Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Upbeat and full of promise: The New Arab World

Contrast with this view here by Alain Gresh that pessimistically foresees greater crisis and calamity in the region: ‘The Arab world’s silence has left the last word to those we call extremists’ (Guardian 22 Aug 2006)

The Arab nation has passed a threshold, a culture of resistance rising in unity

By Hana Abdul Ilah Al Bayaty | 18 Aug 2006 | Information Clearing House

The project for a new Middle East was stillborn and is now buried. There is a democratic renaissance sweeping the Arab world that calls for independence, an Arab Palestine, unity, justice and democracy. It cannot be stopped. The political map of the region is being redrawn, but not by the Americans, nor the Israelis. The success of this renaissance is a gift for us all, pointing as it does towards a renewal of the international order along the lines of justice and the defence of human values. The page has been turned on 50 years of US-Israeli foreign policy. It is a new era. The tide has turned. Only how much destruction the bloodthirsty US-Israeli war machine will be able to inflict before it admits defeat remains to be seen and depends on our ability to resist globally. Arab victory is certain.

The project for a new Middle East was based upon three myths and lies. All were intertwined and originate from the discriminatory assertion at the heart of Occidental imperialism that Arabs are naturally backward. According to the first lie, Arabs are unable to develop democratic movements and naturally support dictatorial, extremist regimes (the definition of which always lies in the mind of Western powers). The “free” world should therefore, like charity, bring democracy to the region. The second lie follows that due to their backwardness, the Arabs cannot defeat Israel and must accept the dispossession its inception forced upon them as a fait accompli. Following successive humiliating Arab defeats (1948, 1967, 1973) while trying to bring an end to the alien Zionist occupation of Palestinian land, the US and its local client regimes tried to force upon the Arab people the belief that Israel is invincible, underlining the logic of normalisation and the second class status of Arabs. The third virulent lie is that nothing unites the Arabs, their backwardness and tribalism leads them to sectarian and feudal forms of organisation.

American empire is exceptional in that contrary to all previous empires it does not herald the promise of universalist values but instead brazenly declares its goal as the propagation of its own interests. The implementation of its strategy serves only the welfare of local, feudal, corrupted warlords, denying even the right to life to local populations. In the space of three years, US occupation and its stooges have attempted — and still attempt — to destroy Iraq both as a state and a nation. In the long tradition of divide to rule, they tried to deprive the Iraqi people of their unifying Arabo-Muslim identity by promoting sectarian forces. It resulted in the rape of the Iraqi nation, the plunder and theft of its resources, and the cold-blooded killing of its citizens. Meanwhile, democratically elected Palestinian representatives are abducted by Israel; the population starved as stated policy, continually subject to military attack. The latest criminal assault on Lebanon exposed the faultlines once and for all. US refusals to call for a ceasefire — to stop the criminal slaughter of Lebanese civilians and the destruction of their infrastructure which lasted four weeks — outraged all Arab people and millions worldwide. We knew it, but now no one can doubt it: US-Israeli plans for the region are the enemy of our people.

The myth of Israel’s invincibility also collapsed along with the justifications of servile Arab regimes for the continued repression of their own people. While entire Arab armies have in the past been defeated within days, Hizbullah proved not only its endurance but also its swift ability to change military tactics in tune with events while retaining its composure and humility in defending Arabs everywhere. The dignity alone that Hizbullah’s triumph has afforded to Arabs is a signal of, and is essential to, the defeat of Zionism. For 30 years Arabs have been assigned to second-class status. In just over 30 days they have thrown off this worthless mantle as though it were nothing. The blow is not just to Zionism. Hizbullah’s military maturity and communications prowess has exposed the cowardliness and impotence of all Arab regimes who pretend to be nationalist but who advocate for, and repress in the name of, normalisation with Zionism. Hizbullah, within days, did more for democracy in the Arab world than Arab regimes achieved in years, the latter forced to retract their recriminations against the former in the face of popular pressure.

In Lebanon the third enduring myth about Arabs being unable to think except along sectarian lines collapsed magnificently. Perhaps the US-Israeli strategists thought it would be easier, following 15 years of civil war for Lebanon to rapidly fall into civil strife. They don’t learn, but struggling people do. Lebanese unity behind Hizbullah — as much as 87 per cent according to polls — destroyed the myth that Arabs can never unite. Likewise after three years of relentless attempts to create civil strife in Iraq by any means, the US occupation has not managed to pitch Iraqis against each other. Never in 4000 years have Iraqis been sectarian. That occupation-linked sectarian militias are fighting each other and killing thousands of civilians is not a sign of sectarianism in Iraq. It is a US-imposed tactic of bringing chaos to decimate the inherent unity of Iraqi and Arabo-Muslim identity. Along with Zionism’s ill-fated misadventure in Lebanon, it failed before the invasion. Rather, there is a growing movement across the region that believes in the skills, maturity, will and ability of the united Arabs to liberate themselves from post-colonial agendas. Never will this movement accept the existence of a state created on their land to serve foreign capitalist interests.
Across generations and regardless of the ideology embraced or the leader embodying the movement, rising Arab struggles adopted the same slogans: independence, unity, Arab Palestine — with people of different faiths living as equal citizens and in peace — and an efficient state. Today, the youth of the nation is eager for real justice and democracy and adopts the same slogans. The servile Arab regimes, already deeply isolated from and fearful of their own people, failed to understand this growing movement of resistance and further alienated themselves — as proven by ignominious statements absolving Zionist aggression. Their fate, along with the US-Israeli project, is cast. Israel’s systematic destruction of Lebanese national infrastructure, which passed without comment from Washington, exposed unequivocally that the US-Zionist project cares nothing for Arab advancement. The War on terror is a war on all forms of resistance to US-styled globalisation and its imposition by military power.

