On December 10, 2020, the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad (PCPA) held an online seminar titled “To Keep Palestine Present.”
The speakers unanimously agreed on the risk posed by the latest normalization deals to the Palestinian cause. They also highlighted the necessity to close the ranks of Palestinian people and end all forms of division, prioritizing thus support for the cause.
The seminar was moderated by journalist Ahmad al-Shaikh, who ran the discussion between the following group of speakers: Lebanon-based dr. Ramez Tanbour, lecturer and university professor; Turkey-based Recep Songül, researcher, writer, and member of the board of directors of the Union of Civil Organizations in the Islamic World; Tunisia-based lawyer Tarek Boujemaa, head of the Tunisia Charity; and Bahrain-based Wafa al-Amm, journalist and media personality.
Speakers discussed as many as four heated topics, the role of civil society organizations (CSO) in advocating the Palestinian cause; the means to reinforce the legal aspect of the cause; and the risks effected by the consecutive normalization deals between Arab states and that of the Israeli occupation to the cause, as well as the function of the Palestinian diaspora as a source of power.
Addressing the first topic, researcher Recep Songül said that larger agencies, such as the United Nations (UN), are playing a role in denying the Palestinian people accesses to their rights.
“Civil society organizations are the chief actor to mobilize people,” Songül said, stressing the importance of the efforts of such organizations in gaining support for, as well as promoting, the Palestinian cause in major countries.”
"Campaigns against these organizations, seeking to rob them of resources, or diminish their presence, particularly pro-Palestine ones,” have recently weakened the influence of CSOs, Songül said, demanding further support for the organizations in question.
“The disaster of domestic division is also affecting the sustainability of CSOs’ work,” he added, because they lack a common view in their effort to express Palestinian people’s hopes. “Only when Palestinian forces unite, and a clear strategy is put in place to resist the occupation, this aspect will gain momentum, and the Palestinian cause will prove the worthy cause it is already is.”
“CSOs running Palestinian projects face various challenges, but we are well aware and understand that it is a battle to exist. We will not be silent, and we will mobilize these organizations, with whatever strength and modest resources they have,” he said.
Since various Islamic communities around the world do not have proper access to information about the Palestinian cause, he said that efforts must be made “to introduce it, along with its defining principles; how it started and the legitimacy of the rights it demands. The message of the Palestinian people must be conveyed to the whole world.”
“The Israeli entity is anxious over the presence of the Palestinian people, and the legitimacy of the cause. The Zionist project shall not succeed as long as we remain firm as a nation, and people,” he stated.
Lawyer Tarek Boujemaa said, in his approach to the seminar’s second topic, that the internationalization of the Palestinian cause represents a unique case, considering its special status and particularity in the international arena, for internationalization is usually sought by movements that call for independence, or an existing state that demands the internationalization of its cause. “Palestine is neither this, nor that.”
“The internationalization of the Palestinian cause is necessary to pave the way for a better international legal status; whereby Palestine could become a state capable of signing conventions; joining international institutions; and addressing other states as a state per se,” he added.
“Some Palestinian allies have changed their leanings; they have left little international margins for maneuvers in the Palestinian cause’s favor,” Boujemaa added, identifying a gap on the Palestinian level that hampered intervention from international actors in the interest of the cause.
“On a strategic level, a grave political mistake has been committed in the assessment of the other side in relation to conflict management since 1993. On a rather domestic level, the international law has been misread,” he said.
“Normalization was an act of treason from sides who are supposed to be allies to the Palestinian people,” he said.
For her part, journalist Wafa al-Amm addressed the dangers manifested in the latest normalization deals, particularly the political shifts in the Gulf region, where involved states have turned from supporting Palestine and combating the occupation, into normalizing relations with it at the disadvantage of Palestinians.
“Normalization deals will make the Gulf states vulnerable to security threats from Israel,” she said.
“No generation of Bahraini people will accept normalization with the Israeli occupation. And the propaganda promoting that normalization is for the best of people is not true, and does not demonstrate the people’s will,” she said, stressing that the Bahraini people will remain committed to the Palestinian cause.
She also shed a light on the efforts made to resist normalization, including the latest campaign launched, which aims to boycott any Bahraini company or entity that promotes for Israeli goods.
In the same vein, dr. Ramez Tanbour, lecturer and university professor, said that: “The current normalization should not be called so; they are deals, for normalization is between peoples. But the recent ones are agreements with existing and ruling regimes.”
He then moved to explain the nature of diaspora, the fourth of the seminar’s themes, and its role in empowering the Palestinian cause. “Diaspora does not pertain to numbers, it is rather grounded in human action, and is related to all forms of activism, let them be intellectual; financial; or political, including legal action and contributions to humanitarian organizations.”
“Diaspora is a vast network with a massive influence on different levels, as well as presence in decision-making positions in various states. Through this network’s interactions, the Palestinian cause can maintain its impact on the world’s public opinion,” he said.
“There are also wealthy Palestinians abroad, and they are already contributing to the movement. These might as well be a major source of support in terms of investments and financial flows,” he said.
He stressed that, in advocating the cause, diaspora’s role is not to be considered complementary, or labeled as dependency, especially under the current state of affairs. “This role should be included in the manner of a non-complementary coordination, to realize a proper level of balanced relations between Palestinian groups abroad, with those inside Palestine."
“Young people too have an essential role; they are the nation’s energy. They also believe in mobilization, action, and freedom of speech. They are well aware of the model image that the Palestinian diaspora’s attitude should take,” he said.