Hope in 2011: Peoples, Civil Society Stand Tall

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 occupations, 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 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 will be deploying new tanks to quell the resistance of the strip, with the justification that Palestinians fighters managed to penetrate the supposedly impenetrable Israeli Merkava tank. Israeli military chief Lieutenant-General 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 penetrate 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 1936-1939.

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 greeted on January 12, 2010 with a most catastrophic earthquake, followed by 52 aftershocks. Over half a million people were estimated killed and injured, and many more became homeless. The year ended on a similarly devastating note, as over 2,000 people died and 105,000 fell ill (according to estimates by the Pan American Health Organization) after a cholera outbreak ravished an already overwhelmed country.

It is rather strange how leading powers can be so immaculate and efficient in their preparations for war, and yet so scandalously slow in their responses to human need when there is no political or economic price to be exacted. But this discrepancy will hardly deter doctors and nurses at the St. Nicholas Hospital in Haiti, who, despite the dangerous lack of resources, managed to save 90 percent of their patients

Our hearts go out to Haiti and its people during these hard times. But Haiti needs more than good wishes and solemn prayers. It also needs courageous stances by civil society to offset the half-hearted commitments made by some governments and publicity-seeking leaders.

It must be said that hope is not a random word aimed at summoning a fuzzy, temporary feeling of positive expectations for the future. To achieve its intended meaning, it must be predicated on real, foreseeable values. It must be followed by action. Civil society needs to continue to step up and fill the gaps created or left wide open by self-seeking world powers.

Words don’t end wars, confront greed or slow down the devastation caused by natural disasters. People do. Let 2011 be a year of action, hope, and the uninterrupted triumph of civil society.

Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. His latest volume is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London). He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com. Read other articles by Ramzy.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 31st, 2010 at 9:15am #

    it is all due to labors of greatest criminal minds; whether in iraq, afgh’n, pak’n, korea, vietnam, nicaragua, gaza, cuba, and elsewhere.
    alas, in u.s regarded as saints by 99% of its pop.
    so brace for more of same or even greater crimes by greatest criminals among us.
    ok, perhaps most americans don’t deem u.s leadership as saintly.
    but they do hold u.s constitution as holy; w.o. which criminals cld not ever rise to power.

    in any case, crimes to continue and increase in severity.
    however, even on these sites, people are quite satisfied by just blaming, blaming; calling names people who say what i have said so often? tnx

  2. lizburbank said on December 31st, 2010 at 2:18pm #

    Baroud, and by extension unfortunately, DV, reveal their true political colors in celebrating the soft power arm of US imperialism called ‘civil society’, humanitarian aid’ – serving, as announced by H. Clinton, an increasingly critical, expanding role. Left liberal zionist support for this hegemonic ‘footprint’ in the face of US/NATO/AFRICOM military defeats, support the expansion of US global supremacy in the name of USAID/Soros democracy & development.
    This worldwide well-known secret has been abundantly exposed, including at
    http://www.burbankdigest.com/

  3. mary said on December 31st, 2010 at 3:21pm #

    From Mohammad Khatib

    At the threshold of the New Year, I write to wish you a new year of freedom and liberation. This has been an unbelievable year for me in both highs and lows. A year during which I have witnessed how, despite repression, ordinary people all across Palestine take to the streets for freedom.

    In my village, Bil’in, thousands of people marched on the Wall today to take it down. During the demonstration, one protestor, a 36 year old resident of the village, Jawaher Abu-Rahmah, was critically injured by severe tear-gas inhalation. She is currently hospitalized in Ramallah, unresponsive to medical treatment as the doctors are fighting for her life.

    Bil’in has been struggling for almost six years against the Wall that was built on our lands. The illegality and absurdity of this wall has been recognized worldwide, and even by the Israeli Supreme Court, which ruled it must be dismantled over three years ago. Yet the Wall still stands. We, the people of Bil’in, the people of Palestine, have waited enough. Today was therefore declared by the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements as the last day of the Wall. Together with our supporters, we managed to bring a substantial part of the wall down but we still have a long way to go.

    On a personal note, the beginning of 2011 also strikes notes of fear. In just a few days, on January 3rd, 2011, my trial in front of an Israeli military court will draw into conclusion. Captain Sharon Rivlin, the soldier-judge presiding in my case, will hand down my verdict. If found guilty of “incitement”, my next letter will likely be written from inside a prison cell; If found guilty, despite having proved that evidence against me was falsified, I will proudly join my friend and comrade, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, who is now spending his second new year’s eve behind bars. PSCC’s media coordinator, my friend and brother in struggle, Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak, will also be going to prison, again, for three months on January 11th, for protesting Israel’s siege on Gaza.

    We are all facing tremendous challenges, as individuals and as a movement. It is our pride and strength that keeps us going. It is your support and involvement, which is becoming more crucial than ever. Join us – take our struggle forward, so that the year of 2011 will become an historical year of Palestinian liberation and a just peace.