Since the very day the occupation forces came to Iraq and the Iraqi state collapsed, there has been an uprising by all Iraqi movements and organisations; including those defending women, or unemployed youth, human rights organisations, trade unions, professional syndicates, agencies defending environmental issues and the rights of prisoners, and all other cultural and political organisations, side-by-side with provincial and tribal communities and peaceful and armed resistance groups. They have all risen following an unwritten political agenda that symbolises the whole society and derives its legitimacy from the deep sense of belonging to Arab and Islamic tenets. Likewise, the Lebanese civil resistance swift organisation to defend their land and sovereignty, as proven by the south Lebanese’s refugees’ insistence to return despite the presence of unexploded cluster bombs, and the Lebanese peoples’ unequivocal support for Hizbullah regardless of their respective political background, proves the same tendency. The interest of the lower and middle class have merged and will result in a never ending social and if necessary armed struggle to achieve independence, justice and democracy. The youth of the nation, which believes and trusts in the richness of its culture and civilisation will not accept selling short the rights of the country and the nation. It is confident of carrying the technical and intellectual skills to administer its own resources for the benefit of all, without foreign interference in their internal affairs.

Attempts to choke Arab development cannot but fail. The three main currents developed by Arab societies — nationalists, Islamists and leftists — are intrinsically anti-imperialist and therefore opposed to US-Israeli regional designs. For nationalists, retaining control of national resources to serve the general interest is sacrosanct. For leftists, opposing the international chains of imperialism and globalisation is a baseline. For Islamists, resistance to foreign occupation — as written in the Quran — is a duty. Their interest lays currently in achieving unity in the struggle. They are united by their Arabo-Muslim identity. They share common principles and values as follows: the natural resources, material heritage, and the riches of culture and civilisation are the property of the totality of the people. The totality of citizens constitutes the people. The people are the sole source of sovereignty and of constitutional, political and judicial legitimacy. Government is responsible and accountable to all the citizens. Solidarity between citizens — between generations, the able and ill, the elderly and young, the orphan and every human being who finds himself in a state of weakness — should form the basis of any government’s social policy. The general interest is the justification and basis for the operation of the state, with every citizen, free of all forms of discrimination, sharing in the fruits of national wealth and social development. In struggling against military-imperial powers, the Arabs fight in defence of values around which a majority in the world gathers in consensus.

What US-Israeli neo-imperialists have to offer is not only contrary to the interests of the Arab people, it is immoral. Never in history has a single political agenda — US-Zionist imperial dominion — been opposed by so many, in all countries, and across all continents. The Arab liberation struggle stands at the forefront of this global rejection and is the centre of an historic battle not between civilisations but for civilisation. Thus it is Israel, not the Arab nation, which stands in violation of rafts of UN resolutions, daily committing new atrocities in Gaza or the West Bank at the same time as it bombs residential areas in Beirut in violation of international humanitarian law — the baseline of civil protection against state terrorism. It is the United States that presides over a situation in Baghdad whereby government-supported death squads sweep and terrorise whole neighbourhoods and in the month of July alone more than 1800 corpses appeared strewn around the city, hundreds marked with signs of sadistic torture. To prevail in this context marks not only a victory for all Arabs, but all peoples in the human struggle towards freedom and justice. When in the centre of the storm Arabs fight with their lives for a better world they challenge the same neoliberal and neoconservative elite classes that waves of anti-globalisation activists, civil society movements, and democracy and human rights advocates worldwide oppose.

Resistance is a matter of situation. Not all should or can carry arms. Tel Aviv and Washington are desperate. The edifice of their military superiority and moral authority is shattered. Not even chemical weapons, which Israel uses freely in Gaza and Lebanon as the US used in Tel Afar, Ramadi and Fallujah, can bring the Arab people and its ever-widening culture of resistance to its knees. Empire is already buried. Short of annihilating every Arab to the last woman, child and man, US-Israeli plans are already defeated. But there is no room for complacency. Now is the time for the people of this world to endorse and support the Arab struggle globally.

Every advocate of an alternative world should play a part in supporting the transformation that the renaissance of Arab struggles heralds. Whereas brute force has too often decided history, in the new world there will be no peace without justice, and no justice without the right of return for every displaced Palestinian; the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the occupation from Iraq, along with the cancellation of all laws, treaties and agreements passed since the illegal invasion of the country; respect of Lebanese sovereignty and the condemnation and prosecution of Israel for the numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity it has perpetrated in Lebanon and in Gaza; that all Arab states and people which have been aggressed should receive fair reparations and compensations for the human and material loses they’ve endured; that all political prisoners should be set free immediately. Until these requirements are met, global civil disobedience is not only justified, it is a moral duty.

The writer is a member of the Executive Committee of The Brussells Tribunal.

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"