On December 8, 2015, the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine held its third annual conference in Beirut, under the title "Support the Al-Quds Intifada." The conference was attended by 300 activists and NGO representatives from 60 countries around the world, including representatives of Hizbullah and of Palestinian organizations such as the PLO, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Among the speakers at the conference were Hizbullah deputy secretary-general Na'im Qassem, Hamas political bureau deputy head Isma'il Haniya, Islamic Jihad deputy secretary-general Ziad Al-Nakhala, Archbishop Atallah Hanna (Theodosios) of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, PLO secretary in Lebanon Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, and others. Some of the speeches included calls to eliminate Israel. For example, Hizbullah deputy secretary-general Na'im Qassem said that "eliminating Israel will remain the goal to which we aspire," and the chairman of the International Union of Resistance Clerics in Lebanon, Maher Al-Hammoud, likewise spoke of "eliminating the Zionist entity."
Qassem, who was one of the prominent speakers at the conference, also praised the stabbing and vehicular attacks carried out by Palestinians in Israel, calling them "resistance operations"; stated that the right of return was part of the liberation of Palestine; warned against accepting any settlement with Israel; and stressed that all of Hizbullah's actions were for the sake of Palestine and that Iran, too, supported the Palestinian cause politically, militarily, financially and culturally. He stated further that the Sunni terrorist organizations in the region were part of Israel's regional plan, and demanded that the Arab and Muslim world return the Palestinian cause to the top of its agenda. At the same time, he urged the Palestinians not to interfere in Arab matters that do not concern them directly, threatening that, if they do, the resistance will remove their cause from its agenda.
Palestinian speakers at the conference likewise praised the current intifada and called to continue it, while exhorting the Arab and Muslim world to support it and to place the Palestinian cause at the head of its agenda again, and not to relinquish the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
The conference's closing statement called, inter alia, to ingrain the Palestinian cause in the consciousness of the Arabs, the Muslims and the world; promote the boycott of Israel and punish anyone pursuing normalization with it; and promote the rights of the Palestinians while employing all means sanctioned by international resolutions to protect it and underscore the right of return.
Towards the end of the conference several individuals and organizations were given awards, including 'Ahd Al-Tamimi, a young Palestinian woman who, at the age of 14, struck an Israeli soldier, and Greek sociologist Vangelis Pissias, who organized flotillas to Gaza.
Below are translated excerpts from Qassem's lengthy address, and, following that, from other speeches that were delivered at the conference:
Na'im Qassem: Eliminating Israel Will Remain Our Goal; The Right Of Return Is Part Of Liberation
Qassem opened by congratulating the young men and women throughout Palestine who are participating in the current intifada, as well as the conference organizers for championing the cause of Palestinian return in order to liberate all of Palestine "from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River." He praised the stabbing and vehicular attacks that he claimed were doing the job of firearms, saying: "The third intifada is a sign that resistance in Palestine is not a transient movement and is one of the [indisputable] truths of the Palestinian right. It also [demonstrates] that jihad and resistance have renewed their activity, along with this new generation, thus belying all the theories that the Zionists and their supporters have tried to establish, [namely] that the Palestinian cause could fade away with time and that the new generation was incapable of bearing the old burden and [demanding] the unwavering right. O youths of jihad in Palestine, you have again proven that Palestine is [ingrained] in the heart and in the conscience. It is present in the embryos [still] in their mothers' womb, in the young, in the upbringing [of the new generation], in every scream of a mother or daughter and every sortie of a jihad fighter or an ordinary man - until the strength of this people, which stubbornly insists on withstanding Israel's arrogance, will be complete. Thus you are restoring to the Palestinian cause its vitality and its standing."
