In early November 2020, two online conferences sponsored by Turkey were held on the topic of Jerusalem and Palestine. The conferences were attended by Muslim clerics and politicians, many of them Palestinian and Turkish members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and of Hamas. While stressing the importance of the Palestinians' jihad and armed struggle against Israel, the participants also highlighted Turkey's support for the Palestinian cause and emphasized that the Turkish people, no less than the Palestinians, have a claim to the holy places in Jerusalem.
One conference was held on November 7 by the Forum of Turkish Muslim Scholars for Jerusalem and attended by clerics and politicians from Turkey and the Muslim world. This conference conspicuously highlighted what was described as Turkey's important historic role in Jerusalem and Palestine and the need to enhance its presence there. These points were also stressed in the conference's closing statement, which declared that Palestine is "Ottoman" and that the Turkish people have a "right" in Jerusalem, just like the Palestinians. The statement called to bolster the Turkish presence in Jerusalem in various ways, such as renovating Ottoman waqf property in the city and promoting twin-city and twin-mosque programs. It also condemned the countries that have normalized relations with Israel and expressed hope that Al-Aqsa will soon be purged of their "defiling" presence.
The conference was acknowledged by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who sent a message to its participants stressing his support for the "glorious resistance waged by our Palestinian brothers" and noting that Turkey had served Jerusalem for 400 years. The former head of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Mash'al, who spoke at the conference, praised Turkey under Erdogan's leadership, calling it a "fundamental partner" of the Palestinians, and congratulated it for regaining the regional status it had held in the days of the Ottoman Caliphate.
Mash'al's remarks and the conference's closing statement clearly seek to legitimize Turkey's growing influence and presence in the region and especially in Jerusalem, in return for Turkey's support for the Palestinian resistance movements, such as Hamas. Turkey's efforts to increase its influence in Jerusalem, which are part of its regional expansion, may also be an attempt to counter the influence of the UAE and Bahrain, whose recent normalization agreement with Israel will enable them to promote various projects in Jerusalem. It should be mentioned that among the conference participants was also Al-Aqsa preacher Ikrima Sabri, who later met with Erdogan in his palace in Ankara;  this too may be part of Turkey's efforts to consolidate its presence in Jerusalem.
The second conference, called "The First Online Conference of the Pioneering Men and Women of Jerusalem," was held on November 7-8 by elements affiliated with the MB and Turkey. It was attended by Hamas political bureau head Isma'il Haniya and by Ahmad Al-Raissouni, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), as well as by Al-Aqsa preacher Ikrama Sabri. Speakers called to support the Palestinians' jihad and their armed struggle against Israel "with money and weapons" and even described this as a religious duty.
Invitation to the online conference of the Forum of Turkish Muslim Scholars for Jerusalem (Twitter.com/ trabzonkudus, November 7, 2020)
This report reviews the two conferences and the statements made in them.
Forum of Turkish Muslim Scholars For Jerusalem Stresses Need To Consolidate Turkey's Presence In Palestine
The online conference of the Forum of Turkish Muslim Scholars for Jerusalem, held on November 7, 2020, was attended by clerics and academics from across the world who espouse extremist ideologies condoning violence and terror. Prominent among them were the former head of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Mash'al; 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi, secretary-general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); Nawwaf Al-Takrouri, chair of the Palestinian Council of Muslim Scholars Abroad, who is identified with the MB and has sanctioned jihad and suicide operations "everywhere", and Al-Aqsa preacher and former Jerusalem mufti Ikrima Sabri, who has likewise condoned suicide bombings.
Alongside the usual statements of support for the Palestinians, opposition to normalization and praise for "jihad fighters," there was a conspicuous attempt to highlight Turkey's role as an important player in Jerusalem and Palestine, and even to present Palestine as "Ottoman" and Turkey as having a claim to Jerusalem. Also prominent was praise for Turkey's support of the Palestinian cause.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, in a statement to the conference participants, that "as a country and a nation, we have had the honor of serving Jerusalem for 400 years," and added: "I take this opportunity to stress our firm support for the glorious resistance waged by our Palestinian brothers against the occupation, oppression and destruction… Allah willing, Jerusalem will be liberated thanks to the struggle of our Palestinian brothers, the Muslims' support and the efforts of people like you, our religious scholars…"
Khaled Mash'al: We Are Proud Of Turkey, Which Is Resuming Its Historic Role
In his speech at the conference, the former head of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Mash'al, praised Turkey and President Erdogan, saying: "The support [extended by] Turkey and all its sectors to the finest of the Muslim nation will strengthen their steadfast stance against the normalization and the Zionist hegemony… You, [people of Turkey showed] considerable abilities throughout history… Today Turkey, with its well-rooted people and courageous leadership, is restoring its status and role [in the region]. This role is growing stronger, and we are proud of [Turkey's] rise and return to its original identity and status… Turkey has great capabilities, especially thanks to its long history in the era of Sultan 'Abdul Hamid."
