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The Future is Also in our Hands

Sumaya Farhat-Naser: Berlin, February 15, 2003

In solidarity with millions of people across the world we stand here today, to reject war as a means of conflict resolution. We are standing up against the war with all those in New York, Paris, London, Baghdad, Tel Aviv, Tehran, Nablus, Ramallah, and with all the people not allowed to demonstrate.

War can never rescue victims, and violence can never create  peace. War kills and destroys. Who cares about the people in Iraq? Apparently they remain unimportant; because it is the control of the region and its resources that is at stake.

The global geo-strategic balances of power tempt the powerful to see themselves as the sole possessors of wisdom, as the ones who alone have the right to make decisions about the life and death of others. Whoever profits from war seeks justification in the name of religion and democracy, in the name of security and peace. With the common decision of the powerful for war, to profit in common from war,  globalization prevails, regardless of the losses to freedom, humanity and morality.

To wage war, unlimited resources stand ready.  Planning, preparation, realization as well as media work are all in full gear. What would be possible, if a fraction of all these efforts and expenses were dedicated to peace?

When Iraq is defeated militarily, what country will be next? What country has no weapons of mass destruction? What country is really democratic? Why does the international community do nothing when UN resolutions on the Palestinian-Israel conflict are not respected? These are all questions that the people in the Middle East are asking, with fear and bitterness.

As a Palestinian I condemn the planned war against Iraq, because I know what war is. We are victims of many wars in the Middle East. The exile of half our people goes back to the war of 1948. More than two million refugees have lived for more than fifty years in exile, suffering injustice and repression. The thirty-five year old occupation of our people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is a result of the so-called Six Day War. In the war of 1973 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were again expelled. Since April 2002 we have been subjected to an unusual state of war, in which every day people are killed, deaths which at this point are not worthy of mention in the newspapers. We are being robbed of our worth as human beings, our Palestinian society is being destroyed, our basis of existence eradicated.

We all, Palestinians and Israelis, are losing our people and our humanity. We live without any sense of security in our daily lives, more than ever before, because the deployment of the most brutal machinery of war and violence can never bring security. We do not want and we cannot make war on Israel; we want the realization of our human rights and international laws. We want peace with Israel.

The land of the oldest cultures, of arches and arcades, of gilded blue and turquoise colored domes and towers, of date palms and olive trees, this country looks with horror at the death of its inhabitants, whether they be Arabs, Kurds, Kildans, Assyrians, Armenians or Palestinians in IRAQ. 

In the last Gulf War the number of victims of the war and its aftermath reached one million. This time the number in Iraq and the entire region will be much higher. Certainly no one will be spared, neither the supporters nor the opponents of this or that political regime, nor the undecided nor those not asked.

The population will suffer even more, because they have been robbed of their power to choose a political regime able to meet their needs. The Iraqi people have the right of self-determination, to choose a political system that also protects Iraq’s sovereignty over its resources. A war brings with it the danger of incalculable chaos, because the highly tense interests of many countries and political currents will collide in Iraq, and each will try to make the most of the opportunity. The peoples of the Middle East experience violence, humiliation and daily injustice through their political systems, the Palestinians in addition because of the Israeli military occupation. Thus for a long time a basic feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness has reigned.

A war against Iraq can upset the whole region, destabilize the political systems and create a situation that will push the chances for peace into the distant future. The Palestinians fear that their nightmare will be realized: they fear mass expulsion, the destruction of villages, killing of people or destruction of their psychological integrity, a danger above all for the more than 12,000 political prisoners.

The war would prepare fertile soil for radical political movements. From sustained violence comes anger and rage. Such rage robs people of their humanity and dominates life, so that life, even one’s own, becomes unimportant. It raises all barriers and wipes out all values.

Ask yourselves, how can such rage develop? It develops from suffering obvious injustice, a part of daily life in the Middle East. The call to end the violence and to uphold international and humanitarian laws and thus respect UN resolutions, must apply equally to all.

We demand disarmament across the entire Middle East, including Israel. We are worried about the people of Iraq, also about our families there. We are worried about how we will deal with the grief of those who survive the war physically, and those who will experience psychological breakdowns. We know what occupation is; we know the suffering of traumatized children and adults. No one should ever have to experience this, including the Iraqis.

Yesterday I telephoned my sister-in-law in Baghdad. I asked her how they were preparing, what actions they had taken for survival. She answered quietly, simply and yet firmly: there is little that can be done; we put our souls in God’s hands.

The future is also in our hands. Politicians, journalists, business people, writers and artists and all influential people are now, here and today, called on to prevent war.

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