Part of the comments I made at a conference in Warsaw, Poland on Arab Revolts. Speakers included people from Lebanon, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Russia, France, US and more http://www.geremek.pl/index.php?id=408&lang=en
It is very meaningful for me to be in Poland for the first time. In 1989, you had the peak of your inspiring uprising in Poland. We in Palestine also had an inspiring uprising that peaked in that period. Unlike your uprising, we did not succeed then. We have had a total of 15 uprisings in the past 130 years. Gaza had several uprisings each reminiscent of the Warsaw uprising. In Gaza 1.5 million people, most of them refugees are forced to live on a small desert regions, now one of the most densely populated areas on earth. In fact, we draw inspiration from each other.
There is a joke about a reporter in Jerusalem visiting the wailing wall and noticing an old Jewish man praying so he interviewed him. What do you pray for at the wall? I pray for world peace! How long have you been praying for world peace at the wall? 27 years! And how does it feel to be praying for 27 years at the wall for world peace? How do you think if feels..it feels like praying to a freaking wall!!!
I said yesterday I am optimistic about the future in our part of the world. I actually wrote a book called sharing the land of Canaan looking to a shared future, one democratic state for all its people in our homeland. I was talking to Dr. Geremek yesterday over dinner and we both share medical background which makes us optimistic always. For knowing the diagnosis is important but giving therapy and giving patients some information on prognosis is equally important.
Yet, we live in an age of universal deceit where proper diagnosis is obfuscated by propaganda. This is the age in which truth telling, as one author said, becomes a revolutionary act. Words seem to be switched on us in this Orwellian era. Two speakers yesterday tried to use verbal acrobatics to justify the unjustifiable while proclaiming that French and US governments are trying to promote human rights in the middle east. One thing that brings to mind is the Orientalism discussed by my late friend Edward Said. Western governments have been engaged in destructive partnership with the most repressive regimes from Saudi Arabia to Israel. Just imagine what would have been the reaction if the roles were reversed. What if Arabs and Muslims who were living in their golden age joined party with the repressive kingdoms of Europe during the Middle Ages! The best thing European and American governments can do is stop being partners in crime with those who repress us and leave us alone. We would surely develop much faster. Certainly faster than what even we expect. Surely the Berlin Wall tumpled faster tahn we expected. Certainly Soviet collapse also happened faster than we expected and also the end of apartheid in South Africa.
We have to remember that France, England and Russia joined forces to divide the Middle East in the Sykes-Picot agreement. It was France that issued the Jules Cambon declaration in 1917 just before England issued the Balfour declaration in support of the racist Zionist idea which was to give our country to the Zionist movement. And it is the US and the Soviet Union that almost simultaneously recognized the theft of Palestine to create a Jewish state in the middle of the Arab world. America, far from being a promoter of human rights used nuclear bombs on civilians and used Napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam. They then played their chess game at our expense. People do not forget things like the CIA’s toppling of the democratically elected Iranian government in 1953 to install the brutal Shah!
Martin Luther King who opposed American imperialism and exceptionalism gave his last speech in 1968 stating:
God didn't call America to do what she's doing in the world now. God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war ….. We have committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world.
King went on to talk about peace and economic justice saying:
What I'm saying to you this morning is that communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problems of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together.
Israel provides the most blatant case of double standards and the achille’s heel of empire that tries to cover its nakedness by empty talk about human rights, democracy, and international law while everywhere the same people mouthing those directly support war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the antithesis of democracy.
The largest remaining post-WWII refugee crisis is the Palestinian refugees. We have 7 million refugees or displaced people coming from 530 ethnically cleansed villages and towns. Israel still refuses to allow us to return to our homes and lands. Why does the West tolerate this and continue to support Israel
Israel has over 50 laws that make it an apartheid racist state that discriminates against non-Jews. And even though both US law and European law says that countries that persistently violate human rights should not be supported, yet Europe follows US policy of blind obedience to the short-sighted Israel lobby. One wonders why every neighboring country to Syria except Israel each received at least half a million Syrian refugees? There is so much that is not being discussed in discussing the Arab revolts including the negative role that global and regional powers play. We have to remember who pushed for US war on Iraq and who is now pushing for the US war on Syria and Iran.
I am optimistic because I travel a lot (just in the past few months to Jordan and its Syrian refugee camps, to Egypt, Turkey, India, South Africa, and Japan) and see a growth of the same kind of global movement that helped end apartheid in South Africa trying to end Israeli apartheid. I am optimistic because wars no longer achieve their intended goals of promotion of imperialism and racism. Good examples of this in the past 10 years are the US war on Iraq and Israel’s war on Lebanon and Gaza. I am optimistic despite the stupidity of both the Hamas leaders in Gaza and the Fatah leaders in Ramallah; both focused on their narrow personal interests than they are the interest of millions of Palestinians.
So I have the same dream as Martin Luther King. Getting past the European 19th century ideas of ethnocentric nation states towards a a socjety in which citizens share and live in equality and with respect to human rights. A society in which war is a thing of the past, where justice rolls like a mighty stream, where each person is valued regardless of his/her skin color or religion. This is the dream of our world and it is a dream that is worth for us to sacrifice and struggle for.