An expression of solidarity

Print edition : December 23, 2001

HARMONY INDIA, an association promoting communal harmony, secularism and human solidarity, organised a well-attended meeting in Chennai on December 3 to express solidarity with the long-suffering people of Palestine. Nine other organisations, representin g a broad spectrum of society, co-sponsored the meeting which expressed support to the courageous uprising of the Palestinian people in what has been termed the second Intifada. The meeting urged the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government not to deviate f rom the long-standing Indian position in support of the cause of Palestine.

The meeting was co-sponsored by the Islamic Foundation Trust (IFT), the Indian School of Social Sciences (ISSS), the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the Sisters of Islamic Society (SIS), the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), the Evangelical Church of India (ECI), the All India Lawyers Union (AILU), the Students' Federation of India (SFI) and the All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA). Among the speakers were Sitaram Yechury, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Pa rty of India (Marxist), C.V. Narasimhan, former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Mythily Sivaraman, all-India vice-president of the AIDWA, Rev. Raju Thomas, Professor, Madras Theological Seminary and College of the ECI, representing Bishop Ezra Sargunam, Moulana Qari Hafiz, Mohammed Qasim Ansari, the Imam of the Periamet mosque in Chennai, N. Ram, the president of Harmony India and Editor of Frontline, and Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali, the secretary-general of Harmony India and the Prin ce of Arcot, among others.

V. GANESAN

At the solidarity meeting on Palestine organised by Harmony India in Chennai on December 3, (from left) Moulana Qari Hafiz, Mohammed Quasim Ansari, the Imam of Periamet mosque, C.V. Narasimhan, former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Moh ammed Abdul Ali, Prince of Arcot, Dr. Khalid El-Sheikh, Ambassador of Palestine to India, Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, and N. Ram, president of Harmony India and Editor of Frontline.

The highlight of the meeting was the address by the Ambassador of Palestine in India, Dr. Khalid El-Sheikh, who also happens to be the longest-serving Palestinian diplomat anywhere in the world. Khalid El-Sheikh recalled the long tradition of Indian supp ort to the Palestinian struggle for a homeland.

Israel, the Ambassador said, had resorted to excessive and unprecedented aggression to suppress the heroic struggle of the children of Palestine. Helicopter gunships, tanks and machineguns have been deployed by the Israeli security forces against the peo ple in their own towns and cities. Israel, he said, has in the last two months mounted aggression to kill the Palestinian people's will and determination to fight for freedom. More than 300 Palestinians have been martyred in the last few weeks, including 87 children below the age of 12. More than 11,000 people have been injured during this period, 2,000 of them under the age of 12. More than 360 people have been maimed for life, among them 30 children who will never be able to see again.

Khalid El-Sheikh said: "We are determined to continue our struggle to liberate our land. We are determined to liberate our holy places and free our land and to build our independent state with holy Jerusalem as its capital." He said that although it is t rue that Ariel Sharon's visit to Jerusalem sparked off the latest protests by Palestinians, that visit was orchestrated by the Israeli government. Sharon, he pointed out, was escorted by 3,000 Israeli soldiers. He blamed the failure of the Camp David pro cess and the biased position adopted by the United States for the escalation of the new round of aggression on the Palestinian people. He said that the U.S. administration has chosen to stand by Israel even when it resorts to unjust and unlawful conduct in flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter. Khalid pointed out that ironically, Israel owes its very existence and legitimacy to the U.N. Charter; its formation was based on U.N. Resolution 181 of 1947 which laid the basis for the partition of Palestine.

Sitaram Yechury said that the Palestinian people are suffering the grossest manner of abuse of human rights in the history of human civilisation. The Palestinian struggle is so obviously just that people representing different faiths - Christians and Mus lims and even avowed atheists like him - were coming together on a common platform to express solidarity with them. Zionism, he said, finds in Hindu fundamentalism a natural ally. The Zionist claim that only Jews have claims to the ancient land and civil isation of Israel, he observed, mirrors the concepts of the Hindu Rashtra and Hindutva raised by the Sangh Parivar in India.

Yechury said that the initiative for the ongoing peace process that began in the 1980s came not from the U.S. or Israel but from the Palestinians. In 1988, for the first time, the Palestinian National Council adopted a resolution accepting the division o f Palestine; moreover, it conceded 78 per cent of Palestinian land to Israel and sought the settlement of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as the capital. Yechury said that the Palestinian formula stemmed from the Pal estinian yearning for peace.

Only 40 per cent of the West Bank and 70 per cent of Gaza is under Palestinian occupation. Israel, he said, has been undermining the peace process, with the active support of the U.S. Israel and the U.S., he said, have hatched a four-pronged conspiracy t o obstruct peace in the region. The first element in the conspiracy is the annexation of Palestine after formally agreeing to concede annexed territories to Palestinians. The settling of Jews in the colonised areas is the second element of the strategy. This is being done to pre-empt the territorial claims of Palestinians in future. The third aspect of the strategy is aimed at limiting and constricting the scope of effective Palestinian sovereignty by herding the people into Bantustan-like enclaves remi niscent of apartheid-era South Africa, surrounded by a hostile Israel.

The fourth component of the strategy is to attack mercilessly with the most sophisticated of weapons those who offer any resistance. The fascistic dimension of the Israeli regime, said Yechury, is evident from the brutal manner in which youth and childre n are systematically targeted by the Israeli security apparatus. By doing this, he said, the Israeli state wants to wipe out the future of Palestine.

Quoting Israeli media sources, Mythily Sivaraman said that continued aggression by Israel has meant that it has administrative and military control over most parts of the West Bank and about 20 per cent of the area of the Gaza Strip. In the last 10 years the number of Israeli settlers in these Palestinian areas has doubled. Moreover, Palestinians are under economic siege; people are not able even to move in search of jobs. In the West Bank, water quotas of 30 lakh Palestinians have been cut. In effect, an entire nation has been confined to a small area and subjected to terror.

N. Ram said that there is no single international issue of greater significance that is challenging the capabilities of humanity than the Palestine question. Although there is a long and happy tradition of support from the Indian people and governments, he warned that there are worrying features of the BJP government's secret dealings with the state of Israel under the pretext of security cooperation. C.V. Narasimhan pointed out that Israel's conduct in West Asia has been one of lawlessness right from t he start, with the connivance of successive U.S. governments.

A resolution adopted at the meeting condemned the murderous and fascistic violence unleashed on the Palestinian people by the Israeli state and its security forces in the West Bank and Gaza. It noted that Israeli intransigence has been spurred by support from the U.S. The resolution noted that the deliberate acts of provocation and the brutal war-like actions against unarmed Palestinian people have caused colossal human losses among the Palestinian people. The U.N. Security Council, traditionally a sile nt witness to Israeli aggression, has been obliged to adopt a resolution deploring the provocations at the Muslim holy sites and the subsequent violence carried out by the Israeli state. The Israeli state in the last five decades had establislished a rec ord of systematic lawlessness, state terrorism and violation of national sovereignty, the right to self-determination and basic human rights that has few parallels. The resolution noted the indefensible nature of U.S. policy in West Asia, manifest this t ime in its splendid isolation by virtue of its abstention at the Security Council vote.

The meeting called upon the Vajpayee government to take a clear and forthright stand condemning Israel's latest atrocities and anti-human actions. It also called for a halt to the harmful policy of security cooperation with Israel and asked the governmen t to express clear, forthright and measurable practical support to the Palestinian cause.

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