A guest post by Hadar Sela, an Anglo-Israeli freelance writer
As spring approaches, so the annual season for publicity stunts aimed at undermining Israel’s legitimacy begins once more. This year several high-profile events are planned and, building on the success of last year’s thwarting of the ‘Freedom Flotilla 2′ by means of pre-emptive dissemination of information, this report (and those which will follow) aims to provide essential background about the aims and allegiances of the organisers which will be useful to those engaged in combatting the assault on Israel’s legitimacy, particularly in the media and social networks.
‘Global March to Jerusalem':
The first large-scale event planned this year is a ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ scheduled for March 30th 2012 – Land Day. The concept behind it is to have a million people marching on Israel’s borders from all the surrounding countries – Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The aims, according to the project’s official website, are as follows:
“The march will demand freedom for Jerusalem and its people and to put an end to the Apartheid, ethnic cleansing and Judaisation policies affecting the people, land and sanctity of Jerusalem.”
“The march will confirm that the policies and practices of the racist Zionist state of Israel against Jerusalem and its people are a crime not only against Palestinians but against all humanity.”
“The march will unite the efforts of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all citizens of conscience in the world to put an end to Israel’s disregard for international law through the continuing occupation of Jerusalem and the rest of Palestinian land.
We aim to make this march a turning point in the nature of the confrontation, with the occupation having to face millions of protesters and demonstrators demanding Freedom for Palestine and its capitol (sic) Jerusalem.”
Obviously Israel, like any other sovereign country, cannot permit mass infiltration of its borders, especially by people who identify with terrorist organisations and enemy nations dedicated to its destruction. The results are therefore likely to be grave and perhaps similar to the consequences of attempted infiltrations of Israel’s northern borders in June 2011. The march’s organisers are undoubtedly very much aware of those facts.
They will also be aware that the current turmoil and uncertainty throughout the Middle East means that the ability of the Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian or Lebanese governments to intervene in order to prevent such a dangerous scenario is now considerably reduced. Some idea of the mindset of the event’s organisers can be gleaned from statements made in the following e-mail exchange between two of them regarding a previous identical project. (All errors in the original text)
As I have written out in the report, the liberation of Jerusalem, of Palestine are at the core of all that we have done & will do. The point is that how do we build a movement that compells the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon & Syria to let us in (which is easy) & then let us march across the borders into Palestine, challenging the Israeli army (which is difficult). Thus the idea is to keep the idea simple – We are going to pray at the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre & the Masjid-i-Aqsa & the Qubattus Sakhra. We will not apply for visas or permissions from the Israeli’s obviously not, for reasons known to us all. But imagine a situation where we have more than a million people streaming in from four borders & israel fails to stop the human tide. Once we have broken this mental barrier, then its all over. next time we will have 5 million who will be marching in & it will ony grow from there. This is exactly the nightmare situation for Israel. How do you handle a million ordinary non-violent people who want to go back Home? – how do you handle a million non-violent people who just wish to pray in their Masjid in Jerusalem, which is under our Occupation? Thius will undermine the Israeli state, like no other strategy & then it will all begin to unravel & the Zionist edifice which is unraveeling as we speak, will soon fall. It’s a matter of time now, as we well know.
Revealingly, the following statement appears in the FAQ section of the website of the American chapter of the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ-NA):
Q: Why is there a separate GMJ-NA organization?
A: Because of the laws governing citizens of the U.S. and Canada, legal advisers in these countries have determined that it is better for them to operate separately and not to participate in the decision-making of the international movement, but rather as an autonomous coalition. This is because some of the groups in the international coalition are subject to legal reprisals in these countries, and there is some risk that any joint decision-making might place citizens of those countries in legal jeopardy. The risk may be small, but this is an extra measure of safety for those concerned.
In other words, the leaders of GMJ-NA are very much aware of the march’s links to proscribed terrorist groups, and yet its endorsers include a rather predictable list of organisations and US and other nationals, including a UN employee and a former British MP.
Ann Wright, former United States Army colonel
Clayborne Carson, Professor & Director, Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University
David Hartsough, Co-founder of Nonviolent Peaceforce
Edward Peck, Retired US Ambassador and career US Diplomat
George Galloway, British Member of Parliament
Dr. Ghada Karmi, Co-Director, Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter
Dr. Hatem Bazian, Senior Lecturer in Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Izzet Sahin, International Affairs Secretary, IHH
Joe Meadors, Veteran and Survivor of the 1967 Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty
Lauren Booth, English broadcaster, journalist and pro-Palestinian activist
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, American rabbi in the Jewish Renewal movement
Mairead Maguire, , Nobel Peace Laureate
Marcy Winograd, Los Angeles teacher, peace activist and former candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives
Medea Benjiman, Anti-war organizer and activist
Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian democracy activist and former presidential candidate
Richard Falk, Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University
Roger Leisner, Radio Free Maine
Ronnie Kasrils, South African ANC leader and cabinet minister
Samuel F. Hart, U.S. Ambassador, ret.
