The annual European Palestinian Conference was held yesterday in Danish capital Copenhagen, attended by thousands of Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinian cause.
The conference was organised by the Palestine Return Centre (PRC) and the Palestinian Forum in Denmark, in collaboration with pro-Palestine Swedish and Danish associations.
From the early hours of yesterday morning, scores of attendees from across Europe poured into the hall holding Palestinian flags, wearing the kufiyah and chanting slogans. People also sang the old Palestinian national anthem and danced traditional dabke.
The motto of this year’s conference was “with unity and steadfastness, we will return”, with the event centred on stressing the right of return. It was a clear reminder that Palestinians have not forgotten their homeland, despite the 71 years that have passed since they were forcibly displaced during the Nakba of 1948.
A number of distinguished speakers addressed the conference, discussing topics such as Jerusalem, Palestinian prisoners, refugees and the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007. Two speakers from Gaza were unable to attend the conference as a result of the siege and the frequent closure of the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing.
Chairman of the conference and head of PRC, Majed Al-Zeer, said that this year’s event comes as a popular Palestinian response to the so-called “deal of the century,” as well as US President Donald Trump’s recent decisions to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, move the US embassy to the Holy City, and declare the right of return “off the table”.
Al-Zeer said of the event:
The conference aims to raise the voice of Palestinians on the European continent, to revive Palestinians’ memory and stress the right of return. High profile speakers from inside the occupied Palestinian territories and the diaspora were present. There is more awareness nowadays and this gathering has been made possible after a year of planning.
Meanwhile Ziad Al-Alool, spokesperson for the popular conference “Palestinians in exile”, said that the event was a step on the way to recovering Palestinians’ rights:
It’s important to raise the Palestinian voice from the heart of the European continent. It’s a wakeup call for us to remember our history and keep the struggle alive. We think of those Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee their towns and villages and their descendants who are now scattered around the world, dreaming of returning to their homeland in historic Palestine.
The conference was also a reminder that Palestinians in exile – whose number is estimated to be seven million – should have their say in any upcoming Palestinian elections. At the very least, the conference argued the suffering of these Palestinians should be recognised by the Palestinian leadership, which should give them the assistance and support they need.
Despite the conference being the largest gathering of Palestinians in Europe, it was not attended by a current Palestinian Authority (PA) or Fatah official.
The conference concluded by calling on the Palestinian leadership to address the following five points:
- To put national Palestinian interests above factional considerations and put aside political differences.
- To come up with a national program to replace the Oslo agreements.
- To call for a comprehensive conference for all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, occupied West Bank, Israel and the diaspora in order to face the “deal of the century”.
- To reconstruct the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) within a binding timeframe.
- To develop the national struggle in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem and continue with the weekly protests in Gaza until the end of the occupation and siege.
The first conference was held 16 years ago, in 2003 in London, and since then it has been organised in different European cities.