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Born of Conflict, Battle-Proven for Profit

Israeli arms’ trades to Africa bear prolonged oppression of Palestinians and Africans alike


In today’s world, access to arms goes hand in hand with political strategy – and for those desperate enough, no price is too high to sell or buy arms.

This becomes blatantly obvious in the case of Israel, a country well-known for its breaches of international law and active displacement of Palestinians. But Israel and its mercenaries have made headlines for many other reasons in recent years: from the current revelation of bribes to Liberian officials in exchange for political support, the supply of arms to the regime of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines during an ongoing ICC investigation, to the EU and the US turning a blind eye to Israel selling arms to Myanmar, despite an ongoing arms embargo.

The price of political favors in exchange for weapons is not too high – not even when a country’s own people are publicly outraged about it – and most especially not when one is desperate to keep their forced control over a population.

Following the recent expansion of the Abraham Accords between Arab countries and Israel to include Morocco in its cooperation in the fields of intelligence, air defense and electronic warfare, renewed anger has been voiced across social media platforms by Moroccans, Palestinians and those allied to the Palestinian cause. At least 64% of Moroccans are in opposition to normalization, despite bringing with it the recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Occupied Western Sahara by both Israel and the US. While this is not a new development, it is crucial to recognize that this has been the State of Israel’s (SoI) strategy since its foundation in 1948 and is inherently tied to colonial structures.

Already in 2014, in the aftermath of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, Khury Peterson-Smith, stated that “The US and Israel make the connections for us”, having faced brutal repression through the police in the form of the chemical malodorant skunk water, that was acquired for use in Ferguson after the 2014 unrests. Skunk water was developed as a tool of “crowd-control”, for usage in the Occupied West Bank. Although not physically dangerous, it is considered inhumane, as the smell of feces and other contents will stick to the skin for weeks after use – a characteristic sometimes utilized to mark people.

The activist also pointed out the urban police forces, which violently suppressed protestors in Ferguson, were the same ones trained in Israel, as part of an ongoing military exchange. Israel, in turn, is set to receive $38 B in military aid from the USA across ten years, following a 2016 deal.

While the USA may be Israel’s main supplier of arms, Israel’s arms sales have long since expanded to the Global South. Israel itself has not ratified the Arms Trade Treaty, which prohibits the sales of weapons at risk of being used in genocide and crimes against humanity. Israel, under signatory status, has not implemented accountability mechanisms to oversee arms sales, even though SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) had pointed out Israel’s refusal to disclose its sales, most of which were done by intermediaries and private expats. Reports by NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and other investigations show the various recipients of Israel’s arms, e.g. in visual proof of Galil rifles in South Sudan. Although Amnesty International suspects that these were imported prior to the 2015 arms embargo included in the sanctions, rifles originally sold to Uganda in 2007 were seen used by South Sudanese forces following the embargo, constituting a further breach of the ban on arms transfers. Only months after the embargo, Israel invited South Sudanese officials to its 2015 weapons expo in Tel Aviv.

In 2017 Israeli lawyer Eitay Mack inquired about the nature of these sales to countries falling under arms embargoes, such as South Sudan, as export licenses continued to be issued for “military equipment deemed defensive”. He also called upon Israeli officials to immediately revoke the licenses and lead a criminal investigation of the issue. After receiving all relevant information from the defense ministry, the Israeli high court agreed there was nothing unlawful about these sales, and kept court procedures under a gag order. Israel is renowned for its secrecy agreements with various states, and its refusal to comment on the nature of recent sales to Sri Lanka.

Most recently, access to free information was provoked by Mack and historian Yair Auron, who filed access via the Israeli Freedom of Information Act to uncover Israel’s history of arms trade to Rwanda during the genocide. This enterprise was cut short, as the court argued that information on Israel’s trainings of militias and government forces ahead of the genocide, just like its role in providing arms during the genocide, would fall under Section 9 of Israel’s Freedom of Information Act and, on grounds of harming its foreign relations and furthermore concerning the actions of the Defense Ministry, shall not be disclosed.

The story, however, does not end with aiding militias and forces involved in the Rwandan genocide: Israel has provided military training to African countries for decades. As early as 1959, Israeli support was requested by the Belgians who found Israeli techniques to be “useful” to their rule over the Congo – while asserting that Africa provided great economic potential to Israel. Later, Zaire’s connection to Israel remained friendly in nature, due to military support in exchange for access to Zaire’s diamonds. Israel, however, saw its greatest profit in the nature of these exchanges turning “quasi diplomatic”.

