Tuesday, June 01, 2010

From Robert Fisk in the Independent

In 1948, our politicians – the Americans and the British – staged an airlift into Berlin. A starving population (our enemies only three years before) were surrounded by a brutal army, the Russians, who had erected a fence around the city. The Berlin airlift was one of the great moments in the Cold War. Our soldiers and our airmen risked and gave their lives for these starving Germans.

Incredible, isn't it? In those days, our politicians took decisions; our leaders took decisions to save lives. Messrs Attlee and Truman knew that Berlin was important in moral and human as well as political terms.

And today? It was people – ordinary people, Europeans, Americans, Holocaust survivors – yes, for heaven's sake, survivors of the Nazis – who took the decision to go to Gaza because their politicians and their statesmen had failed them.

Where were our politicians yesterday? Well, we had the ridiculous Ban Ki-moon, the White House's pathetic statement, and dear Mr Blair's expression of "deep regret and shock at the tragic loss of life". Where was Mr Cameron? Where was Mr Clegg?

Back in 1948, they would have ignored the Palestinians, of course. It is, after all, a terrible irony that the Berlin airlift coincided with the destruction of Arab Palestine.

But it is a fact that it is ordinary people, activists, call them what you will, who now take decisions to change events. Our politicians are too spineless, too cowardly, to take decisions to save lives.

What really interests me here is the emphasis on ordinary people acting, because governments have failed. This is what Immanuel Wallerstein talks about -- that we live in an era when nation states no longer work, and when the entire political and economic system that relies on nation states is in jeopardy.

What's hopeful is -- ordinary people are acting. A problem that governments have failed to deal with over and over is being confronted by ordinary people and NGOs.

If the great political structures of the world are paralyzed by greed or timidity or a simple inability to see any possibility of change, then maybe we need to move forward on our own and leave the politicians, businessmen, experts and generals behind.


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