Mash'al added that "the Palestinian cause is different from any other… since it is a basic measure of the [Islamic] nation's existence, rise and fall… Since the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate, [Palestine] has been exposed to internal and external threats… We are all members of a single nation, and we must support one another. Today's Turkey not only supports [us], but is a major partner… who is restoring its status and increasing its [regional] role under the leadership of its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of whom we are proud…"
Conference's Closing Statement: Turkey Has A Claim To The Holy Places In Palestine, No Less Than The Palestinians
The statement published at the close of the online conference said: "We, clerics, preachers and academics in Turkey, heeded the call of Jerusalem, whose wounds have exhausted it; the pleas for help of Al-Aqsa, where the Zionists are acting to sow destruction, fire and ruin, and the cries of Palestine, which suffers from occupation by the enemy and abandonment [by its friends]… The Islamic Caliph, [Ottoman] Sultan 'Abdul Hamid II, once said about Palestine: 'I would rather have my flesh cut with a surgeon's scalpel than relinquish even an inch of Palestine's soil, for it is not mine [to relinquish]. It belongs to the Muslim nation. I will not agree to the carving of our living body.'
"The people, nation, leadership and institutions of Turkey are full of love for Palestine, and devotion to Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem flows in their very veins. We, the clerics, preachers and academics in religious and Islamic seminaries, and the representatives of the Islamic da'wa associations in Turkey, held a mass conference to support Al-Aqsa, Jerusalem and Palestine…
"At the close of the conference, its participants stress the following: Palestine is a cause of the entire [Muslim] nation, and it [lives] in the heart of every free Muslim citizen. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa are not the asset of the Palestinians alone, but of the entire Muslim nation. The Turkish people's claim to the holy places in Palestine is no less than the claim of the Palestinians, and their duty towards Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and Palestine is similar to that [of the Palestinians]. Islam, humanity and justice [all] require this…
"The conference participants call to support Palestine academically by including the subject of Palestine in the curricula of the various universities…, and promoting twin [projects] between the great mosques [of Turkey] and mosques in Palestine… as well as between cities and villages in Turkey and homes in Jerusalem, so that every Turkish village will adopt a home [in Jerusalem] that is in danger of seizure… Institutions dealing with Islamic and Ottoman waqf urged the conference participants to place the Islamic Ottoman waqf at the top of their agenda in terms of caring for it, maintaining it, renovating it, elevating its status and defending it from the efforts of the Zionist entity to erase, alter and convert the Islamic and Ottoman identity of Palestine.
"The conference participants expressed support for the honorable and firm positions of the honorable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the Palestinian cause and on other just causes of the [Islamic] nation, and urged the leaders of the Islamic nation to follow his example by supporting the oppressed, helping those crying for help, defending the downtrodden and supporting Jerusalem and Palestine…
"The clerics, preachers and academics who attended the conference expressed their heartfelt thanks to the Palestinian people, those jihad fighters on the frontier who are working to defend the entire [Islamic] nation and the places holy [to Islam] despite suffering abandonment and conspiracies against them and their just cause… and stressed that they are not alone in the fray, for the people of Turkey support them and are their brothers [in arms] in defending Palestine. [The conference participants noted that we] will soon meet in the blessed and beloved Al-Aqsa compound, which will be liberated and purged of the defilement of the [Israeli] occupiers and the normalizers [i.e., Arabs who have normalized their relations with Israel]…"
Turkey-Sponsored Conference Devoted To "Pioneering Men And Women Of Jerusalem" Calls To Support Jihad Against Israel In Every Way
The second conference was held on November 7-8 under the title "First Online Conference of the Pioneering Men and Women of Jerusalem." It was organized by the Global Coalition for Jerusalem and Palestine, headed by the former general guide of the MB in Jordan, Hamam Sa'id, and by the Turkey Center for Relations with the Islamic World, based in Istanbul. The speakers at the conference, among them Hamas leaders Isma'il Haniya and Maher Salah, Al-Aqsa preacher Ikrama Sabri and IUMS chair Ahmad Al-Raissouni, underlined that it is a necessity as well as a religious duty to support the Palestinian jihad against Israel with money, weapons, and by every other means.
Hamas's political bureau head Isma'il Haniya called on the entire Muslim nation to take an active part in "liberating Palestine and Jerusalem" and in "confronting the plots to do away with the [Palestinian] cause and reinforce the American-Zionist hegemony over our Arab and Islamic region." He also called to assist the Palestinian jihad fighters with money and weapons.
To watch a MEMRI TV clip of his statements, click below:
Maher Salah, head of Hamas's Diaspora Office, stressed to the conference participants: "Our people in Palestine confront the occupation on a daily basis and wage direct resistance against it. They sacrifice their souls, blood and wealth, their children, their freedom and everything [they have]. [Therefore,] we must at least follow their path, the path of jihad and resistance, the path of might and honor, and fight this criminal Zionist enterprise, its mechanisms and its helpers abroad… The responsibility of overseeing the fight against the danger of normalization lies first of all with us. Your Palestinian brethren in general, and Hamas in particular, are on the front lines. They are the spearhead, in the vanguard of the struggle."
