Arab Thought Forum holds conference at Birzeit University

A three-day conference entitled, Palestine at the Crossroads: Perspectives of Citizenship and Prospects of Identity was held at Birzeit University from 21-23 June. The conference was organized by the Arab Thought Forum (Al Multaqa) as part of ATF's Democracy, Understanding and Development Program.


The conference addressed topics such as the economic and political basis for the Palestinian political system, the role and responsbilities of Palestinian political factions, final status issues and an examination of the political process over the last 5 years. According to the Arab Thought Forum, the conference was, "a continuation of ATF's effort to monitor and analyze the participation of Palestinian society in the democratization process and focused on studying the factors that shape democratic formation in Palestine and the prospects for an independent and democratic Palestinian state."

The conference was opened by Ahmad Qrei' (Abu Ala), speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, the Secretary General of the PNA Cabinet, issued a warning to Israel in the first panel entitled The Palestinian Entity: Four Years of Trial and Error, "If Barak attempts to evade the Wye River agreement which stipulates the withdrawal from 18.1% of Palestinian lands without negotiations, neither the leadership or Arafat will be able to control the Palestinian people." Speaking on the role of civil society organizations, Mustafa Barghouthi commented on the recent debate over the proposed NGO law in Palestine. "The Executive Authority demands that the Ministry in charge of registering NGOs should be changed to the Ministry of Interior from the current Ministry of Justice. This change, if it takes place, could have serious implications as it leaves the impression that NGOs are under the jurisdiction of security forces rather than the rule of law."

Hani al Hassan, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, speaking on the second day stated, "It is necessary to activate the PLO to co-ordinate Palestinians inside and outside the homeland." Ziad Abu Amr, who stressed he was speaking in his personal capacity as a Professor at Birzeit University, warned against the consequences of the Oslo process on the PLO. "The PLO is dying, it signed the Oslo Agreement to protect itself but this agreement contradicts its existence - it is a denial to itself."

The Arab Thought Forum(Al Multaqa) was established in Jerusalem in 1977 as an independent Palestinian institution. It is not affiliated with any government or political party and aims to broach a broad range of subjects related to the Palestinian cause.