Rotterdam, Holland – Thousands of Palestinians from across Europe are expected to meet in Rotterdam, Holland, on Saturday for their annual conference held this year under the slogan “100 years on, a victorious nation and unbreakable determination”.
The Palestinians in Europe conference which enters its sixteenth year is expected to address a number of issues including the international right of return to Palestine, BDS as well as the present political situation in Palestine. The conference coincides with 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, in which the British government pledged its support for a Jewish national home in Palestine, at the expense of the Palestinian indigenous population.
Sameh Habeeb, head of communications at the UK-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) said this conference “will highlight the very loud call this year to the British government to apologise for the Balfour Declaration on the 100th anniversary”. A campaign started in February by the PRC to urge the British public to sign a petition under the name, The Balfour Apology Campaign .
The conference will feature several European Parliament speakers, such as Spanish politician Ana Miranda Paz, Dutch politician and member of the European Parliament Anne-Marie Mineur, Dutch politician Martinus Josephus Maria “Tiny” Kox, and Irish politician Richard Boyd Barrett.
“Palestinians in Europe are fully integrated citizens working positively and creatively within the European communities; and at the same time working vividly for the Palestinian cause,” Majed al-Zeer, chairman of Palestinians in Europe conference, told Al Jazeera.
Amin Abu Rashid, the conference’s general coordinator, agrees. “It is highly important that the Palestinian narrative is widely spread across Europe.”
This year, the conference will have three parallel panels. One, moderated by the Palestinian American activist Khalid Turaani, will aim at fostering a stronger European position to end the Israeli occupation by exposing Israel’s crimes against Palestinians, such as building illegal settlements and the Separation Wall in the occupied Palestinian territories.
It is highly important that the Palestinian narrative is widely spread across Europe.
In addition, several forums will also take place, including a forum dedicated to Palestinians from Syria. Ahmad Hosain, chief executive at Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, said the aim of this forum is “to help Palestinians from Syria to integrate within the European communities, discuss opportunities and challenges; and to utilise their potential, with a parallel stress on their right to return to their homeland, Palestine”.
Thousands of Palestinians in Europe also use the conference as an opportunity to strengthen social bond, network and foster activism and work in Europe, in addition to making the Palestinian voice heard in international, European and Arab media.
The conference will also feature an exhibition that will show images, drawings and handicrafts to highlight vital issues to the Palestinian cause, such as prisoners in Israeli jails, Al Nakba‘s 69th anniversary, the Separation Wall, the siege on the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem among other topics.
A number of Palestinian artists, such as Mohanned Mansour, Hani Abbas, Khalil Abed, Samer Issa and Liana Khadeja, are also expected to participate this year.
The first Palestinians in Europe conference was held in London in July 2003, under the slogan ‘”We shall not give up the right of return”. The concept was an initiative of the Palestinian Return Centre.
Later, different European-Palestinian organisations hosted the conference on an annual basis, such as the Palestinian Assembly in Germany, Palestinian Forum in Denmark, Centre for Justice in Sweden, the Palestinian Home in Holland, Palestinian Association in Italy, Palestinian Forum in France, Palestinian Council for Communication in Belgium, Palestinian Coordination Centre in Austria and the General Secretariat of Palestinians in Europe Conference.
Last May, more than 15,000 Palestinians attended the 14th conference in Malmo, Sweden. Marwan Al Ali, the head of Adalah Palestinian Centre in Sweden, stressed that “the Malmo conference highlighted the historical responsibility of Europe for the Palestinian Nakba and displacement of 1948 and called for Europe to refrain from extending and developing its relation with the Israeli occupation and called to employ the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel to end its occupation and suffering of the Palestinians”.
The BDS theme is expected to be widely discussed during this year’s conference.