IUMS head Ahmad Al-Raissouni said at the conference: "Supporting the Palestinian people and its legitimate jihad, in every possible manner, is a religious duty incumbent upon all Muslims and all noble and honorable people, regardless of their faith, nationality and ideological [persuasion]… The cause of Palestine, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa belongs to all of us, and [our] religious and humane values prohibit us from letting the Palestinians confront this Zionist arrogance alone. We must help them in any way we can, and we can do a great deal. If the Muslims utilized even a tenth of their ability, they would have liberated Palestine in the first year [after its occupation]. The Muslims must take action, and each of them, according to his ability, must regard himself responsible for aiding the cause… We will not accept the partition of Palestine, for how can one agree to the partitioning of Al-Aqsa[?] Partition is unacceptable according to the shari'a. It represents robbery, theft and aggression. It is forbidden to relinquish the soil of Palestine, which is waqf land…"
 Tccb.gov.tr, December 1, 2020.
 The IUMS is based in Doha and has been supported since its founding by the Qatari regime and by Turkey. The organization was established in 2004 by MB ideologue Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, who also headed it until late 2018, and who has resided in Qatar and enjoyed the backing of its regime since the 1960s. The IUMS website has for years been promoting extremist discourse, including incitement to jihad and terror and hatred of Jews and Christians. The organization's secretary-general 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi recently claimed that the murder of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty had been staged by the French authorities and that the real murderer was still alive. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8974 - Secretary-General Of International Union of Muslim Scholars, 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi, Resumes Jihadi Incitement: Claims Murder Of French Teacher Was Staged By French Authorities And Real Killer Is Still Alive – October 20, 2020. For further information on extremist discourse and support of terrorists by the IUMS and its members, see MEMRI reports: Special Dispatch No. 8974 - Secretary-General Of International Union of Muslim Scholars, 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi, Resumes Jihadi Incitement: Claims Murder Of French Teacher Was Staged By French Authorities And Real Killer Is Still Alive – October 20, 2020; Special Dispatch No. 542, Al-Qaradhawi Speaks In Favor of Suicide Operations at an Islamic Conference in Sweden, July 24, 2003; Special Dispatch No. 828 - Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Resistance in Iraq is a Duty of Every Muslim – December 14, 2004; Special Dispatch No. 7308, Senior Saudi Journalist Al-Rashed: Al-Qaradawi's International Union Of Muslim Scholars Encourages Jihadi Discourse, Supports Terrorists, Fights Moderate Islam, January 31, 2018; Special Dispatch No. 7984 - International Union Of Muslim Scholars Urges Imams To Preach Armed Jihad Against Israel To Save Al-Aqsa – April 4, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8000 - International Union of Muslim Scholars, Which For Years Has Encouraged Jihad, Calls On The West To Prohibit The Discourse Of Hate – April 15, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8083 - Dr. Ahmed Al-Raissouni, Head Of The International Union Of Muslim Scholars Which Was Founded By Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi In Dublin: Questioning The Holocaust Is Not Just A Right But An Obligation – May 23, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8135 - International Union Of Muslim Scholars, Supported By Qatar, Calls To Boycott Bahrain Conference On Deal Of The Century, Support Palestinians' Jihad – June 24, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8295 - IUMS Head Dr. Ahmed Al-Raissouni, Who Promotes Extremist, Antisemitic, Anti-Western Discourse, Joins Faculty Of Qatar University – September 29, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8830 - International Union Of Muslim Scholars, Backed By Qatar And Turkey, Calls For Jihad And Self-Sacrifice To Foil Israel’s Plan To Annex Parts Of The West Bank – June 7, 2020.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8807 - Qatari Doublespeak: Pretending To Fight Terrorism While Holding Conference With Sheikhs Supporting ISIS And Suicide Bombings – June 18, 2020.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 151, "PA 'Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine' Discusses the Intifada," November 9, 2000; Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 61, "The Joy of the Mothers of Palestinian 'Martyrs,'" June 27, 2001.
 Facebook.com/palscholars, November 8, 2020.
 The reference is to Sultan Abdul Hamid II (ruled 1876-1909), who rejected Herzl's requests to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine and opposed the Jewish immigration there, mainly based on his pan-Islamic approach. Accordingly, he imposed numerous restrictions on the immigrants, including restrictions on land purchase and construction, as well as heavy taxes.
 Palinfo.com, November 7, 2020.
 The Arabic term used here is ribat, referring to the frontier of the Islamic world, whose warriors (murabitoun) defend the Islamic lands and fight the non-Muslims. Murabitoun is also the name of Palestinian activists at Al-Aqsa who protest against any presence of Jewish worshippers there. Sheikh Ikrama Sabri called in his speech at the conference to support the murabitoun in Palestine (Facebook.com/GCQP1, November 7, 2020).
 Iumsonline.org, November 8, 2020.
 Palinfo.com, November 7, 2020.
 Hamas.ps, November 7, 2020.
 Palinfo.com, November 8, 2020.
 Iumsonline.org, November 10, 2020.