Published: february 21, 2010; Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
For more than a decade, Britain (especially London) has been a focus for Hamas’ political, propaganda and even legal activities in Europe. As far as Hamas is concerned, such activities have been successful and produced results. In fact, in recent years, Hamas, with Muslim Brotherhood support, has managed to take over a considerable portion of the Palestinian discourse in Britain, at the expense of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, and has contributed to turning Britain into a center for extensive anti-Israeli activity.
In our assessment, Britain is central for Hamas because it has the following advantages:
A. Britain has freedom of political action and freedom of speech, which enable Hamas to promote its anti-Israeli activity with impunity and to exploit Britain’s democratic policies in order to spread vicious incitement against Israel and the Jews. They do so despite the fact that the European Union has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization without differentiating between Hamas’ political and military-terrorist wings. Hamas and its Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades are included in updated EU list (January 26, 2009), which deals with terrorist groups and entities. Therefore, Hamas’ activity in Britain should have been banned, but the the British legal system is very tolerant, and radical Islamic groups operating on its soil, including Hamas, exploit it.
B. A broad network of activists and supporters: Initially composed of a core of Hamas operatives who found refuge in Britain in the 1990s, it is aided by radical Islamic elements (most conspicuously by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ parent organization), along with radical leftist organizations hostile to Israel and the West. They make it possible for Hamas and its ideology to infiltrate British politics, media and universities. Hamas has supporters in the British political system affiliated with the radical left such as George Galloway, Ken Livingstone,1 Jenny Tonge and Jeremy Corbin.2
C. As far as the media are concerned, Britain is one of the most important centers in the world, especially for the Arabic-language press, television and Internet. By exploiting the Arab media operating in London and by issuing its own publications, Hamas gained the capabilities to spread its message to the Muslim communities in the West and its target audiences in the Middle East.
D. As far as legal aspects are concerned, Hamas exploits the British legal system, which enables it to use British courts to bring suits against senior Israeli political and military figures on accusations of so-called “war crimes.” Thus for Hamas (through its network of local supporters), Britain is a convenient arena in which the Goldstone Report can be employed to make political and propaganda capital against Israel, using it as a basis for trying Israeli public figures and delegitimizing the State of Israel.
In the extensive anti-Israeli activity undertaken by Hamas in Britain, the movement is careful to hide its identity to keep from running afoul of the British legal system and authorities. For that reason its activists and supporters (including those who were formerly Hamas operatives) are careful not to identify themselves formally as Hamas activists, preferring to appear as supporters of the Palestinian cause, identifying it with Hamas’ ideology and policies.
The following are examples of Hamas activity:
A. Hamas propaganda from Britain directed at the Middle East and the Arab-Muslim communities in Europe and around the world:
1) An online bi-weekly Hamas magazine is published in London. Called Al-Fateh, it is aimed at children, who a very important Hamas target audience. The magazine does not specifically say it is affiliated with Hamas, but its contents are clearly Hamas-oriented. The homepage of Hamas’ main site, Palestine-Info, has a permanent link to Al-Fateh’s website. Its articles inculcate children with the ideology of Hamas and radical Islam, and from an early age teach them the path of violence and terrorism. Its founder and editor-in-chief is Sami al-Halabi (as noted on the site’s homepage). That is apparently a pseudonym for Abdallah al-Tantawi (who was a senior Muslim Brotherhood figure in Syria in the mid-1990s).3 Al-Fateh receives Internet services from a site located in Moscow.4
2) The monthly Filastin al-Muslima, Hamas’ main publication, has been issued in London since 1981. It spreads hate propaganda against Israel and encourages terrorism and terrorists. It is published in both hard copy and online. In the past its address in London appeared on the front page but currently no address is listed. However, subscription prices for Britain, Europe, the United States and Canada are all listed in pounds sterling (as of January 2010), an indication that its activity is still centered in Britain. The paper also owns a publishing house called Filastin al-Muslima Publications which in the past issued books glorifying the deeds of Hamas operatives (such as Salah Shahadeh, Yehia Ayash and Imad Aqel) and praising suicide bombing terrorism (in which Hamas played a leading role). It is unclear whether the publishing house continues its activity in Britain. Its ISP is the same Russian company which provides Internet services for Al-Fateh.5
