People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 25, 2007
CALL OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON WAR, IMPERIALISM AND RESISTANCE: WEST ASIA
Defeat Imperialist Designs! Build United Solidarity Movement!!
Prakash Karat addressing the conference in New Delhi
Dhannjay and Manjur
AN International Conference on War, Imperialism and Resistance: West Asia was organised from March 12 – 14, 2007 at India International Centre, New Delhi. This was the first major event of its kind in which a set of distinguished speakers from West Asia gave a first hand account of the developments in the region. The hall was packed through out the three days of the conference with a very attentive and responsive audience. The Conference ended with a resolution calling for a campaign against imperialist domination of West Asia and ending India’s military and security ties with Israel (see previous issue of People’s Democracy)
Some of the speakers from West Asia and other countries were Jamal Jumma (Palestine), Michael Warschawaski (Israel), Fawwaz Traboulsi (Lebanon), Mohsen Saleh (Lebanon), Kamal Majid (Iraq), George Jabbour (Syria), Ali Atassi (Syria), Alan Hart (UK), Ayesha Siddiqa (Pakistan) etc. Amongst the speakers from India were Prakash Karat, A B Bardhan, Ramvilas Paswan, Aijaz Ahmad, Seema Mustafa, Hamid Ansari, Nihal Singh, M K Bhadrakumar.
The task before this conference was not only to understand the nature of imperialist attack on West Asia, but also to share the experiences of people, who are resisting the brutal US Empire in the region. The nature of the apartheid policies that the Israeli state is pursuing and its attempt to force out the Palestinian people by making their life in Israel and occupied territories a living hell was brought out vividly by the speakers. For the US-Israeli combination, their current attempts in the region cannot succeed as they are looking at the region with colonial lenses. The Iraqi people have already defeated the US and its allies on the ground, even if it has cost them a fractured State and a country ravaged by war and occupation. Israel’s attempts to impose its will on the Palestinian people and the Lebanese nation have similarly failed. The Lebanese national resistance including the Shiite Hizbollah and Amal, Christian groups, the Lebanese Communist Party and other sections of the Left have destroyed the myth of Israel’s invincible armed might. A similar fate awaits the US if it ventures into another military misadventure, this time in Iran. Speaker after speaker explained why the US and Israeli war on the people of West Asia cannot succeed.
West Asia has always drawn attention of world powers due to its geo-strategic location and for oil. This region and its people, since last century, have been fighting for survival from imperialist expansion of US and Israel. Wars, destruction, expulsion and murders, rather than democracy, freedom and peace, have been exported to West-Asia by racial Zionist state of Israel and the US.
According to Jamal Juma, one of the participants, 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland and 53 villages were completely destroyed in 1948 in what the Palestinians recall today as the Nkaba. What the Israeli State is proposing to set up today is a ghettoised, splintered Palestine with only 12 per cent of its original historical territory. That also encircled into three separate territories (apart from Gaza) and encircled by the Apartheid Wall declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.
The US need to control oil in West Asia has also affected the countries in West Asia. The burning example is Iraq. Iraq, which has second largest oil reserves in world after Saudi Arabia, has suffered a brutal US invasion on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). According to Aijaz Ahmad, 1.2 million people in Iraq have died in seven years of war and sanctions (1990-97), out of which, half million were children. In 2006, Lebanon was attacked by Israel, and now Iran is under threat. Is this a war against terrorism? Is this a face of supplied democracy? Is this freedom supposed to come from political instability and authoritarianism? This conference categorically pointed out ‘NO’. All the speakers from various part of the world, one by one, rejected the US and Israeli aggression against the sovereignty of West Asian nations, society and on the dignity of the people.
This conference was divided into different section to discuss the country specific problems. Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iran were the main focus of the discussion along with the significant attention on the US and its allies. Prakash Karat eloquently exposed the underpinning of alliance of Indian elite with the US.
Israel – sixth biggest military power of world – in a pre-planned way attacked Lebanon in 2006, but people of this country fought together against Zionist aggression under the Lebanon Liberation Front spearheaded by militia organization Hizbollah. According to Ali Fayyad, it was a defensive war against imperialism, to save the sovereignty of nation and respect of the people. The front was a conglomeration of all the progressive forces cutting across the religious and ideological line. Shias, Sunni, Christian and Communist, all have joined hands with the purpose to defend their land from Israeli aggression, to liberate people who are imprisoned in Israeli jails and to liberate Lebanon’s land under occupation by Israel. This larger political alliance of Lebanese has shattered the myth of aggression by Hizbollah. However, Aijaz Ahmad expressed his concern over the sustainability of this sort of unity against the Imperialist design. He perceives the constant unity of all the section of Lebanese as the key to success against the US hegemony. Concurring with argument of broader unity of Lebanese people, another speaker Fawwaz Traboulsi, stated that ‘sectarianism is extremely dangerous at this point of the time’.
The people of the Palestine face humiliation in their own land. The Zionist state has used various methods to further isolate Palestinians, curb their freedom and suppress their voice. Few important methods pointed out by Jamal Juma are as follow:
a) Colonisation via settlements;
b) Economic Siege;
c) Bypass roads, which only Jewish settlers can use slicing Palestine land into various ghettoised units;
d) Planned destruction of spirit of resistance;
e) Isolation and colonisation of Jerusalem.
