Shahrin Aizat Noorshahrizam
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be described as colonialism rather than occupation, to illustrate the gravity of the situation.
Renowned expert in Sociology and Anthropology, Professor Dr Syed Farid Alatas, from the National University of Singapore (NUS), underscored the pivotal role of intellectual discourse in shaping our understanding of the Isreali government's treatment of Palestinians.
He contends that it is fitting to categorise Israel as a colonial state, a designation that resonates with the wider global discourse surrounding this complex and enduring conflict.
"The dominant narrative in the west, in the media and even in Malaysia that there is an international conflict in Palestine as if there is an independent Palestine and Israel.
"Its as if there are two entities which is Palestine and Israel in conflict with each other, but that is not the reality.
"The reality is that the whole of what we called Palestine is a colony with three forms of colonialism taking place - settlers colonialism, semi-colonialism and exploitation colonialism," he told an international conference "Settler Colonialism: Analysing the Israeli Occupation of Palestine" today.
Another prominent figure on the panel was senior representative of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, Usamah Hamdan.
Usamah acknowledged the formidable challenges that confront the Palestinian cause, and stood by the belief that their struggles, though arduous, would eventually yield positive results.
He said the emergence of what he terms as "new global powers" on the horizon, suggest a shifting landscape that may provide a ray of hope for Palestinians in their enduring quest for justice and self-determination
"I have to say that we understand that our struggle is not easy. Israel is being supported by the so called 'international community', but awe understand now that the powers are changing," he said.
The conference host, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia chief executive officer Dr. Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi,echoed the sentiments expressed by Prof Syed Farid, and emphasised the need for Malaysians to not merely extend their support to the Palestinian struggle but to also delve into its historical underpinnings.
"If you ask any young Malaysians, they won't even know what the historical background of the conflict is. This is what is important and I think the connotation of colonialism instead of occupation that was mentioned throughout the whole conference," he told New Straits Times after the conference concluded.
The conference delved into into the complexities of Palestine's colonial past and post-colonial present, while shed light on the historical, ideological, and economic dimensions of the issue, and highlighted the relationship of Malaysia and Southeast Asia towards the struggling nation.
Among the distinguished speakers were former Foreign Affairs Minister Tan Sri Dr. Syed Hamid Albar, IAIS chairman Professor Dr. Maszlee Malik and Ledang MP Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, who is also the Palestine Parliamentary Caucus Chief.
Also present at the conference were Asia Middle-East Centre founding member Dr Muslim Imran, Hashim Sani Centre for Palestine Studies director Professor Dr. Mohd Nazari Ismail and a senior lecturer of Sociology and Anthropology based in Jerusalem, Dr. Areej Sabbagh-Khoury.
Published in The New Straits Times on Thursday, 21 September 2023.