Just a few words now...

Just a few words now.
The war in Lebanon is wrong and unjustified. The violence that has been hitting Israelis and Palestinians for decades already is all wrong. Decades of violence were decades wasted. Because people deserve to live. To live unharmed.

But we also know that the revolt of those suffering repression is never unjustified. Even though it would be more humane, more rational, to solve conflicts peacefully. 
However, we shrink back from denouncing resistance to oppression as immoral. Regardless of our position on violence. We would never have told the ANC it is wrong to take up arms, and offer the other cheek to apartheid. It was for them to decide. We can only say we think Gandhi's way, or Thoreau's way of civil diobedience are also very good. Perhaps better, in many ways? Perhaps even more "successful" when we look at what can be achieved? Only time can tell. History. Historical experience.

It is here on earth that we must care for the living. They have only one life to life. To extinguish it, how insane! "They will never live again," somebody said. The words are echoing still, in our ears.

And yet, we would never be so cock-sure and tell you it was wrong for the American colonists to rise in arms against an oppressive "motherland." Or for the French people to shake off the yoke of monarchy in 1789.

We know that it will be hard to find a just and equitable solution in the Middle East, especially with regard to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The war that brought so much suffering, in July and August this year, to human beings in Lebanon, Gaza, and Israel was avoidable. There were, it seems, those who did not want to avoid it. The war in Lebanon the effects of which will be felt for years would never have become a cruel reality if the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians had been resolved. If an equitable solution had been achieved. Without such a solution, more pain is to be expected.

A brief footnote to this story is the fear of terrorist attacks that currently grips populations in Europe. It is a consequence of that unsolved conflict, as well. A consequence of the fact that the West, by and large, has been represented by and acted through governments that were all but impartial, in this conflict.

So the shock waves of war and violence "reach our shores" today, in the West, as somebody wrote. It is a sad story. Sad because we still believe we are innocent. Innocent by-standers, looking on from afar. There are no innocent by-standers in a world of violence and injustice. Those who look the other way, become guilty, in a way. But still it is good to remember how more than 60 per cent of the population in countries like Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain opposed the last American war against Iraq. It is good to remember the massive demonstrations in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome. It is good to remember that the images on television that attempted to capture what was going on in Beirut and elsewhere reminded the population in the West of the horrors of World War II. Feelings of empathy were strong, and still are. If Western governments obstructed all attempts in the Security Council to achieve an immediate cease-fire, the mood of ordinary people was very different. They abhorred the war. They hoped for peace. A bit passively, it is true. Or much too passively. But still...

This special issue of "Urban Democracy" is also the reflection of an attempt to break a circle of silence and apathy. An effort that aims to overcome the feeling, in many of us, "that there is nothing we can do." The young men who, only a short while ago, attempted to resort to violence, hoping to blow up trains in Germany, must have felt a similar urge. Were they driven, above all, by an urge to overcome the frustrating feeling "that there is nothing we can do," in the face of the on-going horrors in Lebanon? They opted, naively, criminally, many will say, politically stupid, others will maintain, for a course of action that will have, in its consequence, only negative effects. A further dismantling of civil rights in the West. An increasingly racist tide, if we don't stop it, in the West. A further isolation of the cause of the Palestinians and other oppressed populations.

Today, the better course is a united approach of all who abhor injustice and oppression wherever it occurs.
Today, violence offers fewer solutions than ever. The dominant powers of these world possess enormous destructive capacities. No resistance, no liberation movement, can top it. Our strength remains nonetheless a fact. We are many, they are few. We need a positive, rather than a destructive approach.

Years ago, in Europe, the French and the Germans considered themselves or were taught to consider themselves, "arch enemies." Terrible wars happened. 1870-1871. 1914-1918. 1939-1945. Today, a new generation, new generations, have discovered that friendly feelings and good relation between the population of both countries are possible. That life is better this way. If voters turn out and vote against "Europe," it is not the good relations of the populations of different countries they reject. It is not a Europe without frontiers they reject. It is the neo-liberal institutions of the EU, and their politics of backing big corporations that they put in doubt.
But the fact that nationalism recedes, that regional cultures as well as transnational and inter-cultural relations are valued more highly by the most awake parts of the population, cannot be put in doubt.

If this was possible in Europe, why shouldn't it be possible in the Middle East? Those Lebanese who talk of a father who is Muslim,. a mother who is Christian, a grandmother who is a Jew, are not exceptional to the Old Middle East. Being part of the same socio-culture, they all experienced the shock of large-scale immigration of European refugees, people fleeing from racism, discrimination and persecution in Europe. It disturbed the old balance, the old ways of getting along and intermixing. The newcomers, some day, will be absorbed into the Middle East. It will again become a creative, productive, prospering region of the world. As in Europe, the insanity of past wars, of past horrors suffered, of past pain afflicted, will be history. We hope to encourage this alternative. The other alternative will be more needless suffering.


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