    In solidarity,
    Mohammad Khatib

    {https://twitter.com/PSCC_Palestine}

  4. lizburbank said on December 31st, 2010 at 5:23pm #

    WHY?
    a comment sent 12/31 at 3:21 is posted within an hour — my comment sent 12/31 at 2:18 is awaiting moderation

    * mary said on December 31st, 2010 at 3:21pm # POSTED

    * lizburbank said on December 31st, 2010 at 2:18pm #
    Your comment is awaiting moderation – we’ll get to it ASAP!

  5. bozh said on December 31st, 2010 at 6:57pm #

    our antiwar protest in vancouver included also anti-israeli occupation of palestininian lands and israeli terror against pal’ns.

    in show of hands in early ’03, even jewish voices for peace voted for protest against israel.
    only one or two people protested that decision!
    because my wife had been diagnozed with the alzheimer, i cannot go to the meetings nor protest. tnx

  6. mary said on January 2nd, 2011 at 5:54am #

    Israeli activists protesting the killing of Bil’in’s Jawaher Abu Rahmah ‘returned’ spent tear gas canisters to the residence of the American ambassador to Israel late Saturday evening. Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 36, was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital yesterday after inhaling massive amounts of tear-gas during the weekly protest in Bil’in, and died of poisoning this morning. The tear gas used by the Israeli forces in Bil’in is manufactured by Combined Systems Inc.; a United States company based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. This is the first protest where empty tear gas canisters have been returned to an ambassador’s home.

    Approximately twenty five Israeli protesters gathered in front of the residence of American ambassador to Israel, James B. Cunningham around 1am local time. The protesters ‘returned’ loads of spent tear gas canisters collected in the West Bank village of Bil’in in protest of the murder of Bil’in’s Jawaher Abu Rahmah. The demonstrators also made noise throughout the Ambassador’s neighborhood informing residents of how American military aid to Israel is being used to kill unarmed and nonviolent demonstrators in the West Bank. They chanted, “one, two, three, four stop the occupation stop the war. Five, six, seven, eight end the funding (US) end the hate.”

    /…..
    {http://mondoweiss.net/2011/01/demonstrators-‘return’-tear-gas-canisters-to-us-ambassador’s-home.html}

    Five were arrested at this protest.

  7. mary said on January 2nd, 2011 at 6:10am #

    What a vile trade in which to be involved. Blood on their hands now.

    Combined Systems Inc. Jamestown, Pennsylvania.
    {http://www.combinedsystems.com/About_us.aspx}

    {http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/people.asp?privcapId=22338309}

    The directors of Combined Systems Inc are hidden from public view but this outfit run by Messrs Monteleone and Cesare have an involvement.
    {http://www.pointlookoutcapital.com/partners.htm}

  8. mary said on January 2nd, 2011 at 2:16pm #

    The IOF thugs are doing well. One Palestinian death per day is the aim. They felt ‘threatened’ by a bottle and note how the Zionists at the BBC are implying that Jawaher had a pre-exisiting condition. She was asking for it by being arounf when tear gas was beinf used in other words. The ZBC reporting is outrageous.

    2 January 2011 Last updated at 11:38

    Palestinian shot by Israelis at West Bank checkpoint.

    A Palestinian man has been shot dead after trying to attack Israeli troops at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus, the Israeli army and Palestinian officials say.

    The man, in his 20s, tried to attack troops with a bottle when he was refused permission to pass through the checkpoint, they said.

    The incident happened early on Sunday.

    On Friday, a Palestinian woman died after inhaling gas fired by Israeli troops at a protest in Bilin.

    An Israeli army spokeswoman said the contents of the glass bottle were not known.

    “The soldiers apparently felt threatened,” she added.

    ‘Cover-up’

    The lawyer of the woman who died on Friday has accused the military of a cover-up.

    “Once again the army is covering up the actions of its men, instead of apologising and conducting a serious inquiry,” Michael Sfard told Israel’s army radio after the military announced an investigation into the death of Jawaher Abu Rahmeh.

    It is not clear how Ms Abu Rahmeh died as tear gas is not meant to be lethal.

    Doctors say the gas can kill on rare occasions if a victim has a pre-existing condition.

    Although some reports said Ms Abu Rahmeh had suffered from asthma since childhood, her parents are reported to have said she was healthy and did not have the respiratory condition.

    Rateb Abu Rahmeh, a doctor and a spokesman for the Bilin protesters, said she had a “weak immune system”, the Associated Press news agency reports.

    Dr Mohammed Eideh, who treated Ms Abu Rahmeh in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, said she died of “respiratory failure and then cardiac arrest” caused by tear gas inhalation. He said he did not know if she had a pre-existing condition.

    {http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12104336}

  9. mary said on January 3rd, 2011 at 1:28am #

    The Israeli minister Matan Vilnai who promised that a greater shoah (holocaust) would be visited on Gaza, predicting Cast Lead, described Gaza as ‘an abscess, a troublesome pus…..’.

    Israeli leftists have a racist past, too
    The serene liberal loves to be appalled by the right’s racism. But the older form of racism, that of the center-left, can actually teach us something about its origins.
    {http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israeli-leftists-have-a-racist-past-too-1.334181}

  10. mary said on January 3rd, 2011 at 2:41pm #

    More detailed information on the CS gas ( the tear gas produced by Combined Systems) that killed Jawaher.

    {http://www.blogfrommiddleeast.com/?xstart=b&new=73550}