January 2, 2024 Abdul Haqq

20/20War: New Year or New Fear?

Each new year is welcomed around the globe with spectacular firework displays that fill the skies and airwaves to the rapture of multitudinous audiences gathering to witness such events. As I made my way home, proceeding in the opposite direction to increasing crowds arriving at London Waterloo Station, the jubilant atmosphere was palpable as was the heightened police presence. Once upon a time, I would have been part of such crowds alongside family and friends, excitedly anticipating the new year while simultaneously reflecting on the outgoing one.

Our resolve to consign adverse experiences to the past is not uncommon. With 2023 it is no different. In fact, a growing resolve to address particular injustices of last year is gathering momentum and shows no sign of abating. How many have witnessed protests and demonstrations replacing new year celebrations and/or being held in conjunction with them? These scenes were witnessed across a number of societies where pro-Palestine sentiment and support continue to grow.

Happy New Where?

While many parts of the (western) world prepared to celebrate, other regions, like Gaza (and increasingly, the West Bank), braced itself for an altogether different display; that of aerial bombardment from Israeli forces. To date, Gaza which was already considered a concentration camp and, at the very least, an open-air prison, has experienced almost innumerable deaths, the overwhelming number of casualties being women and children. It is imperative to maintain focus on the Palestinian plight while countering corrosive narratives at political and media levels that posit this indigenous population as perpetrators instead of victims in an effort to confer legitimacy on a colonial imperialism these entities subscribe to:

“Countless lives lost and maimed in body and spirit. Land and homes stolen. Livelihoods and ancient traditions destroyed. The exhausting cycle of having to rebuild, then watching all the promise and possibility turn, in an instant, to dust. The wholesale imprisonment of a people penned like cattle behind walls and barbed wire fences, where water and electricity, food and fuel, are switched on and off on a colonial power’s whim.

But, of course, much of the Western media won’t acknowledge these facts and outrages. That’s because many of the reporters and columnists now gripped by the latest eruption of murderous madness in Palestine and Israel have always interpreted events through a prism chiefly dictated by Israel – whether they are prepared to admit it or not.

In this myopic calculus, Israel is always the victim, never the perpetrator. Israel’s understanding of history matters; Palestinians’ reading not only of the past but of the present and the future too, does not count. And, perhaps most indecent of all, Israeli lives and deaths matter; Palestinian lives and deaths don’t.” [1]

At the same time, it is equally important not to overlook or minimise conflicts raging in other parts of the world, such as Ukraine, Sudan and Ethiopia. We have seen a stark reality play out in real time towards the end of 2023 following the 7th October attacks; namely, human rights are not so universal insofar as they only extend primarily to western societies. One only has to consider the blatancy of political leaders’ unequivocal support for some countries above others, their respective attention to European societies’ financial and military requests in contrast to other non-European counterparts. The inconsistencies are glaringly obvious:

“Anywhere else, attacking civilian infrastructure and deliberately starving an entire population of food, water [and] basic necessities would be condemned, accountability would be enforced,” said King Abdullah. “International law loses all value if it is implemented selectively.” [2]

Imagine

Former Beatles star, John Lennon’s hit song evoked thoughts regarding universal peace and harmony. While ambitious in its scope, with some aspects being antithetical to adherents of various established religions and lifestyles, other verses nonetheless still resonate with a wider audience:

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky

Imagine all the people
Livin’ for today
Ah

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace
You.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one.

I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man.

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.” [3]

Conclusion: 2024 or 20/20War

As we begin 2024, a perfectly reasonable question to ask our leaders is whether their political visions are aligned with societal and global legislations enshrined in human rights or, whether their supposed foresights continue to be obscured by colonial and hegemonic strategies requiring the dehumanising of peoples as a precursor to obtain valuable resources discovered on their respective lands and/or seas? Many of us possess 20/20 vision which is defined as follows:

“A person with 20/20 vision can see what an average individual can see on an eye chart when they are standing 20 feet away,” says Dr. McKinney. McKinney is an ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist at Eye Health Northwest, Oregon City, Ore.” [4]

Unfortunately, and metaphorically speaking, there is an absence of clear sightedness at the highest levels of government, corporations and media as we proceed into the new year – and it is deliberate. Visionaries continue to emerge from among civil societies, so there is hope.

As I boarded the outbound train, my hope to find a seat on what is usually a packed commuter train was immediately realised. In fact, most carriages were completely empty. I was relieved to be escaping the swelling crowd of revellers, heading back to the safety and comfort of my home. However, the moment was not lost on me; I thought about the Palestinians fleeing from one part of Gaza to another, being corralled into so-called safe areas only to be bombed as they arrived there. Unlike them, I was able to escape the crowd; they have nowhere to escape – they are the crowd.

Upon arriving home, I proceeded to the top floor to witness the scenic view of the horizon being lit up with a vibrant array of colour as fireworks exploded into the night sky…

How many of us witnessed similar events as 2024 entered?

How many of us closed our eyes momentarily to listen to the sounds as they filled the airwaves and tried to imagine ourselves, transported with loved ones, into a different more precarious environment than the relative safety and comfort of our own society and homes?

How many of us imagined what it must be like in Gaza – the frequent aerial bombardment lighting up and filling the skies overheard with blinding flares and defeaning sounds respectively? Imagine the fear, the terror, the trauma.

How many of us said a prayer for the Palestinians – and all those experiencing injustice at similar levels?

Imagine, only this time remember a sobering reality; contrary to Lennon’s lyrics, there are both a Heaven and a Hell.

 

 

 

 

[1] Mitrovica, A: ‘Get this straight, western media: Palestinians aren’t subhuman,’ Aljazeera, 10th October 2023: https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2023/10/10/get-this-straight-western-media-palestinians-arent-sub-human

[2] MacFaruhar, N: ‘Developing World Sees Double Standard in West’s Actions in Gaza and Ukraine,’ The New York Times, 23rd October 2023: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/23/us/ukraine-gaza-global-south-hypocrisy.html

[3] Lennon, J: ‘Imagine,’ Imagine lyrics © Budde Music France, CONSALAD CO., Ltd, Downtown Music Publishing, Sentric Music, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, TuneCore Inc.

[4] Vimont, C: ‘What does 20/20 vision mean,’ American Academy of Ophthalmology, 28th January 2022: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/what-does-20-20-vision-mean

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