Na'im Qassem (third from the right) and other speakers at the conference (Image: Naimkassem.net)
Qassem continued: "The [current] intifada generation is renewing the resistance and aiding it with new forces and new action, and this confirms that resistance is [a matter of] willpower, not of weapons or international support, and that it is an act of faith. Such faith, if it exists, provides positions and capabilities that prompt a change in the equation - [a change] that arises from simple and modest capabilities, or even from nothing. You see today that the knife is doing the job of the missile, and that vehicular [attacks] are accomplishing what some weapons cannot. The man of the Palestinian resistance is the Palestinian nobleman who stands proudly when he approaches carrying out his jihadi duty, and whose operation in the field is guided by this reality, regardless of his age, character, or status. Therefore, I say that the future favors the resistance, and does not favor the occupation, even if [the occupation] lasts a long time. The right of return is part of the liberation that will be carried out, with Allah's will, by the youth of Palestine and the Palestinian people, who will be the spearhead, and we will support [them]..."
The Resistance Must Not Be Blocked Just For An Arrangement With Israel
Qassem warned against any arrangement whatsoever with Israel, and proposed waiting for the right moment to vanquish Israel by means of the resistance: "We must beware of the equation that Netanyahu is drawing. He says that the problem lies not with the occupation but with the conditions of the arrangement. There are those even within Palestine and within the Arab states who are headed in this direction... We warn that the problem is the occupation, and that the problem must remain the occupation. The arrangement is no solution... The problem is the occupation and the solution must be its removal. We will not agree to less than the removal of the occupation as a solution to the Palestinian issue."
He continued: "We must not look at the resistance's current strength and the diplomatic situation in which we are living. We must preserve the process, and when the opportunity [arises], we will take advantage of the resistance movement and of the unexpected developments, and of the divine intention that will arrive at the time and under circumstances that only Allah knows, and then we will already be on the correct path to the goal. Whoever goes on the correct path towards the goal will ultimately take advantage of the opportunity and be victorious, even if he does not know when this will come about and how it will be. Here, I turn to the political leadership, and to the forces responsible for running the resistance, and to the organizations operating in the struggle against the occupation, [and I say] that they are responsible for preserving, taking advantage of, directing, and sponsoring this achievement [i.e. the intifada]. I warn against blocking the intifada for the sake of a [diplomatic] arrangement [with Israel], because the intifada is an act of resistance. [If you do not want to encourage it,] at least allow it to continue and to progress with its capabilities, and do not divert it from its path, claiming that doing so is a service to Palestine. Service to Palestine is the continuation of resistance and intifada, and no other path."
Qassem addresses the conference (Image: Naimkassem.net)
Iran Supports Political And Military Resistance In Palestine
Next in his speech, Qassem attempted to rebut accusations that Hizbullah has deviated from its path because of its military involvement in Syria, Iraq, and perhaps additional places in the Arab world. He said that everything that Hizbullah was doing was for the sake of Palestine: "We place our reliance on the resistance plan, as a plan that begins with Palestine and spreads to the entire Arab, Islamic, and global reality. Oh proud Palestinian people, be assured that Hizbullah is at your side, Iran is at your side, the resistance axis is with you, the honorable people are with you. Anyone backed by [such] supporters has to succeed. All the achievements of the resistance axis are in the service of the Palestinian cause. Every achievement of the resistance plan, everywhere, that you read about or see, is for the sake of Palestine, and that is how it will continue to be."
Stressing Iran's support for the Palestinian cause, Qassem said: "You know that Iran... really turned around immediately after the victory, with the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. Iran transformed the process of [the Arab and Muslim] defeat into one of victory and continuity; it transformed the process of surrender into one of heroic stance and valor. It has provided all [possible] diplomatic, military, economic, and cultural support for the Palestinian cause. They punished Iran and plotted against it because of its worthy and just positions. This causes us to support this country and this blessed revolution, that give [importance] to a stance and to truth, and not to exploitation or extortion... I promise you that developments in the region are trending positively in favor of the resistance axis."
