Academics, activists, journalists and writers gathered in Tehran for a conference to discuss Israel’s war on Gaza, Islam’s relations with the West as well as the rise of ISIS and those behind the latest terrorist group. Eric Walberg was there.
Monday October 06, 214, 14:19 DST
The conference “New Horizon: the International Conference of Independent Thinkers” was held in Tehran, September 29–October 1, including more than 30 journalists, writers and academics from around the world presenting papers and arguing issues of world geopolitics, with a focus on the Middle East. I represented Canada, along with University of Lethbridge Globalization Studies Professor Anthony Hall, author of Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism (2010). It was greeted in western media by hysterical denunciations, in the first place by the American Jewish Committee which accused it of “promoting hatred of Jews and Israel” and the Anti-Defamation League which accused it of “promoting anti-Semitic propaganda”.
The conference almost didn’t take place at all, having been officially cancelled, supposedly as a gesture to the West, after the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected last year. But after a flood of criticism at Iranian websites sympathetic to the organisers, the Iranian Foreign Ministry reversed itself. Nader Talebzadeh, the principle organiser, had had to lobby hard to reinstate the conference, calling the cancellation of the conference “a major mistake on the part of our government”. “Have our leaders given in so much to the world that they are even afraid of a conference that might hurt Mr Obama’s feelings?” asked one blogger sarcastically.
The First New Horizon Conference in September 2012 was denounced in the West when it was addressed by former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, probably best remembered in the West for his 2005 soundbyte that Israel should be “wiped off the map”, referring to Ayatollah Khomeini’s prediction that “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” The translation of the Persian text was later corrected but this was ignored in the West, where Ahmadinejad was further accused of “holocaust denial” for suggesting the figure of six million as the number of Jews who died in the holocaust was exaggerated, and mocked for suggesting that 9/11 was a conspiracy.
Indeed, most Iranians see 9/11 as involving some degree of conspiracy by the US and/or Israel, but then so do, for instance, 55% of Egyptians. So, not surprisingly, prominent at the New Horizon Conference this year was the world’s leading 9/11 conspiracy theorist, France’s Thierry Meyssan, who in 2002 published what is still considered the classic work on the topic, 9/11: The Big Lie (L’Effroyable imposture), translated into 28 languages, arguing that the attacks were organized by a faction of “the US military industrial complex in order to impose a military regime.” Meyssan also argues that the attack against the Pentagon was not carried out by a commercial airliner but by a missile. Also present was American filmmaker Art Olivier, who produced the feature film “Operation Terror” (2012), whose scenario followed Meyssan’s.
In a YouGov poll last year, 60% of Americans rejected the official explanation as published in the 9/11 Commission Report (2004), so Meyssan’s call for a UN investigation of 9/11 and the recent petition signed by 100,000 New Yorkers for an investigation of the collapse of World Trade Center building 7 are surely legitimate, though they have been blocked by politicians as “absolutely ridiculous” and “wild fantasies”.
Iran’s current President Rouhani was not associated directly with this year’s conference, instead embroiled in a controversy with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who both extended his hand in friendship to Rouhani at the UN General Assembly in a “historic meeting”, and then slapped him in the face from the UN General Assembly podium, attacking Iran for its “support for terrorist organizations, its nuclear program, its treatment of its people”, called it “part of the problem in the Middle East”.
“On the contrary,” said a peeved Rouhani in his address to the UN, blaming the West and Saudi Arabia for sowing the seeds of extremism in the Middle East with “strategic blunders” that have given rise to the Islamic State and other violent jihadist groups. He also criticized the West’s sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program and reiterated his government’s desire to resolve the dispute, stating that no cooperation with the West against ISIS is possible until the sanctions are lifted. He called Cameron’s comments at the UN “wrong and unacceptable.”
Appropriately, the New Horizon Conference opened with the book launch of the Persian edition of US journalist Gareth Porter’s Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (2014). Porter told me, “Through painstaking checking with experts and an IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] official, I discovered that the documents submitted to the IAEA, which supposedly showed Iranian plans to put nuclear warheads on their missiles, were fabricated by the terrorist group People’s Mojahedin of Iran [referred to in Iran as the munafiqeen] and were passed on to the IAEA by Mossad. They were contradictory—clearly doctored blueprints for an obsolete missile system.” Porter was awarded the UK Gellhorn Prize for investigative journalism in 2012 for exposing official lies concerning US policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. With this latest expose, Porter did for the Iranian nuclear dossier what he and others did after 2003 in exposing the lies that prompted the US invasion of Iraq.
