Endless talks with Israel will only prolong Palestinians’ sufferings: caravan members
Ceaseless negotiations with Israel will only prolong the suffering of Palestinians, and a united movement is required to end the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, according to members of the first Asian caravan to Gaza, which recently concluded its visit to the region.
In an interaction with journalists at the Press Club here, the coordinators of the initiative spoke of the need to galvanise public opinion in India to influence the government’s policy towards Israel vis-à-vis Gaza.
The group recalled its experience from the journey, which started in early December from Rajghat, and the hurdles created by the Israeli authorities. The caravan plan was conceived in June last to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and extend support to them in the form of humanitarian aid.
Organised by the Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine, an alliance of civil society institutions, social movements and trade unions, the caravan comprised nearly 500 individuals from 17 countries. The group, which initially ran into problems with the Indian authorities at the Wagah border, travelled by land, sea and air through cities in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, before entering Gaza.
Describing their journey as “life-altering,” the caravan members narrated their meetings with high-level political functionaries, including Hamas leaders such as Ismail Haniyeh and Khalid Mash’al, and praised the indomitable spirit of the Gazans in standing up to “Israeli aggression.”
Firoze Mithiborwala, one of the chief coordinators, said the Palestinian question had progressed from being a pet cause of the Arab community to a point where it rallied global momentum against the Israeli occupation. The people of Palestine, he said, were entitled to their long-cherished dream of a nation state, with Jerusalem as its capital.
The story of Gazans who refuse to succumb to Israeli aggression was a lesson for the world, and the caravan was intended not just to transport relief material but to convey a firm political message against imperialist tendencies.
The group said the caravan was greeted with enthusiasm and warmth along its route, despite difficulties encountered in Egypt and the Gaza port by the authorities suspicious of its motives.
The coordinators intend to organise similar initiatives in future, beginning with an international conference on Palestine in the first quarter of this year. More ‘Free Gaza’ flotillas are planned, and a second Asian caravan is in the pipeline.
The group pointed out that the regional balance of power was shifting with the rise of Iran and Turkey as central figures in the Middle East. It thanked officials and NGOs in both countries who offered it invaluable support in planning the journey.
Rooted in Gandhism
Mr. Mithiborwala, who emphasised that the movement was rooted in the Gandhian principle of non-violence, condemned Israel’s targeted strikes on the Islamic University in Gaza and hospitals in the area.
Acknowledging that the Gaza Strip grappled with poverty and underdevelopment, the caravan members stressed that the legitimacy of the Hamas-led government in Palestine could not be challenged, as it came to power through free and fair elections.