|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
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
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
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.