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Anti-imperialists unite at Beirut Forum

Published Jan 21, 2009 5:04 PM

As the people of Gaza staved off yet another attempt by the U.S.-armed and -funded Israeli military to eradicate the cause of Palestine by murdering its people, delegates from around the world gathered in Beirut to build solidarity and practical support for their cause among secular leftist and Islamic anti-imperialist forces.

As Dr. Ali Fayyad, the director of the Consultative Center for Studies and Documentation in Beirut, who hosted the Beirut Forum, laid out its goals: “In this part of the world the resistance is Islamic. The resistance movement here must introduce themselves to other forces of resistance to imperialism around the world. The ideological differences must be postponed. The resistance must prevail. ... An important goal of the forum is how, despite the ideological contradictions, to find how to work together hand in hand to achieve unity against imperialism.”

The Beirut International Forum for Resistance, Anti-Imperialism, Solidarity between Peoples and Alternatives, held from Jan. 16 to 18, assembled 450 international and Arab bodies, in addition to social movements and figures from 66 countries on the soil of Lebanon, where the U.S.-created Israeli war machine suffered its first strategic defeat at the hands of the Lebanese Resistance in 2006.

Besides the host group, also participating was the National Gathering to Support the Choice of Resistance (Lebanon), in collaboration with the International Campaign against American and Zionist Occupation (the Cairo Conference), the International Anti-Imperialist and Peoples’ Solidarity Forum (the Calcutta-India Conference) and the Stop War Campaign (London). Many hundreds of resistance organizations and prominent individuals endorsed the call for the Beirut Forum.

Manik Mukherjee, the secretary general of the International Anti-Imperialist and Peoples’ Solidarity Forum, who traveled for and worked on the Beirut Forum for the past year, headed an important delegation from India. The International League of People’s Struggle also participated.

The largest number of delegates came from the Arab world, including the Ba'ath and Communist Parties of Syria, and Iran, but there were also many from Latin America, including 30 from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Guests from Venezuela comprised members of parliament, unionists and youth from both the United Socialist Party (PSUV) and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV).

From Europe, besides the collaborating groups, members of the Party Red of Norway, Odiario.info of Portugal, the Anti-Imperialist Camp, workers’ parties in Greece and Cyprus and many other anti-imperialists from around Europe attended.

Anti-war forces there from the U.S. included former Congressperson and presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and delegations from the International Action Center and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. McKinney was recently on the ship Dignity, which was rammed by the Israeli Navy while trying to bring medical aid to Gaza. Sara Flounders, IAC co-director, addressed the Palestine Plenary Session (WW publishes her talk in this issue).

Two camps in the world

“There are two camps in the world, that of imperialism, led by the United States, and that of resistance,” declared the Hezbollah deputy general secretary, Sheikh Naim Kassem, at the conference’s opening session. “And I think the resistance camp will overcome.” He called on fighters for freedom and justice around the world to follow the example of the Lebanese resistance, where “We have united the leftists, with the secularist, the committed Muslim and the nationalist. ... We should join hands to form a pressing and effective force, regardless of color, ethnicity, language, religion or creed.”

Sheikh Kassem denounced Washington’s attempts to impose “a market economy” on other countries, saying, “People around the world find that their problems are caused by U.S intervention, and we should unite. But there is no solidarity without support of resistance. ... Gaza today is the symbol of resistance and human dignity. We call upon you to stand with Gaza to scatter the darkness of imperialism and Zionism.”

Speakers from Hamas, Gaza’s democratically elected governing party, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine drew rousing applause from all assembled as they described the horrific suffering and heroic resistance of Gaza’s people and called for political solidarity so that the people of Palestine would not lose diplomatically what they defended on the battlefield.

Panels and workshops combined political talks and action proposals with powerful personal testimony. Egyptian journalist Dalia Saladin described her visit to Gaza last January when freedom fighters forced open the Rafah crossing with Egypt. “Every household has at least one martyr and another disabled by the war. But when you walk among the people, you feel you have entered a new culture and a new social perspective, a culture of giving and sacrifice for others, where the poorest of the poor, especially mothers, set the example.”

A Lebanese man, Hussein Shokr, brought delegates to tears when he told how an Israeli missile had killed his wife and four children during the 2006 war while he was away working in Canada.

Activists from Greece and Cyprus told of their efforts to break the blockade on Gaza physically and of how Greek dockworkers had refused to load U.S. arms bound for Israel.

In the conference closing session, Palestinian Resistance hero Leila Khaled of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) spoke of the “unilateral ceasefire” just announced by Israeli forces. “We salute all those who fight to break the siege of Gaza. We affirm that this victory was won by our freedom fighters on the ground. The unilateral ceasefire proves that, with all its destructive capacity, Israel could not achieve its goals on the battlefield. They are now seeking the help of the United States to achieve those goals politically. But we consider occupation to be an act of war. When injustice is law, resistance is duty. And the only answer to occupation is resistance and liberation.”

“A prime organizer of the conference was Mohamed Kassem, a leader of the Lebanese teachers’ union. “For the first time, in Lebanon,” he said, “we have created a platform for struggling people all over the world, secular, nationalist, leftist and Islamic to speak their views and work together, against the wars in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, against the threats to Iran and the sanctions on Sudan, against the blockade of Cuba and the attempts to block the revolutionary direction in Venezuela, Bolivia and across Latin America. ... We are building mechanisms of international cooperation and South-South solidarity, and we plan to intensify those efforts in the future.”

Cecil represented the International Action Center at the Beirut Forum. More documents and voices from the forum will appear in a future issue of Workers World newspaper.