A session entitled "Palestinians abroad: Challenges of role, place and representation" has been held on Sunday 2 February, 2020. This session was within a workshop titled “Palestinians Abroad: Palestinians in the Diaspora between Theory and Practice: Role, Representation, and Challenges” organized by the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad and the Center for Islam Studies and Global Affairs, taking place in Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University.
Al-Hamd: Politically, The PLO is not considered a representative of the Palestinian people.
The researcher, Jawad Al-Hamad, from the Center for Middle East Studies in Jordan, pointed out that “the largest human mass of the Palestinian people abroad is outside the Palestinian political system, therefore this system cannot be a natural representative of the Palestinian people, as they have the right to be represented within the system.”
Al-Hamad added: "The Palestinian representation in Jordan is unrealistic, and the Palestinian diaspora in Jordan does not represent a natural representation, and their role is linked to the Jordanian state more than their association with the PLO. The Palestinians in Jordan have a role in the national project, but their representation in the organization is a formal representation."
Al-Hamad indicated that the Palestinians in Syria do not have any political status or representation in the PLO, despite the presence of Palestinian factions in Syria.
He stressed that “the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in the most difficult conditions for Palestinian refugees abroad in terms of civil and political rights that they do not possess, in addition to the deteriorating security file for Palestinian camps in Lebanon.”
Al-Hamad continued: "The representation of Palestinians in Jordan is completely lost, the political representation in Syria does not exist, and the Palestinian representation of refugees in Lebanon does not exist within the institutions of the Palestinian regime."
Al-Hamad also stressed that "the PLO is not considered a representative of Palestinian people politically, not even the Palestinian Authority or in the factions, and there is no representation for Palestinians abroad in these institutions."
In the conclusion of his paper, Al-Hamad called for preserving the Palestinian narrative and identity of the struggle over generations, keeping the Palestinian cause alive in the Arab and Islamic dimension, and continuing the political, legal, media and diplomatic struggle, as well as exerting effort against the Zionist lobbies abroad.
Al-Abed: There are refugees to form a Palestinian lobby to defend the rights of refugees
Dr. Aroub Al-Abed from the University of London talked about “the Palestinian refugees in Egypt and the rest of the Arab countries, and discussed the legal, political and social conditions of the Palestinians in Egypt and a number of other countries. Abed also talked about the role of international community institutions towards the Palestinians in Egypt, in addition to the role of countries hosting Palestinian refugees.”
Al-Abed pointed to the problem that “such countries are not included within UNRWA's operating areas, and that the responsibility of refugees in countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Tunisia is a responsibility of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.”
Al-Abed said: "Egypt refused to provide any aid to the Palestinian refugees on its lands by the UNHCR. This reflects the nature of relations and dealings between the host country and the international organization."
Al-Abed called for the necessity of forming a lobby with the countries hosting Palestinian refugees, so that this lobby works to guarantee the civil and political rights of Palestinians there.
Balawi: The Palestinian community in Australia should strengthen themselves to confront the Israeli lobby
Dr. Muhammad Makram Balawi, President of the Asia and Middle East Forum, focused in his paper on the reality of the Palestinian community in Australia and Malaysia, noting that there are no accurate statistics on the numbers of Palestinians in Australia, while approximately 4 thousand Palestinians live in Malaysia.
Balawi talked about “the stages of forming Palestinian communities in East Asia, and Australia before the Nakba and the Nakba phase. The third stage is after 1967, which was more diverse and has got the largest number of Palestinians abroad. The fourth stage is after the Lebanese Civil War and the Kuwait War.
About Malaysia, Balawi said: "The Palestinian community in Malaysia is almost entirely a student community, and the relationship of the community in Malaysia and its origins almost returns with the emergence of the Islamic University. We are talking about limited number of people in Malaysia with their student residence permit, this community is characterized by a huge ability to move."
Balawi pointed to the Palestinian institutions in Malaysia and their work in the service of the Palestinian cause in light of the Malaysian stances supporting the Palestinian people at the official and popular levels.
He added: "Australia's situation on the Palestinian resistance is very aggressive, while Malaysia's situation is positive, as Malaysians have no problem with this dimension and they support it as well."
Balawi discussed the challenges facing the Palestinian community in Australia, foremost of which is the Zionist lobby, and called for the community in Australia to strengthen its relations in society politically and popularly to weaken the Zionist side in this country.
Samira: Coordination with the Palestinian community in the Gulf must be coordinated and developed
The intellectual and writer Dr. Sabri Samira spoke about the Palestinians in the Arab Gulf states, where he referred to the numbers of Palestinians in the Arab Gulf states and how these countries dealt with the increasing presence of Palestinian there.
Samira stressed the urgent need to communicate with the Palestinians in the Arab Gulf states and coordinate with them to create a better future for them and strengthen their political and legal conditions.
He added: "There is Gulf sympathy for the Palestinians, but the political attitudes were related to the political situation of the Palestinian leadership, and is governed by the relationship of the official Gulf side with the official Palestinian leadership and affected by the Palestinian popular situation in the Gulf, both negatively and positively."
