A report on the two day conference on “A Just Peace for Palestine” held on 22-23 September 2010 at New Delhi.

“Just Peace for Palestine”
Fri, 2010-09-24 15:07 – Dhananjay

Day 1

Noted academics, political leaders and activists from the different parts of the world gathered today for a two day Conference in New Delhi on “A Just Peace for Palestine”. The Conference was jointly organised by the Committee for Solidarity with Palestine, Palestine BDS National Committee, All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation and other like-minded organisations. All the speakers emphasised that until the Israeli oppression of Palestine people ends, the much sought after “two-state solution” will never get realised. The Conference gave a united call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

Father Miguel Brockmann, former President of the UN General Assembly, while addressing the gathering emphasised that Palestinians live under the conditions of apartheid, whereby their basic livelihood rights are brutally curtailed by the Israeli authority. Israeli oppression is in complete violation of the UN Human Rights Charter. He emphasised that the explicit recognition of Israeli oppression by the international community is a prerequisite to any genuine peace process in the conflict ridden region of West Asia. He further said that the MDGs set by the UN are bound to fail because they are set as “goals and targets” and not “rights”, and nobody is held accountable for failing the targets. He emphasised that recognition of basic rights of Palestinian people is essential.

Jamal Zahalka, a member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), pointed out that Palestine is the only nation in the world which is geographically segregated and in each of the segregated part of the nation, Israeli authority exerts varying forms of oppression to assert its hegemony. He vehemently opposed Israel”s claim to be recognised as a Democratic Jewish state. He explained that Israel wants to establish the Jewish state by physically eliminating the Palestinian people living in Israel. This is fundamentally contradictory to the notion of democracy. Any formal recognition of Israel as a democratic state would firmly establish Zionist hegemony and delegitimize the struggle of Palestinian people, he said.

Professor Aijaz Ahmed said that the resolution of the Palestine issue is central to lasting peace in West Asia. He pointed out how the position of the leadership of the Indian National Congress on Palestine has changed over the decades. Gandhi had unambiguously recognised the rights of Palestinian people on their land, a view which was later championed by Nehru and his followers in the Non-Aligned Movement. However, the official Indian position has shifted since the 1990s towards closer ties with Israel. He linked the shift with the emergence of Hindutva and neo-liberalism and fall of the socialist block.

Professor Richard Falk of Princeton University sarcastically termed India”s lack of voice on Palestinian cause as “geopolitical laryngitis” at a time when India enjoys greater geopolitical significance. He emphasised that self determination of Palestine can be achieved only through political struggles. He explained the need for soft power instruments against the hard power dominance of the Israel and US combine, drawing inspiration from the non-violence movement of Gandhi.

Professor Falk and Professor Aijaz Ahmad opined that unless an objective assessment of historical events of 1948 and 1967 are done and the crimes committed against the Palestinian people are recognised, the present problem cannot be resolved.

Day 2

The first session of second day was on an Asian response to the Palestinian peace issue and it was chaired by Professor Upendra Baxi. As the first speaker of the session, Prof. Achin Vanaik of Delhi University said that we have to provide a critical but unconditional support to Hamas. He focused on the US geopolitical strategies in West Asia to maintain its domination through supporting Israel. Prof. Vanaik cautioned against over-dependence on Turkey as it is one of the member-countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation aspiring as well to join the European Union. Exposing the irrational demands of the US, Prof. Vanaik said that it is an imperialist country which had invaded Iraq and Afghanistan recently. A country with imperialist designs will never attempted to find a solution for Palestine, he asserted. He also said that civil society resistance to American imperialism is intensified in the recent past and we should strengthen it further. He suggested the organisation of another flotilla with US citizens on the board and to have an international musical concert supporting the Palestinian cause, in one of prominent US cities.
Mustafa Barghouti , a candidate for the Presidency of the Palestinian Authority, described the specificity of empire building in the region. According to him peace initiatives will fail because it is aimed at domestication of Palestinian political process and issues. The peace process cannot take place without acknowledging the suffering of the Palestinian people. With the help of maps and illustrations, Mustafa Barghouti explained how Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory has slowly increased recently. Earlier areas belonging to the Palestinian settlement was 45% of the total land, which had now shrunk to 11 percent. The peace process must focus on settlements, he argued while asserting that Israel had a vested interest in delegitimising the democratic process in Palestine. Mr. Barghouti appealed to the Indian people to support the Palestinian cause. He reminded that India had stood steadfastly against the apartheid regime of South Africa. Today Israel is the biggest violator of international law and Israel is the instrument of all imperialist design providing enough reason to oppose Israel.

Walden Bello , Co-Founder of Focus on Global South, talked about the unity of the people of different regions supporting the Palestinian cause He said the insincere peace talk will strengthen Israel and that US pressure on Israel is important but it is not doing the needful. The American propaganda of democracy in west Asia is a farce because Iraq and Afghanistan are still under its occupation. American policies are responsible for all the mess and we need a multipolar world order, he asserted. Mr. Bello also emphasised the crucial role of Turkey and said the President Barack Obama of the US has to implement his promises. He said that we have to strengthen the civil society movement against Israel.

