Is it right to fast?


While the Koreans are gathering gamblers into the state’s gaols, putting them with those who allow their opponents to score goals for a modest payment, things in the Middle East are serious as usual.  People die every day somewhere in the region while demonstrating for their cause.  On the borders of Israel, Palestinians and their supporters demonstrated to mark the day in 1967 – the Day of Setback – when Israel attack the neighboring countries. There was also, at least one, a demonstration within Israeli; the Israeli press reported that the demonstrators were Palestinians and the Lebanese press reported that the demonstrators were predominately Israelis calling for a two state solution and an end to the fighting.

In Yemen, people are celebrating because the president has gone to Saudi Arabia  not – according to the press to flee – but for medical treatment.  He was injured in a recent bombing.  There were rumors last week the Gaddafi, too, had been injured in one of the attacks; which have now changed somewhat in nature with the use of European  attack helicopters. There were demonstrations – but apparently no deaths – Morocco also.  Egypt, while waiting for the trials of Mubarak and his sons sentenced the former finance minster – in absentia – to prison.  Syria has apparently taken the day off, instead the focus in on the protest on the Israeli border where it is being reported that 14 people have been killed. Lebanon blocked a like demonstration and Egypt has closed it border with Gaza – no word yet as to the reason.

The most interesting demonstration may be the one in India; an Indian guru, Baba Ramdev,   who is said to have a following of 30 million people – a huge number in the west, but not so impressive in India – has been fasting against corruption.  The protest was broken up by police with tear gas; the police claim the yogi had a permit for 5,000 people, but 50,000 had gathered – so they were sent packing.  Fasting for justice is a time honored tactic in India and might be said to be the single most important tactic in the battle against the British colonial empire and the one that was most responsible for the establishment of an Independence and sovereign India.  That does not mean the current government is fond of having the tactic used against it; the simple act of fasting has a way of uniting many, many people behind a cause just because of its historic and emotional connection with India.

What happened and why is of course still being worked out in the media; as with every event, it depends on which reports you read.  The western press is infatuated with demonstrations for democracy and movements against corrupt aging regimes – this story fits perfectly into that framework.  In the Arab press there are two opposing sides about all of the demonstrations and movements for change.  There is the Al-Jazeera/Egyptian view that praises change and condemns all of the old, corrupt regimes – like those in Yemen, Libya, Syria or Egypt – into that frame India slides easily.  The opposite view, the side of monarchs, conservative religionists and continuity calls for gradual change – the primary spokesman (and financier) for that view is Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia finds the yogi to be a fool – a fool who besides not believing in the god, al-lah -allah, is also a latecomer and just jumping on the bandwagon for notoriety.  He is also asking, according to the Saudis, silly things; the release of currency currently held imprisoned in banks, demanding death to corrupt and banishing English in favor of Hindi. And of course he accused of using his popularity to become rich.  It seems he owns an island off Scotland and has 30 million of his own corrupt dollars in a bank. The Ayatollah had an interesting take on demonstrations and disagreements  in general in his weekly address, he thinks people should be allowed to demonstrate or disagree – that is as long as they do not advocate a change in leadership.

I have no idea which side is right, not in the India versus the guru or in the Saudi Arabia and conservation camp versus Egypt and dramatic change camp, I just enjoy the disparate opinions.  It helps us remember that republicans and democrats are not only ones to become so polarized that they cannot think clearly about an issue.

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