2023 Yearender: A year on the brink

Ezzat Ibrahim , Tuesday 26 Dec 2023

Not since the end of World War II has the world witnessed the kind of atrocities and massacres that occurred in the last three months of 2023.

War on Gaza


Around the globe people found themselves grappling with distorted standards and contradictions within the international system.

While the competing interests of major powers have for decades fed any number of conflicts, the sight of occupation forces annihilating an entire population under the protection of the world’s leading democracies has shocked a generation that believed civility and civilisation had replaced barbarism and savagery.

The Israeli war on Gaza is symptomatic of a world devoid of principle and an international system lacking a shred of credibility. It is a manifestation of continuing Western dominance, exercised beyond scrutiny, and a testament to the inability of the Global South to make its pleas against injustice and the erosion of fundamental rights heard.

Yet Israel’s attempts to resolve the Palestinian question through the forced displacement of Gaza’s inhabitants has resulted in the Palestinian cause returning to the forefront of international attention. Its attempts to bury the cause of the Palestinians once and for all by forcing them off their land, a scheme facilitated by declining international support for a two-state solution, has instead been met with a global resurgence of interest.

The resilience of the Palestinian people has sent shockwaves through younger generations around the world, prompting them to scrutinise the catalogue of global injustices. Young voices have been raised against an international order that perpetuates these injustices, from the trampling of Palestinian rights to climate change, income inequality, and exploitation of the resources of less developed nations to the treatment of migrants and the rise of extreme nationalist and populist tendencies that threaten the very notion of coexistence in diverse societies.

Some protest vocally. Others express solidarity through time and effort. A new generation sees clearly that the existing international order is incapable of promoting a better future for humanity.

The impunity with which Israel pursues its brutal schemes has provided a lifeline for extremist ideologies. It is the perfect recruitment tool for extremist groups all too willing to capitalise on the horror provoked by the gruesome images coming out of Gaza. Yet those powers capable of intervening to halt the madness appear determined to let it continue.

The past year has compounded, rather than resolved, ongoing conflicts. The seemingly endless war in Ukraine continued. The conflict in Sudan, driven by unrepresentative factions tied to narrow regional interests, persisted. The tribal and regional affiliations of Libyan factions have left the prospect of political unity as distant as ever. Meanwhile, the US and other Western nations persist in using the pretext of confronting Iran and its proxies in the Middle East to engineer shifts in alliances to solidify their interests in the region.

The cold war between the US and China may have been put on hold but it is a temporary respite that will end when the results of the upcoming US presidential elections in November become clear.

Economies continued to teeter beneath the impact of military conflicts, political rivalries, and fiscal mismanagement, leaving the spectre of recession to loom over the new year.

The failure to intervene and halt the suffering of two million people crammed into a tiny strip of land where they face starvation while bombs rain down on them does not imply an absence of solidarity. One need only glance at social media platforms or listen to the soundbites coming out of the United Nations General Assembly to realise there is no lack of solidarity. The problem is that it is the vested interests of the powerful that dictate the global agenda. The future of humanity continues to be shaped by alignments and balances promoted by the West.

The new year is likely to see the continuation and deterioration of regional conflicts.

The one glimmer of hope is that the fear of drifting into devastating confrontations will spur regional and international powers to reach the kind of agreements urgently needed to prevent a descent into chaos.

And where better to start than to end the bloodshed, killing, and oppression in the occupied Palestinian territories by restraining the actions of a racist state that boasts about its disregard for international law?

* A version of this frontpage article of the 2023 Al-Ahram Weekly Yearender appears in print in the 21 December 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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