A wide range of issues came across recently and though I would love to wax lyrical about all of them I find my head space considerably limited to speak of each in some reasonable fashion. But I wanted to draw your attention to some interesting developments, a few of which are being carefully ignored in our press and oh-so-alert media

The Pakistanis are holding elections in Gilgit-Baltistan: Yes, as we continue to babble on about Kashmir and the conflict there, a monumental shift in Pakistan’s stance towards the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan. This is significant because these regions are part of what was once the Princely state of Jammu & Kashmir and were occupied by Pakistan in the 1948 invasion of the state. Dawn, one of Pakistan’s major English daily’s, reveals in a series of detailed reports what is happening there. We should not underestimate the significance of this decision, one that would have required considerable debate within the echelons of power and the military because, as we learn from Dawn


The problem though has to be seen in the international context because of the Kashmir issue. Historically, Gilgit-Baltistan was not merged into Pakistan proper because the fear was that it could undermine our claim on Kashmir and it was not merged into AJK because it could complicate a settlement on the area. If, for example, Gilgit-Baltistan is made a full-fledged province within the constitutional framework of Pakistan, India could perhaps argue that the state it has carved out of the disputed area, Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir, is also a legitimate entity and that it is a settled issue.

Of course it is premature to assume that this means anything significant, but we would be wrong to under estimate the meaning of this and the shift in the position of the Pakistani government when it comes to the areas once known as ‘The Northern Areas’. Could this be the beginning of a shift in the language and rhetoric towards the regions of Kashmir Valley? Could the situation there be transformed into a discussion about citizen rights, laws, accountability and representation? The Indians would do well to listen and pay attention. Others, who continue to write about Kashmir as if we are still back in the early 1990s, would do well to try to understand this issue at greater depth.

In Sweden much to no one’s surprise, IKEA is revealed to be a mini-fascist state: Ok, I exaggerate, but there has a new tell-all, gossip book out by a former senior management member of the enterprise who reveals a lot of unmentionables about this otherwise ‘most Swedish’ of companies.  Tidbits include such exciting stuff such as:

On the executive floor, Stenebo claims, foreigners were repeatly denigrated as “niggers.” They apparently had no chance of promotion within the company — something Stenebo blames on Kamprad’s increasing paranoia. Ikea, in spite of being the world’s largest furniture company, is run exclusively by people from Älmhult in the Swedish region of Smaland — the small town where Kamprad himself grew up. “Born on the farm” is how the Swedish describe it. The importance of blood and place of birth within Ikea is no coincidence, Stenebo claims — blatant racism exists within the company.

Ah, yes, that never-ending flower of rampant nationalism continues to raise it skirts to reveal things incredibly hideous!

On a different note, the incredibly obvious has been turned into a documentary, and many are ‘shocked’. Philippe Diaz’s has a new documentary called “The End of Poverty?” which reveals, according to a review in Salon magazine, that:

What’s most profound, and also most controversial, in this analysis is the question of how much this pattern of exploitation continues today. Between 1503 and 1660, the precious metals looted from the Americas by the Spanish crown increased the European silver reserves fourfold, funding a massive expansion of imperialism. Today, the World Bank estimates that the developing world spends $13 in debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants. Exactly how different are these scenarios? Is our affluent, consumer-democracy Western lifestyle only possible because we are, in effect, still stealing from the poorest people in the world?

Well, neither profound, nor controversial, but in fact a banal reality that most ignore willingly. This of course is not a criticism of the film which hopefully can educate many more about how things actually work. I was also reminded of Mike Davis’ book Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines & The Making Of The Third World the only work I know that actually asks the obvious question: How did the 3rd World become the 3rd World? – something that is rarely if ever discussed, and certainly never approached in our much celebrated higher education institutions.

Speaking of the scourge of terrorism, yet another lame-duck reporter for the New York Times reminds us, or purports to remind us, that Pakistani pop musicians seems to be producing a lot of music criticizing America, while ignoring the threat of the Taliban.  Adam B. Ellick is indignant at the Pakistani musicians, particularly the new generation of pop stars at their clear ignorance and irresponsibility. Oddly, it never occurs to him that the reason could be that the Pakistanis do in fact consider America to be a more real, dangerous and immediate threat to the country than the marginal, and very small so-called Taliban threat!

It seems beyond his ability to accept that perhaps most Pakistani musicians, much like their countrymen, are focus on the core problem that has plagued the country since the late 1950s i.e. American intervention and meddling in the nation’s affairs, facilitated and supported by a cabal of shallow, venal elites bent on retaining control of legal and illegal revenue sources. That includes the military mind you. And that they understand that ridding Pakistan of America – and Afghanistan for that matter, will rid the country of the so-called Taliban too! In fact, I have quoted Eqbal Ahmed frequently to make this point. His analysis is from some decades ago when he said:

There is an increasingly perceptible gap between our need for social transformation and America’s insistence on stability, between our impatience for change and American’s obsession with order, our move towards revolution and America’s belief in the plausibility of achieving reforms under the robber barons of the ‘third world’, our longing for absolute national sovereignty and America’s preference for pliable allies, our desires to see our national soil free of foreign occupation and America’s alleged need for military bases.

And that was back in the 1970s! Mr. Ellick’s blinders make it impossible for him to see how his nation is seen from the perspective of a Pakistani’s economic and political emasculation, a trait shared by most every American reporter reporting from that country. Now lets see, where did I put my iPod play-list of American pop musicians sonorously protesting her illegal wars, torture centers, illegal detentions, thirst for the blood of Iraqi and Afghani ‘half-humans’? Oh, wait, there isn’t one!

