By MM Special Correspondent
New Delhi: Former Union Minister and MP Mani Shankar Aiyar deplored the BJP-led government at the Centre and the people of the country that they have abandoned Palestine and its people. He also opined that the Oslo accord has further aggravated the plight of Palestinians who have been subjected to all sorts of atrocities since the occupation of their lands by Israel.
Aiyar was speaking at a Conference on Palestine organized by The Milli Gazette in collaboration with the department of Arabic, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) here on Tuesday.
Recalling India’s historic and principled stand on Palestine issue, the Congress leader and former diplomat said, “Today, India has forsaken Palestine. We see here today in this conference that only Muslims are standing with Palestine. We are seeking help from Israel which is committing injustices. I believe that only our ideals can save us. These ideals require that we stand with Palestine.”
He recalled, “On 23 March, 1947 Nehru called Asian Relations Conference and met with the Arab and Jewish delegates of Palestine (Israel had not yet emerged). Nehru advised them that the Palestinian Arabs should live in their country within a framework of autonomy for the Jewish areas and a democratic system.”
India voted against United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine while European countries voted in its favour. India also opposed the two-state resolution of the UN and said that both Arabs and Jews should live peacefully in a single state, he added.
Recalling the meeting with Yasser Arafat during his visit to India in 1992, Aiyar said he advised Arafat to ask India not to recognize Israel. But unfortunately, said Aiyar, Arafat took a wrong decision to enter into the Oslo accords which further aggravated the condition of Palestine as it produced not freedom but a Panchayati Raj.
After the Oslo accords, Aiyar said, he wrote an article with the headline “Panchayati Raj in West Bank and Gaza Strip” and this is the reality of the Palestinian authority which was established as a result of the Oslo accords. Palestine represents war between tyranny and justice. It is not only a Muslim issue but a political issue, he said, adding that “After Oslo accords, our relations with Israel kept gaining strength while ties with Palestine plummeted.
Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, editor of The Milli gazette, who inaugurated the conference, gave an overview of the Palestine issue, explained the need for the conference and defined the consistent Indian support to the Palestinian cause. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s famous saying that, “Palestine belongs to the Arabs just as England belongs to the English or France to the French.” Khan said, “The founder of JMI, Maulana Ali Jauhar, struggled for the Palestinian cause and was held by the Palestinians in such a high esteem that after his death in London, he was brought to Jerusalem and buried with great honour in Al Aqsa mosque campus.”
Describing the importance of Palestine issue and giving examples, Professor Muhammad Ayub, head of JMI’s department of Arabic said, “Many Indian scholars and poets have raised the Palestine issue through their works. JMI itself has been closely related to the Palestinian issue. Here in Jamia a number of landmarks are named after Palestinians.”
President of the Muslim Political Council, Dr. Tasleem Rahmani said, “Since long Jews were making a plan to establish a Jewish state by destroying Arab Palestine and all imperial powers supported them. Same powers now have destroyed West Asia.” He held that Palestine is a religious issue and it is a conflict between Islam and Judaism in which West is supporting Jews.
Rumaan Mecci, a college student from Bangalore, represented the youth and students. She enthusiastically supported the Palestinian cause and recited a poem she composed on Palestine.
On the occasion, a book, “Palestine Essays”, consisting of the winning essays in the Palestine essay contest conducted by The Milli Gazette last year, was released by Aiyar.
In the first academic session, Dr. Arshi Khan of AMU, spoke on “Palestine: a nation without a state”. He said, “Palestine is recognized by many nations as a state but in reality it’s not a state because a modern state is a constitutional entity which enjoys sovereignty and recognized borders. Even under Oslo, Israel continues to control over 60 percent of West Bank and maintains a blockade of Gaza since 2006,” he said.
Speaking on the economic conditions of the Palestinians post-Oslo, Prof. Javed Ahmad Khan of JMI’s Centre for West Asian Studies said, “Arab economists have failed to save Palestine. Arabs are living off oil income. Neither they manufacture anything nor do they pay attention to human resource development. Arab countries never gave preference in employment to the Palestinians who are most skilled among Arabs but they have no industry or self-sustaining economy in their own land. There is no economy in Palestine. They survive on foreign aid provided by UN and donor countries. There will be no peace in Palestine or solution to the issue without their economic progress. They are forced to live within the four walls of a prison.”
Concluding the first session, Aaliya Khan, a student of JMI, gave a brief description on the past and present history of Jerusalem.
Senior journalist, Ajit Sahi, who presided over the first academic session, recalled that India did not recognize Israel as a state till 1992. He narrated how he was able to visit Gaza a few years back. He found that the Gazans were wonderful people. He told a local TV channel while in Gaza, “I am in the middle of the freest people on earth.” He said when he got his first Indian passport; it had the endorsement saying that it is “not valid for South Africa and Israel” but now things have drastically changed and we are now totally inclined towards Israel. Only popular pressure can change this situation. He added, “Palestine is basically a struggle between haves and haves-not. Many Jews in Israel are also fighting for the Palestinian cause, while there are Arabs and Muslims who support Israel.”
During the conference, writers of winning essays presented a summary of their papers and prizes were distributed to the winners of the Palestine essay contest which was divided into five categories.