Theme of Unity Reigns at the 5th Annual Palestinian Diaspora Conference in Ramallah

322016 Know Thy Heritage Delegation

The 5th The Annual Palestinian Diaspora Conference in Ramallah, Palestine brought together diaspora dignitaries from around the world representing a wide array of sectors and institutions. Sir Rateb Rabie, President and CEO of HCEF, addressed the attendees in his opening remarks, referring to the Diaspora as a “sleeping giant” signifying the importance of the conference theme: “We are all one nation. We are all Palestinian.” The theme of unity between Palestinians in the diaspora and Palestinians in the homeland resounded throughout the two-day conference, with all esteemed speakers and panelists committed to building the State of Palestine as one people.

From left to right: Eng. Anthony Habash, HCEF Regional Director, HE Dr. Ziad Abu Amr, Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Rateb Rabie, HCEF President/CEO, HE Rula Ma’ayah, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Nafez Husseini, Vice President of ICT & Digital Business, Consolidated Contractors Company, Thaer Hamayel, Head of Marketing/Public Relations, Bank of Palestine

From left to right: Eng. Anthony Habash, HCEF Regional Director, HE Dr. Ziad Abu Amr, Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Rateb Rabie, HCEF President/CEO, HE Rula Ma’ayah, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Nafez Husseini, Vice President of ICT & Digital Business, Consolidated Contractors Company, Thaer Hamayel, Head of Marketing/Public Relations, Bank of Palestine

Dr. Siman Khoury, General Manager of Industrias Kabinchy and founder of the Palestinian Salvadorian Association, spoke about the role of the diaspora in Latin America, and how it must serve and lead by example. Ms. Lindsey Durand-Vibert, an Economic Development Team Leader at the Department for International Development (DFID) in Jerusalem, called on all present to further support diaspora backed economic initiatives: “Do not underestimate the role of the diaspora and private sectors for the success of this country. You are the ones who drive the innovation and hope for Palestine.” Most notably, HCEF signed an agreement with Maher Hamdan, Team Leader of the Palestinian Market Development Programme, and Adnan Samara, President of the Higher Council for Innovation and Excellence, to further develop business relations between Palestine and its diaspora. On the following day, Sir Rateb Rabie gave his opening remarks at the beginning of the General Conference, stating “We have the genes and blood of Palestinians. We have the minds and hearts of Palestinians. Let us meet together on equal footing so we can make a difference.” The opening ceremony included featured speakers: HE Mr. Taysir Khalid, Executive Member of the PLO, HE Ambassador Maen Areikat, Chief of the PLO Delegation to the United States, and Ms. Hanan Jarrar, Director of the Government Directorate of the Americas & the Caribbean. All three of them spoke about the importance of diaspora engagement as an essential key to the future of Palestine. In closing, HE Ambassador Areikat cited how the moral and political influence of the United States is so influential in the global political order: “For true change to come to Palestine, the United States needs to take a more favorable view towards the Palestinian people, and it is a special responsibility of Palestinians in the United States to help spread a more informed and balanced view of Palestine in their country.”

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37The first panel consisted of Palestinians working in media, as well as Mr. Khaled Shahwan from the United Nations Development Programme. Entitled “Palestinians in a World of Globalized Communications”, it examined how improved communications through social media, traditional media, and reciprocal visitation can maximize the potential for Diaspora networks to work together and create positive change in Palestine. Ms. Nour Odeh, CEO of Connect Strategic Communications Consultancy, and Ms. Jennine Abdul Khalik, a diaspora Palestinian journalist who writes for The Australian in Sydney, spoke about how diaspora communications could be developed and deepened, citing the successes that they have had as media professionals working for the Palestinian cause.

38The second panel featured Mr. Jamal Haddad, the General Manager of Palestine for Development, Ms. Raya Sbitany, Head of Business Development at Bank of Palestine, Mr. Bassem Khoury, CEO of Dar Al-Shifa’a Pharmaceuticals, and Dr. Walid Zayed, a successful Palestinian-Panamanian lawyer, businessman, and scholar. The panel focused on the ways in which better connections with the Palestinian diaspora can support economic development and poverty reduction in Palestine. Through investment, initiatives to increase tourism, and joint business projects, the discussion offered possibilities for uniting Palestinians. Ms. Sbitany, commented “There is actually a Palestinian exchange! With 49 companies on the market, it is fully regulated and aligned with international standards. But, the diaspora just doesn’t know about it. We have a very energetic young population here who want to help, but it truly helps to get experience from abroad.”

39Sir Rateb Rabie moderated a roundtable discussion on how the Diaspora can work together to support Palestine’s growth and development. Dr. Assad Abdul Rahman, Executive Chairman of the Palestine International Institute, Mr. Mohammad Attoun, Trade & Investment Leader at the Palestinian Market Development Programme, Ms. Manal Farhan from the Ministry of Economy, and Dr. Walid Zayed all joined the discussion, offering their professional opinions and answering questions. Two Know Thy Heritage diaspora delegates, Hadeel Ibrahim, an Australian medical professional, and Annette Kafie, a Honduran international human rights student in Italy, joined the discussion. Ibrahim and Kafie spoke about the ways in which the homeland and Diaspora can fortify ties, and together with the other panelists, analyzed strategies for moving forward the economy, healthcare, and a human rights agenda.

40The final panel hosted three diaspora Palestinians from Latin America: Mr. Alex Cattan, President of the Arab Center in Concepción, Mr. Siman Khoury, General Manager/Owner of Industrias Kabinchy and Founding Member of the Palestinian-Salvadoran Association in El Salvador, and Mr. Roberto Kettlun, Professional Football Player for the West Bank Premier League. The panelists shared about how their personal journeys have inspired their work for Palestine. They spoke about the value of their Palestinian heritage and the importance of reconnecting with ones’ roots. Mr. Cattan, spoke about how he has used lessons learned over his many years in the corporate world to develop leadership skills that serve both Palestine and Chile, his country-of-residence. Mr. Khoury, offered a model for Palestinians living in the diaspora to give back to, and reconnect with, Palestine. Mr. Kettlun, spoke about how he used his passion for football to better serve the Palestinian cause: “My father and grandfather always told me I would never be able to return to Palestine, but through my love for football, I was able to return to my homeland and struggle for its cause. I encourage all of you to find your passion and use it as best you can to assist the Palestinian cause.”