Ilan Pape, professor of history in the University of Exeter, has said that is wrong to assume the US to be a homogenous country and that there are different voices within the American political mainstream. Recently, there is an assertion of progressive Churches, Jews” organisations and student movements. Today Israel is scared of this growing resentment against its policies in the US and this is time for us to ally and lobby against Zionist rule, he said. Strengthening the Boycott, De-invest and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is the best strategy and we should support it, he argued.

The second session of the day was on an Action Plan for Ending the Apartheid and was chaired by Prof. Richard Falk. The first speaker of the session Ms. Lisa Taraki a sociologist at Birzeit University of Palestine said that BDS must be intensified and cautioned against the brand Israel campaign. The Israeli academic and cultural institutions are major instruments of Zionist propaganda, he mentioned.

Dr. Mordecai Briemberg, also emphasized on spreading the information about the BDS campaign in countries like Canada and Europe so that people could be mobilised in favour of the movement. Thomas Sommer- Houdeville, who was the part of the Freedom Flotilla narrated his experiences. He said that there were three reasons why Israel conducted the attack. Firstly, it is a military state and did not know of any other way to respond. Secondly, the Flotilla was breaking the silence on the blockade. Thirdly, Israel continues to fear any pro-active effort against the blockade or its policies. Thomas said that they are preparing another Flotilla involving people from all parts of the world and the attack has not deterred their spirit.

Concluding session – Speaking for Palestine

The concluding session was chaired by senior journalist Seema Mustafa. As the first speaker, veteran trade union leader from Bangladesh Rashed Menon said that the people of Bangladesh stood in support of the Palestinian people. The chairman of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Manzurul Khan said that the history of Israel is the history of violence and violations of human rights. He asserted that the people of the world were for peace in Palestine and these voices needed to be strengthened. President of the Jatiya Samaj Kranti Dal and member of parliament of Bangladesh, Moinuddin Khan said that Israel is a ZIonist state and a stigma in the face of humanity and that the subcontinent can do a lot for Palestine; India should take a bold stand for Palestine and that India can lead the world through the force of its moral power and not its might.

Mustafa Barghouti argued that there had to be peace or settlements would continue in Israel. In 1947, Palestinian settlements amounted to 45% of the total land, which had reduced to merely 11% in 2005. There was no scope for peace until Israel halted settlements and construction of the apartheid wall. The military arms that Israel was supplying India, were tested on the Palestinian people in Gaza, he said. India was the largest buyer of Israel arms and the BDS campaign would not succeed unless a strong people”s movement in India was not launched.

Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said that the Indian people were concerned as to how to extend solidarity to the Palestinian people and the central issue was the change in the position of the Indian government vis-a-vis the Palestinian issue. In the last one and a half decade, successive governments in India have tried to forge close alliance with the Israeli regimes. The Indian government has condemned the attack on the flotilla but did not mention the name of Israel. There is an impression that Israelis are advising the Indian government in Kashmir. We have to look into the huge multi-billion defence deals between these establishments and the corruption involved. Unfortunately in the Parliament, there is no voice articulating such concerns and the Palestinian peoples” voices. The defence issue has to be taken up by Parliamentary standing committee and we should get trade unions to participate in the BDS campaign, he asserted. We should also get port and dock workers” unions to agree not to unload Israeli goods, he argued.

Mani Shankar Aiyar, member of parliament of the Rajya Sabha said that in 1947, India was the only country which stood against the Partition of Palestine. Gandhiji had said that Palestine belonged to Palestine, as much as England belonged to the English and France to the French. The Indian democracy has demonstrated with its plurality that unity is possible through diversity. Yet, today”s Indian establishment is opposed to what India has historically stood for, vis-a-vis the Palestinian issue.

Jamal Juma, co-ordinator of Stop the Wall campaign, questioned why India needed weapons from Israel. He exhorted the Indian establishment to support peace and human rights in Palestine. India was the second largest market for Israeli products and that is why India was so important for the Palestinian in the BDS campaign against Israel.

D.P.Tripathi, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party, said that every person who believes in democracy and against apartheid should support Palestine. There is a continuous social, economic and psychological blockade of the Palestinian people by Israel and that a new flotilla from India involving south Asian people for Palestine had to be initiated.

A.B.Bardhan, general secretary of the Communist Party of India, said that if the peace process is only to legitimise Israeli authority, he was opposed to it. He asserted that solidarity with the Palestinian people had no meaning unless there was a concerted opposition to the military alliance with Israel. He argued that Indian intelligence was in cahoots with Israeli intelligence and that Indian democracy was under threat because of this.

Jamal Zahalka, member of the Knesset representing the Balad party, said that all those who were responsible for the killings on the flotilla off the Gaza coast, should be tried and brought to justice. He argued that racism is not merely a domestic issue of Palestine and that it must be defeated globally. The Palestinian people were challenging the Israeli regime and will continue to do so, he asserted.

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