Despite détente with Israel, Turkey to host Hamas confab

‘Palestinians Abroad’ gathering, backed by Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood, aims to unite Palestinian diaspora for ‘return’

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

The website banner of the Conference for Palestinians Abroad, backed by Hamas, held in Istanbul on February 25 and 26, 2017. (Screen capture)
The website banner of the Conference for Palestinians Abroad, backed by Hamas, held in Istanbul on February 25 and 26, 2017. (Screen capture)

Despite the recent thawing of ties between Israel and Turkey, Istanbul is set to play host this weekend to a well-attended conference whose speakers and organizers are either affiliated with Hamas or once held senior posts in the Palestinian terror group.

The Conference for Palestinians Abroad is named for the group organizing the event. It has faced vociferous criticism from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization, who accuse the organizers of undermining the PLO’s position as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Hamas’s military wing is one of the bodies publicizing the event, slated for Saturday and Sunday, which is also hosting among its speakers members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the leaders of the organizing group is Issam Moustafa Youssef, who the US Treasury Department has said was the head of Hamas’s political bureau at least until mid-2008.

Yousef, originally from Nablus in the northern West Bank, is currently a leader in the Interpal group, named a terror group by the US in 2003.

The event’s website presents a map of Israel with arrows pointing at the country and the caption “Our national plan — the path of our return.”

Other speakers include Majed a-Zir, who has been described in Egyptian media as “the regional director of Hamas in Europe.” He is officially a member of the “Palestinian Return Centre” in London, which Israel, at least, considers an illegal group.

Also on the list of speakers are media personalities such as Qatar-based Al-Jazeera anchor Jamal Rayyan and columnist Bashir Nafi, as well as Zaher Birawi, Rowan a-Damen, Ziad Aloul and others.

Hamas has held similar events not just in Turkey, but throughout Africa and Latin America. It uses the Muslim Brotherhood organizational infrastructures in those countries to organize the events, connect to activists, raise funds and engage in public relations worldwide.

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