New Year Reflections - Ramsy Baroud

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Soon after, Hamas found itself utterly isolated, and Palestinians were subjected to cruel collective punishment for their democratic choice, all with the backing and support of the US, Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas.

The year 2006 has closed with the dreadful shadow of civil war hovering over Gaza closer than ever before, as 17 people were killed and many more wounded in past weeks, following an assassination attempt orchestrated by some Fatah faction against Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh. Unconditional US support of Abbas is strengthening the latter’s position, who has declared, in defiance of all democratic principles, his intent on dismantling the Palestinian Parliament and call for early elections.

Lebanon didn’t fair much better in 2006, as a 34-day war, which was clearly premeditated at least a year in advance, brought the country’s thriving economy into a total state of paralysis. The war, which followed Hizbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers at the Lebanon border wreaked havoc in southern Lebanon, but destroyed much of the civilian infrastructure throughout the country as well, as far as its northern border with Syria. The July-August Israeli assault on Lebanon killed over 1200 Lebanese civilians and an unspecified number of Hizbollah fighters; Hizbollah, which not only managed to shock Israel, but the world with its military preparedness and steadfastness, fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, killing 157 Israelis, mostly soldiers. As many members of the international community demanded an immediate end to the fighting, the US cheered Israel on, upholding its tired slogan of Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’; the delay in ending the war however, wrought disaster on America’s ongoing plan to coerce Iran – the main backer of Hizbollah - into abandoning its nuclear program, giving Tehran instead a stronger bargaining position as it was indicated in the Baker-Hamilton report, a culmination of incessant deliberation and research by the Iraq Study Group (ISG). The report recommended that the US must engage Iran and Syria to escape its terrible fate in Iraq.

The ISG which was formulated at the behest and urging of the US Congress to decipher and thus conceive a new American outlook on the ‘deteriorating’ situation in Iraq presented its recommendations to President Bush in December. Though the report had the courage to address the Iraq fiasco in the most honest depiction possible, and also the audacity to openly link the Iraq war to the absence of peace in Palestine, it failed to set a clear course of action out of Iraq and into a new era of realistic, thoughtful and inclusive foreign policy in the Middle East, denying 2006 that jolt of hope needed to offset some of its dreadful disappointments.

With Iraq left with no positive scenarios, hopes for a lasting Palestinian democratic experience turning into daring predictions of a civil war, coupled with bloody Israeli onslaughts against Gaza and the West Bank, Lebanon still bleeding under the outcomes of war and its own political mayhem, Bush’s ‘vision’ for a democratic Middle East of 2005 has enlivened factionalism, sectarianism and the prospect for a regional civil war in 2006; this is yet another reckless American-Israeli experiment that if fully actualized, shall harvest untold political instability, debase America’s reputation even further and expand the list of innocent victims who have fallen as profusely as ever in this passing year.

One is only left with the hope that 2007 may bring some comfort and a moment of peace to the poor, the dispossessed and the resilient masses all around the world, who cannot afford to surrender their genuine hope, humble prayers, and whatever price necessary to achieve peace and freedom for themselves, for all of us.

-Ramzy Baroud’s latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press) is available at the Atlantic Free Press Bookstore via Amazon.com and also from the University of Michigan Press.

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