The conference sessions were varied. “The Gaza War and the BDS Movement Strategies” was addressed by Code Pink activist Medea Benjamin, who has been arrested dozens of time for her plucky protests at Congressional hearings against the war in Iraq, and who famously interrupted a speech by President Barack Obama in May 2013 protesting his continued use of drones against civilians. (She is barred from entering Canada.) Benjamin suggested a new project to highlight illegal Israeli settlements: activists hope to target one of the largest US-based real estate firms, RE/MAX, which “operates in over 90 countries, including Israel, where it sells homes complete with swimming pools in the West Bank to Israeli settlers in defiance of international law. Every Sunday tens of thousands of “open houses” are held by RE/MAX around the world.” Benjamin hopes activists will picket these open houses to embarrass RE/MAX into ceasing their West Bank activities.
A session on Islam and the West, “Postsecularism and its Discontents”, emphasized the importance of ethics in Islamic civilization which makes subservience to market diktat unacceptable, and is a major stumbling block to understanding between the West and the Muslim world. “There is no teleology in western society, no guiding morality, only an obsession with materialism, with logos,” argued organizer Arash Darya-Bandari. “We believe it is necessary to control the negative tendencies in culture, such as pornography, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, to strive towards a more moral and justice society.”
“The ‘Islamic’ State Meme, its Precursors, and the US-Israel-Saudi Triangle” heard frontline reports from Meyssan and others about the intentional destruction of the Iraqi and Syrian states by the invasion of Iraq and ongoing western and Israeli support for insurgents in Syria, directly resulting in ISIS’s phenomenal success. “The West has abetted Sunni-Shia differences in the process to keep Muslims divided and allow continued western penetration and control of the growing chaos there,” charged Meyssan. Rouhani’s comment at the UN—“Certain intelligence agencies [who] have put blades in the hands of madmen, who now spare no one,”—is hard to argue with.
In the session “The Israeli Lobby in England”, Stephen Sizer, Anglican vicar and author of Christian Zionism—Road Map to Armageddon? (2004), explained that the vast majority of Zionists are not Jewish, but Christian. This prompted him in 2006 to draft what became known as the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism signed by four of the Heads of Churches declaring Christian Zionism a heretical belief, both immoral and a contradiction of faith. The rector of the University of Middlesex was pressured to rescind Sizer’s PhD but the examination committee wouldn’t budge. Nor has Sizer been cowed by constant harassment, including a break-in and the theft of his computer.
Contrary to the shrill cries in the western media that the conference was anti-Semitic, it was unique in my experience in addressing Zionism and US imperialism forthrightly and intelligently, without a hint of racism. The issue of anti-Semitism was addressed and dismissed, as “There is no issue with Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” explained Darya-Bandari, “but rather with Zionism, that secular distortion of Judaism that itself is racist, and has been used as a pretext to dispossess and kill Palestinians.”
The American Defense League loudly attacked the conference for focussing on Zionist control of western media and the outsize influence of the Zionist Lobby in the US and around the world. So what’s wrong with that? There is more than enough documented proof of this, as I discover when I researched Postmodern Imperialism. The ADL labelled several of the delegates as anti-Semitic, including ex-US Marine Ken O’Keefe, who has led several relief convoys to Gaza, has appeared several times on BBC’s Hardtalk in support of Gaza, and famously renounced his US citizenship in view of US crimes around the world. It should be remembered that the ADL was successfully sued in the 1990s for false accusations of anti-Semitism.
The conference issued a resolution condemning ISIS, Zionism, US unconditional support of Israel, Islamophobia, and calling for activism locally to boycott Israeli goods and to promote understanding between the West and the Muslim world, and to fight sectarianism. “This was a great opportunity to meet anti-imperialist activists from around the world, to bring Russians, Poles, western Europeans, North Americans together with Iranians and other Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, in a forum without sectarianism, truly supporting peace and understanding,” said delegate Mateusz Piskorski, director of the European Centre of Geopolitical Analysis in Warsaw and former MP in the Polish Sejm.
Eric Walberg wrote for Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo and is author of Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games
REPORT OF 2nd NEW HORIZON CONFERENCE OF INDEPENDENT THINKERS
Part 1 of what will be several parts Insha Allah
For news about the Conference: https://www.facebook.com/NewHorizon.ir
Imran N. Hosein
Our Iranian hosts planned very well indeed for this Second International Conference of Independent Thinkers and Film Producers that was held in Teheran from September 29th to October 1st 2014, and was devoted to the application of independent thought to critically important problems now facing mankind.