Susan Abulhawa, Palestinian-American author and Founder of Playgrounds for Palestine
Tariq Ali, British Pakistani military historian, novelist, journalist, filmmaker, public intellectual, political campaigner, activist, and commentator
GMJ International Advisory Committee:
Some of the GMJ endorsers also sit on its ‘International Advisory Committee’.
INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE FOR THE GMJ
Maan Bashour (Lebanon), Dr. Ribhi Halloum (Jordan), Prof Paul Larudee (USA), George Galloway (UK), Khaled Soufiyani (Morocco), M K Sawalha (UK), Saud Abu Mahfouz (Jordan), Prof. Mohsen Saleh (Lebanon), Mazin Qumsiyeh (Palestine), Dr. Ghada Karmi (UK), Sheikhul Islam (Iran), Huseiyn Oruc (Turkey), Huwaida Arraf (Palestine-USA), Abdul Ghaffar Aziz (Pakistan), Sandeep Pandey (India),
Maan Bashour is the General Co-ordinator for the Muslim Brotherhood centre in Beirut, head of the preparatory committee for the ‘right of return forum’ and General Coordinator of the National Initiative Committee to Break the Blockade of Gaza (NICBBG).
Dr Ribhi Halloum joined the PLO in 1966 and was its regional underground organizer in the UAE until 1971. He was a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and the PNC until resigning in 1993 over opposition to the Oslo Accords. He heads the Jordanian preparatory committee for the march and according to an interview he gave in December 2011 prior to the recent GMJ conference in that country, “[t]he protest aims to move the right of return possessed by Palestinian refugees from theory to practice”
Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the ‘Free Gaza’ and ‘Free Palestine’ movements as well as the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) with which he was active during the second Intifada. He took part in the 2008 and 2010 flotillas, was deported from Israel in 2006 for trying to enter the country under a false identity and allegedly volunteered as a ‘human shield’ for Hizballah during the second Lebanon war. He was also one of the organisers of last year’s ‘flytilla’. Here he is meeting Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza in 2008 (from whom he also received an award the following year) – second from the left on the front row.
George Galloway is of course a well-known figure on the anti-Israel activism scene, his activities ranging from ‘Viva Palestina’ in its various incarnations, to working with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War Coalition and being employed by the Iranian regime’s Press TV. Galloway believes that “Hizbollah is not and has never been a terrorist organization” and that Israel is responsible for the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Here he is handing over cash to the Hamas Economy Minister at the culmination of one of his ‘Viva Palestina’ convoys.
Galloway also promoted the Global March to Jerusalem on Press TV prior to the latter being closed down by the UK authorities.
Khaled Soufiyani is a former chair of the Arab National Congress and co-ordinator of the Moroccan organization the ‘National Action Group (sometimes ‘Task Force’) for Solidarity with Palestine and Iraq’. In 2010 he called on a Moroccan Jewish advisor to the king to leave the country as a result of the former’s suggestion that the Holocaust should be part of the curriculum in Moroccan universities. He is strongly opposed to any normalization of relations between Israel and Morocco, and in particular to the establishment of the Amazigh-Israel Friendship Association, and has made several attempts to use ‘lawfare’ against Israelis visiting the country.
Mohammed Kassem Sawalha is also a well-known figure on the British anti-Israel circuit and a former Hamas commander who, since his arrival in the UK in the 1990s, has been instrumental in the founding of a series of organisations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood including the Muslim Association of Britain and the British Muslim Initiative. Sawalha is involved in the organization of the various flotillas and convoys to Gaza through a variety of roles in organisations and charities linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and in collaboration with the Turkish IHH. Here he is at an IHH press conference last year (front row, far right):
Saud Abu Mahfouz is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front. He was a participant in the 2010 flotilla, along with several other Muslim Brotherhood members from Jordan, the former leader of which is on record as having stated:
“We in the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan see Palestine as part of the Islamic and Arab land that must not be relinquished – on the contrary, defending it is a national and jurisprudential obligation… We see Hamas movement in Palestine as standing at the head of the project of the Arab and Islamic liberation for which the Muslim Brotherhood calls… The Muslim Brotherhood supports Hamas and every Arab resistance movement in the region that works for liberation.” (memri.org report 4265)
Mohsen Saleh is a professor at the Lebanese University in Beirut who takes a consistently pro-Iranian line, opposes the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (accusing it of being a US-engineered attempt to destabilize Lebanon and weaken the ‘resistance’ against Israel) and defends Bashar Assad’s actions against the uprising in Syria.
