Preaching High Morality to the Powerless

The moment of truth is fast approaching for Obama.

Palestinians confront Israeli soldiers at Naksa Day protests at Qalandiya, occupied West Bank, 5 June 2011. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills) via Electronic Intifada

As the Arab Spring intensifies, now spreading to Spain and Greece, the home of radically democratic political thought is starting to shift outside the West. A new culture of fearlessness is settling in abroad, especially among non-European and non-American intellectuals, as evidenced by the latest piece by Indian novelist Pankaj Mishra. He writes:

"The moment of truth is fast approaching for those powerful men who preach the high morality of non-violence to the powerless. Only an American veto seems likely to prevent the member states of the UN from declaring a new Palestinian state in September. But Palestinians may rise up against their colonial overlords well before this expected rejection. And, as the political philosopher Michael Walzer points out, Israel would then confront "something radically new. How can it resist masses of men and women, children too, just walking across the ceasefire lines?"
"The tactics of young tech-savvy Kashmiris have already confused and bewildered the Indian government, whose recent actions – censoring the Economist, forcing spying rights out of BlackBerry and Google – evoke the last-minute desperation of the Arab world's mukhabarat (secret police) states. The mass movement in Kashmir, which has emerged after two decades of a futile militant insurgency and has no compromising links to Pakistan, poses, as the Kashmiri journalist Parvaiz Bukhari writes in Until My Freedom Has Come, an unprecedented "moral challenge to New Delhi's military domination over the region".
"The stage is set, then, for a summer of protests, of unarmed masses rising up to express, in Obama's words, "a longing for freedom that has built up for years". They may well meet with live bullets rather than offers of negotiation and compromise. It will be fascinating to see if Obama makes good his claim last month that the United States "opposes violence and repression" and "welcomes change that advances self-determination". Certainly, as the corpses of the Palestinian and Kashmiri Hamza al-Khatibs pile up, there will be the usual flurry of intellectual rationalisations – the bogey of Islamic terror will again be invoked. And we will witness how the "enormous mountains of tyranny" in the world's greatest democracies do not blow away like cotton."

Read the full text of Pankaj Mishra's brilliant tactical briefing at the Guardian.

[Edit: Changed the image in this post, we originally used a video still showing a man shot in the head while hiding behind a garbage dumpster. Taken from here.]