3) Hamas’ propaganda activity in Britain enjoys the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, its radical parent movement. The support is manifested by its dissemination of propaganda via, among other things, the satellite channel Al-Hiwar. It is an Arabic channel operating from London affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. It appeals to Muslims all over the world, especially in Europe, but is also received by some Middle Eastern countries. It spreads radical Islamic messages and hatred for Israel. Muhammad Sawalha, a Hamas activist living in Britain, is a permanent guest on the channel’s programs. Two senior employees of the TV channel help Hamas spread its messages: Zaher Birawi, a Hamas activist who fled to Britain, is in charge of programming and the channel’s chief presenter; and Dr. Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood activist who also fled to Britain, founded the channel and has headed it since 2006. A year ago the British regulator for television broadcasts determined that the channel’s open support for Qassam rocket fire into Israeli territory was a violation of British broadcasting law. Support for rocket fire into Israeli was expressed by Rashad al-Ghanoushi, head of the Tunisian Al-Nadha movement, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.6 However, Al-Hiwar continued spreading calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and praising the path of “resistance” (i.e., terrorism)
B. Involvement in (and possibly initiating) legal actions to try senior Israelis in British courts: Dia’a al-Din Madhoun, head of the Hamas’ “documentation committee” (Al-Tawthiq) said that the committee had initiated suits in British courts against former Minister Tsipi Livni when it became known that she planned to visit Britain on December 13, 2009. He said that the committee was working in coordination with a lawyer in Britain named Tayib Ali and a group of other lawyers.7 Hamas’ “documentation committee” seems to provide such lawyers with “evidence” (concocted by the de facto Hamas administration) as “legal” foundations for trying Israelis. Tayib Ali is active in forums in Britain working to try so-called Israeli “war criminals,” and to that end, on December 7, 2009 lectured at a seminar to promote trials of “Israeli war criminals” under the sponsorship of a group called The Middle East Monitor.
C. Involvement in anti-Israeli activity in universities: In our assessment, Hamas’ involvement in university activity is carried out through radical leftist organizations and radical Islamic elements (such as activists affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood). Their activities include anti-Israeli incitement (through Hamas-supporting speakers who appear at university functions or student activities), initiatives for academic boycotts of Israel and for supporting the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip. Hints of Hamas involvement can be seen in the London School of Economics’ Student Union decision on November 26, 2009, to twin with the Islamic University in Gaza, Hamas’ political and military stronghold in the Gaza Strip. The Student Union of Queen Mary College followed in their footsteps (December 8, 2008). Both institutions are part of London University.8
D. Transferring money to Hamas’ social infrastructure (the da’wah) in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories through Interpal, a Hamas-affiliated fund in Britain: Interpal, which was outlawed in Israel and the United States, is one of Hamas’ main foundations and for many years has been raising money and channeling it into Hamas’ social infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories.11 It is also included in the Union of Good, an umbrella organization for dozens of Islamic funds and foundations around the globe which support Hamas’ da’wah. In recent years, since the Salam Fayyad government replaced the boards of directors of Hamas’ charitable societies in Judea and Samaria with activists affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, Interpal has reduced its activity, resulting in funds drying up for charitable societies previously run by Hamas. That again illustrates Interpal’s fundamentally political nature and shows that its primary function is to strengthen Hamas’ civilian infrastructure.
E. Providing money and material support for the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip through Lifeline convoys: The convoys are dispatched to the Gaza Strip by an organization called Viva Palestina, founded by pro-Hamas British MP George Galloway. The Lifeline-3 convoy left London on December 6, 2009, with participants from many countries and large amounts of vehicles and equipment. Its activists became involved in violent confrontations with Egyptian security forces in El-Arish, resulting in injuries to 50 of them. On January 8, 2010 Galloway was expelled from Egypt and declared persona non grata. On April 13, 2009, a conference was held in the Town Hall in Kensington, London, entitled “Victory in Gaza – Our Road to Jerusalem.” At the conference George Galloway reported he had transferred £1.4 million to Ismail Haniya, “the elected prime minister of Palestine.”12 Having learned the lesson of Lifeline-3’s confrontation with Egypt, Muhammed Kazem Sawalha, the senior Hamas activist in Britain noted above, who had also played an important role in dispatching the convoy, said that preparations had begun to send another one. He said it would come by sea from Turkey, Greece and Cyprus at the end of March 2010, and be composed of six or seven ships. He said that coming by sea would prevent an “unwanted confrontation” with Egypt, and that “next time, there will be a direct confrontation with the Zionist enemy on the high seas” (From an interview with Sawalha on Al-Intiqad, a Hezbollah website, January 17, 2010). George Galloway also said that he planned to send other convoys to the Gaza Strip during the coming year.
