Global March to Jerusalem: damage control begins

Ha’aretz reported the following on March 28th:

“Haaretz has learned that major disagreements have developed between leading, mostly Palestinian, protest organizers in the West Bank and neighboring Arab countries, and other activists identified with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

It has also been learned that the protest organizers, who are billing the event as the Global March to Jerusalem, are attempting to refine their protest message and avoid a physical confrontation with Israeli forces.”

…….

“On Tuesday, the organizers of international protest marches scheduled for Friday expressed concern that the demonstrations could get out of control due to the involvement of outside activists, some from as far away as East Asia.

The rift between the initial organizers and the outsiders developed after a delegation of pro-Palestinian activists from East Asia and some Arab countries promoting the Global March to Jerusalem arrived in Iran and met with a senior Iranian adviser to the country’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran promised support for the protest, which was not widely welcomed by the initial group of mostly Palestinian organizers of the protest, who wanted to maintain their independence.

Particular concern is being expressed that the outsiders will take over protest marches and seek confrontations on Israel’s borders, particularly the Lebanese and Syrian frontiers, and that the outsiders will convey messages contrary to the original organizers’ wishes.”

These claims are of course disingenuous. On January 17th & 18th 2012, Mustafa Barghouti and other Palestinian representatives attended the Global March to Jerusalem Central Committee meeting held in Beirut. The committee’s final communique clearly stated that:

“The conference was attended by members of the Central Committee and representatives from national and international committees for the march, representing a large number of Arab countries and various continents of the Globe.”

The International Central Committee and the International Executive Committee and National Committees which were ratified at that meeting already included members from Iran and with connections to Syria and Hizballah as well as several representatives from “as far away as East Asia”. George Galloway – a former Iranian regime Press TV employee with links to both Hizballah and the Syrian regime – spoke at the meeting and the event was covered by PressTV, to which at least one committee member gave an interview.

Pre-meeting publicity stated the intention to organize convoys – including from Asia.

“The conference will also discuss the national events and actions that will be launched in all countries starting from mid January, 2012 and until the date of the march towards Jerusalem or the nearest possible point to it, from inside Palestine and the neighbouring Arab countries, as well as the convoys from Asia, Africa and Europe that will converge on the march date.”

Barghouti himself produced a video at the meeting calling for world-wide participation in the march.

However, now apparently some Palestinian GMJ organisers would like to persuade us that they were unaware of the march’s extremist connections. For their benefit, here is the Beirut meeting report which they seemingly neglected to read.

GLOBAL MARCH TO JERUSALEM (G M J) / Beirut Meeting Report
VENUE: DAL AL NADWA, HAMRA, BEIRUT, LEBANON.

As part of our ongoing effort to build an international mass popular movement centred on Jerusalem, we convened our first collective gathering of leading representatives from across 15 nations & 4 continents.

The agenda was to build a people’s movement across the world, wherein the issue of Jerusalem comes to the centre stage of International politics. The Israeli occupation of Palestine, lies at the centre of the geo-political crisis of our times & at the heart of that conflict, lies the core issue of Jerusalem.

The International delegates included:
1) Mustapa Mansour (Malaysia)
2) Feroze Mithiborwala, Gauhar Iqbal & Shaheen Kattiparambil (India)
3) Sabir Ejaz Karbalai & Maulana Qazi Ahmed Nourani Siddiqui (Pakistan)
4) Salim Ghafouri & Roohulla Rezvi (Iran)
5) Yalkin Gok & Omer Kesmen (Turkey)
6) Dr. Ribhi Halloum & Saud Mahfuz (Jordan)
7) Maan Bashour, Isaam Namaan, Nabil Hallak, Dr. Ali Fayyad, Prof Mohsen Saleh, Ali Barakeh, Visam Hassan, Dr. Nasir Haider, Munir Shafique, Rihab Mokahal (& other names that brother Nabil needs to complete & add from the lists) – (Lebanon)
8) Palestinians were present from Jordan, Lebanon, UK & other countries of the diaspora.
9) Dr. Magdy Hossein (Egypt)
10) Khalid Soufiani & MansourI Abdelah (Morocco)
11) Algeria:
12) Zaher Birawi (UK)
13) Paul Larudee (USA)

