BY LISA MACDONALD
SYDNEY — John Howard may have committed 1550 Australian troops to support George Bush's "war against terrorism" on October 17, but, according to Ali Kazak, head of the Palestinian delegation to Australia, "The Australian government doesn't even have an official definition of terrorism".
Kazak was addressing a Socialist Alliance-organised meeting of 100 anti-war activists in Sydney's Trades Hall on October 16.
Terrorism's root cause is clear, Kazak said — "oppression and occupation".
"The highest form of terrorism", Kazak explained, "is the denial of people's human and national rights, and Israel has been terrorising the Palestinian people for more than 50 years with the full backing of the United States — militarily, economically and diplomatically."
Jalal Mahommed, representing the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees and a leader of the Worker Communist Party of Iraq in Australia, argued that there are two poles of terrorism: the state terrorism perpetrated by the imperialist powers around the globe and the terrorism of Islamic fundamentalism in his own and other countries.
"No popular movement against the imperialists' war can succeed without also breaking the ideological grip of political Islam", he said. "Calling for peace but maintaining the status quo is utopian and not a solution to the political and economic problems of our time... We have to change the world, not just the war."
Ahmed Reza Wakil, an Afghan refugee, gave a brief history of the US government's role in the creation of the Taliban. Washington, he said, was directly responsible for not only the likes of Osama bin Laden, but also for the spiralling infant mortality, illiteracy and poverty in Afghan society that followed the Taliban taking power.
The US war will not bring more freedom or democracy to Afghanistan, he said, but is merely a continuation of a policy which has already caused so much destruction and misery for the Afghan people.
The meeting also backed the newly organising anti-war movement.
Melanie Sjoberg, from the Network Opposing War And Racism (NOWAR), urged people to refuse to be intimidated by the propaganda which dictates that "if you're not with the US war, you're with terrorism".
"The support for this war that is showing up in opinion polls is fragile", she argued. "As people begin to see the destruction being wreaked in Afghanistan, as it becomes clear that more innocent lives are being lost rather than terrorists being brought to justice, this support will turn around."
The Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Grayndler, Sue Johnson, likewise backed efforts to build a powerful peace movement and explained that the alliance has made building the such a movement its main priority in the lead-up to the November 10 federal election.