Report on the webinar “West Asia and Palestine”

Report on the webinar “West Asia and Palestine”

United World International has organized an international Webinar on “West Asia and Palestine” on June 10th, 2021. Keynote speaker on the webinar was Dr. Basem Naim, Head of Hamas’ International Relations Bureau and former Minister of Health in the Gaza Strip. Osman Paksüt, former Vice-President of the Constitutional Court of Turkey and retired ambassador, Dr. Bessam Abu Abdullah, political scientist from Syria, Syed Muhammed Ali, Director of the Center for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS), Pakistan and Seyed Mohammed Marandi, Professor for English Literature and Orientalism at the University of Tehran.

Journalists from 6 different countries also closely followed the webinar. All speakers expressed their gratitude to UWI and agreed on continuing these kind of international exchanges.

In the coming days, UWI will present the complete text of the speeches held on the webinar, which also can be watched on YouTube following the ling below.

Dr. Besam Naim: Palestine needs all kind of support

Dr. Naim started his speech by expressing thanks to United World International for organizing the webinar. He expressed support for the use of the term “West Asia” in the webinar’s title, stating “this is a sign of getting out of the colonial terminology of talking about the Middle East/Near East”.

Naim firstly emphasized that the conflict did not erupt with the recent Israeli attacks. “Our struggle started more 70 years ago when Zionist gangs occupied 78% of our territory. And till today, this is the struggle of an occupied people against the occupation. We should not accept any other narrative”, he said.

“During the seven decades of struggle, the Palestinians have given all chances to the international community, to the region and even to the Zionists themselves to achieve a political, peaceful solution, to gain our political rights guaranteed by the international law and to achieve our dream of an independent, sovereign state, to return back to our homes, cities and villages. And all these chances were wasted, spoiled and destroyed by the İsraelis, supported also by the Americans.” 

Naim warned against falling into a counterfactual Israeli narrative. The said:

“It is not about Hamas, it is not about rockets launched against Israel. This is resistance against occupation. There is an occupying power, which is Israel, and an occupied people, the Palestinians. They have all the right to resist the occupation by all means, including armed resistance. This is also guaranteed in the international law, paragraph 51 of the UN Charta.”

“No difference between former and new Israeli government”

The current new government was also a topic, which Naim referred to, arguing that it won’t lead to a change in Israel’s policies. Naim stated:

“There is no difference not only between the right and right extremists, but also with the leftists. The settlement activities for example are going on since decades under the leftist governments and the rightist governments. It is a strategy against the Palestinians. When it comes to the Palestinians, all the Zionist regimes have the same policies and the same strategies.”

“Israel made a miscalculation”

Referring to the recent escalation, the stated that the Israelis made “miscalculations”.

“They have thought that they have the best chance, based on a new administration in America, which is very busy with China, with Iran and with other issues, based on a region which is busy with its own issues, in Syria, in Yemen, in Iraq, based on normalization agreements with some Arab countries, the UAE, Sudan, Morocco and so on, they thought this is the best chance to make a final step when it comes to Palestinian, or Arab or Muslim presence in Al Quds. They have planned to storm al Quds with 30 thousand extremist settlers at one time and start the forceful expelling of Palestinians from the city. They wanted to end the presence of Palestinians in Jerusalem.”

But, continues Naim, have the Israeli’s “miscalculated the ability, the capability of the will of the Palestinians to respond so harsh and their unity.”

Dr. Naim also criticized American attempts to exclude Hamas from the political process, and underlined that the current Palestinian administration in Ramallah has no legitimacy, because it was elected last time in 2006, cancelling the elections scheduled for 2021. He also stated that the PA’s strategy of negotiations, embodied in the Oslo process, “has failed”.

He stated that this strategy “empowers the Zionist entity more and more, leading to more and more settlements in comparison to the pre-Oslo era”. He made a broad call.

“I am asking all countries, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and other countries. Why not to initiate a relationship to all Palestinian fractions at the same time and the same level. And secondly: Why not playing a role in unifying Palestinians, so that we have a unified Palestinian Front when talking to the international community or struggling against the occupation. Having a unified political platform, a unified vision.”

