Kiraz Janicke, Sydney
On September 1, 60 people packed out the conference room at Sydney University's Darlington Centre to hear Tammam Sulaiman, Syria's ambassador to Australia, speak on "War in the Middle East — A Syrian Perspective". The forum was organised by the university's Politics Society.
"The key dilemma we face", Sulaiman explained, "is the double-standard policy, where Israel is above the law. Israel's complete obliteration of Lebanon is state terrorism. Israel should be held accountable for its genocide and crimes in Lebanon."
He argued that Israel's war on Lebanon had politically backfired. "Israel's war against Lebanon was a total fiasco. Israel is more isolated than before. All Lebanon united against Israel.
"The honourable national resistance movement, represented by Hezbollah, was supported massively by the Lebanese people, all Arab people and all honest people in the world. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez supported the Lebanese resistance. We are proud of our relationship with Venezuela."
Sulaiman affirmed Syria's commitment to the "Arab cause". "We are proud to support Hezbollah, but there is no proof that Syria has been providing weapons to Hezbollah", he said. Rather, "it is the US that is sending cluster bombs to Israel".
"We support the Palestinian struggle", he said, adding, "As long as Israel continues its occupation, the resistance will continue".
Sulaiman declared Syria's support for Iran and again referred to double standards: "Israel is a nuclear weapons state that has refused to recognise the Non-Proliferation Treaty despite UN Security Council resolution 487 in 1981 calling for Israeli nuclear disarmament. This controversy around Iran is simply because Iran is supporting the Arab cause and is against Israel."
Sulaiman made a clear distinction between Jews and the Zionist state of Israel, and condemned the "continued use of anti-Semitism to demonise those honest people who want peace in the region", pointing out that the Arabs are also a Semitic people. "The Arabs are not biased against the Jews. They are against Israel, which occupies Arab land."
"Extremism or terrorism can happen in any state or religion", Sulaiman said. "Muslim extremists like al Qaeda were created by the US, because they wanted to create another enemy after the end of the Cold War to justify continued US presence in the Middle East.
"Syria wants to make peace with Israel based on UN resolutions we have already agreed on. Israel doesn't have the will for peace, because peace would require them to return the occupied territories."