Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where Are We Going?

So, my friends. Wikileaks, Sidibouzid, Egypt, Libya... Been a big few months! Where are we going now? A lot remains to be decided, but much that once seemed radically impossible can now be stated with certainty.

Firstly, it's clear that future governments in North African countries are going to be ambivalent, at best, to Western powers, particularly the USA. This change in sentiment is already spreading across the Middle East too, which is a surely good thing, given the West's history of support for repressive regimes in the region.

We are already seeing signs of dramatic change. Two Iranian ships have sailed through the Suez canal for the first time since 1979. Israel predictably slammed the move as provocative and destabilising, but nobody did anything to stop them. It's worth noting that both ships were built in Britain, and it's also worth asking how Israel would react if the Iranian Navy ever escorted a humanitarian flotilla to Gaza. But as long as protests continue gathering pace in Tehran, staged events like this remain something of a side-show.

Egypt's border with Gaza is a far more significant flash-point. Since Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza two years ago, skirmishes, protests and rocket attacks have remained frequent. But there has been an increase in Israeli air assaults since the people's revolution in Cairo. Clearly the border has become more porous already, and Israel's response indicates that it plans to continue hardening its militant stance.

If so, that is a great mistake. Israel now has no choice but to negotiate in good faith with their new neighbourhood leaders, and that must certainly include an end, once and for all, to the apartheid persecution of Palestinians. The declaration of a Palestinian State along 1967 borders - already recognised by much of the world, especially in South America - must now be accepted in Tel Aviv. Mubarak's cement-and-steel wall along the Sinai borders with Gaza must also come down.

Israelis now understand the increasing pressure to negotiate a Palestinian peace deal. Of course Western leaders who helped prop up Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Gaddafi remain steadfastly loyal to Israel, in public at least. But electorate attitudes to Israeli repression are shifting in reaction to media coverage of the "Arab Spring". Anyway, Western leaders have their own problems with widespread discontented masses.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has praised Al Jazeera's coverage, asking why US media cannot be as professional and informative. Compare that with former President Bush, who seriously considered bombing Al Jazeera's headquarters in US-friendly Qatar. We can only hope Clinton's comments pave the way for Al Jazeera's entry to the US media landscape, a move which would rock US attitudes to foreign policy (and maybe even domestic politics).

If Israel continues its hard-line policy against Palestine, it will soon find Arab nations far more united in opposition than the tame Arab League ever managed. Should that happen, we can safely assume Washington would stand behind their "friends" (or is it "masters"?) in Tel Aviv. And then it might be up to right-thinking people in Israel and the USA to somehow force their governments back from the brink of a calamitous full-scale war.

Will it come to that? I certainly hope not. For starters, Arab nations should be able to exert economic pressure on the West, if only because so much black gold remains trapped beneath their desert sands. And the martyrs who gave their lives to support peaceful revolutions in countries like Egypt and Tunisia would hardly want their brothers killed in violent battles abroad.

But Israel and Washington must start to recognise the new realities already forming in the region. Hard-line rhetoric must be scaled down. US forces must withdraw from the Iraq and Afghanistan. Settlement building and air assaults on Gaza must be terminated immediately. Peaceful dialogue must begin again (no more meaningless farces) and this time it must lead to real change, quickly! The people of the Arab world will accept nothing less.

If leaders on all sides cannot deliver such change, they should step aside or be replaced. And that includes the House of Saud, whose actions in the coming weeks could prove critical to the future of not just the Middle East, but the entire planet.

Make no mistake. The world is changing rapidly, and the broader effects of popular revolutions in North Africa are already being felt around the globe. We, the people of this fragile planet, face incredibly huge and difficult problems - over-population, peak oil, and climate change. Meanwhile, our elite billionaire Western power-brokers continue to pillage our coffers just as shamelessly as their Middle Eastern dictator friends. We cannot rely on them to save us.

We should all take courage from the brave example of protesters in faraway places like Tahrir Square, Benghazi, and Sidibouzid. The revolution of people against corrupted power must continue spreading. We must join hands and bring down those whose lies and greed threaten the future of our planet. If our leaders cannot see the path ahead, we must replace them and continue pushing forward.

Peace, equality, justice, and a bright future are ours, if we want them. Let nobody stand in our way!

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