American and Israeli policies thrashed at Delhi symposium on West Asia
Milli Gazette Online
New Delhi: A symposium held at Delhi’s India International Centre here on Sunday, 12 November, severely criticized American and Israeli policies and held them responsible for the chaos and mess now seen in the Middle East. The symposium, chaired by veteran diplomat KP Fabian, was held jointly by the Urdu magazine Afkar-e Milli and the English newspaper The Milli Gazette.
Inaugurating the discussion with a keynote address, Milli Gazette editor Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan traced the checkered history of the region starting with the First World War when Britain made three conflicting agreements with three parties for the same territory. With the Arabs, through Sharif Husain of Makkah, it concluded an agreement that he would be made the “King of the Arabs” ruling over all territories liberated by his forces in addition to Hijaz. With the French, it agreed to partition Palestine and Syria between the two countries through the Sykes-Picot agreement and to the Jews it promised Palestine through the Balfour Declaration.
After the war Britain reneged on its agreement with the Sharif of Makkah, opened the floodgates of Jewish immigration into Palestine and allowed France to occupy Syria including Lebanon. Later in 1921, Sharif Husain’s sons Faisal and Abdallah were accommodated as king of Iraq and emir of Transjordan respectively. Jewish immigrants swelled into Palestine, formed their own army (Haganah) and many terrorist gangs like Stern and Irgun. As the situation got out of control towards the end of the Second World War, Britain threw the ball into the United Nations’ court where a recommendation was passed to partition Palestine between Arabs and Jews. Jews seized the opportunity and unilaterally announced the birth of Israel in May 1948. A civil war broke out. The partition recommendation was frozen by the UN and a negotiator (Count Bernadotte) was dispatched to Palestine to try to find a common ground and a satisfactory solution acceptable to both the Arabs and Jews. He was murdered in broad daylight in Jerusalem by Jewish terrorists and the UN washed its hands off the Palestinian issue while Jewish gangs went on the rampage to capture as much land as possible by expelling the Arab population through tactical use of terror as in Deir Yassin. During this terrorist exercise Israel managed to expand its area from 56 per cent of Palestine, allocated to the Jews in the partition plan, to 78 per cent while the majority of the Arabs of Palestine found themselves in refugee camps. Israel was later accepted as a member of the United Nations after signing solemn pledges to implement all UN resolutions and allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands. Nothing of the sort ever happened due to the blind support of Israel by western nations. Israel has since attacked Arab countries many a time and at present occupies even the remaining 22 per cent of Palestine in addition to parts of Syria’s Golan and Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms.
After the expulsion of PLO forces in the wake of one such aggression against Lebanon in 1982 and the subsequent collapse of the Rejectionist Front after Saddam Husain’s aggression against Kuwait in 1990, PLO was forced to accept Oslo Accords agreeing to a state on just 22 percent of the historical Palestine. Israel extracted recognition and many concessions from the Palestinians while offering nothing in return. Oslo allowed Israel to establish normal relations with many countries in the world including India while the Palestinian Authority areas became a number of closed prisons with Israeli-manned checkpoints. To frustrate Oslo Accords, the Israelis commissioned America’s Neocons to lay down a plan to kill the accords while appearing as a victim in the eyes of the world public opinion. This plan, called “A Clean Break”, exists since 1996 and explains all the Israeli policies ever since.
In the meanwhile, Dr Khan went on to say, America seized the opportunity of “9-11” to unleash a grand project to take over energy resources and occupy strategic points around the world. A war was waged against Afghanistan and later against Iraq with many others on the list of “failed states” which were to be tackled. Thanks to popular resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Neocon project seems to have failed and the American people themselves have decisively rejected it. Dr Khan warned that the problems were not over and the Third World countries must be alert and on their guard to fight off threats to their freedom and sovereignty.
Jamaat-e Islami Hind’s NK Affandi read a message from its president Dr Abdul Haq Ansari in which the latter said that Palestine and Iraq are not just political and territorial issues, they also have the religious dimension as the foreign aggression and occupation hurt the religious sentiments of millions of people around the world.
Professor Eleen Qutub of the Birzeit University in the West Bank said that the Palestinians are still resisting despite all these years of occupation. She told the gathering that students of her university forced Jospin, the French foreign minister, to go away after he refused to apologise for an earlier statement that Hizbullah was a 'terrorist movement'.
She said that Palestinians in the occupied territories need moral support more than material support. She said that the Zionists and Americans do not want to bring democracy to the Middle East. What they want is to introduce chaos in the region. The purpose of Condoleezza Rice's “New Middle East” is to kill the resistance in Palestine, she said adding that we suffer from a settler-colonialism in Palestine where the occupiers follow a policy of “transfer” of the original population to foreign lands. But, she observed, contrary to 1948, our people today are not leaving the country. She said that there is an Israelisation of globalisation. Free Market economy now being peddled will mean only more exploitation of the poor, especially women.
