Abbas Beydoun

Friday, April 11, 2003

Dear Michael, I have not taken part in any demonstrations. I hear about them from those who consider them as their only means of participating in events. I hate the celebratory aspect of such demonstrations and always feel that those taking part in them are imitating themselves ...

Dear Michael,

I have not taken part in any demonstrations. I hear about them from those who consider them as their only means of participating in events. I hate the celebratory aspect of such demonstrations and always feel that those taking part in them are imitating themselves, and conjuring up without any innovation things that have been become part of the wreckage of their lives. However, I listen to the drivers of the service taxis who drive me around in their cars, and to my fellow passengers. All of them are proud of the resistance the Iraqis are putting up, and all of them do not want to think that the outcome of the battle is a foregone conclusion and that the Iraqis have no hope of being saved from it. People over here support Iraq – or why not say Saddam Hussein and his regime – for one simple reason, namely that it has resisted and inflicted losses on the Americans, both in terms of weapons and lives.

It is not peace that people hear care about. What they care about is confronting the Americans at any cost. They care about daring to defy the Americans and they do not think of the consequences. They are the same people who can be scared to death and prevented from breathing by the political police. I don’t understand how people crushed by fear can appear courageous as they confront the world’s strongest super power. I don’t know, but I sometimes think that people fear repression more than they fear war. They fear torture and humiliation more than they fear death. I do not understand, but I am saddened when I see people who only care about dying with a dignity that they did not enjoy in their lives.

The day came when the French press put forward some questions about the Arab masses. It said that it seemed that the Arab masses were an illusion, because those masses had not been seen on the streets struggling for peace, whereas people in the countries farthest away from our region had demonstrated against war in Iraq. Let me say that peace to the Arab masses is a luxury they do not contemplate. They think of more necessary matters – of dignity, for example, if not of the medicines and food that they lack. That lack in itself is a big humiliation. They are thinking of dignity. Now, as the Iraqis confront the Americans in whatever way and for whatever reason, everyone feels involved, since dignity is now the issue.

However, this is dangerous because dignity is an ancient issue. In any case, it is not exactly a contemporary issue. Others demand peace and justice. But here, what counts is honour. And with honour comes a tribal heritage that can impose itself: courage, sacrifice, combat. All these are the war values of peoples that are always defeated and always craving just one victory, or at least a dignified confrontation. That causes us to become preoccupied with non-contemporary issues on the basis of which it is difficult to communicate with the world, hold a debate with it or enter into its battles and confrontations.

The world does not understand why many Arabs commit suicide in commando operations. And the Arabs do not understand – even those of them who oppose those suicide operations – why those suicide attacks are described as unethical. At the very least, they view them as a sign of great sacrifice and outstanding courage. It is likely that a big battle such as the war in Iraq slightly restores Arab dignity. It is a major war, a war against the world and defeat is a possibility, while remaining steadfast for a while is almost a victory. But this is an issue in which there is no place for politics, economics, self-interest or arithmetic. It is an issue that only entails pure psychology. Once again, we ask the question: Where are we? In what age are we living?

Abbas Beydoun

Translation from Arabic: Samira Kawer

Related Topics
In submitting this comment, the reader accepts the following terms and conditions: Qantara.de reserves the right to edit or delete comments or not to publish them. This applies in particular to defamatory, racist, personal, or irrelevant comments or comments written in dialects or languages other than English. Comments submitted by readers using fantasy names or intentionally false names will not be published. Qantara.de will not provide information on the telephone. Readers' comments can be found by Google and other search engines.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.