Webinar on “Palestine Under Siege”
21 May, 2021
The Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East & Africa (CAMEA) at the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI) had a Webinar titled Palestine Under Siege today. The distinguished panel of experts included: Mr. Nader Alturk, Deputy Head of Mission / Counselor at the Palestinian Embassy in Pakistan, Dr. Mohammad Makram Balawi, Palestinian writer and President of Asia Middle East Forum, Ambassador Javid Hafeez, Former Pakistani Diplomat, Dr. Daud Abdullah, Director Middle East Monitor (MEMO),Mr. Muhammad Oves Anwar, Director Research Society of International Law (RSIL), Dr. Nazir Hussain, Former Dean School of Politics and International Relations, QAU, Dr Bilal Ahmed, Director General Middle East Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan and Mr. Haitham Naser, Palestinian Journalist based in Islamabad, correspondent of TRT Arabic channel.
The Keynote address was given by Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BOG ISSI. During his remarks he said that the world has witnessed yet another carnage of the Palestinians at the hands of Israeli occupying forces. He outlined how Israel’s pattern of violence resurfaces every few years and said that these ‘symptoms’ are emblematic of a much deeper problem- the root cause of which lies in the continued Israeli occupation and the denial of rights to the Palestinians. The United Nations also recognises the right to armed struggle of people under colonial rule. There is also a similarity in the situation with Illegally Indian Occupied Kashmir (IIoK) since Indians are also wrecking all kinds of oppression on the people of Kashmir. It is imperative that humanitarian assistance be rushed to the people of Gaza. He also said that the proposals – which have included a coalition force to provide protection to the people of Palestine- need to be fleshed out by experts. It goes without saying that the root cause needs to be addressed and that can only be through the revival of the peace process.
During her introductory remarks Ms. Amina Khan, Director CAMEA, said that the sheer magnitude of illegal, disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force, tyranny and injustice being perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians is appalling and jarring. Unsurprisingly, there is a deafening silence from the media which continues to eulogise Israel’s stance and at the same time continues to turn a blind eye towards Israel’s atrocities. Pakistan’s founding father, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was unrelenting in upholding the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. His legacy continues to date. The people and government of Pakistan stand in firm solidarity with the people of Palestine and their right to self-determination as has been exemplified by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s solid support for the Palestinian cause. Most importantly, Pakistan’s efforts have been principal in bringing about the ceasefire which came into effect early this morning today. Palestinians may not have the same equal power as Israel, but the story of the Palestinian national struggle carries moral power and legitimate historical ambitions for justice and self-determination. Pakistan will continue to support the legitimate cause of the Palestine people in their struggle for self-determination at any and every level. She said that while we welcome the ceasefire, let us not forget about all the innocent lives that have been lost- the struggle for justice and freedom will continue until the Palestinians are granted their legitimate rights.
Ms. Arhama Siddiqa, Research Fellow CAMEA gave a brief overview of the present situation.
During his remarks Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Director General ISSI said that the implementation of the ceasefire is a welcome development though, he was disappointed that the Security Council could not enforce the ceasefire because of the United States’ constant veto. He said he was very happy with the active position the Pakistani Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have played. He stated that the siege has not finished and the important question is how can a sustained ceasefire be implemented? Simultaneously, it is important to address the humanitarian dimension. The present crisis is a reminder of the urgency with which the Palestine question must be resolved. He said for Pakistan, this issue is close to heart because the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir is no different. The eleven days of carnage have also revealed the double standard of the so-called human rights champions.
Mr. Nader Alturk gave an overview of the Palestinian issue which he said started in 1916. When the first UN resolution regarding a two state solution came out only 15 percent of the population was Jews and now it is 55 percent which is a huge demographic shift. Establishing Israel has not resulted in peace but instead has escalated conflicts and increased carnage in the Middle East. It is acting as a neo-Nazi state. He said that every Palestinian speaks of peace and in their heart is a freedom fighter. He also thanked Pakistan for its unwavering support and efforts for the Palestinian cause.
