After two days of meetings in the Turkish city of Istanbul, the organisers of the Palestinians Abroad Conference have established a new political entity to represent Palestinian diaspora communities and strive for greater Palestinian rights.
Palestinian factions to form unity government
Conference leaders said on Sunday that they aspired to play a bigger role in the struggle against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, alongside the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.
They insisted that their newfound organisation does not aim to replace the PLO – a group that has opposed Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies since 1964.
“We are trying here to create a supporting structure to be an asset to the PLO, not against it,” said Ribhi Halloum, a former PLO ambassador.
Though still without a formal name, the new organisation called for the end of the Oslo agreement signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993, the restructuring of the PLO on a more representative basis for all Palestinians, and the formation of a democratically elected Palestinian National Council, which is the PLO’s legislative body in exile.
The conference leaders said the Oslo agreement has destroyed the PLO and created a new class of Palestinian leaders in the occupied territories beholden only to Israeli military will.
PLO asserts commitment to talks with Israel
The final statement issued by Anis al-Qasem, a legal scholar, blamed PLO leaders for squandering Palestinian historic rights in agreements with Israel that it said prolonged Israeli occupation and worsened Palestinian suffering.
They also asserted the right of Palestinians to resist Israeli occupation, called for the return of refugees to their homes and towns in historic Palestine and said they would strive for Palestinian statehood.
Mounir Shafiq, a Palestinian scholar, said that while Palestinians have the right to all of historic Palestine as a matter of principle, it is not obligatory for individual diaspora communities to adhere to this vision.
“Palestinian diaspora communities are free to work within the norms of their adopted countries,” said Shafiq, who will head the newly established General Secretariat of the Conference.
Khaled Turaani, a spokesman for the conference, said that while Palestinians insisted on their right to return to their lands, it was up to Israelis to decide their future, not the Palestinians.
Conference leaders reasserted the right to strive for Palestinian statehood [Al Jazeera]
The conference established a General Commission headed by Palestinian historian Salman abu Sitta and Majed al-Zeer, a Britain-based activist, scholar and women rights activist Naela al-Waari, and youth activist Saif Abu Kishah as his three deputies.
Leaders of the conference said that this not “yet another Palestinian faction” rather, an independent organisation open to all Palestinians.
The new organisation will be based in Beirut, Lebanon.[Source: Al Jazeera]