Earlier this month we noted plans for an upcoming six-week long stunt dubbed the ‘Great Return March’ that has been organised by factions in the Gaza Strip and is primarily aimed at the international media.
“In the coming weeks, Hamas plans to set up tent encampments along the Gazan border with Israel, where thousands of the strip’s denizens will be housed, with the intention to march hundreds of Palestinians every day—including the elderly, women and children—to the border fence in “return marches.”
Not least in light of multiple incidents of border infiltration from Gaza during the past week (which have also gone unreported by the BBC), the likelihood of violent incidents is high – as explained by Yoni Ben Menachem:
“Its [Hamas’] basic premise is that the large media presence on the Palestinian side will provide enough protection for the Palestinian marchers to overcome the “fear barrier,” approach the border fence with Israel, and try to cross it.
In Hamas’ estimation, IDF soldiers will act with great caution and won’t use live ammunition due to the media presence among the marchers.
No country in the world would agree to tens of thousands of demonstrators, accompanied by various kinds of media, infiltrating their borders and trying to get into their territory. Hamas is making cynical use of Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip as cannon fodder against the IDF, who have to protect the border fence and cannot allow infiltration.”
In the meantime, the ITIC has noted a British link to Hamas’ plans.
“One of the activists involved in media preparations is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian activist based in Britain who is affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and who in the past played a central role in organizing convoys and flotillas to the Gaza Strip.”
Readers may recall that in addition to playing a role in convoys and flotillas, Zaher Birawi was also involved in the organisation of the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ and was previously director of the UK-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) – an organisation banned in Israel due to its Hamas affiliations.
More recently Birawi has been active in the role of chairman of the London-based EuroPal Forum – an organisation which appears to have replaced the Council for European Palestinian Relations (also banned by Israel) which became defunct after its director – Arafat Shoukri , who was also involved with the Palestinian Return Center – left the UK for Qatar (and a job with Al Jazeera) around 2014.
The JCPA reports that in addition to Birawi:
“…others connected to PRC and its initiatives are joined by other UK Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in the newly launched global “70th anniversary of the Nakba” Campaign. […]
On March 14, 2018, the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad held a press conference in Beirut, where it announced the launch of its “70th anniversary of the Nakba” Campaign […]. The campaign is held in cooperation with the Palestinians in Europe Conference […] Ziyad al-Aloul, a senior UK-based activist suspected of affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, serves as spokesman of the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad.”
Al Aloul has previously been involved with the Muslim Association of Britain (which was chaired by Birawi between 2001 and 2003) and the ‘European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza’ (ECESG) which participated in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla and with which Arafat Shoukri was also involved.
The JCPA notes that organisers of the ‘Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad’ also include Essam Youssef of the UK-based, BBC investigated charity ‘Interpal‘ and Majed al Zeer of the Palestinian Return Center.
Apparently though the BBC does not consider the connections of British based activists and organisations to a potentially incendiary publicity stunt staged by more than one designated terror group to be of interest even to its domestic audiences – and not least British MPs who supported the Palestinian Return Center’s successful bid to gain UN accreditation or those who have in the past been briefed by Zaher Birawi on topics such as “violence in the occupied territories” or attended ‘EuroPal’ events in Parliament.