Istanbul— on 31 October 2020, the sessions of the conference titled “Priorities of the Palestinian Cause in the Upcoming Phase and the Anticipated Role of Palestinians Abroad” started. The event hosts a wide array of Palestinian personalities, who indulged in a discussion of the mechanisms to bring to the forefront the role of Palestinians abroad once again, investigate the opportunities they have and the challenges they face, each contributing a statement either in person in Istanbul or online from various countries around the world.
The conference is organized by the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad (PCPA) to talk over several issues, most notably the priorities of the Palestinian cause in the current phase, the national project, is it absent or absented, and the role of Palestinians abroad within the unified national project.
Abu Mahfouz: What is required of us today is to invest in the situation; achieve Palestinian national unity; and rebuild the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as to include all Palestinians
In his opening speech, PCPA’s Deputy Secretary-General Hisham Abu Mahfouz stated that the Palestinian issue has been undergoing dangerous shifts over the last years, the most prominent of which is the Oslo Accords, which divided the Palestinian people into those inside and those abroad, and marginalized the role of Palestinians in the diaspora.
As he announced the start of the conference’s sessions, Abu Mahfouz pointed to the dangers posed by the normalization deals between the Israeli occupation and some Arab countries to the Palestinian issue and the rights of the Palestinian people, calling for denouncing and confronting those deals.
The Deputy Secretary-General stressed the importance of imposing a sense of order onto the Palestinian household; strengthening the Palestinian front with an inclusive national project; ending the division; rebuilding the PLO; and restoring the role of Palestinians abroad.
"A movement is needed that leads to the crystallization of a comprehensive national vision and strategy to administrate the current stage, based on democratic foundations that should mobilize the efforts of our people, individuals and institutions, rearrange the priorities of the Palestinian national project, confront the dangers engulfing the cause, and reinforce the struggles and steadfastness of our people, as well as return to Palestinians abroad their desired role, and their right to elect and form their institutions and leadership, which are all to result in liberation and return.”
Abu Mahfouz also stressed that the relationship between inside and outside Palestine must be complementarity, one of solidarity, while work must be done to strengthen this relationship and not to marginalize Palestinians abroad.
“What is required of us today is to invest in the situation and achieve Palestinian national unity, rebuild the PLO, as to include all Palestinians and for Palestinians abroad to have their role in the decision-making process and the national project until all plans aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause are thwarted.”
Sabri: The Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad is an important body that must be preserved
For his part, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, Preacher of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, stressed that PCPA is an important body that must be preserved, with its Palestinians abroad-related tasks, adding that there is no difference between Palestinians inside and outside Palestine.
Sabri pointed out that the Oslo Accords have divided the Palestinian people at home and in the diaspora. He also demanded that Palestinians abroad be ambassadors for Palestine and work to serve its cause.
The preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque also called for focusing on the Islamic narrative that affirms the right of Muslims to Jerusalem and Palestine and confronting the Israeli false narrative and the fact that some Arab regimes believe in it.
He pointed to the importance of unified Palestinian action and benefiting from the energies of the Palestinian people abroad to strengthen the steadfastness of those inside Palestine.
Musallam: We need to come up with a unified national project and to elect a new national council
In his speech during the opening session, Father Manuel Musallam Parish Priest of Latin in Gaza and Member of Christian-Islamic Committee in support of Jerusalem and the Holy Places, said:
"The Palestinian issue is a rolling and changing tragedy of a people that is facing increasing sadism, brutality, and systematic terror, as well as the emptying of humanity, justice and peace as to turn it into an issue ruled by jungle law allowing the strong to prey on the weak."
Father Musallam pointed out to the importance for the Palestinian people at this stage to have a unified national project through which the priorities of the Palestinian cause would be determined, to confront the projects of the Deal of the Century, annexation and normalization.
He also affirmed the Palestinian people's rejection of the Oslo Accords, the Arab initiative, or the international legitimacy biased to the Israeli occupation, saying:
“Palestine is not sterile so that someone might rule us until he dies. And signing a peace treaty is unfair and humiliating to us. We will silence those calling for surrender and normalization. We will not raise the white flag and we will not sign the deal of the century; we will instead resist and sign with our blood on our land that Jerusalem and Palestine are ours and are Arab.”
He also called for the election of a new National Council that would represent all Palestinians at home and in the diaspora, choose its political institutions, elect a president for the Palestinian people, and set priorities for the liberation of Palestine and the return of refugees.
Al-Zeer: Electing a national council to come up with a new Palestinian leadership is an inevitable priority
Majed al-Zeer, Acting Chairman of PCPA’s General Assembly, indicated that holding this conference comes at a delicate stage, and it is an urgent necessity to study the responsibilities of the Palestinian people and define their priorities.
Al-Zeer stressed the importance of investigating into the mechanisms needed to support the Palestinian narrative in Western societies in light of the occupation’s attempts at distorting it, and also to take effective political action and mobilize international support for the Palestinian cause.
He also stressed the need for Palestinians abroad to restore their role after years of marginalization within a Palestinian political system that includes everyone, and to test opportunities and challenges and integrate the role of civil society institutions and official Palestinian representations, in order to have a real impact on regional and international decision-makers.
Majed al-Zeer said that mobilizing the energies and capabilities of the Palestinian people at home and abroad "is one of the most important requirements of the Palestinian liberation project.”
"We call for elections for Palestinians abroad within a national consensus to choose representatives expressing the will of the Palestinian people based on the principle of respecting the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."
Nofal: The Union of Palestinian Academics aims to restore the academic role after it was marginalized by Oslo
Dr. Ahmad Nofal, Head of the Union of Palestinian Academics, explained the role being played by the union, one of PCPA’s institutions.
He indicated that they it is working to mobilize the capabilities of academics and build bridges of communication between those inside and outside Palestine.
Nofal noted that the Union works to support the Palestinian academics at home, and coordinate with foreign universities in order to confront the Israeli occupation, as well as restore the role of the Palestinian academic abroad after it was marginalized by the Oslo Accords.
Khanfar: I call for the restoration of the centrality of the Palestinian cause to the nation
For his part, Wadah Khanfar, President and co-founder of Al Sharq Forum, indicated that there is an opening in the international wall and a message of hope that a change will happen in the international organization and the support of the Israeli occupation.
Khanfar pointed out that "Israel" is losing its strategic importance, and there is a decline in its support.
He also called on the Palestinian people to restore the centrality of the Palestinian cause within the Islamic nation, which he believes has retreated due to the policy of the Palestinian leadership.
Khanfar believes that the normalization agreements with the occupation are useless and a tragedy for the governments who signed such agreements, citing previous ones, and that the Palestinian people still exists and the nation yet has faith in the legitimate rights of Palestinians.