The two-day BDS Movement conference on A Just Peace For Palestine concluded on September 22-23 in Ne Delhi (India). The very country whose spiritual leader Mahtama Gandhi was against the creation of a state for the European Jews – now could be about to give birth to a second Zionist state.
The Conference was conference was jointly organized 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.
Professor Achin Vanaik of Delhi University said that we have to provide a critical but unconditional support to Hamas.
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 of Jawaharlal Nehru University 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Mordecai Briemberg, a founding member of Canada Palestine Support Network, 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.
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.
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.
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.