A recent conference held in Beirut to discuss issues related to Palestinian political prisoners featured the participation of members of several Palestinian terrorist groups, as well as the attendance of at least three American activists.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a founder of the International Action Center (IAC), reportedly brought an American delegation to the conference, billed in the Arab media as “The Arab-International Forum of the Solidarity Organizations Supporting Freedom Prisoners in the Prisons of the Zionist Occupation.” The American activists were joined by representatives of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as ambassadors from several countries, including Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Yemen, Morocco, and Sudan.
The conference took place at the Commodore Hotel in Beirut on April 30. Maher al-Taher, the Political Secretary of the PFLP, spoke at the opening ceremony of the conference and delivered greetings from the PFLP’s General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat who is currently serving a 30 year sentence in an Israeli prison for his role in leading the PFLP. In his remarks, Al-Taher said, “Sa’adat’s message is to end the negotiations entirely; they have failed and this has been proven repeatedly. We must develop a new strategy on the basis of Palestinian resistance.”
Charlotte Kates, a longtime activist with Al-Awda and a coordinator for the North American Network for the Steadfast Support of Prisoners, also spoke at the conference. According to a news article about the conference in The Ambassador, a daily Lebanese Arabic-language newspaper, she said: “We remain in support of the cause, which the prisoners have been killed and fought for…and topping it is the Right of Return and the liberation of their country from the occupation…We are in solidarity with the prisoners and in solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and we declare and stand by the side of the Palestinian and Arab resistance.”
According to a news article about the conference from Al Watan Voice, a daily Palestinian Arabic-language newspaper, other notable attendees of the conference were Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs and Fadwa Barghouti, the wife of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwarn Barghouti. During her address, Barghouti reportedly said, “We are here to revive the issue of the prisoners and to expose the crimes of the Israeli occupation in international forums.”
This is not the first time a conference held in Beirut featuring Palestinian terrorist groups has attracted Westerners. In January 2009 and 2010, similar conferences were held in Beirut, which Clark and other American activists attended as well.
News reports indicate that this year’s conference concluded with a series of proposed action steps, including an affirmation by participants “that the Resistance option in all its forms is the shortest way to liberate the prisoners from Israeli jails.” A second action step from the conference reportedly called for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against “all foreign companies and states that provide logistic, security, or administrative support” to Israel on issues related to detention of prisoners in Israeli jails.