The greatest problem of all to which attention was directed was the multi-dimensional oppression of both Israel and the Zionist part of modern western civilization over all of mankind, but over the Palestinians in particular.
The Iranians succeeded in attracting to the conference a galaxy of gifted thinkers belonging not only to different religions (there were two Christian Ministers of Religion present), and with specialization in different disciplines, but also many whose defiant scholarship and courageous investigative journalism had already won international acclaim.
I was reminded again and again during the stimulating and, at times, exciting discussions in the conference that Allah Most High had sent down the blessed Qur’an li qawmin yatafakkaroon (to people who think, – i.e., who think things out) and this was indeed a conference of independent thinkers who had the integrity to think things out without regard for consequences; – what a blessed gathering!
But I was also dazzled by the courage displayed, especially by those participants who were based in North America, Britain and Western Europe, some of whom were distinguished university professors, who defied their own oppressive Zionist-controlled governments and demonizing information media to travel to Iran to attend a conference that was certain to be denounced back home as a gathering of ‘terrorists’. The Zionist world-system seems no longer capable of responding to any anti-systemic challenge to their relentless oppression and bogus claim to truth, other than by beating the drums of “terrorism” ad nauseam.These were not only gifted thinkers, but also models of courage, whose heroic defiance of the oppressor should inspire the rest of the world.
It was also heart-warming for me, a Sunni Muslim, to witness the courage of our Iranian hosts who also defied the Western Zionist oppressors in reaching out to not only invite, but to successfully persuade this galaxy of scholars, journalists, political analysts and activists to attend their conference in Teheran.
The Iranian organizers worked tirelessly, and with the charm of a people who have learnt to show patience with a smile, to steer the difficult and challenging conference to a successful conclusion with narry an incident. Special mention must be made of the live-wire Hamed Ghashghavi, who could never find time to have a complete meal during the conference, and Arash Darya-Bandari who displayed commendable management skills as moderator of sometimes difficult conference sessions.
Even without the insight provided by Islamic Eschatology through which we could recognize that the world is now located at the brink of a pit of nuclear fire, the organizers could discern the importance of bringing critical thinkers together at this time to ponder over critically important issues affecting the very fate of mankind, and, more importantly, ensuring that they had unfettered freedom to express themselves on those issues. For that reason more than any other, our Iranian hosts must be complimented for organizing this historic conference which, perhaps, could not have taken place anywhere else in the contemporary Muslim world, nor in most of the rest of the world.
I am absolutely certain that the Zionist world is going to plot with every conceivable form of cunning, to try to prevent this conference from ever taking place again in Iran – with the confidence that if it does not take place in Iran, it can hardly be held anywhere else except, perhaps, Algeria. I will be pleasantly surprised if the Conference is repeated in 2015. The brief period of time which now remains before nuclear war takes place is too critically important for the Zionists, and the threat posed by the Conference of Independent Thinkers is too great, hence the government of Iran will face the greatest of all pressures to prevent the Conference from taking place next year.
Iranian nationalism – Shia sectarianism
It is very important that we enter into the record our observation that the conference made no attempt whatsoever to promote either an Iranian national, or a Shia sectarian agenda.
I remained amazed, for example, that no one objected, and no one (including our Iranian hosts) showed any annoyance over my bold statement, repeated twice in the conference, that “the Iranian Rial, the Pakistani Rupee, the US dollar were all bogus, fraudulent and utterly Haram, and that we should be striving to restore money with integrity i.e., the gold Dinar and silver Dirham.” But I was also painfully aware that these views of mine were perhaps ahead of time – even in Iran – and that many of our thinkers had not as yet been adequately introduced to an Islamic eschatological analysis of the current Zionist-constructed fraudulent monetary system.
Not only did the Conference not promote any Shia sectarian agenda but, rather, I could hardly discern anything in the Conference that could possibly be linked to Shia Islam or to the Shia-Sunni divide in the world of Islam.
Rather, the record should indicate my view that the Iranian Shia organizers of the Conference remain clearly inspired by the matchless courage of Imam Husain (‘alaihi al-Salaam), the heroic grandson of Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), who defied the forces of oppression in that epic encounter on the battle-field of Karbala. I startled the Conference Chairman with my remark that Karbala witnessed the last manifestation of the pure revolutionary faith of Islam. I also believe that the blood-stained sands of Karbala are destined to unite Shia and Sunni in a common stand against oppression. In this context therefore, the Conference of Independent Thinkers must be recognized to possess the potential of uniting Shia and Sunni Islamic scholarship in a common struggle for victory of truth and justice over the Great Satan’s falsehood and tyranny