The Zero-Sum of Pakistan and Israel | Abubakar Farooqui | Episode 5 – Rationale-47
Israel and Pakistan are two anomalies in the modern nation-state system that emerged as a well-established reality in the aftermath of Treaty of West-Phalia. This treaty ended a famous thirty years war between various nations and religion was a major factor of conflict along with other factors such as territory and dynasty. The treaty associated nationhood with territory and gave birth to the modern secular nation-state system that is dominant in International Relations for more than a hundred years now. The case of Pakistan and Israel is intriguing in international relations as both are not typical nation-states unlike other states of the world.
1917 was a very important year in the modern history of the world. In the midst of a world war in which Muslims’ Ottoman empire was being defeated, the British, the global superpower back then, pledged to establish a jewish homeland, read Zionist state, right in the heart of Palestine which was under Ottoman control. In another article we shall look into why Britain went on to pledge establishment of Israel during the war in detail. Here, we shall look into how this marked the beginning of the world’s first modern ideological state to be, that eventually became second in 1948, as Pakistan managed to become the first in 1947.
Pakistan’s founding political party and its founding fathers including Allama Iqbal and Quaid-i-Azam vehemently resisted against the agenda of international heavy weights that aimed to establish Israel in the heart of Palestine. In 1934, Jinnah proposed a Muslim League Delegation to inform the viceroy of the plight of Palestine and how Muslims of India believed the Balfour Declaration was illegitimate and unjust. In 1936, Muslim League commemorated the Palestine Day in solidarity with the Muslim brethren in Palestine. The Lucknow session of the League candidly opposed British policy against Palestine. Pakistan’s founder Jinnah stated,
I am speaking not only of the Musalmans of India but of the world,Muhammad Ali Jinnah
when I say that Great Britain will be digging its grave if she fails to honor her
original proclamations, promises and intentions – pre-war and even post war –
which were so unequivocally expressed to the Arabs and the world at large
The Lahore Resolution that officially marked the beginning of an independent Muslim homeland named Pakistan had also approved a resolution in favour of Palestine against the creation of the state of Israel. This was in-line with what Pakistan’s idea and its leaders stood for. Pakistan, while being a Muslim homeland could not condone a Jewish homeland at the heart of another homeland of Muslims. In this context, Pakistan’s founder Jinnah made another blunt statement in support of Palestine and against the illegal state of Israel which is worth mentioning here,
Every man and woman of the Muslim world will die before Jewry seizes Jerusalem. I hope the Jews will not succeed in their nefarious designs and I wish Britain and America should keep their hand off and then I will see how the Jews conquer Jerusalem. The Jews, over half a million, have already been accommodated in Jerusalem against the wishes of the people. May I know which other country has accommodated them? If domination and exploitation are carried now, there will be no peace and end of warsMuhammad Ali Jinnah, October 12, 1945
After the establishment of both Pakistan and Israel, in 1947 and 1948, the ideological rivalry took some new turns. Israel’s founding father David Ben Gurion, who also was the first prime minister sent a telegram to Pakistan’s founding father, requesting Pakistan to recognise the state of Israel. Jinnah had turned the request down immediately. Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan visited United States for the first time and during that visit he met US industrialists who offered huge investments in Pakistan in case the country recognised the state of Israel. Pakistani prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan turned the offer down stating “Gentlemen! Our (Pakistan’s) soul is not for sale!”
During Arab-Israel conflict, Israeli embassy detected intelligence that Pakistan was openly supporting Arab resistance and for that matter Pakistan had bought 250,000 rifles from CzechoSlovakia for resisting Israel. Later, the embassy confirmed that Pakistan had bought three military aircrafts too that were meant for Egypt. Pakistan’s role in the six day Arab Israel war in 1967 and Yom Kippur war between Arabs and Israel was also very important. Pakistan sent its fighter pilots who flew Egyptian and Syrian aircrafts that shot down many aircrafts of the Israeli Air force. Saif-ul-Azam and Sattar Alvi were among the Pakistani pilots who shot down the Israeli aircrafts.
Why Pakistan is so bitterly Opposed to Israel?
In the recent debate that was deliberately sparked in Pakistan by some elements that desperately want Pakistan to establish relations with Israel, it was argued that Pakistan’s support to the Palestine cause and opposition to the state of Israel was not in line with rational decision-making. The argument came from the same people who want Pakistan to drop its ideology and act as a secular state in the international system, while Israel continues to act upon its ideological designs without facing much resistance either by international media, inter-governmental organisations, multi-national corporations and civil societies. It was also argued that international politics was an arena of national interest and that Pakistan should look at its own interest by stop pleasing the Arab world with its pro-Palestine and harshly anti-Israel policy which had brought no benefit to the state.
First, the argument that Pakistan’s decision-making regarding Israel is irrational, is subjective. There is no single criteria to determine whether a policy action of a state is entirely rational. The realist school of international relations proposes that the states are rational actors which is an intriguing proposition but it should be kept in mind that the realist school of international relations is an entirely materialist discourse which does not take into account, ideology and morality. In the case of an ideological state like Pakistan or Israel, to determine what is rational, it is imperative to look at ideology and identity construction too. In simpler words, if a state stands for something which serves to be the basis of its identity, it will be highly irrational for that state to ignore it for the sake of a policy just because the policy is more materialistic in its nature and brings more benefit than the cost in material terms.