Speaking about the Palestinian Authority, Professor Qutub said that Presidential institutions are still committed to the peace process despite all the disasters and chaos this process has brought to us. During the First Intifada (1987) we were able to cope well economically but today under Oslo Accords are not able to do so. Oslo, she said, meant fragmentation of Palestine.
Professor Qutub said that the situation is so bad in the prisons that make up for the Palestinian Authority that for the last five years she herself has not been able to go to Gaza or Jerusalem. Deliveries, miscarriages and marriages are taking place as a routine on Israeli checkposts which the Palestinians are often not allowed to cross to go to other parts of their own country. PA's presidential institutions, she said, have monopolised all power and all corruption. She said that under the current Israeli regulations Palestinians cannot leave Palestine for more than one year and if they do they are stripped of their citizenship rights and can come back only as tourists with a limited visa. Western embassies are generously giving visit and work visas to the young Palestinians these days in a bid to encourage them to leave the occupied lands and thereby facilitate the Israeli “transfer” policy aimed at getting rid of as many Palestinians as possible.
Speaking about recent political developments, Professor Qutub said that the Palestinian people have chosen Hamas as a sign of rejection of the American policies. In doing so they exercised their democratic right but the very people who talk of Democracy have rejected the outcome of this democratic exercise. Our people, she said, are tired of compromises. There is no hope except through resistance. We have the right to resist by all means. During the first Intifada, women started cooperatives as a symbol of resistance. The Israeli forces used to invade these cooperatives in order to break the Palestinian people’s will to resist. Fateh has a class dimension, she said, adding that Fateh gunmen do not approve of PA policies because only a small fragment is ruling in Palestine. We want a state with full sovereignty, not what Oslo Accord offers us, she said.
Seema Mustafa, veteran journalist and editor of the Asian Age, said that the gameplan of the US is very complex. It is not just oil they are after. They also want to control the hearts and minds of the people in West Asia. Every resistance to their schemes, she said, is dubbed as “terrorism”. Many holocausts are being perpetuated against the Palestinians. Worst kinds of atrocities are heaped on the people of West Asia but no one talks about this.
Speaking about Lebanon, Seema Mustafa said that the defeat of Israel in Lebanon is very important in the long run. A kind of genocide of an entire nation in Palestine, of women and children, is going on. Americans define terrorism in a particular way in order to peddle their interests. Freedom fighters of yesterday like Bin Laden and Taliban are terrorists today and terrorists of today will be freedom fighters tomorrow as we are hearing that Karzai is asking the Taliban to join his government in Kabul.
Seema Mustafa came down heavily on the western, especially American, media and said that “embedded journalism” is alien to all that media stands for. Media is being used in the West and manipulated in India. Apartheid rulers in South Africa did go to churches but Christianity was never attacked while Islam is being attacked because some terrorists say they are Muslim. Media is being used by the Neocons, she said adding that the US elections have come five years too late. She warned that there will be only some cosmetic change in the American foreign policy after the recent elections. If all it signifies is that American people do not want their people to die then there will not be any great change, she said.
Seema Mustafa came down hard on the Indian foreign policy saying that in India we have completely reversed our foreign policy. She said that American and western policies are described today as "global" but they are not global since many nations of the world are not free to express themselves. Here in India, she said, we are opting out of what is just and right. We were stunned when India voted against Iran at IAEA which meant a major shift in our foreign policy. Here in India we are no longer speaking about Palestine and Iraq. Even on Lebanon we came very late with a vague statement, she said.
Distinguished columnist Praful Bidwai said that the Middle East still suffers heavily from the colonial hangover. There has been a long struggle to control the Middle East. The latest is the American effort. Middle East is the crucible where history is being shaped in front of our own eyes. After the failure of Plan “A”, Plan "B" is ready for Iraq: divide it into three parts, Kurds, Sunni and Shia. This will be an extremely insulting solution, he said, adding that public opinion must be mobilised to keep Iraq as one state. If this fails, we will be in deep trouble in that region, he warned.
Praful Bidwai said that today Iran is ready to normalise relations with the West in general and the US in particular. It would be gross stupidity and colossal blindness on the part of the US not to realize this. He warned that Iraq would look like a picnic if the US invaded Iran. He said that after their rout in Iraq, Neoconservatives are on the run. Fukoyama has already deserted them. Bidwai said that the sack of Rumsfeld was a huge defeat for Bush.
