Asad Rahim Khan

Jul 28

How to sell David as Goliath

Published 28th July 2014 in The Express Tribune (e-paper version here)


Evacuation notices, airdropped over Gaza

In Judeo-Christian belief, Goliath is a giant, a warrior, and an oppressor of David’s people. In the books of Samuel, before the Israelites and the Philistines do battle, David and Goliath meet each other in single combat. A young boy, David is outmatched; Goliath brings shield, spear, and (ranging from scripture) six to nine feet of human height with him.

But David wins. He fires a stone from his sling, and the giant falls. Goliath similarly appears in the Qur’an’s Surah al-Baqarah as Jalut, felled by Dawood, ‘But those who were convinced that they must meet Allah, said: ‘How oft, by Allah’s will, hath a small force vanquished a big one?’

Yes, David versus Goliath is the story of victory against all odds: that with enough faith, our hero can fight enemies bigger, stronger and fiercer – and persevere. It only follows that, thousands of years later, the star of David would become one with the story of David.

Ever since creation, the State of Israel has seen itself as David, projected itself as David, and warned of the many Goliaths that have tried eating it since birth. Thus far, it’s been a winning play — helping Israel drown violence in victimhood from Day Zero.

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Jul 15

Israeli Selfie

Published 15th July 2014 in The Express Tribune (e-paper version here)


Instagram taken by IDF soldier

Operation Wrath of God. Operation Bramble Bush. Operation Defense Shield. Operation Cast Lead. Operation Pillar of Defense. Operation Brothers’ Keeper. And as of last week, Operation Protective Edge.

Welcome to the Israel Defense Forces, where the brutal meets the biblical. As codenames for its military manoeuvres suggest, the State of Israel has been in a vendetta kind of mood. Tel Aviv calls this latest offensive ‘Protective Edge’, as in protection from Hamas rocket fire.

A fair fight, Israel versus Hamas. We’ve been here before: the Middle East’s most ferocious fighting force taking on sad and bad rocketeers — the Israeli Defense Forces against Improvised Flying Tubes.

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Jul 08

A healing justice

Published 8th July 2014 in The Express Tribune (e-paper version here)

Long before the general’s last summer, King James I was shaking with rage. The king, it turned out, had been made to understand the supremacy of law. As with most royals, he didn’t like what he heard.

Ever since Guy Fawkes tried blowing him up, James had used sympathy for the crown to ride roughshod over both the judges and parliament, smirking that his right to rule was God-given. But sooner than later, the king was on a collision course with Edward Coke, the greatest (and vainest) jurist of his time.

Chief Justice Coke had slapped down the king saying, ‘His majesty is not learned in the laws of his realm. They are not to be decided by natural reason but by the (…) judgment of law.’

King James exploded, ‘This means I shall be under the law, which it is treason to affirm.’ Coke didn’t care. ‘The king is under no man,’ said Coke, ‘yet he is under God and the law.’ Coke knelt before the king in submission, but the damage was done. Time and tide would eventually wrest the courts away from the crown.

And when the same tide hit our shores in 2007, our former Chief Justice, the honourable Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, was a judge of the Supreme Court (he would refer to the Coke incident a year later, addressing the American Bar Association in absentia). It is fortunate that he was.

We most associate those days with Iftikhar Chaudhry, the lightning rod for all the passion and panic that followed. But Justice Jillani also knew a democracy’s DNA — the rule of law and the sanctity of the constitution — must come with hard guarantees.

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Jun 24

Manto, age 102

Published 24th June 2014 in The Express Tribune (e-paper version here)

They said he was a failure; the degenerate son of a dignified man. They said he was a pervert; that he wrote stories soaked in sex and murder. They said he was a pagan, who described the land of the pure in words that ached with impurity. At times they ran out of words — other times, they came up with the wrong ones: the progressives called him a reactionary, the reactionaries called him a rebel.

But they didn’t deny the obvious — not the Marxists, not the housewives, not the judges that tried him for obscenity before and after independence: that Saadat Hasan Manto was a genius.

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Jun 17

Look who’s here

Published 17th June 2014 in The Express Tribune (e-paper version here)


When asked whether Iraq was worth the consequences — in blood and treasure and torture — Donald Rumsfeld replied, ‘Time will tell.’ Having parried countless press conferences, this was a common Rumsfeld trick: defusing violence with vagueness. But there’s nothing vague about what’s unfolding in Iraq.

Eleven years after Bush and Co. barrelled in, and just three after they crawled out, armageddon has arrived. After ignoring them for years, the world has woken up to the gentlemen that form ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham — also known as the clunkier Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

ISIS is a killing machine: a band of zombies that even al-Qaeda wants no part of. In a supreme irony even for the Middle East, it seems the American invasion ended up making real what it set out to destroy.

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