Notably, the profitability of Israeli arms is inherently linked to the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories, and specifically the siege on Gaza, as shown by the UK based Campaign Against Arms Trade in 2021.

This profitability of frequent attacks on the besieged Gaza strip not only play into the hands of the Israeli arms industry and political rhetoric at large, which profit immensely from the ongoing siege of Gaza, but directly benefit arms companies, too. A striking example of this was the increase in profits during the first month of the 2014 war on Gaza – euphemistically titled “Operation Protective Edge” by Israel. Israel’s largest weapons provider, Elbit Systems, observed a profit increase of 6.4%. Having been ‘tested’ upon the captive population of Gaza, Israeli weapons then enter the global arena, marketed as “battle-proven”. This distinguishing fact boosts trade to repressive regimes, worldwide.

Retaliatory measures and acts of collective punishment, such as further limitations on freedom of movement and economic pressure, are to be expected from the SoI should Palestinian officials demand accountability from international institutions, such as the ICC, the ICJ and the UN. The Palestinian Authority’s appeal at UNGA was considered “political and legal war against the State of Israel”, according to a statement released by the Israeli Prime Minister on January 6th.

This type of threatened punishment by means of political and/or economic sanctions extends into pushing and mobilizing for the withdrawal of international support for the independence of the State of Palestine through the normalization of state relations between Arab or African states with Israel. Nevertheless, many of these states, who previously had NDAs with Israel, were already actively engaged in purchasing weapons. Despite not being formalized for years to come, relations of this type constituted not only a form of trade but also a type of political alliance themselves.

One of the many results of this informal building of relations was the attempt by Israel to persuade the U.S. and European states to lift the sanctions against Sudan, following the end of Sudan’s alliance with Iran.

Looking at the conditions on the ground in Palestine, there are claims that Israel’s global fight against antisemitism had been “null and void” from the beginning in light of the apartheid-like structures and racist laws. To genuinely fight against antisemitism, it would be necessary to end racism inside and outside Israel – and this would effectively mean putting an end to Israeli support for racist and genocidal regimes across the world.

With regards to normalization, it is evident that severing the ties with undemocratic or repressive regimes and those actively engaging in genocidal warfare is not in Israel’s interest. Following joint military trainings, a Nigerian government spokesman noted seeing Israel as an ally in fighting Boko Haram in 2015, citing Israel’s experience “fighting terror within its own borders“. While the Nigerian government has gained notoriety for indiscriminate arrests and mass imprisonment on suspicion of aiding and abetting terror, it has additionally begun to employ Elbit’s cybersecurity software, increasing suspicions of possible human rights violations and misuse of the technology. Given the Israeli armed forces’ egregious and illegal occupation of the West Bank and besiegement of Gaza, this leaves the question: is Nigeria, despite its alleged support for the Two-State Solution, giving Israel the green light for further annexation of the occupied West Bank?

Internationally, Palestine solidarity activists, environmental activists and groups campaigning against the international arms trade have been disrupting the expansion of weapons sales, affecting Israeli manufacturers specifically. The most notable of such campaigns is the ongoing effort by the U.K-based direct action network Palestine Action, who vow to dismantle British support for the apartheid state’s continued genocide of Palestinian people by targeting Elbit Systems, an Israeli weapons manufacturer with a strong presence in the U.K. Elbit’s two permanently closed premises, in London and Manchester, as well as the multi-million-pound contract losses with the British Ministry of Defense, testify to the success of the sustained and relentless direct action technique employed by Palestine Action. Further underscoring the link between Israeli crimes and negative environmental impact, the group also collaborated with local chapters of Extinction Rebellion in the occupation of Elbit’s now-abandoned headquarters in London, in April 2022.

Meanwhile, in Weelaunee Forest, Atlanta one activist has been murdered and many more brutalized in the efforts to Stop Cop City, a ‘police training facility’ which will train and accommodate police forces also trained by Isaeli forces. Police forces in Atlanta, Georgia, have long been part of a training program titled “GILEE”, in which they are trained in “counter-terrorism tactics”. What started out as a brief program in 1996, in preparation for the Olympics, has developed into a program of multiple training excursions a year. Organizers and anti-racist activists, such as the Community Movement Builders, however, have kept an eye on this training program in their fight for the de-funding and abolition of the police and demand that,

“Police Departments will terminate all contracts with military and mercenary consultants. In particular, any and all contracts with the Israeli Defense Force or any subsidiary that trains police in the U.S. to use the same deadly tactics used against Palestinians fighting for their human rights.”

