FIVE FACES BEHIND THE GAZA PROTEST
SEVERAL groups are coorganising this weekend’s proPalestine march through London, amid fears of clashes with Right-wing groups. The groups’ leaders include:
1. ISMAIL PATEL
Among the organising groups of this weekend’s pro- Palestine march is The Friends of al-Aqsa, founded by Leicester-based activist Ismail Patel. In 2009, Mr Patel told a rally: ‘Hamas is no terrorist organisation… we salute Hamas for standing up to Israel.’
In 2009, it was only the military wing of Hamas that had been designated as a terrorist organisation.
Mr Patel also said at the time that ‘we are all Hamas’ and he attacked the Board of Deputies for ‘bringing shame’ on Jews by supporting Israel.
2. DR ANAS ALTIKRITI
Another group organising Saturday’s march, the Muslim Association of Britain, lists Dr Anas Altikriti as a director on Companies House.
Dr Altikriti defended Hamas in a
2009 piece for The Guardian newspaper, claiming that Hamas ‘supports democracy’ and calling for Britain to build diplomatic bridges with the terror group. No elections have been held in Gaza since Hamas took control.
Dr Altikriti is also a founder of the Cordoba Foundation, which has been linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2009, David Cameron said in the Commons that the Cordoba Foundation was a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Both the Muslim Association of
Britain and the Cordoba Foundation have denied any links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
3. ZAHER BIRAWI
One of the leading figures of a group co- organising Saturday’s march, Zaher Birawi was recently described in the House of Commons as a ‘senior Hamas operative’.
The 62-year-old is linked to various pro-Palestine organisations and charities, including the Palestinian Forum for Britain, which is
one of six groups helping to plan this weekend’s demonstration. In 2017, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre (an Israeli research group) said Mr Birawi was ‘affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas’.
He was designated by Israel as a senior Hamas operative in Europe in 2013, Labour MP Christian Wakeford told the Commons recently.
The Meir Amit dossier on the activist said: ‘He has extensive experience in dispatching flotillas from Europe to the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of “breaking the siege” of the Gaza Strip.’
Mr Birawi, who lives in Barnet, north London, has previously criticised Israel’s designation and defended the Gaza freedom flotillas as human rights activism.
4. BEN JAMAL
In 2016, Ben Jamal became the first Palestinian appointed as director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). The son of an Anglican priest says his father’s family of Christian Arabs were driven out of Jerusalem in 1948.
Mr Jamal’s great-uncle, Shibli Jamal, was the secretary to a Palestinian delegation which came to Britain in 1921 to negotiate with Winston Churchill – then secretary of state for the colonies – to overturn the Balfour declaration, a British pledge to establish ‘a national home for the Jewish people’ in Palestine. The delegation held the first pro-Palestinian
rally in Hyde Park at the time, Mr Jamal wrote on the PSC website.
5. PROFESSOR KAMEL HAWWASH
THE PSC is headed by British Palestinian engineering academic Kamel Hawwash, who is based at the University of Birmingham.
Professor Hawwash, who was head of the School of Civil Engineering between 2008 and 2011, is also a founding member of the British Palestinian Policy Council.
In 2017, he became one of the first people denied entry to Israel under a controversial law banning supporters of the boycott movement.
Professor Hawwash had been trying to visit relatives in east Jerusalem with his wife and five-year-old son for the Easter holidays but was detained and forced to fly back to Britain.