Speaking of thirst for blood, an American ultra-orthodox fanatic and frankly, lets admit it, deranged lunatic, Yaakov Teitel is on trial in a Jerusalem court room. He is the latest concoction of the fanatical and murderous settler groups infesting the West Bank (I apologize for using the ‘insect’ language here – infest – but it was too tempting not to since it is usually how such murderous religious terrorists are spoken about when it comes to some other religions!). Most of these, by the way, are not Israeli, but in fact, American zealots being trained there and being sent to the West Bank and once to Gaza. Yaakov Keitel made a home in a West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel, that was also the home of yet another Jewish terrorist, Asher Weissgan, convicted of massacring five Palestinian laborers in a 2005 terror incident.

But, then again, this is not surprising given that deans of yeshiva can go about issuing statements justifying the killing of non-Jews in specific conditions – most by the way are written to justify Jewish killings and harassments of Palestinian on whose lands they are building settlements. The dean of the ultra-fundamentalist Od Yosef Hai yeshiva (orthodox religious school) in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar recently made this enlightened fatwa (thanks to Didi Remez)

“In any situation in which a non-Jew’s presence endangers Jewish lives, the non-Jew may be killed even if he is a righteous Gentile and not at all guilty for the situation that has been created…When a non-Jew assists a murderer of Jews and causes the death of one, he may be killed, and in any case where a non-Jew’s presence causes danger to Jews, the non-Jew may be killed…The [Din Rodef] dispensation applies even when the pursuer is not threatening to kill directly, but only indirectly…Even a civilian who assists combat fighters is considered a pursuer and may be killed. Anyone who assists the army of the wicked in any way is strengthening murderers and is considered a pursuer. A civilian who encourages the war gives the king and his soldiers the strength to continue. Therefore, any citizen of the state that opposes us who encourages the combat soldiers or expresses satisfaction over their actions is considered a pursuer and may be killed…There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”…In a chapter entitled “Deliberate harm to innocents,” the book explains that war is directed mainly against the pursuers, but those who belong to the enemy nation are also considered the enemy because they are assisting murderers.”

The entire fatwa can be read on Didi Remez’s blog site. Thankfully some of this has been noticed by the media in the USA, and words spoken. Glenn Greenwald has written a piece about Teitel and others like him for Salon where he takes to tasks religious fanaticism and madness infesting not just the Jewish settler movement, but the US military and right-wing extremist groups in the USA. Oh, and by the way, Teitel walked around free in Israel for over 12 years before being taken into custody as Alex Fishman reveals in this piece called They Are Not Scared,

They shouldn’t be telling us that Yaakov Teitel’s arrest is a success story. They shouldn’t try to sell us, again, the weak excuse about the individual terrorist that cannot be traced. When a murderer like Yaakov Teitel walks around freely for 12 years, carries out attacks, trains, creates an explosives lab, and builds up a weapons depot with no interruption, this means there is no deterrence.

All in the name of religion and belief – and before members from other monotheism or any other faux-ism start to rant lyrical, just listen to Teitel’s justifications and realize that it is not just a fundamentalist Jew speaking, but that it could be any religiously delusional mind, narcissistic to the core, convinced, through no evidence whatsoever, of his unique mission for god here on earth to kill, murder, pillage and ruin:

“It was a pleasure and an honor to serve my God,” said Teitel at the Jerusalem courthouse. “I have no regret and no doubt that God is pleased.”

What kind of a god is pleased with murder? We should all ask that question.

Speaking of taking the facts to the deluded, Shlomo Sands and Avi Shlaim gave a talk at the Frontline Club in London which you can see here (if you don’t see the video, click the reload button on the lower left side of the video itself):

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Shlomo Sands is the author of a fascinating study of Jewish heritage and history called The Invention of The Jewish People (no, it is not an anti-simetic tract and morons who step up to use it as such should be condemned immediately and vociferously. I will do so here on this blog if i have to.) The book is a huge best seller in Israel, and has already been translated into a number of languages. As described on the book description itself:

A leading Israeli historian shatters the national myth of the Jewish exodus from the promised land. A historical tour de force that demolishes the myths and taboos that have surrounded Jewish and Israeli history, The Invention of the Jewish People offers a new account of both that demands to be read and reckoned with. Was there really a forced exile in the first century, at the hands of the Romans? Should we regard the Jewish people, throughout two millennia, as both a distinct ethnic group and a putative nation—returned at last to its Biblical homeland?

Shlomo Sand argues that most Jews actually descend from converts, whose native lands were scattered far across the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The formation of a Jewish people and then a Jewish nation out of these disparate groups could only take place under the sway of a new historiography, developing in response to the rise of nationalism throughout Europe. Beneath the biblical back fill of the nineteenth-century historians, and the twentieth-century intellectuals who replaced rabbis as the architects of Jewish identity, The Invention of the Jewish People uncovers a new narrative of Israel’s formation, and proposes a bold analysis of nationalism that accounts for the old myths.

Avi Shlaim is author of Israel & Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations and another fine Israeli historian whose works like The Iron Wall: Israel & The Arab World are must reads. The interview is worth a listen.

Finally, the always provocative, Slavoj Zizik reminds us of the continued delusion conflation of capitalism with liberty and democracy could pose a great danger to our societies in a recent piece in The London Review of Books concluding with the thought that:

Today we observe the explosion of capitalism in China and ask when it will become a democracy. But what if it never does? What if its authoritarian capitalism isn’t merely a repetition of the process of capitalist accumulation which, in Europe, went on from the 16th to the 18th century, but a sign of what is to come? What if ‘the vicious combination of the Asian knout and the European stock market’ (Trotsky’s characterisation of tsarist Russia) proves economically more efficient than liberal capitalism? What if it shows that democracy, as we understand it, is no longer the condition and engine of economic development, but its obstacle?

What if indeed!