BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinians Abroad conference began in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Saturday morning, attended by thousands of members of the Palestinian diaspora and their supporters, representing a wide variety of backgrounds from across the political spectrum.
A statement released Saturday morning by the conference's organizers that was signed by some 70 Palestinians highlighted the need for the event in light of the continued targeting of Palestinians by Israel, as the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Balfour Declaration approached.
The statement said that the conference aimed to initiate a wide national movement to activate the role of the diaspora in defending the Palestinian right of return and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Conference spokesperson Ziyad al-Alul said that the event was open to all sides of the Palestinian community, highlighting that the invitation list included more than 1,000 people from 50 countries around the world.
Fatah Revolutionary Council member and spokesperson of the movement Usama al-Qawasmi described the conference as “a free service to the Israeli occupation, a failed attempt to strike the PLO, and a step showing that Hamas continues to expand (political) divisions.”
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) member Ahmad al-Majdalani for his part said that the motives behind the conference were “suspicious,” echoing accusations that the event was organized to export internal Palestinian political divisions abroad.
However, member of Hamas’ politburo Izzat al-Rashq expressed support for the conference on behalf of Hamas, adding that “those who claim that Hamas is behind the conference are mistaken.”