As pointed out by the campaign End the Deadly Exchange, a campaign against mutual training programs between the USA and Israel, “In these programs, ‘worst practices’ are shared to promote and extend discriminatory and repressive policing in both countries. These include racial profiling, massive spying and surveillance, deportation and detention, and attacks on human rights defenders.”

To better understand the global effect of the spread of Israeli arms, technology, and methodology, it is paramount to extend our gaze beyond this most obvious connection.

In pursuit of democracy, we should follow the links created through the transfer of arms and military knowledge, especially those included in NDAs. Obstruction of access to information to its own population, measures have to be undertaken to ensure necessary information is provided internationally in a timely manner, regardless of whether or not this is considered to be putting Israel’s foreign relations at risk. After all, the international community must follow its obligation to protect people, not profit, and counteract Israel’s deliberate sidelining of human rights violations as it does globally.

First steps have also been taken by the Pan-African Palestine Solidarity network, founded in 2021 with members across 20 countries, that calls for the removal of Israel as an observer state to the African Union in accordance with the AU’s anticolonial nature. Israel is hereby identified as a danger to anti-colonial movements and, based on its repeated violation of international law, to the AU.

Alys Samson Estapé warns: “The crimes Israel commits against the Palestinian people do not stay in the Occupied Territories. They are transformed into knowledge which is then sold so that other Israeli and international companies can profit off of them.


Open Letter from Sudan Uprising to the German Foreign Office

People cannot escape the war in Sudan because their passports are trapped in the German Embassy.


Dear employees of the German Foreign Office

We, members of the Sudanese Diaspora in Germany, and people with friends and family in Sudan, appeal to you with the urgent request that you release the passports of Sudanese citizens, which were inside the German embassy in Khartoum at the outbreak of war, and that you return them to their owners.

On 15th April, 2023, war broke out in Sudan. In Khartoum and other cities military and militia are fighting against each other, at the expense of the civil population. They are destroying the country with firearms and air fire, and buildings are burning as a result of explosives. Already over 500 people have been killed.

The war has caused 330,000 people to flee, and over 100,000 have already crossed the border into other countries. People whose passports were in the German embassy on 15th April for processing and visa issue have been unable to cross the border. The situation in Sudan is very critical. There are no administrative structures and prices are rising drastically, making it impossible for people to apply for new passports.

This puts them in a difficult situation and forces them to stay trapped by the war. Even in places where there is currently no fighting, the humanitarian situation is getting worse. This means that people without passports are being left behind.

In your press release on 3rd Mai 2023, you accepted that “a three-digit number of passports” is affected. Despite personal inquiries, the number of people who are directly affected has not been released. It is incomprehensible how – in the globally networked and digitalised world of the 21st Century – passports cannot be quickly returned, at the very least in digital format.

We request you to perform the following actions immediately:

  • Immediate return of all Sudanese passports to their owners

  • Enable people to flee from Sudan

  • Evacuate all Sudanese citizens with German passports or visas to Germany.

  • Publish the exact number of affected people and transparently explain how these cases will proceed.

  • Facilitate family reunions immediately, not just for Sudanese people in Germany, but also for people from other countries who have family members in Sudan and are living here, for example, people from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia or Yemen.

We unequivocally urge you to act quickly. We are worried about our families and friends, whose lives are in danger. The large-scale evacuation of German citizens showed that Germany is able to act quickly and professionally. We ask you urgently to also do this for non-German citizens. Not least, we want to make you aware of the ethical responsible of Germany. We find ourselves in a situation in which the lives of human beings are being put into danger by bureaucratic procedures.

Yours sincerely

Sudan Uprising Germany

Notes from ‘Terf island’

Tories, gender critics and the far right’s war on trans.


On February 11, 16 year-old Brianna Ghey, a trans school student, was stabbed to death in a Warrington park in the North of England. Two teenagers were arrested for her murder. At first the police claimed there was no transphobic motive but they later suggested that it might indeed have been a hate crime.

Over the following week, dozens of large and angry vigils were organised in towns and cities across the UK. In Manchester three thousand people queued to get into the vigil, there were six hundred in Liverpool, over five hundred in York, over four hundred in Leeds.

Speeches at the vigils expressed rage and sadness at her murder. They clearly tapped a vein of visceral anger that has been building over the accelerating attacks on trans people in the UK and elsewhere. These attacks are driven by the right, even if some feminists and even some on the left allow themselves to be drawn in.

