The Second Coming

Jul 24th, 2014 | By | Category: Latest, World

Father of Boys Killed by IsraelTurning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

                                                                        -W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming, 1921

This was the first poem I had ever read as a Literature student. And this was about thirteen years ago. I distinctly remember the words of our teacher who said, “Yeats takes strange apocalyptic delight in these words.” Then, while simply making class-notes, the words just sounded cool. Today, after thirteen years, I recall them now with strange apocalyptic dismay. I just read an acquaintance’s post off Facebook – something about detention camps and the systematic (um, strategic?) exit of the Palestinians from their own home. On a permanent basis. I offhandedly posted a comment on the post about how I thought that “history repeats itself” is an obsolete cliché. In this poem, the word “gyre” was Yeats’s philosophical concoction: that history repeats itself every two thousand years. Or something. He obviously had The Great Apocalypse in mind. But how wrong was he. History repeats itself sooner than what he had perhaps calculated.

I will not say that Israel is the new Hitler. That’s been done. I will not say that the suffering of the Jews at the hands of Hitler with his premise to purify the Aryan race was justified. I will not say that the Jews of that unfortunate time were not oppressed. I will not even say that all Jews should now be condemned simply because they are Jews. Thankfully, I choose not to be anti-Semitic. However, what we are seeing today is a telling commentary of profound racism, discrimination, otherization, profiling, stereotyping, ethnic cleansing, apartheid or whatever anthropological/political label you want to choose for convenience. I faintly recall one of the slides from a popular apocalyptically delightful documentary called ‘The Arrivals’ that came out in 2008. No, I am not a conspiracy theorist; however, the documentary had some certain truths. One of them being how The Arab has been systematically and strategically been represented as the convenient villain, the sub-human, the barbarian, the uncouth monster who is incapable of sensitivity that is otherwise so intrinsic to the rest of the human race. How – by that very fact – we feel no sympathy when we see images of the horrors of Abu Ghraib, of Gitmo, of Palestinians or anyone who could be linked in any way to the desolate desert of Hijaz. Who are we kidding? Islamophobia was present even Sayyidna Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) shocked the world with his arrival. The Final One came from Ismail, not Ishaq (blessings upon them both), much to everyone’s surprise. He was an Arab. He was not from Jerusalem, as was the case otherwise with the rest who came before him. He came and changed the way things were done and to be done, forever. And those who rejected him simply because he was unlike them were deeply and detrimentally racist. But some like Sayyidna Salman bin Farsi’ who were out to root for the truth saw the difference. And accepted him.

Yet as time has gone by, the Arab – now loosely seen as the Muslim – is a potential threat. We have all heard of, and some have possibly read, Edward Said’s Orientalism in which he carefully dissects this ambivalent relationship between the Self and the Other. Again, context is an important factor in determining the content of any author’s work. Perhaps seeing himself as a Palestinian, Said’s own analysis can now be dismissed as being prejudiced. But it would be quite disingenuous for us to conveniently disregard his work which offers an incisive introspection of the West’s gaze on the other side of the globe: how is difference viewed – to be fascinated by, and to be feared, and to be controlled. Maybe even conquered. This fear did not just erupt with the tragic events of 9/11. Again, a convenient trump card to look at the Bedouin beast under the microscope.

Islamophobia today – in our very own backyard – is demonstrating itself in the most strange and silly of ways showing how deeply entrenched we are with our fears and prejudices. From people getting so upset by the trivial semantics of sehri versus suhoor and Khuda versus Allah Hafiz, to an entire population that is being bull-dozed and droned and dimed into annihilation, the Arab is an intruder, that “little snake” that has crept into not just our preciously paak Pakistani culture, but is somehow going to take control of the world. We get uncomfortable when we see any woman dressed like an Arab, or any man who is looking like one, or a child who doesn’t say “Hey” but rather says “salaam” even to kids of his own age. We feel and take offence at it as if our own national integrity is at stake. That is why whenever you talk about Palestinian suffering at least in the drawing rooms of Pakistan, what you inevitably get to hear is: oh what about our IDPs? What about our minorities? Hamas is a terror organization like the Taliban; and other such half-baked tautologies. Extend this same dynamic of discourse and thought to the larger drawing rooms of the globe: oh what about animal rights? What about global warming? All these terror organizations are a menace that must be removed – after all, we are the defenders of humanity. Yes, IDPS are a huge and pressing concern for our nation – much more pressing than “suhur” and black abayas; Yes, if we don’t care enough about global warming there won’t be any Maldives for us to party away in the summers and we may just be living off an iceberg. I am deliberately being sarcastic, if not entirely cynical. These issues are grave. But graver still has been the utter apathy of the entire global community over a people that has been duped, manipulated, marginalized, bombed, beaten up, massacred, shot, imprisoned, and now potentially going to be expelled from its own soil. Why: they’re Arabs, why not?