Hamas Activists in Britain
Prominent at the center of the broad activity described above are several former Hamas activists who found refuge in Britain at the beginning of the 1990s. They include Muhammad Kazem Sawalha, Dr. Azzam al-Tamimi, Zaher Khaled Hassan al-Birawi (who is also head of the board of trustees of the Palestinian Return Centre) and Majid Khalil Musa al-Zir (head of the Palestinian Return Centre). They all hold key positions in a long list of anti-Israeli Islamic organizations active in Britain.
Because of security considerations and not to find themselves exposed to legal and political difficulties with the British authorities, the above are careful to hide their Hamas pasts and their connections with the movement. However, throughout the years intelligence information has linked them to official Hamas elements. All four are active in anti-Israeli groups and organizations in Britain which serve Hamas’ propaganda effort.
A clear example of a Hamas activist who escaped from the Palestinian Authority-administered territories and became a prominent figure in Britain is Muhammad Kazem Sawalha. He was a senior Hamas operative in Judea and Samaria, which caused him to be wanted by the Israeli security services. In 1990 he fled to Britain using forged documents and has lived there ever since. He is deeply involved in the Muslim community in Britain and in large-scale anti-Israeli activities, which include incitement and organizing demonstrations (although in public he is careful not to describe himself as a Hamas activist). Some of his activities in Britain in the past few years were the following:13
A. On March 19, 2004, the Muslim Brotherhood website referred to him as the “UK official (mas’ul) of the Political Committee of the International Muslim Brotherhood Organisation in the UK“14 (Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood).
B. He was one of the founders of the Muslim Association of Britain, an organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and headed it from 1999 to 2007. After that he became the chairman of an organization called the British Muslim Initiative (BMI).
C. On July 21, 2007, he appeared on Hamas’ Palestine-Info website as head of the International Committee to Lift the Siege on the Gaza Strip.
D. In July 2009 he was reported as deputy chairman of an organization called The Popular Committee in Support of the Palestinian People, which describes itself as coordinating between many organizations and institutions all over the world for the sake of “the victory of Palestine” and to “lift the siege of Gaza” (The organization’s website gave in-depth coverage to the aid convoy which arrived in Gaza at the beginning of January 2010, headed by British MP George Galloway).
E. He was one of the signers of the Istanbul Declaration: On February 13, 2009, a meeting was held in Istanbul attended by Islamic groups from all over the world. Representatives signed a document proclaiming the “victory” of Hamas in Gaza (i.e., in Operation Cast Lead) and stating that the jihad in Gaza was part of the jihad being waged by Islam around the globe. The declaration included support for the “resistance (i.e., terrorism) throughout the world and for a jihad against Israel until the “liberation of all Palestine.” It also supported Hamas and opposition to peace with Israel, which was described as a betrayal of Palestine and all Muslims.16
Fostering the image of terrorist operatives and encouraging rocket fire into Israeli territory: Filastin al-Muslima, like Hamas’ other media, fosters the image of terrorist operatives and represents them as role models. The February 2010 issue contains an article about the shaheed Hassan Muhammad Harb, who was killed by the IDF. It said he “participated in many jihad missions of firing mortar shells and Grad missiles at the Zionist settlements” (Note: Responding to the Goldstone Report, Hamas denied that Israeli civilians were targeted by rocket fire…). It also said that he was considered expert at firing mortar shells and was very active in firing rockets during Operation Cast Lead.
Smearing Israel at the Universities: Azzam al-Tamimi Lectures at Cambridge
Dr. Azzam al-Tamimi, 55, is a Palestinian born in Hebron, a Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood activist who found refuge in Britain at the beginning of the 1990s. He received a PhD in political theory from Westminster University in London in 1998. He was an activist and speaker for Islamic organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan in the 1990s. In Britain he is active in Islamic and Palestinian political and propaganda issues. He has expressed support for the Taliban, the Islamic insurgents in Iraq, Hezbollah and Hamas on many occasions. He apparently maintains close ties with Hamas leaders, including Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau. In the past he has rejected the right of the State of Israel to exist, called for the establishment of an Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip and expressed support for suicide bombing terrorism. In 1998 he headed an institution called The Institute of Islamic Political Thought.