Tories, bigots and whole sections of the media in the UK give free rein to transphobic tropes and gender critical voices. Rarely – vanishingly rarely – do they allow trans people’s voices to be heard. The attacks increase trans people’s fears for the future, but also generate resistance and significant radicalisation among young trans people and their supporters.

Brianna’s murder was shocking but sadly, not such a surprise. Hate words inevitably lead to violence and hateful actions. These grow more serious. In late April there was an arson attack on the home of two trans people and a gay man in Whitechapel, London. Trans people are increasingly a community under attack. Trans health care is being steadily and stealthily undermined; funding for support organisations curtailed and rights challenged by crowd-funded legal assaults which have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds. Many trans people justifiably feel their very existence is under direct threat.

Murders like that of Brianna Ghey may be rare in Britain, but tragic and avoidable suicides of desperate and marginalised trans people are far from rare.

Culture Wars

At the vigils many trans people said it felt like a moment had been reached, in the fightback against the transphobic moral panic. Desires for active resistance to transphobia coincide with a wave of strikes fuelled by high inflation, soaring consumer energy prices and cuts in real pay.

The strikes that began nearly a year ago are immensely popular drew hundreds of thousands of workers into action against a Tory government which trails by 20 points in polls. The Tories just lost hundreds of councillors in the local elections in England. The standard response of governments and regimes in crisis is to ramp up oppression and scapegoat vulnerable groups to divert from their problems.

Resistance to attacks on living standards, transphobia and racist attacks on refugees and migrants has never been so important or so interlinked. ‘Culture wars’ are intended to divide our side, to pit one oppressed group against others and divert anger away from the real culprits, the bosses, the rich and the Tories. Yet there’s a truth that history teaches us – one oppressed group never betters itself by attacking the rights of another or siding with a ruling class against a vulnerable minority. The fortunes of oppressed groups rise together or they fall together.

On the right, the organisations and individuals who attack trans rights also attack women’s rights. Women’s lives don’t improve as the lives of trans people come under attack. In Hungary Viktor Orban’s right wing populist government followed up attacks on trans people by restricting abortion rights, banning gender studies at universities, and declaring LGBT+ rights to be inimical to the nuclear family. In Russia Putin’s government has for years attacked trans and LGBT+ rights. Putin’s tame parliament, the Duma, is now considering a new law to declare feminism an ‘extremist ideology’.

In the US right-wing zealots pushed over 450 anti-trans bills at state level, including genital inspections of children playing school sports if suspected of ‘being trans’, or prosecuting parents of trans children for supporting their child. They also celebrate the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. They also campaign to ban sex and relationship education in schools.

In the UK, the Tory government blocked the vote in the Scottish parliament earlier this year to update and amend the Gender Recognition Act to introduce self-ID. The same government continues to cut funding for domestic violence refuges and refuses to address the gender pay gap. Sunak’s weak and unpopular government plans to force schools and teachers to report LGBT+ children to their parents, directly putting many such children at risk. They drawing from the playbook of anti-trans zealots like governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. De Santis just visited the UK and heaped praise on Tory transphobes like Kemi Badenoch, the Equality Minister.

The fake-feminist gender critical organisations that emerged in the past six or seven years (Fair Play for Women, Women’s Place UK, the LGB Alliance, For Women UK and so on) do not speak for women or even a majority of feminists despite their claims. The vast majority of women’s organisations offering support in areas like domestic violence and rape remain trans inclusive. Indeed, at least one of these organisations was sued by gender critical groups because it employs a trans person.

This in itself gives the lie to the notion that gender critics and transphobes are only interested in protecting women and girls. It comprehensively reveals the hypocrisy of their claims to defend women’s rights. In reality their only purpose is to focus their ideological hostility and political energies on attacking trans people’s legal and human rights, and exclude them from the social spaces they have used for decades.

They ignore the very real threats to women’s rights. They often work with the most reactionary defenders of traditional values and the nuclear family. This includes accepting funding for legal challenges, conferences and so on from the very organisations that work to undermine women’s reproductive rights, bodily autonomy and equal rights.

They bring together people who may claim that they just ‘have concerns’, or just ‘want to debate’ or ‘just want to safeguard women and girls’. But as they become right-radicalised, their resistance to rational argument; their unwillingness to accept credible scientific evidence; and their ideological dogmatism underpinned by sex essentialism and shared hostility to ‘gender ideology’ – tag them as a cult-like hate movement.