“Conditions in Gaza are severe”

Naim also articulated his movement’s demands:

Dr. Basem Naim

“From governments and the popular level, we ask first of all for full political and diplomatic support. We have today a lot of UN resolutions in favor of Palestinian rights, in favor of a Palestinian state, in favor of Palestinian struggle, including armed struggle. Why not resolutely support these resolutions and issue laws, resolutions in your own countries, at the international and regional level? Secondly, exercise all kind of pressure, diplomatic, political, economical and media pressure to stop the current threats against Palestinians inside the Palestinian territories. To stop aggressions against the Al Aqsa compound, to stop the forceful expelling of the Palestinians from their homes in Al Quds, Sheikh Jarrah and other places and to lift the siege on Gaza. Gaza is considered to be an open-air prison. The conditions are very severe, water polluted, there is no electricity, poverty extremely high, fishing impossible. So the siege must be lifted. We are looking for humanitarian support. If anyone cannot be politically active, then they can be active at the humanitarian level. There are a lot of possibilities, when it comes to health sector, to social affairs or orphans, where support can be provided.”

Naim said that various channels of support are available:

“There are lots of ways to reach the people here and to support them, either through international bodies such as UN, WHO or through local, national organizations. We have Turkish, Indonesian or other organizations. Therefore, we are looking for humanitarian support.”

He also touched on support via the media.

“If political of humanitarian support is impossible, than you can support us in the media. We are censored all the time in the international media. All the media and the social media, Facebook, twitter, YouTube are truing day and night to silence the Palestinians and to exclude their narrative. Therefore, you can speak on behalf of the Palestinians. We are asking you to convey the realities here, how people are treated, how people are massacred, all the atrocities that take place.” 

Boycott Israeli products

Finally, Naim made a call what people can do on the individual level:

“Every individual can call and participate in calls to boycott the Zionist entity, refuse and reject any projects of normalization with this Zionist entity, with this colonial project. This includes the boycotting of Israeli products. You have to remember always that buying Israeli products means participating directly in the buying of a bullet that will hit a Palestinian child, because 60% of Israeli taxes are going to the Israeli army.

Osman Paksüt: Israel’s plans target the whole region

Osman Paksüt placed in his speech the Palestinian cause in the wider context of West Asia. He stated the following:

“We have a very complicated and more dangerous situation in the region that before. Not only continues the Israeli occupation, but also the political independence and territorial integrity of other countries in the region are brought into question. Iraq for instance came at the edge of being dismantled after the US occupation, where 1 and a half million lost their lives. Another key country in the region, Syria, is under the threat of being dismantled. Currently, the US tries to establish a so-called Kurdish state in the East of the Euphrates, a state that will be comprised of PKK terrorists. This is a very worrying situation for Turkey.”

“US plans of grand design for the region complicate the solution”

Paksüt emphasized that both regional stability and the solution of the Palestinian Cause is complicated due to US plans and activities. He stated:

Osman Paksüt

“The solution of the Palestinian Question is complicated because of the grand design of the United States on this region.  As long as the US does not give up on its plans to create chaos and disorder in West Asia, and its attempts to create new fortresses and allies in addition to Israel, and to encircle Eurasia, that is Russia and others from the Eastern Mediterranean, these problems will not disappear.”

As a solution, Paksüt firstly highlighted the importance of Palestinian unity.

“It is a big problem that there is no unity among the Palestinians, because in order to win a war of Independence, unity on the national front is essential. Turkey, as other friends of Palestine, will do whatever is in its capacity to achieve this unity.”

“Israel has in the last decades always moved further step by step, targeting at the end a Palestine without Palestinians. Furthermore, many people in Turkey suspect that Israel aims at a even larger territory, encroaching into the territory of other countries, including to Mesopotamia and the south eastern parts of Turkey.”