Speaking on the Palestine/Israel issue, Bidwai said that Israel is a pathologically troubled and disturbed society. Today the Israeli democracy is so disturbed that it is ready to disfranchise its Arab citizens. He said that terrorism and counter-terrorism have destroyed Israel.
Speaking on the scene nearer home, Praful Bidwai said that our current National Security Advisor MK Narayanan, after he had retired as a government servant in 2001, spoke to Toronto policemen in very disturbing tones quoting from Islamophobic texts chapter and verse. Narayanan in that speech had said that the solution of terrorism lies in the Gayatri mantra. And this man is now our National Security Advisor. Narayanan has turned the fight against terrorism into a communal war, Praful Bidwai said adding that terrorism is bad but state terrorism is far, far worse. In Hiroshima, over a hundred thousand people died while only 3500 died in the attack on the World Trade Centre.
Speaking on the Palestinian society, Praful Bidwai said that it enjoys great resilience. There is no social difference between a Muslim Palestinian and a Christian Palestinian. Even Christians voted for Hamas due to the corruption of the PA, he said adding that here in India we must hang our heads in shame for changing our policies by 180 degree. He said that when Narasimha Rao became prime minister in early 1990s, Times of India asked RSS chief Deoras what was the one thing he wanted from the Rao government? Deoras said he wanted it to recognise Israel. Bidwai recalled how the National Security Advisor under the NDA government went to a Jewish conference in the US seeking close cooperation between India and Israel. The government has changed since, Bidwai observed, but the foreign policy has not changed a bit. We must press them to stick to the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA. Praful Bidwai said Israel is not a normal state. Rather it is a rogue state. If India changes its policy, a strong message will go to Israel.
Political Analyst and veteran journalist Sukumar Muralidharan said that there is a daily catalogue of atrocities on the Palestinians, as 3-5 lives are lost every day in Gaza alone since last June. Beit Hanoun was the latest in this catalogue of crimes. The earlier attack on a family in Gaza beach was a terrorist attack by the valiant Israeli army.
The US election results, he said, mean nothing for Palestine. The Democrats have a long track record of supporting Israel. Traditional conservatives have come to the fore now and this alarms Israel. Muralidharan said that by contrast Democrats have been friendlier to Israel. He offered the example of the very pro-Israel Martin Indyc who despite having the dual Israeli-Australian citizenship, was appointed on the Clinton election team. His application for citizenship was moved through the fast track and in no time he was appointed as Assistant Secretary of State.
Speaking about the failed American adventure in Iraq, Muralidharan said that the Law of Unintended Results has led to ushering Iran as the major player in Iraq now. He said that Israel is the only state in the world to have a ministry called “Deptt. of Strategic Threats” and this portfolio was given to an immigrant from Moldova called Lieberman who is also unique in Israel as he say the same thing in Herbew as he does in English unlike Labour politicians who spoke something in English and a very different thing in Hebrew. The US has failed in Iraq and the Israeli attempts to frustrate the Palestinian resistance through the 'Clean Break' policy have also failed.
Dr Waiel Awwad, India bureau chief of Dubai’s Arabia TV, said that the key to resolve the Middle East mess goes though Jerusalem and Palestine. He called it the “Jerusalem Gate”. The key, he said, lies in solving the Palestine problem. Indian people are fully supporting Palestine despite government policies.
Awwad said that the identities of victim and aggressor are now blurred in Palestine. Arabs are now treating Americans as occupiers, he said. America has not left much space for us: we are either with them or against them. Oslo, he said, has produced the largest prison in the world — Gaza. No amount of violence can kill Arab nationalism, he said.
Dr Arshi Khan, reader in political science at the AMU and a West Asia expert, said that the issue in Palestine is occupation, destruction and holocaust of Palestinians. Resistance in Iraq and Palestine is phenomenal, he said, adding that compensation should be paid to the Palestinians and Iraqis for the destruction visited upon them by foreign forces. The foreign policy of US in the Middle East, he said, is that of another
country - Israel. When a jinn possesses someone, the victim does not act his normal self, and this is the case of the American foreign policy possessed by Israel, he said. Israel is trying to equate Israeli policies with American policies. Israel has access to the American military hardware and intelligence which is not available even to NATO, he said.
Arshi Khan went on to say that Israel claims that both Israel and the US are democracies and have similar goals, which is not correct. In America, you can debate anything even the President but you cannot touch Israel. The Israeli lobby in the US is responsible for the attack on Iraq, he said, adding that America is now threatening Iran and Syria on behalf of Israel. “It is the love of a girl which has made the boy mad,” he said.
The symposium ended with a question and answer session amid a realization that Israel is the real threat to peace in the Middle East and that Indian government and people must speak out for justice and equity in the Middle East.