Cover for Fascists

Many provide political cover for fascists and antisemites. Their enabling of the far right is the price they pay to promote their shared transphobic aims. Gender critics are notoriously slow to distance themselves from fascists and the right, including their antisemitism. Many legitimise the far right’s transphobia by citing their right to ‘free speech’.

Their shameful political blindness to the far right and fascist organisations constitutes a dangerous entry point for the right’s views. Their ‘anti-woke’, conspiracy theory, anti-working-class agenda, opens the door to fascists – who see trans rights, and anti-migrant agitation, as wedge issues to attract a larger audience.

Since mid-2022 fascist groups like Patriotic Alternative, Hearts of Oak and individuals like Tommy Robinson, often posing as ‘concerned parents’, have been trying to shut down Drag Queen Story Hour events. They and the gender critics have attacked those as examples of ‘grooming’ by ‘gender and sexual perverts’ undermining the nuclear family.

In Australia sieg heiling neo-Nazis supported Posey Parker’s recent ‘Let Women Speak’ tour, was funded by wealthy US organisations like CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Coalition. The protests in Australia and New Zealand were large, angry and successful. Parker (real name Kelley-Jay Keen-Minshull) was forced to cut short her tour and scuttle home.

Yet despite the press and media showcasing of ‘gender critics’, they’ve actually had limited impact on public attitudes towards trans people.  Large UK surveys in 2022 – the ‘More In Common study’ – showed attitudes to trans people remain broadly either supportive or non-committal. A recent Fox News poll in the US found that 57 percent of the population are unhappy with the attacks on trans children.

What’s also been great has been the size of many of the counter-protests in support of Drag Queen Story Hour which have severely blunted the campaigns to shut them down. This is not restricted to the UK. A recent counter-protest in Vienna on April 19 drew over 1000 people to defend the event against around 200 assorted fascists, Catholic bigots and members of the youth wing of the far-right Freedom Party.

Building Resistance

Trans people and their supporters are angry and there’s a growing sense of urgency about building resistance to the onslaught. The minimum waiting time for an appointment at a UK gender clinic is now around 5 years; reported hate crimes against trans people jumped by 56% in one year; gender clinics can’t find staff because applicants fear they’ll attract hate press and social media pile-ons. It’s time to fight back.

Socialists start not from weighing up who’s more oppressed than someone else but from a position of unconditional support for all the oppressed. We aim to be, as Lenin urged over a century ago, tribunes of all the oppressed and exploited. We recognise that oppression in the capitalist system is endemic. It stems from social class, class struggle and the social relations of production and reproduction that arise from this exploitative system. The blind drive to maximise the accumulation of capital spawns one existential threat to humanity after another, encouraging those in power to ‘divide and rule’ and ramp up the oppression of vulnerable sections of society.

The ideology of the nuclear family and the heteronormativity and gender binary assumptions inherent to it are why sexism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia are so deeply rooted in capitalism. Women’s liberation, gay liberation and trans liberation require the overthrow of the system before they can be achieved.

Building united fronts to defend trans rights is an urgent necessity. These must pull together trans and cisgender people with quite diverse understandings of oppression but who recognise we must stand together against the bigots. For Marxists we go further – we understand the need to see what Marx called the totality of the capitalist system. That requires collective class resistance to fight oppression, and goes hand in hand with fighting the exploitation we face in the workplace.

We argue for building a revolutionary political organisation to unite the most class conscious workers organised to overturn the power of the capitalist ruling class. We need organisations to mobilise the tremendous collective power of workers. Most trans people are also working class and it’s in the interests of not just them but the whole working class to fight transphobia. Just as it is in the class’s interests to fight racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and sexism.

That’s one reason why it’s so important to fight for trade union involvement in the protests against transphobia, to get banners and delegations from workplaces and unions along to trans pride events, vigils and commemorations. That’s not always a popular position to hold today among trans people. Some activists influenced by identity theory and privilege theory think that trans people should only organise by themselves. But this hardly makes sense when trans people are probably less than one percent of the population. It also relegates cis supporters to the status of ‘allies’, a concept that runs counter to the socialist notion of solidarity.

Some trans activists, especially if influenced by autonomist politics, can be suspicious of trade union and socialist involvement in the fightback. This runs against the need to build the broadest possible working class united fronts against transphobia. We are stronger together, and we need to recognise and involve the potential power of workers in the workplaces. Not least because much trans hostility happens in the workplace and in employment discrimination. Fundamentally a divided working class risks catastrophic defeats.