We also discussed the process with Ronald Kesliris (South Africa), George Galloway, Ghada Karmi, Kevin Ovenden, Rob Hoveman(Britain), Rami Zurayk, DR. Haidar Dekmark, Dr. Yehya Ghaddar, Hisham Yacoub, Dr. Abdul Malaksukkarie (Lebanon), Dr Abbie Bakan(Canada), Fra Hughes (Ireland) amongst others, who we met at the “Palestine Summer University” or then at smaller meetings in Beirut at our hotel.

Continued here, including the expression of clear intentions to have an Asian convoy visit Iran.

 “For example, the Asian convoy starting from India, would have to embark by the 1st of March & wind its way across Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria & into Jordan & plan to arrive atleast 3 days prior to our stated date.”

‘Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe’ issues rallying call supporting Global March to Jerusalem

In a manner reminiscent of the way some animals and birds puff themselves up in order to appear larger to their adversaries, organisations associated with various organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem are issuing endorsements and statements which, at first glance, suggest a much wider support base than actually exists.

Into this category falls the March 22nd communique issued by the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) and reproduced on the GMJ website. The press release opens:

“The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) invites Muslims, and the management bodies of organisations, Islamic centres, and mosques across the European Continent to dedicate the last week in March 2012 to intensive activities in support of the city of Jerusalem (al-Quds) and the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque, given the escalating Israeli threats to the city, its holy sites, and the Palestinian inhabitants.

This initiative comes as part of worldwide efforts to support the just cause of Jerusalem, including the ’Global March to Jerusalem’ on 30 March 2012 in opposition to Israeli occupation and prevailing for the values of truth, justice, liberties of peoples, and human dignity.

The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) voices its deep concern regarding the situation in the city of Jerusalem, and the violations of the sanctity of the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque, and Muslim and Christian holy sites by the Israeli Occupation and its extremist groups. Furthermore, the Federation affirms its solidarity with the Palestinian people, demanding they be allowed to regain their stolen rights, and realise their legitimate demands. The Federation emphasises the importance of universal, concerted effort and cooperation to confront the arrogance of the Israeli occupation persisting in its unrestrained and aggressive policies against the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, as well as engaging in effective action to bring an end to these flagrant violations.”

The FIOE is, however, hardly an objective bystander. It is the umbrella organization of Muslim Brotherhood groups in Europe, with much of its funding coming from Gulf sources.   Several of the GMJ organisers are functionaries of one or more of those groups or branches of the Ikhwan elsewhere whilst still others among the GMJ organisers are members of or associated with Hamas – a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot.

In addition, the FIOE has ties to groups and personalities engaged in fundraising for Hamas.

Head of the Dublin-based ‘European Council for Fatwa and Research – established by FIOE in 1997 – is Yusuf Qaradawi, who also heads the ‘Union of Good’ which is banned by Israel and the United States because of its provision of funds to Hamas – a proscribed terror organization.

The ‘Union of Good’ includes the owners of the Mavi Marmara – the IHH – (representatives of which are among the GMJ organisers) and a British charity named ‘Education Aid for Palestinians’ of which GMJ spokesman Zaher Birawi is a trustee.

Qaradawi is of course noted for his extreme anti-Semitism, admiration for Hitler and homophobia. He resides in Qatar, where he has a regular slot on the regime-owned TV station Al Jazeera, and has recently been banned from entering France. 

The FIOE’s expression of support for the Global March to Jerusalem is, therefore, akin to a glowing review of a book on Amazon written by the author’s mother. 

Turkish delights for the Global March to Jerusalem in Istanbul.

As previously reported, the SE Asia delegation of the Global March to Jerusalem (which has picked up some Iranian fellow travellers along the way) is currently in Turkey.

One of the Iranian delegates has provided photographs of the caravan’s reception at a sports centre in Istanbul on March 25th.

