Representatives of Palestinian communities in the diaspora are due to hold their first ever international gathering in Istanbul over the weekend.
Entitled "the Palestinians Abroad conference", the gathering aims to rally Palestinians worldwide around a common vision for the future of the Palestinian national project and to shift to a rights-based struggle, according to organisers.
"The conference aims to ensure the continuity of the principles that have all along informed the Palestinian national struggle in response to the Zionist movement's expansive presence in the country since the early 20th century," said Ziyad al Aloul, the spokesman for the conference.
According to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there are more than 12 million Palestinians in the world. Half of them live within historic Palestine. The remaining six million live in the surrounding Arab countries, Europe, South and North America.
Many of the conference attendees are expected to come from Jordan, which has a large Palestinian population, the Gulf region, Europe and Latin America. The organisers themselves are a diverse group with different political and ideological backgrounds.
The conference takes place at a critical juncture in the Palestinian national struggle with a new US administration that, for the first time since the beginning of the peace process, has publicly disposed of the notion of the two-state solution as the only viable framework for peace.
It also comes against the background of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attempts to impose a one-state framework that does away with the Palestinians’ political rights to the land and makes no space for the right to self-determination and right to return.
According to its website, the gathering aims to safeguard those rights by "affirming our right of liberation and self-determination, and the right of return for refugees".
While conference organisers say they hope the event will bring together Palestinians, regardless of their ideological affiliation, to explore ways in which the Palestinian diaspora can be more involved in a participatory decision-making process of the Palestinian leadership, this point has angered officials at the Ramallah-based Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) who view the conference as an attempt to challenge the PLO and replace it.
Such a charge was quickly dismissed by the conference organisers. Al-Aloul said that the conference organisers continue to view the PLO as the legitimate representative of Palestinians.
"We are trying to work with the PLO to find ways to help our people in Palestine and in exile," he said.
Source: Al Jazeera