We socialists say that history is not on the side of the transphobes. We can and will organise to roll back attacks, and we can win. But to permanently stop reactionaries from attacking our gains, we have to pose the big questions. That is how to achieve not just ‘tolerance’ or even ‘acceptance’, but respect and liberation. As capitalism continues to give rise to ever more existential crises for humanity those questions, and the answers that Marxists offer, can no longer be ducked or postponed.

What is Pakistan?

Imagine a military with a state attached to it but is also the 5th most populated country in the world.


Visiting my “homeland” after 13 years was, among other things, enlightening. For years I hesitated to express any strong opinions on Pakistan because I did not want to become the stereotypical diaspora Pakistani throwing stones at the glass slum from whence I came. I had harboured my suspicions for years about how plainly terrible existence in that country is. Witnessing the prevailing attitudes in person along with Instagram’s algorithm noticing, with Eye-of-Sauron alertness, that I might have some relationship to the country has given some confirmation to my suspicions.

My “for you” page is flush with content from Pakistan that basically falls under three categories: celebrity gossip, politics, and what I would call gristle to the mill of popular libidinal obsessions. The last category obviously needs some explanation. I’ll share an exhibit.

A graphic from a popular Buzzfeed clone in Pakistan

This graphic is the one that nudged me over the edge to write a piece on Pakistan. Notice the framing of a wife “demanding” half of his fortune and the revelatory tone regarding him “dodging the bullet” by putting everything in his mother’s name. The footballer plays for Morocco and Paris Saint-Germain so one wonders why anyone in Pakistan should care in the first instance, but more on that later.

Three essential cultural declarations are being made in this image: fuck women who make any demands on men; never, ever become independent from your mother; a win for any Muslim is a win for Pakistanis. It should be added that the above footballer is also facing charges of raping a woman, but mentioning that may undermine these three declarations.

I can’t overstate the third, implicit declaration. To fully understand it, one has to have a reasonable answer to the question: What is Pakistan?

To begin our inquiry, it helps to know what Pakistan isn’t. Pakistan is 1) not a real country 2) not a republic, and 3) not on the verge of a sudden, fantastic boom of prosperity.

Pakistan is better described as a military with a state glued to it; but the glue is not very good so the military and the state seem to hang on to each other for support, looking like a very uncomfortable, disjointed alternating piggy back ride.

Pakistan is said to be composed of four major provinces. Also untrue. It is composed of half of a province with the remaining half in India (Punjab), a city with a province glued to it (Karachi and the lands of Sindh), and two regions of land that would would much rather secede but are dragged along for a very uncomfortable ride (Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa). The national language of Pakistan is Urdu, a language popularised in the old royal courts of New Delhi (India), Lucknow (India), and Lahore. Nobody speaks it as a primary language, except only to poorly understand people who speak a different regional language than oneself. The language is often referred to as a language of armies — a composite of many regional languages.

Pakistan used to have another “province” called East Pakistan, modern day Bangladesh, which was separated by about 2000 kilometers from the other so-called provinces. How did that work you might ask? Well, it didn’t. The moment East Pakistan exerted some national sovereignty, the Western half invaded the country, carried out a campaign of rape and genocide, and promptly got their asses beat when the military reality of invading a country 2000 km away surrounded by your much bigger arch rival caught up with them.

Pakistan is also the 5th most populated country in the world, behind only China, India, the USA, and Indonesia. If Bangladesh had remained part of this strange contraption masquerading as a state, it would only be behind China and India in the population league. The more I think about Pakistan, the more flabbergasted I am that people refer to it as a country. The closest analogue I can find to this fissiparous construct is Belgium, but Pakistan makes even Belgians look as unified as the Swiss confederation.

Pakistan is also trying to get a bailout from the IMF, its thirteenth (yes 13th!), to help with its dire economic situation. Currently, the total inflation rate is about 35%, annual food inflation is about 50%, and the balance of payments crisis is so severe that the country is living, quite literally, paycheque to paycheque, with many declaring the country effectively bankrupt. Foreign reserves of currency in Pakistan are barely enough to afford import bills for 4 weeks. It is one giant cauldron of misery.

And then my brother went to die there and dragged me to come witness this misery to pay for my sins.

So how is this not-a-country run exactly? Let me present exhibit B.

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) making a statement about democracy or something

Now I don’t know about yourselves dear readers, but when a man in a military uniform gets in front of a mic and tells me how the people, as opposed to him I guess, have all the power, I don’t feel very assured. Even less so when I regularly see the same man in a uniform regularly be the subject of the headlines every day. And I am not joking at all when I say that writing this blog and making this statement might actually get me abducted (or worse) if the wrong person reads this and gets very annoyed.

