For nearly a century, the question of Palestine has been one of the most contentious issues facing the world. Near the end of the nineteenth century, political Zionism emerged and allied itself with major Western colonial powers (starting with the Balfour Declaration issued by Britain in 1917) to propose what was considered by many to be the answer to anti-Semitism in Europe: Jewish self-determination in historic Palestine. This, however, resulted in the forced uprooting and brutal expulsion of the majority of the Palestinian people from their ancestral land in 1948. By 1967, all of historic Palestine had become totally occupied, and the Palestinian people were dispossessed, denied their basic human rights and political self-determination, and were forced to live either under military occupation or in exile.
Faced with dispossession, exile, alienation and occupation, the Palestinians have struggled to assert their identity, gain their freedom, uphold their dignity, regain their inalienable rights, maintain their political unity, sustain their social cohesion and defend their humanity. Multiple generations of Palestinians have been living in squalid refugee camps around the Middle East, with no end in sight to their plight. This difficult and tragic struggle was further compounded by the geopolitics of the Cold War, as well as the complications of the post-colonial order and requisites of the strategic imperatives for the sustenance and expansion of hegemonic powers in the region.
Hence, the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University (IZU) is organizing a three-day International Conference on Palestine (April 27-29) under the theme: "The Question of Palestine: Examining History, Geopolitics and Future Prospects."
This conference will be co-sponsored by three nonprofit educational and charitable organizations in Turkey, focused on Palestine, namely, İrfandan Medeniyete Kudüs Platformu, Ümmet Vakfı, and Parliamentarians for Jerusalem.
The conference will examine many aspects of the Palestinian issue and attempt to present a comprehensive analysis of the conflict through historical, political, legal, religious and human rights dimensions. It will also discuss some of the most pertinent challenges related to the Palestinian cause, including the issues of Jerusalem, the right of return, the illegal construction and expansion of settlements in the West Bank, the suffocating siege on Gaza, the denial of Palestinian political and human rights, and the future of the Palestinian national project. It will also explore the challenges posed by Zionism and appropriate responses to these challenges including lobbying efforts in Western capitals, manipulation of international media organizations, normalization of Israeli occupation and Palestinian dispossession, as well as resetting and controlling the Palestinian and Israeli narratives.
In addition, attention will be given to the strategies and actions needed to confront repressive and exclusionary policies, as well as those required to empower the oppressed and occupied. The presentations will also discuss the geopolitics of the conflict, and the essence of the struggle, namely the land and the people, spanning all geographical areas.
Some of the most renowned academics, speakers and voices of conscience from around the world are invited to speak at this conference and engage the students, academics, experts and the public at large on these important issues. The distinguished speakers will not only present enlightened and informed views on how to analyze the problems and unlock their complexities, but will also explore novel and practical ideas on how to empower people – in Palestine and around the world – toward realizing the essential elements for resolving the conflict and achieving the vital goals of justice, freedom, inclusion and lasting peace.
This conference will present a unique opportunity for Istanbul and Turkey to have the chance to hear so many experts and specialists coming together to discuss the imperative and challenging issue of Palestine.
* Director of the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Zaim University