Regional countries should coordinate and establish snapback mechanism against Israeli aggression

Paksüt emphasized West Asian coordination and joint efforts facing Israeli aggression. He stated:

“In order to find a solution and to ensure the two-state-solution, and for the full security, prosperity and peace for Palestinians, it is absolutely important to address this problem together and in the context of American designs on the region. Declarations are not enough here. Unfortunately, sooner or later there will be another Israeli aggression. And answering that, there should be an established mechanism. The minute that Israel attacks Palestinians, attacks al Aqsa or Gaza, these sanctions should be set in motion. At that moment.”

Paksüt provided some possible and concrete examples:

“If at that moment the key states that Dr. Naim mentioned decide to for instance stop imports from Israel or stop air traffic, than this will be meaningful action. There should be action in economic, trade and maybe cultural areas to stop Israel and make it feel that it cannot go on like this. If they want peace, there should be a two-state-solution and Palestinians can exist peacefully and rule themselves. And there should be no more Israeli attempts to seize land from Palestine or from other countries.”

Dr. Bessam Abu Abdullah: Other countries must join the axis of Resistance against Israel, which tries to divide the region

Dr. Bessam Abu Abdullah started his speech with the emphasis that the Palestinian issue is not just a humanitarian issue of some people receiving services or the exchange of some territories, but a topic of a people under occupation. He stated that the Palestinian issue has been one of the central topics of the 20th century. Dr. Abu Abdullah referred briefly the historical background and said the following:

“This Zionist project has started as a British and came into US hands after the World War II. It became an instrument in the hand of the big capitalist companies first from Britain and then from the US to control this region, the resources within it and to divide the region more and more.”

“For Syria, Palestine is a matter of national security”

He then mentioned that Israel gas attacked juts two days ago Syrian positions and continued to explain the Syrian position of the Palestinian issue:

“We as Syrians consider the Palestinian issue not only as central but also as vital for our national security. And everyone knows that we have paid a very high price for this approach. Just remember that the Syrian Golan Heights are still occupied by Israel. Syria considers that resistance is a right for all people under occupation, so for the Palestinians as well. That is why Syria has supported all Palestinian resistance movements, no matter what their ideological orientation was. Thus, Hamas was in Syria, Islamic Jihad had its offices in Damascus, Jabha Sharia Demokratiya too, all were in Syria. Syria has supported the Palestinian issue not on tactical but on strategic level. Furthermore, Syria supports the Hizbullah against the Israeli occupation or Iraqi resistance movements against the US occupation. Both politically and militarily.”

He also emphasized the importance of power, saying the following:

“Resistance is the only way to solve this problem. The Israeli will not understand any other way. The approach of negotiations, the Oslo Way, has failed after more than 20-25 years. If the Palestinians negotiate, then they need to have strength and power, than the Israeli side and the international community will listen.”

Dr. Bessam Abu Abdullah

The West is trying to create a new Israel under the title of ‘Kurdistan’

Dr. Bessam Abu Abdullah then explained the US and Western plans to create a new Israel under the title of Kurdistan:

“There is now a new project. Western states including the US are trying to create for us a new Israel under the title of the ‘Kurdish Project’. The first Israel was imposed on us in the 20th century, the 21st century they want to create a new Israel under the ‘Kurdish’ title. Here, our response is very important. They have always depended on the strategy of divide-and-rule. So now we are talking as a Palestinian, Syrian, Pakistani and Turkish, and we should coordinate our efforts. I understand the Turkish military presence in the North of Syria as to prevent the Kurdish entity, and Syria also considers the YPG as a terrorist organization. But the only way to prevent this entity from evolving is to cooperate between Syria and Turkey. We should especially coordinate between Iran, Turkey and Syria, without giving importance to ideological backgrounds.”

As a solution, Abu Abdullah proposed the following:

“Firstly, we should support the Palestinian Resistance, and not only in words. See how many UN resolutions have passed and what result they brought. When in the last battle Palestinian missiles reached Israeli heartland and the Israelis had to flee underground, and then the US understood that these are not words but rockets.  So we should support the resistance militarily.

