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A New Year's Wish for the Mideast
Last uploaded : Thursday 16th Jan 2003 at 19:31
Contributed by : Rami Khouri


There is something eerie and surrealistic about the lay of the land in the Middle East as we make the transition today into a new year. The region is plagued by violent conflicts within and between states and by tensions and fears in the lives of ordinary people everywhere, especially Arabs, Iranians and Israelis. The most distressing thing is that we've been through all this before - brutal Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Anglo-American armies poised to
attack Iraq, Arab countries desperately seeking effective formulae for economic development and political governance, a few grotesque police states still hanging around as historical vestiges and political freak shows, public
spaces contested by secular and religious identities, and oddball love-hate relationships between Middle Eastern and Western powers.

The double tragedy for most people in this region is that the chronic political violence in our lives has failed to achieve its objectives. The
start of a new year is always an appropriate moment to define our future priorities, by weighing our achievements, failures and aspirations (the Islamic and Jewish new years will be upon us in March and September,
respectively, so temporal purists can do this again then).

I remain optimistic, though, because daily I see the bounty and wisdom that define Middle Eastern life and societies, alongside our many sorrows. Despite the Middle East's tensions and distortions of power, security and economy,
the strongest force that drives our societies remains the intense, indestructible humanity of our ordinary people. Hundreds of millions of
ordinary Arabs, Israelis, Iranians, Turks, Kurds, Berbers, Armenians and other people wake up every morning, send their children to school, go to
work, hold their heads up, breathe deeply, look their prevailing power structures in the eye, and declare that they will not succumb to the
violence, they will not betray or relinquish their humanity.

Most ordinary people in the Middle East will not embrace savagery as a routine operating procedure, refuse to adopt hypocrisy as a foreign policy guideline, and reject autocracy as a defining value of public governance. The
problem is, these ordinary people do not make policy. This is why our region is so plagued by failed violence, domestic tyranny, the moral scourge of terror, degenerate occupations, civil wars, institutionalised corruption and mediocrity, and the barbarisms of assassination, colonialism and slow-motion ethnic cleansing as official policies. Yet, no Arab, Israeli, Iranian or Turk that I know would ever consciously choose violence over serenity, or war over peace, or would opt for a governance system based on tyranny, exploitation and subjugation rather than equality, liberty and dignity.

I have heard dozens of proposed solutions to the ailments of the contemporary Middle East, including democracy, integration, secularism, globalisation, modernisation, privatisation and many other sensible ideas. But I would like
to make another, easier, suggestion. I would like to urge and challenge the Arab, Israeli and Iranian leaders and power structures to do something very simple: trust your people. Tap the humanity and power of your own citizens' sense of identity, faith and dignity. Put your faith and your fate in the hands of the hundreds of millions of ordinary Arab, Israeli, Iranian and
other men and women who wake up every morning, send their children to school, go to work, hold their heads up high, and hold onto their humanity with every ounce of strength in their bodies. They do this day after day, war after war,
assassination after assassination, dead child after dead child, failed state after failed state. They will not relinquish it. They will not betray it. They will not allow it to be stolen from them, ravaged or killed.

The most indestructible element and untapped force in our region is the rational, compassionate humanity of our people. It has never been mobilised to drive public policy, or to empower social and economic development
efforts. My personal New Year's wish is that the leaders and power elites of the Middle East trust their own ordinary people and let their people define effective new policies. Unburdened by occupation, colonialism, subjugation and tyranny, they will choose the dignity of lives lived peacefully, equally, tolerantly, productively, spiritually, alongside Arabs, Israelis, Iranians
and anyone else who shares these values.

The leaders and power elites of the Middle East will find in the minds and hearts of their own citizens at home that genuine stability and award-winning statehood that have never - never - been achieved through force of arms, restrictive domestic politics or Anglo-American armadas. Along with the Middle Eastern police states and other anachronisms of our region, such violent and failed mechanisms must be discredited and sent to history's garbage dumps - day after day, war after war, assassination after assassination, dead child after dead child, failed state after failed state.
Rami Khouri is a Palestinian-Jordanian syndicated columnist and author, based in Amman.

JewishComment is grateful to Common Ground News Service for securing copyright clearance for this article.

e-mail: cgnews@sfcg.org

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