Hope in 2011: Peo­ples, civil so­ci­ety stand tall

The Pak Banker - - Editorial - Ramzy Baroud

When the Iraqi Army fell be­fore in­vad­ing US and Bri­tish troops in 2003, the lat­ter's mis­sion seemed to be ac­com­plished. But nearly eight years af­ter the start of a war in­tended to "shock and awe" a whole pop­u­la­tion into sub­mis­sion, the Iraqi peo­ple con­tinue to stand tall. They have con­fronted and re­jected for­eign oc­cu­pa­tion, held their own against sec­tar­i­an­ism, and chal­lenged ran­dom mil­i­tancy and sense­less acts of ter­ror­ism.

For most of us, the Iraqi peo­ple's re­solve can­not be wit­nessed, but rather de­duced. Eight years of mil­i­tary strikes, raids, im­pris­on­ments, tor­ture, hu­mil­i­a­tion and unimag­in­able suf­fer­ing were still not enough to force the Iraqis into ac­cept­ing in­jus­tice as a sta­tus quo.

In Au­gust 2010, the United States de­clared the end of its com­bat mis­sion in Iraq, promis­ing com­plete with­drawal by the end of 2011. How­ever, US mil­i­tary ac­tion has con­tin­ued, only un­der dif­fer­ent des­ig­na­tions. The oc­cu­pa­tion of Iraq car­ries on, de­spite the tac­ti­cal shifts of com­mands and the re­brand­ing ef­fort. How­ever, were it not for the tenac­ity of the Iraqi peo­ple, who man­age to cross sec­tar­ian, po­lit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal di­vides, there would be no talk of with­drawals or dead­lines. There would be noth­ing but cheap oil, which could have ush­ered in a new golden age of im­pe­ri­al­ism - not in Iraq, but through­out the so-called Third World. The Iraqi peo­ple have man­aged to stop what could have be­come a dan­ger­ous trend.

2010 was an­other year where Iraqis held strong, and civil so­ci­eties through­out the world stood with them in sol­i­dar­ity - a sol­i­dar­ity that will con­tinue un­til full sovereignty is at­tained.

Pales­tine pro­vides an­other ex­am­ple of in­ter­na­tional sol­i­dar­ity, one that is un­sur­passed in mod­ern times. Civil so­ci­ety has fi­nally crossed the line be­tween words and sen­ti­ments of sol­i­dar­ity into ac­tual and di­rect ac­tion. The Is­raeli siege on Gaza, which was sup­ported by the United States and a few other Western pow­ers, re­sem­bled more than a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis. It was a moral cri­sis as well, es­pe­cially as the be­sieged pop­u­la­tion of Gaza was sub­jected to a most bru­tal war at the end of 2008, fol­lowed by suc­ces­sive lethal mil­i­tary strikes.

The four-year long siege has dev­as­tated a pop­u­la­tion whose main crime was ex­er­cis­ing its demo­cratic right to vote, and re­fus­ing to sub­mit to the mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal dik­tats of Is­rael. Gaza re­mains a shin­ing ex­am­ple of hu­man strength in our time. This is a fact the Is­raeli govern­ment re­fuses to ac­cept.

Is­raeli and other me­dia re­ported that the Is­raeli Army would be de­ploy­ing new tanks to quell the re­sis­tance of the Strip, with the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion that Pales­tini­ans fight­ers have man­aged to pen­e­trate the sup­pos­edly im­pen­e­tra­ble Is­raeli Merkava tank.

Is­raeli mil­i­tary chief Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashke­nazi, who made the rev­e­la­tion in a re­cent par­lia­men­tary ses­sion, may never com­pre­hend that nei­ther a Mekava (or what­ever new model he will be ship­ping to Gaza soon) nor the best mil­i­tary hard­ware any­where could break the will of the un­wa­ver­ing Pales­tini­ans.

Gaza is not alone. Civil so­ci­ety lead­ers rep­re­sent­ing ev­ery re­li­gion, na­tion­al­ity and ide­ol­ogy have tire­lessly led a cam­paign of sol­i­dar­ity with the Pales­tinian peo­ple. The breadth and mag­ni­tude of this sol­i­dar­ity has been un­matched in re­cent times, at least since the anti-fas­cist In­ter­na­tional Bri­gades units res­o­lutely de­fended the Sec­ond Span­ish Re­pub­lic be­tween 1936 and 1939. The sol­i­dar­ity has come at a cost. Many ac­tivists from Turkey and var­i­ous other coun­tries were killed in the high seas as they at­tempted to ex­tend a hand of ca­ma­raderie to the peo­ple of Gaza and Pales­tine.

Now, know­ing the dangers that await them, many ac­tivists the world over are still hop­ing to set sail to Gaza in 2011. In­deed, 2010 was a year that hu­man will proved more ef­fec­tive than mil­i­tary hard­ware.

It was the year hu­man sol­i­dar­ity crossed over like never be­fore into new realms, bring­ing with it much hope and many new pos­si­bil­i­ties. But the cel­e­bra­tion of hope doesn't end in Pales­tine and Iraq. It merely be­gins there. Cham­pi­ons of hu­man rights come from ev­ery color and creed.

No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate Aung San Suu Kyi of Myan­mar, The Most Rev. Dr. Des­mond Tutu of South Africa, for­mer US Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter and other lu­mi­nar­ies and civil so­ci­ety he­roes and hero­ines from across the world will con­tinue their mis­sion of peace and jus­tice, as they have for many years.

These well-known names are only part of the story. There are lit­er­ary mil­lions of un­sung he­roes that make the hard­ship of the years more tol­er­a­ble, and who will con­tinue to guide us through new years and un­known chal­lenges. Haiti was one coun­try that was hit hard­est in 2010. The small nation was hit on Jan. 12, 2010 by a most cat­a­strophic earth­quake, fol­lowed by 52 af­ter­shocks.

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