will by the Zionists.
This message also needs to be conveyed boldly and rationally to the American Jews. But perhaps most important, the myth needs to be punctured that Muslims are opposed to the Jews per se. It is time we confronted this propaganda and laid it to rest. Ironically, if there is a religious clash between the Jews and other believers, it is with Christianity, both in terms of religious dogma centering on Armageddon and in terms of political persecution. Yet the myth has been successfully perpetrated post-1945 that the Muslims, particularly the Arabs, see the Jews as their enemies. This has allowed the Jews to focus all their post-holocaust aggression on the Arab world and the Palestinians with the Zionists forging ahead with their expansionist agenda. Muslims have done nothing to challenge this propaganda. A beginning can be made by President Musharraf through his address to the American Jewish Congress.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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