In his speech, he pointed out that the Palestinian communities in the Arab Gulf were affected, as a result of the dispute between Hamas and Fatah, noting that entering a new factor in the relationship between the Gulf state and the Palestinian communities and the Palestinian issue in general, and dealing with the Palestinian file is based on the relationship with America.
Mshenish: 70 institutions working for Palestine in Turkey
Muhammed Mshenish, Director of the Turkish Association for Solidarity with Palestine "Fidder", spoke about the origins of the Palestinian community in Turkey, the stages of Palestinians moving to Turkey, their numbers and their distribution, and the most prominent problems that they suffer, especially the Palestinians of Syria and their legal situation in Turkey.
Mshenish said: "Turkish law allows the establishment of 60 to 70 institutions operating for Palestine in Turkey, which is not a small number. However, the institutions support Palestinians through relief projects and guarantees. Some of which educate the Turkish community, correct the misconceptions that Turkish people have about Palestine, and also preserve Palestinian identity and refugee service in Turkey. "
Al-Zeer: We need a real Palestinian representation in Europe
Regarding the Palestinians in Europe, Majed Al-Zeer, President of Palestinians in Europe Conference, spoke about the geographical distribution of Palestinian communities, and the conditions that contribute to make the community in Europe have an important role in supporting the Palestinian cause.
Al-Zeer stressed on the urgent need to know the laws of European countries in order to enable the Palestinian community to work and improve their situation there. He added: "the Palestinians have two challenges: the requirements of the place and citizenship, and the challenge of identity and their association with the new country where they have to adapt to it. There is also a strong economic factor that is notable to the Palestinians in Europe which fulfills the needs of Palestinians."
Al-Zeer pointed to the issue of representation and the national role of the Palestinians in Europe and how we can see it. There is a factional movement between the Palestinian sectors in Europe. However, there is an extension of the Palestinian situation in the diaspora and inside Palestine, especially since their presence is not far away from each other, as there is a keenness of the factions to exist on the continent, with the presence of Palestinian leaders in Europe. This created a political elite competing in Europe."
He added: "We need a real Palestinian representation in Europe in three situations. First, we need to represent Palestine on the continent and it only comes through elections, second, inside the country and finally, on the national situation."
Al-Zeer emphasized that the Palestinians abroad, with their areas, are capable of creating a state of detente in the Palestinian political scene.
Irsheid: There is a real shift in American public opinion that tends to the Palestinians
Dr. Osama Abu Irsheid from the Muslim Americans Foundation for Palestine in Washington, said: “If Britain is the cause of our tragedies previously, America is the cause of it today. The Zionist movement has been active in America for more than 100 years and this speech is important because it will link with the results that I want to end with because we did not realize that America is the most important arena in our Palestinian project."
Irsheid discussed the conditions of the Palestinian community in America, what the community has achieved in terms of education and integration in the American society, and the community institutions that work to preserve the Palestinian identity of their people. He also pointed to the negative role the PLO plays at the level of Palestinian action in America, describing this role as differential.
"There is a real shift in the American public opinion that tends to the Palestinians. The image of Israel has changed. There is a shift in the social justice movements and migrant movements. We have one issue with them as we have become part of the camp that is exposed to injustice and pressure. This transformation is not only within the American public opinion but also it is the biggest change within the Democratic Party in which 27% of its proponents are sympathized with Palestine” he added.
Makhlouf: Chilean Palestinians community is one of the oldest communities that emigrated from Palestine
Anwar Makhlouf spoke about the Palestinian community in Chile, and the economic reasons that prompted the Palestinians to migrate to Chile before the Nakba in 1948.
"We think of the diaspora after the Nakba 1948, but there is Palestinian diaspora before that time. However, this is a large community around 500 thousand Palestinians completely integrated with the Chilean society. They are not an emergency or immigration situation as the case for many Palestinians in Europe and North America. This Palestinian community has many cultural, sports and economic institutions operating on the continent” Makhlouf said.
He pointed out that the Palestinian community in Latin America, especially in Chile, is one of the oldest immigrant communities from Palestine, who owned and operated 12 Arab newspapers in the 1940s. Makhlouf noted that the Chilean Parliament includes 10 deputies of Palestinian origin. They represent the Chilean people in international forums.
At the end of his turn, he discussed the activities of the Palestinian community in Chile and the annual Tradition Festival, which held with the aim of preserving the Palestinian identity.
Khoury: We have many symbols from the people of Palestine in El Salvador
Simon Khoury, Director of the Palestinian Federation in Latin America, spoke about the Palestinian community in El Salvador, most of them are Christians from Bethlehem city.
"We have many symbols from the people of Palestine in El Salvador that we are proud of, and all our hope is that their achievements would be helpful to back up our Palestinian issue” he said. Khoury continued that "we decided in El Salvador the work of a Palestinian union in Latin America because of the interference of the Palestinian Authority as they had disgraceful attitudes toward us. But we were able to establish the Palestinian Union in Latin America."