It is precisely in this confluence of immiserating conditions that Pakistanis must seek out a self-soothing narrative to act as a palliative for their aching souls. Religious institutions with views ranging from extreme to ISIS begin to function as a ‘third sector’, providing food and indoctrination disguised as education. Islamic fundamentalist parties, organised like clerical fiefdoms, lambast the degeneration of Pakistan from a once proud and optimistic nation sinking due to its own abandonment of “true” religious values. Their influence can be exemplified by the evolving image of Imran Khan’s wives.

Former Prime Minister, philanthropist, and cricketing hero Imran Khan was first married to Jemima Goldsmith — daughter of an Anglo-Irish aristocratic mother and an ultra-millionaire father. Khan himself was seen as a modern, cosmopolitan Pakistani who professed a sincere dedication to seeing his country prosper. That got beaten out of him eventually and he is now married to a woman who is regarded as a faith healer — a sort of evangelical Muslim.

Imran Khan is the most popular politician in the country. He was Prime Minister until April of 2022, when conflicts with the military top brass and his own fractious coalition created the conditions to have him ousted, a move that has made him even more popular than before. In any remotely fair election, it is likely he would win an even stronger mandate than before. However, much of his success is built on building a personality cult, demagoguery about imported governments, generous servings of religious conservatism, and, worst of all, alliances with influential defectors from the corrupted ruling class that he spent all of the 90’s and 00’s railing against.

His opponents are two brothers leading an offshoot of the Muslim League, the founding party of Pakistan, who both owe their rise to power to Pakistan’s longest reigning military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq. Zia-ul-Haq, in his successful 1977 coup backed by Washington, had the founder of the other major opposition party (the Pakistan Peoples Party), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, judicially executed. The current leader of that party is Ali Bhutto’s grandson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, whose mother (and Ali Bhutto’s daughter) Benazir Bhutto was herself the former Prime Minister, and eventually assassinated.

If you are a little confused, you wouldn’t be alone. The ruling class of Pakistan is a politically incestuous mess that takes turns being dominated by the economic and political might of the military. It is ironic that the most organised, wealthy, and popular political party in Pakistan is never on the ballot.

And then the economic question arises. What does the 5th most populated country in the world do to survive economically? How is it that it continually needs to go around begging international creditors every time there is a shock in the world system?

Without going into too much detail, Pakistan’s economy is built on exporting textile products, sports goods, remittances from the diaspora, and land speculation. That’s it really. The country is uncompetitive in the international export markets, suffers from a chronic lack of investment in its industries, and the agrarian sector is plagued with large concentrations of land that are ultimately under-productive. There has never been a comprehensive land reform in the country, barring one abortive attempt during the period of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

International aid and loans that the state has frequently resorted to for survival are heavily taxed by its kleptocratic rulers, so that much of the money never gets spent on what it was meant for. Additionally, this corrupt state machinery becomes organised like a pyramid that distributes the fruits of corruption to maintain its internal cohesion, at the expense of the greater national interest. The single exception is investment in the military. As a share of the national budget, Pakistan spends more on its military than the two most belligerent countries on the planet.

These statistics are astounding even to myself. I knew things were bad, but I never thought they were this bad. It’s only after visiting the country, hearing the attitudes of the people, seeing the abject poverty that I began to understand what a mess we had left behind. Or so I thought. My brother was not a product of that world, but he was subject to it’s gravitational pull.

But that’s for another time.

Frequently, you hear people in Pakistan talk about its long unfulfilled potential. About the natural resources littered across the country, about the talent of its people, about the transformative power waiting to be unleashed if only a few select conditions were fulfilled. One or two weird tricks that, if mastered, will make Pakistan a hegemon.

Pakistan has never been invaded by a foreign power, yet it is always rattling its sabre to psyche itself up for an invasion from India, a country many times larger and richer than itself. A country it would have no hope of ever defeating militarily.

Pakistan itself is a country riven by sectarian, ethno-cultural, and economic stratification. Sunni Muslims view Shia Muslims with suspicion, both share a hatred for Ahmedis (best described as Muslim Mormons) and the small pockets of Christian and Hindu minorities that remain in the country. A country that is nearly 97% Muslim yet manifests constantly the uncertainty of its Muslim character. Urban dwellers are divorced from the realities of the agrarian mass of the country. Clan based social organisation still prevails, particularly at the apex of society, jealously guarding its wealth and privileges from dilution.

