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Turkish Govt Sponsors ‘Conference on Palestine’ Hosted by Activist Convicted by US Court of Aiding Terror Group

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Attorney Linda Moreno makes point after sentencing of Sami al-Arian in Tampa Federal court. Photo: Reuters

The Turkish government is co-sponsoring a conference initiated and hosted by Sami Al-Arian, who was convicted by a United States federal court for his active involvement with US-designated terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The conference, “Challenging Apartheid in Palestine: Reclaiming the Narrative, Formulating a Vision,” begins on Friday and is hosted by Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University’s Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), which is headed by Al-Arian. The six-day event is co-sponsored by the Republic of Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Turkish umbrella group, The Global Coalition for Quds and Palestine (GCQP); as well as the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in the UK; the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver in the US; and the Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) in South Africa.

The conference’s theme is “how to challenge and dismantle the racist system of structural colonization and control in the historical land of Palestine,” and it seeks to explore “how to empower people — in Palestine and around the world — toward ending the Israeli apartheid system in Palestine,” according to CIGA’s website.

Commenting on the Turkish regime’s co-sponsorship of the conference, leading French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy told The Algemeiner, “This proves how irresponsible and frivolous those are who, here or there, speak of a possible reconciliation between Israel and the Turkey of [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan; and how ignorant those are who don’t understand that this Turkey (of Erdogan) is a merciless enemy of the United States, of Europe and of democracies in general.”

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“Turkey must be expelled from NATO,” Lévy said.

Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor, pled guilty in 2006 to conspiring to make or receive contributions of funds, goods, or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He was sentenced to 57 months in prison on terrorism charges for financing the militant Islamist group, and was deported to Turkey in 2015 as part of that plea agreement.

The speakers of the conference list leading academics from US public universities and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Among the speakers are San Francisco State University (SFSU) Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, who has previously been criticized by Jewish groups for her rhetoric against pro-Israel students; Joseph Massad from Columbia University; Judith Butler from the University of California, Berkeley;  and John B. Quigley from Ohio State University.

Other speakers include Osama Abuirshaid, executive director of American Muslims for Palestine and a former member of Hamas-linked Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), and Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, who has been denied entry to Israel over his support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“Erdogan’s regime is increasingly becoming a reflection of his own personal whims rather than any semblance of representative democracy, commented Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of The Lawfare Project. “This event is illustrative, in that it tells us Erdogan’s hatred for Jews and Israel is so profound that he is willing to roll out the red carpet for someone convicted on terrorism-related charges. It also shows the diminishing influence of US foreign policy on this ostensible NATO ally.”

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