Second, the argument that Pakistan should stop pleasing the Arab world by opposing Israel and making an enemy out of Israel at a great cost is based on flawed interpretation of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan’s policy on Israel is not at all based on the policy of Arab world towards Israel. It is undoubtedly a factor in Pakistan’s calculus that most of the Arab world and the Muslim world does not recognise the state of Israel but it is not the only factor. Pakistan’s stance towards Israel is a legal, moral and ideological position that is in position way before the creation of the state of Pakistan as already explained above. What this means then, is that recognition of Israel for Pakistan is not to be determined by the policies of Arab states, none of which is an ideological state, in contrast with Pakistan.
As far as making an enemy out of Israel is concerned, this is bound to occur not because of Pakistan’s stance but because of what Pakistan’s idea stands for. The idea of Muslim nationalism or the Two-nation theory, its application in Pakistan’s case, is an antithesis of the raison detre of the state of Israel. Due to this ideology, Pakistan’s support to Muslims across the globe has been a permanent goal of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Similarly, most of the Jews across the globe are committed to the cause of Israel notwithstanding the fact that their majority does not reside in Israel.
Israel is not Pakistan’s supposed enemy, it has been collaborating with India to destabilize Pakistan from within as well as it is in a strategic partnership with India. Israel’s former PM Golda Meir decided to divert arms meant for Iran to India during the 1971 war with Pakistan that resulted in the fall of Pakistan’s Eastern wing. She even sent a note addressed to then Indian PM Indira Gandhi asking for diplomatic ties in return for arms. Israel had planned a preventive airstrike on Pakistan’s nuclear facility in 1998 in collusion with India, in line with its Begin doctrine, which did not play out. During Kargil conflict in 1999, Israel directly helped India against Pakistan by providing mortars and ammunition to India. Israel also provided Indian jets with laser guided missiles. During India-Pakistan stand off in February 2019, Pakistan reported it had clear intelligence of Israel’s collusion with India at strategic level.
Another argument for accepting Israel, presented by those who want Pakistan to drop its ideological identity, is that there are no permanent friends or enemies in international politics. This again, is an argument based on flawed perception of international politics. It is flawed because this perception is entirely based on the Eurocentric theoretical framework of international relations, which indeed is dominant reality in the modern international world order but is neither the absolute truth nor a law in international relations. On top of it, in case of ideological states whose raison detre or national purpose is tied to an ideology, which it is in the case of Pakistan, the situation becomes entirely different when a state with an entirely opposite ideology is under question. For example, no permanent enemy does not fit Pakistan when it has a permanent enemy in India whose raison detre or identity is based on ideas which are opposite to the ideology of Pakistan. Similarly, Israel’s raison detre is an ideology that runs counter to the idea of the state of Pakistan. How long will then Pakistan and India or Pakistan and Israel remain enemies you might ask. Well, as long as Pakistan, India and Israel stand firm on their ideologies.
Another argument regarding recognition of Israel is that Pakistan has already recognised the state of India, despite the fact that India remains an occupier of Pakistan-claimed Indian Occupied Kashmir. Why then, Pakistan hesitates to do the same for Israel? Well, the answer of this question is simpler. It is because India’s entire existence is not illegal or invalid and as a matter of fact, Pakistan carved its territory out of India which existed as British India long before the creation of Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan doesn’t recognise Indian control over certain territories. On the other hand, Israel’s existence to Pakistan is invalid from the first day. Israel’s claim to Jerusalem being its capital rings alarm bells in Islamabad as Pakistanis consider Jerusalem as their Qibla-e-Awwal (old santuary) and an integral part of the state of Palestine. Pakistan also argues that there are UN resolutions on the Israel-Palestine conflict which Israel must adhere to, and India too must follow, before recognition could be considered.
Another argument is the impact of Israeli lobby in international politics which is significant and cannot be ignored. As a matter of fact, two famous scholars of international relations namely John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt authored a fabulous book on it named, “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” which explained how a consortium of Israel’s lobbies influences to a great extent the foreign policy of the world’s superpower. It is said by the proponents of the above mentioned argument that recognition of Israel will open this lobby’s support to Pakistan which could be put to use for diplomatic manuoevers which would ultimately aid Pakistan in international politics.
In response to this argument, the key question to be asked is whether a lobby that has played a central roles in decimating muslim countries across the globe and resulted in killings of hundreds of thousands of innocent muslims for the sake of the national interests of Israel in line with the zionist ideology of greater Israel, can be expected to make space for Pakistan’s interests especially when a safer and stronger Pakistan is the last thing that Israel would ever want? Of course, a strong Pakistan that can assist Muslim countries across the globe and that can threaten states to deter them from attacking Muslims will never be in Israel’s interest, unless Pakistan drops its very ideas or Israel drops its very ideas it stands for. If it makes sense why Pakistan would not make a grand compromise with India by stepping back on Kashmir, in return for some support in international arena, the rejection of Israeli lobby’s support should easily make sense.
Finally, as the times are changing especially with Arab states going for recognition of Israel one after another, Pakistan’s role as an ideological state in the Muslim world is becoming even more prominent. Pakistan’s principled stance on Israel has earned it a lot of respect once again in the Muslim world. It is indeed the time for Islamabad to look allies in the Muslim world, including Arabs and Non-Arabs, that are ready to share ambitions especially when Turkey and Qatar are already on-board. Getting repeatedly snubbed by our allies on Kashmir does not mean Pakistan should stab Palestine to hurt Arabs, and that would not even hurt Arabs rather major Arab states want this already, but it means Pakistan should not give up on what it stands for and prioritise support from those states that are ready to stand with it.
About The Author
Abubakar Farooqui is the brains behind Rationale-47. He Studied International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. His areas of interest include National Security of Pakistan and International Politics, particularly of South Asia and Middle East. He tweets @AbubakarTweets
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47