The absence of a national character creates a vacuum. The state was founded on negating an Other — namely the Hindu majority of India. This was achieved not through some war of national liberation or a collective struggle for political and civil rights, but rather behind closed doors negotiated by a coterie of pseudo-aristocratic landowners in charge of the Muslim League, itself a political formation stitched hastily together to respond to the influence of the Indian National Congress.

As soon as the state was born, it’s raison d’etre vanished. The only remnant being the Muslim-ness of the inhabitants. It is for this reason that the lives of Muslims of every shape, colour, or stripe become fodder for the aspirations of its people. When Pakistanis are not obsessing over the past glories of Muslim empires or peoples they have little relationship to, they are fulfilling their vicarious fantasies through half-baked info-tainment about Muslims abroad. A favourite of the genre is when a white person converts to Islam, as if doing so is a direct benefit to the interests of Pakistanis.

Better days are always on the horizon, and those who do not live long enough to see them, get to feast on the pie in Allah’s sky. Except those unbelieving *insert name of sect or religion you hate*. Unable to accept themselves as wretched victims; unable to accept the historical deceits underpinning their nation; unwilling to embrace secular modernity; suffering from economic woes and cognitive dissonances; Pakistanis are cursed to endure a never ending paralysis that necessitates the palliative relief of many-flavoured opiums.

Acknowledging the harms and the pains of this reality threaten to sink me into depression. No amount of privilege, no amount of distance, no assumed nationality is sufficient to shield me completely from it. I cannot bear to think of what routine sufferings are inflicted on people that are my compatriots. Yet I cannot see any benefits in assiduously ignoring the facts of our national quandaries. Pakistan is functionally a failed state, one that is waiting for fate to deliver its quietus.

This article originally appeared on Ali Khan’s Blog

Who is Entitled to Celebrate May Day Under Israeli Apartheid?

When the Israeli trade unions banned the Palestinians working for them from striking – and the Palestinians struck anyway


In the seventies (back then in the previous century) I was an activist in a small Trotskyist organization named “The Workers Alliance.” We were absolutely serious about organizing the working class in Palestine, Arab, Jews and everybody else, to lead a socialist revolution and liberate Palestine. Some of our daily activities were to organize workers’ committees and to support workers striking for their rights. One of those strike left a special impression in my mind.

It was in the first days of May when I heard that workers in a big factory on the way north from Haifa to Akka (Acre) were on strike. I went there to see what was going on. The workers were hanging around the factory’s closed doors, so it was easy to speak with them. I sat with members of the workers’ committee, who were happy to express their complaints to me.

The factory was collectively owned by the surrounding Kibbutzim – Jewish-only Zionist community settlements. The workers were coming from the nearby Arab towns (still called “villages,” though they lost their land to Zionist confiscation and became workers’ sleeping neighborhoods). They explained why working in a Kibbutz factory was worse than in many capitalist factories. There is not only one boss, but every manager, engineer, clerk, or worker from one of the Kibbutzim is part of the management. And even the most professional workers have no opportunity for promotion, as all the good jobs are preserved for Kibbutz people.

But they were not on strike trying to improve their conditions. In Arabic, when there is a quarrel, they say: “It didn’t break out because of the pomegranate, but because of the full heart.” The pomegranate in our case came with International Workers Day, which we are used to simply calling the First of May. In those days the Zionist “Histadrut” still pretended to be a “Socialist Trade Union”, and the Kibbutzim were all organized as part of the Histadrut. The Histadrut called for a big May Day demonstration in Tel Aviv, and the Kibbutz people were preparing to participate.

Closing the factory was not a simple thing – it contained industrial facilities that were operated 24 hours, 7 days a week. Closing them and then restarting operations was quite complex and costly, and was done only once a year on Jewish Kippur. So, the Kibbutz managers informed the Arab workers that they are not allowed to take a day off on First of May. When the workers’ committee protested, their managers retorted that, unlike the Kibbutz people who planned to go to the First of May demonstration, the Arab workers have no class consciousness, and they wanted the day off just to go and have a barbecue with their families.

That was too much, and the workers closed the factory on May the First. The strike continued over the next days, as the workers demanded to be paid for their day off.

I do not know who won the strike. The Kibbutzim still control the confiscated lands and the state-subsidized factories. But I think that, since then, they, at least, gave up their attempt to keep a monopoly over class consciousness.

This article first appeared on the FreeHaifa blog. Reproduced with permission