Shah Mehmood’s Pitiful Performance on CNN
The Pakistani state’s unwavering and time-tested support for the Palestinian cause is commendable. Notwithstanding the Pakistani military’s role in Black September, Islamabad has been a steadfast ally and advocate for the rights of Palestinians. Many may dismiss this support as mere lip service or posturing, bemoaning how we Pakistanis are “united for Gaza, divided for Pakistan” but the emphatic emotional support that gushes forth for Palestine is clear to see in the Islamic Republic. So, true to form, the government dispatched its head diplomat first to Ankara and then to the United Nations in New York to rally support for a ceasefire and eventual resolution of the conflict. With the wanton violence intensifying each day – and news inundated with deaths of children and unarmed civilians, as well as horrific destruction of property – the conflict was turning heads globally as social media teemed with ghastly updates from the region.
After a few days of whirlwind meetings with President Erdogan and with his Turkish and Palestinian counterparts, then some gasping and fist-thumping at the UNGA lectern, culminated in Qureshi sitting down for an interview with CNN. Twenty seconds in, interviewer Bianna Golodryga accused him of passing an anti-Semitic remark, shifting the entire tone of the conversation. The next ten minutes saw Golodryga double down on her guest. With an eccentric chuckle, Qureshi claimed that Israel’s “deep pockets” and control over the media prevents outlets from delivering balanced reportage.
By invoking this trope and failing to clarify or justify it, Qureshi inadvertently reiterated the conspiracy theory that Jews have financial control of everything we see, thereby alluding to some evil underground Jewish cabal that runs the world and controls all institutions. There is no denying the painfully obvious pro-Israel tilt in American media intent on framing the Palestine-Israel issue as a conflict of equals. Internal memos show journalists at leading news organisations being instructed to refer to Hamas in a certain way, avoiding the use of the term ‘apartheid’ and general fact-fudging to suppress Palestinian voices; but by blurting out trite conspiracies about an all-powerful global Jewish nexus, Qureshi shot both himself and his mission in the foot.
For someone whose trip’s entire purpose was the Palestinian cause, Qureshi seemed haplessly unprepared. He could have highlighted the hefty influence of AIPAC in American politics, pointed out groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, provided evidence of biased reporting, and shed light on the military, economic and geostrategic reasons behind continued American support for Tel Aviv. It is one thing to say that groups like AIPAC are too powerful, and totally another to say that Jews have too much money and control the media.
This is an issue that needs to be framed in terms of international law, global security, human rights and self-determination. Lazy xenophobic tropes will help no one.
Qureshi immediately lost all credibility in Golodryga’s eyes (herself a Jew and wife to Lazard CEO and an ex-Obama cabinet appointee) as she ambushed Qureshi for what she later called an “anti-Semitic slur” on Twitter. With no mention of specific examples of the systemic pro-Israel slant in Western media and the mismatch between the two sides, Qureshi was undone in his role as a frontline champion for the people of Gaza. This was not an issue of Multan’s resident gaddi nasheen turned politician being an anti-Semite; rather his pitiful execution.
The least Qureshi could have done is call out Bianna for proving his point by equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
The same happened with ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Discrediting critics of Israel by classing any condemnation as anti-Semitism is a classical Zionist tactic, shades of which we see in our homeland too. There is a need to elevate the discourse by providing rational arguments backed with robust evidence of continued financial support to Israel and overall bias. Falling back on banal stereotypes helps no one.
One hopes Qureshi could have been better prepared against a reporter who was baying for blood from the get go.
Alas, even Jay-Z did not know better…
“You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money? Credit
You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America?
This how they did it”
– “Story of O.J.” by Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter
Zarnaab Adil is a graduate of the Wagner School at NYU. He is an author and a political risk consultant based in Brooklyn, NYC.