In 2002, Israel began to erect an apartheid wall, due to which 120,000 Palestinian are expelled from Jerusalem alone. Against all these atrocities, Jamal Juma voiced resistance as the only solution. His message was, “we are part of this land, its air, its history. And we will be its future”. He concluded saying that in Palestine, to exist is to resist. According to Michel Warschawski, Palestine has been the global frontline of resistance against imperialism. He also explained that while the Oslo accords, with all its problems, were a part of de-colonisation what happened after the Oslo accords is the move towards global re-colonisation. The US and Israel are both now trying to take back what imperialism had grudgingly conceded. The problem they have today is that colonialism and a colonial vision cannot succeed in today’s world. That is why Israel and the US are continuously surprised. They are surprised when they face defeat in Iraq, they are surprised when they fail to defeat the Lebanese people and they continue to be surprised by the resistance of the Palestinian people.
Mohsen Saleh presented Palestinian case from a human rights perspective. He said that, “People of Palestine are human beings, let them live with dignity”. Further, he suggested that, end of Palestine occupation is solution of all the problems.
The speakers spoke about the support that Indian national movement and later the government extended to the Palestinian cause and hoped that the current deviations of Indian foreign policy would be corrected. They also appealed to the progressive sections and parties to mobilise mass opinion in favour of Palestinian resistance movement.
Iraq and Syria:
US attacked Iraq on the pretext of WMD. According to Nihal Singh, Iraq was attacked to fulfil the American dream of world hegemony. According to Kamal Majid, an Iraqi exile living in the UK, US attack on Iraq was illegal, as it had violated the UN rules. The other argument trotted out by the US in favour of invasion was to liberate Iraqi population from the clutch of the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein. However, freedom remains a distant dream for Iraqis. Today, a population of 2 million is homeless, 2 million has left their land and seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, 4.5 million children are malnourished and millions have died. The US and its allied forces are facing firm resistance from the people of Iraq. Not finding a way out of Iraq, the Bush administration is trying to communalise the Iraqi resistance by projecting the war as one of resistance by Sunni fanaticism. However, Kamal Majid completely rejected this US propaganda, and stated that 70 per cent of Iraqi population, including Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds, are fighting to restore their sovereignty.
On Syria speakers warned of the dangers of US intervention in Syria. Ali Atassi also expressed the view that in order to fight imperialism in the region, it is important that people have democracy. Authoritarian regimes with their narrow social base cannot successfully confront imperialist forces. It is the failure of the Arab regimes to construct this popular resistance that is helping imperialism.
In the context, where major actors in West Asia are under attack, or sought to be de-stabilised by the US and allies, it is vital to understand the Iranian crisis. Today, Iran has a role far beyond its geographical boundary. It is the only independent voice existing in the region, not under US hegemony. But, the blueprint of war against Iran has been finalised. Neo-con warmongers are looking for the right moment to launch this attack using the issue of nuclear enrichment and nuclear weapons. However, Iran has repeatedly stated that it had no plans to build nuclear weapons and has a sovereign right to peaceful use of nuclear energy including enrichment. Instead of negotiating on a settlement such that Iran can have a peaceful nuclear energy program and no nuclear weapons, the US and its allies want to use this pretext to precipitate a military strike, with disastrous consequences for the region.
US & Its Allies:
According to Bhadrakumar, one of the important features of 21st century politics is to establish regional dominance through alliances. US imperialism through its old allies, like Israel and UK has unleashed the war on third world countries. Now, new junior partners like Pakistan and India are cooperating with the US hegemony to become regional powers. India vote against Iran, the Indo-US nuclear deal, strategic defence deals with Israel and forgetting our commitment toward the cause of Palestine are the manifestation of the deviation of India’s foreign policy. Ayesha Siddiqa, a participant from Pakistan, argued that the Pakistani regime and political elite are not serious about the issue of West Asia. She cited few reasons for such apathy, which are as follow:
a) Neo-liberal free market economy has blurred the political imagination of Pakistani elite. Nobody wants to challenge the US policy and hegemony.
b) Like India, Pakistan too has become the strategic partner of US imperial project.
Political Parties on West Asia:
In the seminar, leaders of various political parties presented their views on the ongoing crisis in West Asia, and suggested corrective measures to be taken to reduce the tension in the region. CPI general secretary A B Bardhan pointed out that in West Asia two trends are fighting each other. On one side people are fighting for independence, justice and dignity, whereas the second trend represents imperialist forces of domination. He expressed great concern over the UPA government following in the footsteps of NDA regime and siding with the US. He said that unless the hegemonic forces leave the region and recognise Palestine’s right to exist as an independent state, West Asia will remain a contentious zone.
CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said that Palestine movement is a national freedom movement and Indian government should not betray the cause of this longest war of independence. He criticised the UPA government for moving away from the Common Minimum Program (CMP) and said that the strategic partnership that India is seeking with the US is not a part of the CMP. The CMP is very clear that India must follow an independent foreign policy and any deviation from this would have serious political consequences. According to him, the foreign policy is not one confined to the elite. It affects the people of India, directly or indirectly, thus, it should be discussed by the Indian people. Today, Indian ruling classes have come to a conclusion that being a junior partner of US is in their narrow class interest. Karat countered that a strategic relationship with the US and its allies is not in favour of India and its people.
The conference reminded the contemporary world that in the name of democracy, justice and liberty, the USA and its allies have created havoc in the form of injustice, subjugation of freedom and massacres –– from Lebanon and Palestine to Iraq and Afghanistan. It is still seeking to recreate this in other parts, notably in Iran. The need of the times is to forge a broad unity amongst the resisting forces and build a broad based support movement to express solidarity with the resistance. In the war against imperialism, the role of countries like India and Pakistan have become important as the ruling elites in these countries are getting co-opted under the pressure of the US and projecting their class interest as the interest of the country. The people of these countries must not only express their solidarity with the resistance in Palestine and Iraq but also defeat the designs of their elite to team up with the US. This is the challenge that confronts us today.