The event appears to have been hosted by the Turkish organisation ‘Mazlumder’ – otherwise known as ‘The Organisation of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples’.

Mazlumder is part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s network in Turkey. It was founded in 1991 and declares itself to be associated with Islamist organisations tied to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and the Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan. Its chairman, Ahmet Faruk Unsal was an AKP member of parliament from 2002-2007 and is also a senior member of the Hamas supporting organization, IHH.

Mazlumder collaborated with the IHH and George Galloway’s ‘Viva Palestina’ on a 2010 convoy to Gaza, where its chairman Unsal was received by Hamas  leader Ismail Haniyeh, along with the IHH’s head Bulent Yildirim. Also present on the convoy was GMJ spokesman and known Hamas activist Zaher Birawi.  Ahmet Unsal also took part in the 2009 ‘Masjid Al Aqsa Symposium’  in Istanbul together with Raed Salah.

The wording on the banners decorating the reception’s venue therefore comes as little of a surprise.

Mixed messages about violence from the Global March to Jerusalem

In an interview with the Palestinian news agency Ma’an on March 19th, GMJ spokesman Zaher Birawi stated that the organisers are “not interested in confrontation with the Israeli army, after similar demonstrations a year earlier ended in bloodshed”.

Whilst it is difficult to imagine exactly what sort of effective controls the GMJ organisers have been able to put in place in order to prevent their aspired one million man march from descending into violence, it should also be taken into account that a considerable number of the GMJ organisers are veterans of the flotilla project who still describe the Turkish activists aboard the IHH-sponsored Mavi Marmara in 2010 as ‘humanitarian aid workers’.

Others are members of various ‘popular resistance committees’ which define the weekly riots at places such as Bil’in and Nebi Salah as ‘non-violent protest’. The heavy involvement of Hamas and the Iranian regime in the march’s organization, together with support from Hizbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad also raises doubts as to the sincerity of the professed commitment to non-violence.

Coincidentally, the North American chapter of the GMJ has put out a new leaflet replete with messages of non-violence and invoking Gandhi and Martin Luther King as role models. 

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When compared to the original publicity put out by the GMJ organisers, it is rather obvious that someone appears to have reached the conclusion that the North American audience is in need of a somewhat softer approach. 

Click to Enlarge

However, over in South East Asia, audiences are apparently deemed by local GMJ organisers as being susceptible to somewhat different messages in the attempt to raise support for the project.

In Kuala Lumpur on March 18th a flashmob of students gathered in order to “create awareness on the Global March to Jerusalem”.  Chairman of the Malaysian branch of the GMJ, Dr Mohd Tahir Abdul Rahman, was present at the event and made the following erroneous statement:

“Our focus is Jerusalem, where presently Muslims and Christians are denied access to their sacred places and holy places of worship by the Zionists,” he said after the flash mob today.”

The flashmob’s student organisers explained that:

“We wanted to create awareness about the oppression in Palestine by recreating scenes of the march toward Jerusalem and also show Palestinians being liberated”

As can be seen in the video of the event below, their idea of “scenes of the march toward Jerusalem” apparently includes dead Israeli soldiers.

Somebody obviously missed out on the ‘non-violence’ memo. 

Related articles

Global March to Jerusalem spokesman Zaher Birawi in Gaza

A New Zealand freelancer currently in the Gaza Strip has reported on a press conference held on March 12th by the GMJ Gaza National Committee (headed by Hamas member Ahmad Abo Halabiya) with the participation of GMJ organiser and spokesman Zaher Birawi from the United Kingdom. 

Birawi in Gaza on March 12th – second row, in the light blue jacket. Ahmad Abo Halabiyah is in the middle of the front row.

The press release:

Later, Birawi gave an interview to the reporter in which he accused Israel of trying to make Jerusalem the “capital of racism”, “for Jewish only”. 

IMRA interview with Global March to Jerusalem spokesman Zaher Birawi: March 8th, 2012

In relation to Zaher Birawi’s rather confused reaction to a statement concerning the ‘right of return’ in an official GMJ press release, see here, here and here