 Thankfully, many are not tuning into mainstream newsrooms to see what is really going on, as was the case before. Little did we know that we had been warned before, long, long ago:

O you who believe, if an evildoer comes to you with a report, look carefully into it, lest you harm a people in ignorance, then be sorry for what you have done! Al-Qur’an(49:6)

Now most of us are quite sorry for our chosen ignorance. Perhaps, we chose not to believe. Finally, due to social media, after nearly a century of silence the world has seen some semblance of the truth. Not perhaps as true as Salman bin Farsi’, but many are getting there. The conflict effectively began as early as 1897 when the Zionist Organization, now ironically known as the WZO (W, stands for World) rose to full throttle in 1948 and now simmers and seethes to this day. And the battle is not perhaps on the face of it about God, the Promised Land, or the Dangerous Neighbor. As Robert Fisk has stated, “as usual, it’s about land.” Veni, vidi, vici. Wonder why the Arabs said, “You’re welcome,” in the first place. A fitting remix of Caesar’s words have now retuned in a rap song.

I came, I saw, I conquered, I shot you down

Your brain no have no conscious, don’t make a sound

I came, I saw, I conquered, what you do now?

Your brain no have no conscious, what you do?

Don’t make a sound…

But social media finally helped the hitherto silent global community speak, and shout. Protests are being raged, petitions are being signed, boycotts are being advocated, webpages are being designed, images, stories, videos are being shared. But many mouths are left gaping in silence. How could someone bully a people like that? How could anyone stand up and root for such bullies? How can anyone not say a word? How can an oppressed people not react? The fact that Protective Edge is a retaliation for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers is not new news. What happened to the boys was wrong, unacceptable, and unsavory. And so, IDF killed not three, but four boys playing football on a beach. If simply, and callously, mere numbers are looked at, and the Jewish and Islamic principle of lex talionis – eye for an eye, or qisas – which both religious communities (among other things agree on) is followed, retribution has been grossly served. But the IDF is not winning by just one number, but by a hundred. The retribution is being unleashed on thousands, and nearly 600 have already paid for it, of which 76% are civilians, and 45% women and children, according to the UN’s Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Yet still protocol demands that this just may be amounting to war crimes. And finger-pointing is always convenient: “ask them, they started it.” But the Arabs can turn around and make the same claim when the conflict began to take its monstrous form nearly half a century ago.

“With the establishment of a relationship of oppression, violence has already begun. Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed. …There would be no oppressed had there been no prior of violence to establish their subjugation.” – Paulo Freire.

Both nations have met with oppression in their religious history. Both nations have met with oppression in their recent living history. How can they not understand what it means, and what it entails? How can Hamas’s reaction be simply dismissed as terrorism? How can a home-made rocket be the same as DIME munitions? How can a one-minute warning phone-call be adequate for an entire home to wrap up, pack up, and run for their lives? How can a stone stand in the way of a tank ready to bulldoze? How can the global audience not stir and shout? How can those who have the reins of power wear blinders themselves? As journalist, Ferrari Sheppard noted during his recent trip to Israel-Palestine,

“Zionism has convinced many Jews that they are preserving themselves. The common thought is that if the “savage” Palestinians stop resisting, stop shooting rockets, stop fighting Israel’s inevitable domination, there can be peace. I find this peculiar because during my visit, I felt no danger from Palestinians, only from Israeli soldiers. Perhaps it’s because I’m accustomed to being hunted in America. There is no Palestinian-Israeli conflict; there is only oppression.”

This is a lopsided war. There is no contest really between unequal players. The Nazis were no match for the Jews. The Israel State is no match for a marginalized Palestinian group. The issue of Palestine is not just about a people being wronged and punished for being different. It’s not just about power either anymore. It’s a tug of war for survival, with millions that have been swept away in the struggle. The Jews who have witnessed the horror of the Holocaust have seen how generations have been wasted, never to recover. And the same fate and horror awaits the Palestinian people. Gideon Levy, a survivor of the Holocaust and a prominent literary figure of the Israelite community, poignantly points out:

“I am amazed again and again at how little Israelis know of what’s going on fifteen minutes away from their homes,” he says. “The brainwashing machinery is so efficient that trying [to undo it is] almost like trying to turn an omelette back to an egg. It makes people so full of ignorance and cruelty.”

Yeats was wrong. It really does not take a gyre to unspiral itself through the ages to show how history recklessly regurgitates. History is ruthless in its repetition. We see it every day now on our Facebook pages and our tweets, unravelling as a protracted and pathetic global human tragedy. And we, as the audience, wait yet again – to see what happens next.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Hajrah Khan

About the author

Hajrah Khan is a thinker and English Language and Literature teacher at a leading private school in Lahore, Pakistan

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  1. Intense read. Your article provides the readers with a wider perspective by presenting history and widely held beliefs versus the reality very effectively, I must say.

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