Dr. Al-Tamimi was recently invited to speak at Cambridge by the University’s Muslim Society.9 On January 8, 2010, he spoke to students at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, better known as SOAS. He praised Hamas, saying that “today Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation because that’s what the Americans and Israelis and cowardly politicians of Europe want, but what is so terrorist about it? You shouldn’t be afraid of being labelled extreme, radical or terrorist. If fighting for your home land is terrorism, I take pride in being a terrorist. The Koran tells me if I die for my homeland, I’m a martyr and I long to be a martyr.” He also expressed objection to the two-state solution, saying “Why are the Jews superhuman and better than anyone else that God would give them a homeland? Is God a racist? A god who would prefer people because of their race is not a god I want to associate with. Claiming they are being given the land of God is a racist idea (ITIC emphasis).” He added that “Israel does not belong to my homeland and must come to an end. This can happen peacefully if they acknowledge what they did — or we will continue to struggle until Israel is no more (ITIC emphasis).”10
1 George Galloway is a pro-Hamas member of the British Parliament, who played a key role in the assistance convoy Lifeline-3 which was sent to the Gaza Strip. The convoy participants confronted the Egyptian authorities and Galloway was declared personal non grata. Ken Livingstone is an anti-Israel member of the radical left who until 2008 was mayor of London, and a former Labour MP, from which he was dismissed in 2000. As part of Hamas’ smile attack for the West, Livingstone interviewed Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus. The interview was published in the New Statesman on September 17, 2009. It features vicious anti-Israeli propaganda and evades all clarification of Hamas’ radical ideology for the British reader. For further information see the September 23, 2009 bulletin, “Hamas’ smile attack for the West: Ken Livingstone interviews Khaled Mashaal, a case study” at Downloads. (by ITIC).
2 Jenny Tonge is a former Liberal MP who recently called on Israel to appoint its own inquire committee to examine claims of organ theft by the Israeli humanitarian delegation in Haiti. Former Foreign Minister Labour MP Jeremy Corbin is active in promoting the struggle against the so-called Israeli “siege” of the Gaza Strip and was very acting in trying to bring former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni trial for war crimes.
3 According to the February 2005 issue of Al-Ra’ed, an Islamic paper published in Germany, Abdallah al-Tantawi founded Al-Fateh in September 2002, helped found several other Islamic-oriented children’s publications and served as their editor-in-chief. According to the paper, one of the publication was called Firas and Abdallah al-Tantawi customarily wrote for it using the pseudonym Sami al-Halabi “for political reasons” (i.e., to make it difficult to expose him). The paper also stated that with the founding of Al-Fateh al-Tantawi made his first Internet appearance.
4 Network access provider: MASTAK OJSC/Sitek Global Network Moscow
5 See Footnote No. 4.
7 Al-Tayib Ali, 34, works for a law firm in London. His name was mentioned in the past as being behind the arrest warrant for Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak when he visited Britain for a Labour Party event in September 2009. A group of pro-Palestinian lawyers brought a suit in London calling for the arrest of Defense Minister Barak on charges of so-called “war crimes” during Operation Cast Lead. One of the lawyers, Al-Tayib Ali, said he was disappointed the suit was rejected, and hinted that other suits might be brought against Barak when he finished his term of office and would no longer enjoy diplomatic immunity (Agence France-Presse, September 30, 2009). According to the July 19, 2009 issue of the British Law Society Gazette, Ali represents two Al-Qaeda terrorists who claim they were tortured during interrogation.
8 For further information see the January 13, 2010 post “Militant Anti-Israeli Campaign Being waged on British Campuses” at Militant Anti-Israeli Campaign Being waged on British Campuses.
9 While Dr. Azzam Tamimi was invited to speak, the invitation extended to Israeli historian Professor Benny Morris by the Israeli Student Society was cancelled (see below). The anti-Semitic atmosphere at prominent British universities was obvious from the hostile reception recently given to Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at Oxford. His speech was interrupted by shouts of hatred for Israel and the Jews from demonstrators waving the Palestinian flag. (According to media reports, during his speech someone shouted “Slaughter the Jews.”)
10 See: The Jewish Student Society criticized the Cambridge University Muslim Student Society because a few days before Tamimi’s lecture, the Muslim Society urged the Israeli Society to cancel the invitation it had extended to Professor Morris, claiming he was “an Islamophobic hate speaker.” The invitation was cancelled but the Muslim students invited Tamimi, whose speech had strong elements of anti-Semitic anti-Israeli incitement. When Cambridge Islamic Society was asked by the Israel Society to revoke Dr Tamimi’s invitation, the response was: “Yes, we know he’s offensive but we welcome you to attend and challenge.” According to Labour MP Dennis MacShane said that “University chiefs are being foolish if they confuse freedom of expression with a platform for hate.”
11 For further information see the ITIC’s December 2004 study of Interpal at Interpal. (by ITIC).
13 For further information see the February 01, 2010 post “Hamas initiates anti-Israeli activities in Europe” at Hamas Initiates Anti-Israeli Activities in Europe.