Dr. Mohammad Makram Balawi stated that the Palestinian wound has been bleeding for decades. Israel has been working on changing the face of the Palestinian lands in particular Al-Quds. Everyone should coordinate Israeli acts that are a continued violation of International Law. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is a de facto sovereignty. The international community has failed to protect Jerusalem. People of the world have a moral responsibility. Any neglect is a betrayal to humanity itself. Israel does not believe in diplomacy at any international forum. It only understands power and if it is not held accountable there will not be a single Palestinian is left. He also thanked Pakistan for refusing all attempts to recognise Israel.
Dr Bilal from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan remarked that Pakistan’s position regarding Palestine is entrenched in its history promoted by its forefathers and has remained unwavering since 1920.The situation in Palestinian land is that of illegal action superimposed by legal actions superimposed by more illegal actions. He outlined the illegal actions undertaken by Israel and described Pakistan’s efforts towards bringing about the current ceasefire. He said that the impunity of Israel has three effects: it makes two state solutions far fetched, it causes a repetitive cycle of violence to occur in the occupied territory, it led to oppressive regimes acting with impunity in other parts of the world, for example Indian actions in Kashmir.
Dr. Nazir Hussain stated that it is the systematic policy of Israeli decision makers to constantly put pressure on Hama. He said that the first and foremost issue is disunity among the Palestinians, Arab and the Muslim World. He applauded the resistance that Hamas put up in the face of Israeli occupation forces and underlined how double standards of the Muslim leaders came to the forefront these past days. He said the Pakistani Foreign office has played a very proactive role. Unity is of the essence because Israel will continue to carry out its barbarities and will continue to gain sympathies of the international community. He concluded by saying that Israelis atrocities must be highlighted through every forum.
Ambassador Javid Hafeez highlighted the importance of the role of social media in presenting the true picture of on-ground events. Israel has kept shifting its goal posts. The Abraham Accords were supposed to lead to a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian problem but that never happened. He lamented on how the Arab world today is divided and weak. Concurrently, Palestinian ranks are cracked as well. In the course of the past eleven days there has been largely lip service and rhetoric without actual actions. He highlighted the importance of cooperating and working closely at the Islamic, Arab and Palestinian level. He stressed on the need of a long term strategy aimed at tackling this issue which should include accountability for Israeli atrocities. Since 1917, Palestine has been a human tragedy, he stated.
Dr. Daud Abdullah stated that at the moment everyone has turned to the Palestinian issue and Hamas in particular has emerged as the de facto protector of the Palestinian people. As of unity has emerged in the backdrop of the heroic resistance shown by Palestinians. There has been a significant transformation where the facade that Israel has been nurturing against Palestinians has been shattered, as has Israeli pretence of deterrence. Through ingenuity, resolve and commitment, Palestinians have been able to put up commendable resistance. There is also a recognition that Hamas is not just a military force but a political force as well. Their ability to participate has now been highlighted as has the sanction that they be brought into the political process.
Mr. Muhammad Oves Anwar said that what we have seen in legal terms has been very disheartening. Legal technicalities have been invoked to justify the wrongful targeting of civilians. There has been misrepresentation and enforced failure of international law. When accountability is missing we see other countries emboldened as is the case in Occupied Kashmir. International human rights law suffers from the inability of the international community to implement it. International law gives us lexicon to state our narrative and defines terms like war crimes. Even if the perpetrators of war crimes are brought to court and punished, even the severest punishment will not make up for the extent of cruelty of their crimes, he said.
Mr. Haitham Naser stated that twitter and social media have changed the situation therefore has allowed citizens of Israel and people in the West to see the actual situation and influenced public opinion. Although the change in opinion brought about by social media is not at a level desired by Palestinians have desired, it is still important. He also reiterated Pakistan’s efforts in bringing about the ceasefire.
The remarks were followed by an interactive session.