At the same time, Qassem criticized the U.S. for its support of Israel, saying: "The U.S. and international sponsorship in all our causes, first of all for the Palestinian cause, is dubious, biased [towards Israel], conniving, and in collusion with Israel. These Americans justify the killing, provide sponsorship for the takfiri movements, and act for the sake of Israel so that it will kill and wound the Palestinian people. They are silent about settlements and occupation, and support it with money, arms, and capabilities. This is not sponsorship; it is collusion. Likewise, we stand against the arrogant and aggressive Israel that thinks it can do whatever it wants. This arrogance is already finished, beginning with the resounding Israeli failure in 2006 at the hands of Hizbullah's young jihad fighters. Additionally, Israel's willpower has been broken three times by the young Palestinian jihad fighters in the Gaza Strip. This means that we can leverage these results and reach the longed-for resolution."
ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra - All Part Of The Israeli Plan
With regard to the Sunni terrorist organizations and the resistance axis efforts to fight them, Qassem called them part of the Israeli plan, and said that they will not succeed in removing the Palestinian issue from the top of the agenda: "ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and Al-Qaeda are spreading throughout our region, and this distracts us from the Palestinian issue, but we will not allow them to [cause the] ummah to squander its capabilities on civil wars that pass from one country to the next and wantonly destroy the capabilities of the Arab and Muslim countries - which serves the Israeli plan. We have seen the takfiri everywhere, but we have not seen them in Palestine. We have seen the takfiri killing Muslims, Christians, pagans, and all the forces [that exist], but they have not killed a single Zionist. We have seen the takfiri attempting to disrupt our lives from A to Z, but we have not seen them throw even one small stone at Israel. This means that they are part of this plan.
"We say to them [i.e. the takfiri]: If you think that you can, by means of clashes with us, divert us from prioritizing above all else the conflict with Israel in Palestine, then you are deluding yourselves. Palestine will remain at the top of the agenda; so will Jerusalem. And eliminating Israel will remain the goal to which we aspire."
He continued: "All the handshakes between [Arab figures and Israelis], and the Arab haplessness, are marginal and have no impact. Therefore we will speak no more about handshakes, a meeting, an agreement, normalization [with Israel]; these are contemptible and have no impact. We are convinced that as long as the resistance burns, and as long as the Palestinian people remain in the field, the Arabs, Muslims or others have no capability to change the trajectory of the Palestinian cause and the liberation of Palestine.
Palestinians' Involvement In Matters That Don't Concern Them Will Harm Their Interests
Calling on the Palestinians and the various Palestinian organizations to refrain from taking a stand on matters in the Arab and Muslim world that do not directly concern them, Qassem said that this could harm the Palestinian cause, and remove it from the top of the agenda. With these statements, Qassem appears to be hinting at the position taken by Hamas several years ago vis-├á-vis the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and the support it expressed for the Syrian revolution - which did damage to Hamas's relations with the entire resistance axis. He said: "We are not counting on the Arabs coming together [around the Palestinian cause]... but they must know that Palestine is our top priority, and our top priority for Palestine is liberation... [We say to] our brothers and sisters in the Palestinian forces, and to the Palestinian people: We will not demand that you stand for something or against someone [on issues unrelated to the Palestinian cause]... because if you do, you will lose your standing, and your role, for Palestine. But if you leave the [matters that belong to] others alone, and stick to your own cause, and do not entangle yourself in supporting those who are right or wrong [on things that are] unrelated to Palestine - then your cause will remain central ..."
Finally, Qassem concluded his speech by congratulating "the martyrs, the wounded, and the people of the Palestinian intifada, who have brought Palestine to the forefront. Our voices must be well [heard], for their sake. Just as knife [attacks have] had an impact, and as vehicular [attacks] have had an impact, [our] voice will have an impact as well. Proof of this is that they [the Saudis] would not stand for the voice of [Hizbullah's] Al-Manar [TV] or [the pro-Hizbullah Lebanese] Al-Mayadeen [TV, and pressured Arabsat to stop carrying these channels]. Know that this was an indication that these two voices are like a knife and a rocket - because they are voices that speak for Palestine. Palestine alone is a force that stands on its own, and those who walk with it, carry it, and defend it will be given strength by the grace of Allah."