“Secondly, when the resistance decides to negotiate they need regional support. Israel needs to understand that it faces a front starting from Yemen to Iran, to Iraq, to Syria, to Lebanon. If Israel attacks Jerusalem, it faces war.”

“There are also other important international factors. I can see a change inside the US. The Americans have started to see the Palestinian issue with two eyes, not one eye. There is an important role to be played for Russia and China. Thus, we should finish the American role in the Palestinian issue, because America is not a good mediator in the Palestinian issue.”

Syed Muhammed Ali: International cooperation should take the Palestinian issue as a matter of self-determination

Syed Muhammed Ali started by emphasizing the historical roots of Pakistan’s commitment to the Palestinian issue. He said:

“Pakistan’s commitment to the Palestinian issue and cause predates the creation of Pakistan. The support that the Pakistani government and people have offered to and continue to express to the Palestinian people is fundamental to our own concept and ideology, which led to the creation of the state of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The concept, on which the state of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was created, was the right to self-determination. Our great founder, Muhammed Ali Jinnah has struggled for decades for this concept. Our support for the Palestinian issue is a principled one based the very idea, on which Pakistan itself was created. Therefore, it is beyond geopolitics and beyond history.”

“The party that has lead the foundation of Pakistan later, the Muslim League issued already in 1918 a resolution that condemned the Belfour Declaration and the occupation of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. “

Muhammed Ali highlighted the importance of the concept of self-determination in the contemporary struggle:

“In weakens the Palestinian cause if you frame it in the context of an Arab or Middle East issue. This is diplomatically not a strong argument, because it is an international issue, which is litmus test for the contemporary world order, for the international institutions, for international law and norms. If put this way, then you can expect that this issue deserves the attentions, support and intervention of the entire international community beyond ethnicities or geography.”

Syed Muhammed Ali

Muhammed Ali placed the Palestinian issue in the context of the broader international order. He stated:

“Today, the Palestinian issue is one of the most important tests for the contemporary world order. The powers that dominated the world have established a series of international organizations such as the UN, UN Security Council and so on. The fact, there are two issues, Palestine and Kashmir, which are the oldest outstanding unresolved issues on the UN agenda, represents a great failure of the world order. If the powers that shaped the world order 76 years do not resolve the issues according to the expectations of the international community of the people, then the expectations, support, cooperation and commitment of the international community in general and the developing world in particular will be reduced. That will tantamount to weakening international institutions.”

Rising global powers will be tested in the Palestine issue

“Secondly, the Palestinian issue represents a great threat to international peace and security, because the use of disproportionate force is unprecedented in two theaters, Palestine and Kashmir. The two cases are very similar, because there is oppression, there is occupation, there is discrimination, there is marginalization, and even the tactics are very similar. India uses the same manual that the Israeli forces use in Gaza Strip.”

“Third is the legal issue. There are so many resolutions by the UN on both Palestine and Kashmir, and they have not been implemented. This is a great failure on the part of the United Nations to fulfill its obligations towards all nations that deserve the right of self determination.”

“Very important is the issue’s geostrategic importance. The global distribution of hard power, wealth and knowledge is changing from West to East, from North America and Europe to Asia. In this context, such oppression, repression and brutality cannot be accepted. It is very important for the rising and resurgent powers to learn from the mistakes of the status quo. Especially those who are permanent members of the UN Security Council need to fulfill the obligations of the UN Charta.”

“My fourth argument concerns the value system. The Palestinian issue is a very significant example for how different value systems, different ideologies and different ways of life are perceived, respected and interpreted around the world. It is not a coincidence that anti-Semitism and terrorism are disproportionately used against the Muslim world and people.”

Military cooperation with Israel should be ended

Syed Muhammed Ali made the following proposals:

“The keynote speaker’s (Dr. Bessam Naim) speech represented confidence and hope. He urged us the rest of to support them politically, economically, diplomatically, morally and intellectually. They fully deserve this, and this is not just a Muslim obligation but a test of humanity.”

