Conference on Palestine:
Iran conference speaks for the Ummah in supporting the Palestinian
1-15 July 2002
It is one of the ironies facing the Ummah today that there is
hardly a country in the Muslim world where a conference could be
held at which Palestinian representatives and other Islamic activists
from around the world would be able to gather on one platform. This
is because, despite their loud rhetoric in support of Palestine,
most Muslim rulers do not have the courage to defy the US.
Hajj, for instance, is an ideal opportunity to express solidarity
with the Palestinians, but the ruling family in Saudi Arabia is
so averse to any political expression at the time of Hajj that they
would rather destroy the Ummah than allow such discussion to take
place. Islamic Iran is the only government that has the courage
to stand up for truth no matter who is displeased by it. This is
what the Islamic Republic did last month when it organized an International
Conference on Palestine in Tehran on June 2 and 3.
The conference was organized by the Imam Khomeini Institute to
mark the thirteenth anniversary of his death. It was a fitting tribute
to the late Imam, who did much to publicise the plight of the Palestinian
people, long before it became known internationally. It also reflected
his wisdom and foresight; while Iran has no physical boundary with
Palestine, under the Shahs regime Iran had established strong
relations with the zionist state. The Shah was an American puppet,
and under him Iran was an American colony. Throughout his life the
Imam highlighted these points in both his speeches and his writings,
and targeted the illegitimate zionist entity as a usurper of the
Holy Land of Palestine. He also missed no opportunity to warn the
Iranian people about the Shahs subservience to the US and
why this was an insult to Islam.
The Tehran conference was attended by all factions of the Palestinian
resistance movement from the Islamic activists to the secularists
as well as by delegates from most Arab countries, where a
great deal of sympathy and support exists for the Palestinian cause.
In fact, a vigorous boycott-campaign against Israeli and American
goods and companies is being pursued in the Arab world by individuals
and organizations, without any direct support from their governments.
This is most successful in such pro-western countries as Saudi Arabia,
Egypt and Bahrain, thanks to the determined effort of private individuals
and students. There is great anger among the Arabs against zionist
terrorism and the killing of Palestinians, as well as against the
USs blind support for such crimes. The people do not have
the means to confront the zionists or their American backers directly,
so they use the only weapon at their disposal: boycott of American
and Israeli goods, to vent their anger, hurt Western interests and
express solidarity with the Palestinians.
At the Tehran conference there were much more serious issues under
consideration. It is indicative of the Islamic Republics commitment
to the Palestinian cause that the conference opened with a speech
by the Rahbar, Ayatullah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. He put the Palestinian
issue into its proper context by declaring that it was the religious
obligation of all Muslims to support it actively. The hundreds of
delegates from all over the world also heard from most of the leading
figures of the intifada. Those from within Occupied Palestine could
not attend, of course, but their representatives based in Jordan,
Syria and Lebanon attended and made eloquent presentations. It was
good to see that their morale is very high and that they do not
suffer from battle fatigue despite their great suffering.
It was equally heartening to hear delegates from the Arab countries
expressing solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters.
There were even some parliamentarians from the Arab world; the speaker
of Kuwaits parliament, Muhammad Ali Khorrafi was there, as
were many Arab journalists. The Kuwaiti speaker lamented the lack
of unity in the Ummah. He said that before Muslims could confront
the zionist entity, they must eliminate weaknesses in their own
ranks. Yet, while unity is important, if the Ummah were to wait
until it is achieved, the zionists would still be in occupation
of Southern Lebanon. Resistance to foreign occupation is an inalienable
right of those under occupation. The Ummah outside has an obligation
to help the resistance with whatever means are available. The zionists
not only have the support of the diaspora but also of the US government,
which pours billions of dollars annually into Israel, even while
millions of Americans go without food and medical aid.
While such conferences are organized more to boost morale than
to discuss anything substantial, it was good to see that the Islamic
Republic took its responsibilities seriously. The final session
of the second day was presided over by Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, grandson
of Imam Khomeini, and it was addressed by Hashemi Rafsanjani, head
of the Expediency Council in the Islamic Republic. He gave a wide-ranging
presentation about the nature of zionism and how this alien ideology
was planted in Palestine. The conference was concluded with a 20-point
declaration presented by Hujjatul-Islam Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, the
conference chairman, who is also the former ambassador of Iran to
Conferences such as these are useful to gain insights into the
real situation in Palestine by personal interaction with the delegates
rather than by listening to speeches. Often, speakers repeat what
has already been said or there is too much rhetoric in making a
point. This was also the case in this conference, but because Palestinians
of every shade of opinion were present, it was possible to get a
real flavour of what was going on inside Occupied Palestine.
It was heartening to learn that Palestinians have not been cowed
by zionist brutalities; their morale is high despite suffering terribly
at the hands of the occupation forces. Palestinian representatives
admitted that Israels military assaults on their camps in
Jenin and attacks on Ramallah last April had caused some setbacks
to their activities, but insisted that these had not crippled them.
They felt confident that they could continue their resistance regardless.
This became clear a few days later, when a massive operation was
carried out on June 7 near Meggido in which a bus carrying soldiers
was blown up. Other martyrdom operations were carried out on June
18 and 19. In two days at least 26 Israelis, most of them soldiers,
Delegates from other parts of the world repeatedly stressed that
they support the martyrdom operations of the Palestinians and insisted
that nobody should insult their sacrifices by branding them as "suicide
missions". Such insulting expressions were deliberately used
by the enemies in an attempt to delegitimize their valiant struggle.
Those who have nothing but their bodies to fight with cannot be
denied the limited means at their disposal. Certainly they would
prefer to fight with guns and tanks, if only someone would supply
them. It is hypocritical for people to condemn them for resisting
their occupiers despite not having such weaponry.
While the Palestinians struggle for liberation will be long
and hard, it is beginning to attract serious attention in the Ummah.
Even if Muslims cannot help directly, they can do so indirectly,
for example by participating in boycott campaigns. If this campaign
were taken up in earnest in every part of the Muslim world, it would
have a strong impact on the zionist aggressors and their American
The least the Muslims can do is to highlight the wrongs suffered
by the Palestinian people and neutralise some of the negative propaganda
spread by the zionists and their apologists, especially in the west,
to weaken the Palestinians cause.