Mazin Qumsiyeh is a well-known Palestinian political activist. He heads the ISM-linked ‘Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People’ (which was involved in the organization of the 2011 ‘flytilla’), is a co-ordinator for the ‘Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements’ in Beit Sahour and was a co-founder of Al Awda (the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition) in the US. Qumseiyeh spoke at the 2010 Stuttgart conference which produced the Stuttgart Declaration – a call for opposition to a negotiated two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Ghada Karmi of Exeter University in the UK is also a signatory of the Stuttgart Declaration. A member of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) and a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Karmi has called for “the end of a Jewish state in our region”.
Sheikhul Islam is an ambiguous title in that it can be given to any high-ranking Shiite religious leader, but obviously the man concerned holds some prominence within the Iranian regime. The listing may possibly refer to Hossein Sheikh-ul-Islam; Senior Advisor to the Parliament Speaker for International Affairs of Iran.
Huseyin Oruc is a member of the board of trustees of the ‘Union of Good’ linked Turkish organization Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), its deputy chairman and heads its public relations department. He was a participant in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla and was involved in the planning of the failed 2011 flotilla.
Huweida Arraf is of course the American-born co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who also chairs the ‘Free Gaza’ movement which is behind the organization of the flotillas. She has taken part in several flotillas herself, including that of 2010.
Arraf is perhaps best remembered for her provision of support to Yasser Arafat in Ramallah during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 when the Israeli army sought to put an end to the campaign of suicide bombings in Israel orchestrated by Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, and for her part in the ISM’s collaboration with the terrorists who took over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem the same year. One of the more recent publicity stunts in which Arraf took part was the so-called ‘Freedom Ride‘ in November 2011 when she, together with Mazin Qumsiyeh and four others, attempted to enter Jerusalem without permits.
Abdul Ghaffar Aziz is a member of – and spokesman for – Jamaat e Islami – the Pakistani Islamist movement which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and was founded by Abul Ala Maududi.
Sandeep Pandey heads the National Alliance (sometimes ‘Association’) of People’s Movements in India. He was one of the organisers of the Asia to Gaza Caravan, in which he took part and reported on extensively. The convoy included a variety of Islamist and human rights organisations and received considerable en-route support from Iran, including an official reception with Ahmedinijad. Pandey is currently involved in promotion and organisation of the Asian chapter of the GMJ, describing it as an attempt to “counter the Judaisation of Jerusalem”.
GMJ International Executive Committee:
The ‘International Executive Committee’ for the Global March on Jerusalem also includes both familiar and lesser-known figures.
INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE FOR THE GMJ
Feroze Mithiborwala (India), Nabil Hallak (Lebanon), Bashir Zmaili (Jordan), Izzet Sahin (Turkey), Zaher Birawi, Kevin Ovenden (UK), Ali Mallah (Canada), George Rishmawi (Palestine), Salim Ghafouri (Iran), Shaheen Kattiparambil (India), Ramy Zurayk (Lebanon), Mustapa Mansour (Malaysia), Roohulla Rezvi (Iran), Gauhar Iqbal (India), Irman Abdurahman (Indonesia)
Feroze Mithiborwala was a co-organiser of the 2010 Asia to Gaza Convoy and is a member of Awami Bharat – an Indian political group which describes itself as being involved in an “international struggle against imperialism, Zionism, and Brahmanism”. He is also a member of the Muslim Intellectual Forum of India and the South Asian Solidarity Initiative and is the ‘Free Gaza’ national coordinator in India. Unsurprisingly for someone who relies upon ‘Israel Shamir‘ for information, Mithiborwala seems to be rather fond of conspiracy theories: the Moscow subway terror attacks were, according to him, deliberately timed to deflect attention from the BDS movement and Osama Bin Laden died in 2001. He is also of the opinion that:
..the Arab Revolution presents new possibilities & the epic 94-year-old struggle of the Palestinian people, a proud & ancient nation, which has inspired the world for generations, will finally see a new awakening & with it, a new hope, a new Intifada, the Third Intifada!!