“Secondly, it is very important that we are united. We need to present the issue as an international one, then we can expect and demand international support beyond geography and ethnicity. Therefore, we need to unite our diplomatic support at all multilateral forums, whether it is OIC or the UN General Assembly. And diplomatically, those who are sincere and committed to the Palestinian issue should demand that those countries, which are providing high-tech weapon systems to Israel, which are being used the unarmed, civilian population of Palestine. These countries can review their military cooperation with Israel so that the weapons delivered to Israel can not be used against the international humanitarian law and against the unarmed, civilian population of Palestine.”

Muhammed Ali also made a case for humanitarian intervention in favor of Palestine. He stated:

“I think a case can be considered and gradually developed in terms of the responsibility to protect, R2P, acknowledging that the people of Palestine deserve humanitarian intervention. My colleagues from the diplomatic corps can use their experience and skill to build that case.”

“It is about time that we recover from these constant allegations of terrorism and extremism. These metaphors have been used to castigate and negatively present the just, UN recognized movements demanding the right of self determination. We must confidently clarify and not shy away from the debate, we shall develop a logical response to accusations of anti-Semitism.  The concept and the narrative of anti-Semitism is essentially rooted in the Western exploitation of the Jewish community, whereas, it is a historical reality that in the last 1400 years, no civilization opened its doors and arms as much to the Jewish community as the Muslims did.” 

Prof. Seyed Mohammed Marandi: Delegitimize the Apartheid Regime

“The defeat of the Israeli regime in Gaza is a turning point. Many in the West would say this was not a defeat, or they would claim that the Israelis were successful in air strikes. But I think the victory was quite clear for everyone to see. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the resistance, prevented the Israeli’s from even attempting to enter Gaza. I think this was in itself a huge achievement. Also the resistance was able to fire rockets at will into the whole of Palestine, into all of the territories occupied by the Israeli regime. The iron dome turned out to be much less effective then previously claimed by the regime.”

“Gaza has defeated Israel”

“And we know that the Palestinians have used much of their older rockets. The technology that has been introduced into Gaza is moving forward. The Iranians and the Palestinians are working together to develop better technology.”

“I think that the victory in Gaza was also partly due to the stupidity and racism of the apartheid regime, in that they murdered people with impunity, they brought down towers with impunity and the international community, the global audience that was watching despite all the pro-Israeli propaganda decisively turned against the regime.”

Professor Seyed Mohammed Marandi

“The first time in my opinion even in the Western countries the regime is facing a crisis of legitimacy. In the eyes of the global south, the Israeli regime was never legitimate. Apartheid cannot be legitimate. Whether in the West Bank, in the Gaza Strip or the rest of Palestine, apartheid has to be rejected.”

Professor Marandi also made a proposal for the ongoing struggle. He stated:

“I think that one of the things that we have to build upon therefore is the awareness that has been created. And we have to press on with the very fact the Israeli regime is an apartheid regime. It is a colonial regime. It carries out ethnic cleansing. And this has to be repeated especially to western audiences and to the global audience.”

“This is the beginning of the end of the regime”

“Like the Hezbollah’s victory against the Apartheid regime started the end to the regime’s expansionism, the recent victory of the resistance in Gaza is the beginning of the end of the apartheid regime itself.”

“What are we going to do? The Palestinians themselves are doing a great deal. The Palestinians have shown what resistance is. Our responsibility, in addition to the public awareness campaign, is to put pressure on governments to end their relationship with the Israeli regime. There should be no imports, no exports, no diplomatic relationship and no flights to Palestine. And the Israeli regime must be weakened economically and politically.”

Delegitimize the regime internationally by stopping all contacts

Professor Marandi concluded:

“I hope that the Palestinian people will see this change. Just as they have changed and become more resilient than before, in humiliating their oppressors, I hope that they witness the change among the global community and especially the people of West Asia in ending the legitimization of the apartheid regime through diplomatic relations, political relations, economic relations and cultural relations. All of these must end and hopefully we will be playing our part in ending the apartheid regime in Palestine, just as the resistance beforehand, the people of South Africa and their supporters around the world were able to end their apartheid regime.”

United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.

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June 2024