Press Release

The Centre for Middle East & Africa (CMEA) in collaboration with Middle East Monitor (MEMO)

Kashmir & Palestine: The destruction of Indigenous Cultural Heritage
September 10, 2020

The Centre for Middle East & Africa (CMEA) in collaboration with Middle East Monitor (MEMO), London, UK organized a webinar titled “Kashmir & Palestine: The destruction of Indigenous Cultural Heritage” on September 10, 2020.

The distinguished panel of speakers included: Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK); Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, Founder and President Palestine Land Society; Ms Mushaal Hussein Mullick, Wife of detained Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman;  Mr Kevin Chamberlain, Former Deputy Legal Adviser, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office & the Palestinian Authority; Dr. Salma Malik, Assistant Professor Quaid-e-Azam University; Dr Mahmoud Hawari, founder member of Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and Dr Khuram Iqbal, Head of Department of International Relations (IR), National Defense University (NDU).

Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) highlighted several overlapping and differing aspects of the two struggles of Kashmir and Palestine in his Keynote address. He said that the dilemma of the UN was that it always sheds a tear after the genocide has occurred. Speaking about the role and responsibility of the UN, he said that the organisation has an obligation to honour the voices and rights of the people of Palestine and Kashmir in their struggle for right of self-determination. He also enlisted the several stages of genocide as classification, symbolism, discrimination, dehumanization, organization to commit genocide, politicization, persecution, final extermination and denial. Kashmir, he pointed out, was at the stage of persecution. He also stressed that while Palestine received widespread international support, Kashmir did not get the same amount of attention.

In her introductory remarks, Ms. Amina Khan, Director CMEA outlined that there are several parallels between two of the most protracted and deadliest conflicts- Kashmir, where the people have been struggling for the right of self-determination in the face of Indian atrocities and Palestine, where its people have been striving against brutal Israeli occupation. She said that despite adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which acknowledges the rights to culture, diversity, and self-determination, claims of cultural genocide are often derided, and their indicators dismissed as benign effects of modernity and indigenous cultural diffusion. Both India and Israel use diversion tactics in order to shift the focus away from their actions. Israel camouflages its brutal occupation by blaming suicide bombings by Palestinians and disunity between Hamas and Fatah. Similarly, in order to deflect attention from the human rights violations in IOK, Prime Minister Modi uses terrorism and Islamophobia to vindicate his government’s actions against the innocent civilians of Kashmir.

Dr Daud Abdullah, Director, Middle East Monitor (MEMO) elaborated in his introductory remarks that the looting of cultural property and destruction is a main feature of armed conflict from time immemorial. Victors of occupation have regarded it as their right to rob the defeated populations of their distinct cultural heritage. He said that in case of both, Palestine and Kashmir as a result of armed conflict, we have witnessed a huge loss of cultural property and heritage. Buildings, museums and archives were looted while rituals, festivals, languages and cultural practices which were generational in nature were either destroyed or inhibited. Dr Abdullah also referred to the Genocide Convention of 1948, 1954 and the Geneva Conventions that came out of the situations during both world wars. He stressed that to keep this discussion alive and bring it under the broader definition of genocide; both MEMO and CMEA have come together to organize this webinar.

Ambassador Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Director General Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI) said in his remarks that the US deal of the century has emboldened the Israeli leadership and prevented resolution of the Palestinian conflict while in Kashmir after the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A, all hell has broken lose and the Genocide Watch has also issued an alert in this regard. He further said that the US tilt toward India has encouraged Modi’s government to continue its atrocities against the people of Kashmir instead of honouring the UN resolutions on Kashmir.

Dr Salman Abu Sitta elaborated upon the ten colonial wars being waged against the Palestinians which are: military operations to conquer and seize land, crushing dissent, using political tactics to further their agenda, geographical war by modifying maps, historical war involving obliteration of Palestinian history, archaeological war to destroy cultural sites, religious war to expel Palestinians from sacred sites, defamation of Palestinian fighters, the war against international law and economic war.

Ms Mushaal Hussein Mullick spoke about the plight of the Kashmiris and Palestinians and gave her own personal account of the struggles that her husband has been facing due to Indian atrocities. She also spoke about the parallels that exist between the Israelis and Palestinians and concerted efforts are required on part of the Palestinians and Kashmiris to create greater solidarity and engage with the international community to further these causes.

Mr Kevin Chamberlain said that while focus is laid on the hardships suffered by the Palestinian people as a result of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, considerably less publicity has been given to the systematic destruction of Palestine’s rich cultural heritage resulting from the occupation. Following the 1967 conflict when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza there was intense archaeological activity. Objects were removed in two ways – officially by the Israeli occupation authorities, or clandestinely by individual Israeli soldiers, civilians and, unfortunately in some cases, even by Palestinians driven by financial woes.  

Dr Salma Malik talked about women as targets of genocidal campaigns, the trauma women go through in conflicts such as in Kashmir and Palestine and how systematic erasure of the culture of indigenous people is carried out by occupying forces.

Dr Mahmoud Hawari elaborated how the Palestinian people have a vibrant culture and heritage represented in all aspects through music, theatre, film and literature which has been proven through extensive archaeological expeditions. He also talked about the destruction of indigenous cultural heritage and use and misuse of archaeology. He voiced his solidarity with the people of Kashmir and Palestine against the brutalities that have been waged by their occupiers. He talked about sites that are of religious significance to these three religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam yet Christians and Muslims are not allowed to visit.

Dr Khuram Iqbal talked about global reactions to the on-going genocide in Kashmir and Palestine, evolving convergences between Zionism and Hindutva and how it could lead to extinction and the way forward in countering this.

Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman ISSI, concluded by stating that while the origin of these two disputes- Palestine and Kashmir- are different, several components like the right to self-determination, violation of sanctity of UN resolutions and of international humanitarian laws are common factors.