It is only the resistance on the ground, within Palestine, across the Palestine diaspora, across the Arab nations & then across the entire world, will we finally witness the rebirth of a nation.
Mithiborwala and other GMJ organisers at a conference of the Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine in Karachi, 2-3 February 2012. Representatives from Palestinian organisations were also present.
Nabil Hallak is an Irish-Lebanese citizen who took part in the 2010 flotilla and acted or acts as co-ordinator for the National Committee to Break the Siege on Gaza. Here he is being welcomed upon his return to Lebanon after his deportation from Israel in the wake of the flotilla.
Izzet Sahin is an employee of the IHH. He was deported from Israel in May 2010 after having been found working for that organization which has been banned in Israel since 2008 due to its ties to the Union of Good which channels funding to Hamas.
Zaher Birawi is a well-known Hamas operative resident in the UK. He is connected to the Palestinian Return Centre which is banned by Israel, ‘Viva Palestina’, the Palestinian Forum of Britain and the ‘Union of Good’-linked charity ‘Education Aid for Palestinians’. Birawi’s connections will be further expanded upon in part two of this report. Here he is (far left) in Gaza along with Kevin Ovenden and Mohammed Sawalha receiving an award from Ahmad Bahar of Hamas.
Kevin Ovenden (pictured above, second from the left) was Parliamentary aide to the former British MP George Galloway. He is a former trustee of Galloway’s ‘Viva Palestina’ and very active in the organization and leadership of its various projects. He was aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010 and has received repeated recognition for his services to Hamas. Here he is in Syria, addressing a welcoming party for one of the Viva Palestina convoys whilst standing under the flags of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party.
Ali Mallah is Vice-President of the Canadian Arab Federation which supports the removal of Hamas and Hizballah from the list of proscribed terrorist organisations and an academic boycott of Israel. He is also a leader of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and a member of the ‘Gaza Freedom March Liaison Committee’.
George Rishmawi could be either of two well-known Palestinian activists – cousins – both of whom have connections to the ISM and – like Mazin Qumseiyeh above – the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement (PCR).
Salim Ghafouri from Iran acted as spokesman for the Asia to Gaza convoy. According to him, the “war with the Zionists” is not only an “Islamic-Zionist war,” but the showdown between the “truth,” represented by “the freedom-loving people of the world,” and the “lie,” represented by Israel and its supporters. Ghafouri also appears to be involved in advancing Iranian interests in Kashmir and has represented the ‘Iranian House of Latin America’ on visits to Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Shaheen Kattiparambil was another Indian participant in the Asia to Gaza Convoy, and together with Pandey and Mithiborwala, issued this statement on behalf of of the Indian chapter of GMJ following its meeting on January 23rd 2012. All three, along with the Student Islamic Organisation of India of which Kattiparambil is a member, are endorsers of the statement by the ‘India Lifeline to Gaza’ according to which:
The Palestinian people must have the freedom to exercise their right to self-determination including their right to establish on all the territories that Israel has occupied, an independent sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital. The structure of Zionist apartheid, based on ethno-religious discrimination that Israel has established, must be dismantled and it must grant equal rights to all its citizens, including the “Right of Return” to the Palestinians refugees.
Rami Zurayk is a Lebanese agronomist at the American University of Beirut who has taken part in ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ and is currently promoting this year’s events on Twitter, where his profile picture is of terrorist Leila Khaled, and on his blog.
Roohulla Rezvi from Iran is cited by Feroze Mithiborwala as having been instrumental (along with Salim Ghafouri) in securing Iranian support for the 2010 Asia to Gaza convoy.
Gauhar Iqbal is a functionary of the ‘Human Welfare Trust’ which is included in the social service wing of the Indian Jamat al Islami. He also took part in the Asai to Gaza Convoy and is pictured here first from the left.
Irman Abdurahman is also a graduate of the Asia to Gaza Convoy and is a member of the board of executives of the Indonesian Society for Palestine Freedom (aka the Voice of Palestine) which states on its website that “[n]ative inhabitants of historical Palestine are people that are expelled and dispossessed from their lands and houses by force. Since 100 years to date the ultra-nationalist Zionist movement with support of some colonial powers has been doing this brutal ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.” The Indonesian chapter of GMJ has a Facebook group featuring a book by Gilad Atzmon, a speech by Khamenei at the ‘Islamic Awakening and Youth’ conference and this graphic:
Part two of this report will focus on the European chapter of the Global March to Jerusalem.