By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
NEW DELHI–The Palestinian problem as of now is not limited to Palestinians living perpetually under war clouds. It extends to their being deprived of the right to live normally within their own territory. Without a region that they can call their own state, what should be regarded as Palestiniansâ€™ passport is viewed as a travel document. Numerous check points faced by them in their own territory have made travel problematic and cumbersome for them. For the average Palestinian earning less than two dollars a day, just the expense of traveling for medical help can cost around $70. War, war-threats, infighting or violence in any form is certainly not the answer to these problems, so what makes it continue? These were some of the questions raised at a seminar organized here last week by Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and League of Arab Statesâ€™ Mission (June 22). The seminar on Palestine: 1967 and After was held marking the 40th anniversary of the June 5 war leading to Israeli occupation of Palestine.
In his opening address, Talmiz Ahmed, director-general of ICWA, described the crisis affecting Palestinians at present as â€œworst of worst.â€ It was imperative for the world community, he said, to be â€œsensitive to aspirations of Palestinian people.â€
With numerous conflicts affecting the entire area from Pakistan to Palestine, he pointed to the region facing a â€œvery serious human cost.â€ On the manner in which extremist designs were used to crush the same, describing the former as â€œmirror-imageâ€ of the latter, Ahmed pointed to there being a â€œresurgence of imperialism.â€ Commenting on â€œextremistâ€ measures being used to crush what Israel and United Statesâ€™ top leadership â€œview as Islamic terrorism,â€ Ahmed raised the question: â€œHow should we approach these issues?â€
Even the so-called â€œpeaceâ€ measures carry little importance for Palestinians as they are â€œnothing but reconfirmation of the occupation process,â€ Ahmed Salem Saleh Al-Wahishi, ambassador, League of Arab States Mission, said in his address. Until a â€œgenuine attemptâ€ is made for peace, giving due importance to Palestiniansâ€™ interests, â€œThe entire region will continue to be conflict-ridden,â€ he said. â€œAny step (in the peace process) being taken to satisfy Israel should also satisfy Palestinians and Arabs,â€ he asserted. Describing the 1967-war as a â€œwake-up callâ€ to what the region has faced since then, Al-Wahishi emphasized the need for Palestinians to â€œunite.â€ â€œI look forward to Palestinian unity, to the narrowing of the gulf between them,â€ he said.
Tracing Palestinian sufferings to sixty year-period, Palestinian envoy Osama Musa said: â€œWe are victims since 1947.â€ Dismissing the role played by the United Nations in settling the Palestinian problem as a â€œfailure,â€ Musa said: â€œThe UN was for peace, but there is no peace, only disaster. There has been one foolish resolution after another from the UN.â€ On the diplomatic â€œconcernâ€ displayed by the US regarding peace, human rights, justice and similar issues, Musa said: â€œThey have no justice. They believe in justice through tanks and missiles. They talk of human rights but Americans are biggest violators of human rights.â€ Musa pointed out that even serious attempt made by Israel and Palestine would not be supported by the US, because he said: â€œIsrael and Palestineâ€™s peace is illogical for American interests because then Arabs would not need USA.â€
King Abdullah (Saudi Arabia) was credited for the Makkah accord, which brought the two Palestinian factions (Fatah and Hamas) together, though for a little while, by C.R. Gharekhan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singhâ€™s special envoy for West Asia and Middle East peace process. â€œIndia agrees that President Mahmoud Abbasâ€™ hands should be strengthened. But that is not enough,â€ he said.
During discussions, views were also aired on whether the involved parties had erred in not giving adequate importance to the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections 18 months ago and what should be the approach towards them now. Giving personal account of his experience in Palestine, P. Harish, Indian bureaucrat who has lived there for several years, pointed to Palestinians being without a state. â€œStatelessness â€“ the defining characteristic of Palestinians, that is the worst crime, worst humiliation of people beyond poverty, that of living in occupied territories,â€ he said.
Since the Palestinian problem began six decades ago, â€œIsrael is violating the resolutions of international legitimacy by rejecting the demand of international community for its withdrawal from occupied territories in West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syrian Golan height and what is left from Lebanese territories,â€ League of Arab Nations stated in a press release. Israel has â€œignored vividly,â€ the release said: â€œThe international humanitarian law, particularly the 4th Geneva agreement of 1949 – in relation to protection of civilians at time of war,â€ and other international conventions related to foreign occupation, through its â€œinhumane violationâ€ and â€œoppressive measures including policies of racial discrimination, exploitation of population and construction of the wall which was denounced by the International Court of Justice.â€ Based on the Beirut Summit and the recently held Riyadh Summit (March 2007), the release called for peace in the region, â€œto fulfill the legitimate right of Palestinian people to return to their home land and to establish their independent state with its capital Jerusalem and to establish peaceful relations between Israel and Arab states.â€
Indiaâ€™s concern about Palestinian problem is strongly reflected by holding of the seminar in the capital city. India has officially expressed the hope that the situation would soon â€œreturn to normalcy.â€ At a separate gathering, in response to questions, an Indian ministry of external affairsâ€™ spokesperson said (June 22): â€œThe need of the hour is to work towards meeting legitimate aspirations of all the people of Palestine, including their right to live in peace with their neighbors, within secure and recognized international borders.â€