Palestinian Officials: No Relinquishing Of The Right Of Return; "The Time For General Mobilization... Is Now"
In their speeches at the conference, officials from the main Palestinian organizations - Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the PLO - repeatedly stressed that they would not relinquish the right of return, and called for unity and for the Arab world to once again give top priority to the Palestinian cause.
Isma'il Haniya: "We Will Continue The Intifada Until Liberation:
In a prerecorded video speech screened during the conference's closing session, Hamas political bureau deputy head Isma'il Haniya called on Arabs and Muslims to once again rally around the Palestinian cause, which he said had taken a back seat on the agenda: "The intifada will continue, even by force of inertia, because our people have embarked on a path and will never stop, even if everything surrounding it is dense and difficult in light of the fading international [interest in the] matter and the countries' and peoples' attending to their own problems and wounds... The intifada has not yet revealed all its [means and methods] to the occupation. This magnificent creative people, which began with rocks and continued with rockets, can persist in its resistance and its intifada, generation after generation, until liberation." He also called on the Arab and Islamic ummah to support the intifada in all possible ways.
Haniya in prerecorded video speech (Source: Racamp.net, December 11, 2015)
PIJ Representative: Now Is The Time For General Mobilization
PIJ deputy secretary-general Ziad Al-Nakhala stressed how important it was that the entire Islamic ummah support the Palestinian people and its struggle, particularly "the need to unite the pro-Palestinian political discourse, in order to protect the intifada and ensure its continuation, and to clarify that the enemy of the ummah is Israel." He continued: "We face an historic opportunity presented by the martyrs of the Al-Quds intifada, who marched on [the path of] conflict with the Israeli aggression apparatus - [a chance] for we Arabs and Muslims to all unite with the free peoples worldwide for Palestine and Jerusalem... The time for general mobilization, unity, and togetherness is now..."
PLO Secretary In Lebanon: Establish International Tribunal To Try Israeli Criminals
PLO secretary in Lebanon Fathi Abu Al-Ardat stressed that the Palestinian people required both material and moral support. Without directly referring to the current wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks, he said that "the Israeli criminals must not feel immune to accountability" and stressed, "We must establish an international tribunal to try them for their crimes, since the settlements are a war crime, as are the ongoing arrests of prisoners and killing [of Palestinians] on the ground..."
Archbishop Atallah Hanna: "No Relinquishing Of The Right Of Return"
A second prerecorded video speech screened at the conference's closing session was that of Archbishop Atallah Hanna (Theodosios) of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. He stressed the importance of the Palestinian cause to all religions, and the Palestinian adherence to the right of return: "The Palestinian people's cause is a cause for us all, and is the cause of the Muslims, the Christians, the Palestinians, and the Arabs...
"No matter how long it takes, and how numerous the conspirators may be, the Palestinians will continue to adhere to Palestine, to Jerusalem as their spiritual and national capital, and to the right of return... The Palestinian who experienced the Nakba in 1948 and the Naksa in 1967 has the right to return to his homeland... There will be no relinquishing of the right of return, and of our right to Jerusalem and Palestine."
Atallah Hanna in prerecorded video speech (Source: Racamp.net, December 11, 2015)
Also speaking at the conference was Saleh Al-Khawaja, head of the committee to combat settlements and the separation fence. He criticized the "Judaization" of Jerusalem, calling it "ethnic cleansing and an organized crime" against the Palestinian people.
 Al-Safir (Lebanon), December 10, 2015.
 Topalestine.com, December 10, 2015.
 This is a reference to Sunni jihadist movements such as ISIS (the Islamic State) and Jabhat Al-Nusra.
 Nna-lev.gov.lb, December 9, 2015.
 Maannews.net, December 9, 2015.
 Palestineafree.com, December 10, 2015.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), December 8, 2015.
 Elnashra.com; Almayadeen.tv, December 9, 2015.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), December 8, 2015.