People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 40

October 03, 2010



Indian Govt Should Sever Defence
Ties with Israel: Prakash Karat


Srinivasan Ramani,

Dhananjay Tripathi & Indranil Mukherjee



NOTED academics, political leaders and activists from the different parts of the world gathered for a two day conference in New Delhi on ‘A Just Peace for Palestine’. The conference held on September 23-24, 2010 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. Speaking at the open session  on September 24, CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat came down heavily on the Indian government for deepening defence and security ties with the Zionist regime in Israel.  The Indian government has deliberately not named Israel in the statement issued by the external affairs ministry after the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla. There is an impression among ordinary Kashmiris today that the Indian government is seeking advice from Israel on handling the situation there. All this goes against what Indian political opinion has always been, since the days of freedom struggle, Prakash Karat said. He alleged that the multi-billion dollar defence deals with Israel have become a major source of corruption and kickbacks, corroding the integrity of Indian defence establishment. Currently, there is a move to give a clean chit to the Israeli defence firms, which were blacklisted earlier by the government for being involved in kickbacks. All this is happening because the voices in solidarity with the Palestinian people in India have weakened inside the Indian parliament. Prakash Karat urged upon the leaders of other parties present on the dais (Mani Shankar Aiyar, D P Tripathi etc.) to join the Left Parties in demanding steadfast official support for the Palestinian cause and severing of military ties with Israel. He said that the Left will launch a campaign in India to support the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The Left will appeal to the trade unions to collectively boycott Israeli ships in the Indian ports and docks, like what has already happened in Kochi, he said.


The concluding session was chaired by senior journalist Seema Mustafa. As the first speaker, Bangladeshi trade union leader Rashed Menon expressed support for the Palestinian struggle on behalf of the people of Bangladesh. 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. The 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 our subcontinent can do a lot for Palestine. He urged upon India to take a bold stand in favour of Palestine.


Palestinian leader Dr Mustafa Barghouti argued that peace in Palestine can never come with the continuing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. He said that while in 1947, Palestinian settlements amounted to 45 per cent of the total land; this had reduced to merely 11 per cent in 2005. There was no scope for peace until Israel halted the 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 Israeli arms and the international BDS campaign would not succeed unless a strong people’s movement in India was launched to change the Indian Government’s pro-Israel shift.


Mani Shankar Aiyar, Rajya Sabha member, said that India was the only major non-Muslim country in 1947 which opposed the partition of Palestine. Gandhiji had said that Palestine belonged to the Palestinian Arabs, as much as England belonged to the English. Indian democracy has demonstrated with its plurality that unity is possible through diversity. Yet, the Indian establishment is going against India’s long held position on Palestine. He said that he was deeply moved by the sufferings of the Palestinians and would continue to raise the issue in parliament.


D P Tripathi, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party, said that every person who believes in democracy and stood 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 has to be initiated.


CPI general secretary A B  Bardhan said that if the current peace process is only meant to legitimise Israeli oppression, 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.


Palestinian speakers like Jamal Juma and Jamal Zahalka also spoke on the occasion. The meeting ended with the adoption of a resolution calling for an intense BDS campaign against Israel in India.


The two day session began on September 23. 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.


Prabir Purkayastha of the Delhi Science Forum, drew attention to the increasing Indian defence purchases from Israel and greater dependence on Israeli Intelligence and emphasised the need to build up a strong movement in India for the academic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel. Other speakers, including Jamal Juma, co-ordinator of Stop the Wall Campaign, Lisa Taraki of Birzeit University and Ilan Pappe of University of Exeter, explained the significance of the boycott campaign as an effective non-violent weapon to delegitimize the Zionist establishment in Israel and counter their propaganda.


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, Professor 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. He 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, Professor 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 per cent 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. 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, Ilan Pape, professor of history in the University of Exeter, also spoke on this occasion. The second session of the day was on an Action Plan for Ending the Apartheid and was chaired by Professor 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 addressed the session.,  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.