OpinionIsrael at War

Hamas in London

At least four groups with links to Hamas are reportedly behind several of the recent pro-Palestinian marches in the city.

Thousands in London attend an anti-Israel demonstration in the wake of war on Hamas, Oct. 14, 2023. Source: X.
Thousands in London attend an anti-Israel demonstration in the wake of war on Hamas, Oct. 14, 2023. Source: X.
Robert Williams
Robert Williams is a researcher based in the United States.

The pro-Hamas protests in London are not, apparently, as organic and spontaneous as their organizers would like them to seem.

At least four groups with links to Hamas are reportedly behind several of the marches: The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), the Palestinian Forum for Britain, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Friends of al-Aqsa. The same groups were behind the largest protest so far, on Nov. 11 in London, where it is estimated that around 300,000 people participated.

Supporting Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organization in the United Kingdom, could lead to up to 14 years in prison.

The MAB was co-founded and directed for almost a decade by Muhammad Kathem Sawalha, who in the late 1980s was a Hamas leader in Samaria in the West Bank, where he reportedly “masterminded” Hamas’s terrorist strategy. He fled to the United Kingdom in the late 1990s and, incredibly, obtained British citizenship, despite being on Israel’s most-wanted list.

The U.S. Department of Justice named Sawalha as a co-conspirator in the 2004 indictment of Hamas recruiter and financer Muhammad Salah, “for allegedly participating in a 15-year racketeering conspiracy in the United States and abroad to illegally finance terrorist activities in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including providing money for the purchase of weapons….

“All three defendants allegedly used bank accounts in the United States to launder millions of dollars for disbursement to support Hamas, which has publicly claimed credit for engaging in suicide bombings that resulted in the deaths of Israeli military personnel and civilians, as well as American and other foreign nationals in Israel and the West Bank.”

According to Israeli authorities, his son, Obada Sawalha, is now the MAB’s vice-president.

The Muslim Association of Britain has links to the Muslim Brotherhood—of which Hamas is also an offshoot. A 2015 U.K. government review of the Muslim Brotherhood reported:

“In the 1990s the Muslim Brotherhood and their associates established public facing and apparently national organisations in the UK to promote their views. None were openly identified with the Muslim Brotherhood and membership of the Muslim Brotherhood remained (and still remains) a secret. But for some years the Muslim Brotherhood shaped the new Islamic Society of Britain (ISB), dominated the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) and played an important role in establishing and then running the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). MAB became politically active, notably in connection with Palestine and Iraq, and promoted candidates in national and local elections.”

According to the Telegraph:

“Another of the Muslim Association of Britain’s three directors, Dr. Anas Altikriti, co-founded a group called the British Muslim Initiative with a senior commander in Hamas, Mohammed Sawalha, and Azzam Tamimi who has been described as a Hamas ‘special envoy’ in Britain.”

Another group behind the protest, the Palestinian Forum for Britain, is led by Zaher Birawi, who was designated by Israel as a terrorist in 2013. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center described Birawi as a “Hamas-affiliated Palestinian” in 2017, when Birawi was in charge of the so-called flotillas to Gaza, which he oversaw as part of Hamas’s propaganda effort.

The Meir Amit Center wrote in 2017:

“Birawi was recently interviewed by Felesteen, Hamas’ daily newspaper. He discussed, among other things, the many current difficulties in dispatching flotillas to the Gaza Strip, but tried to minimize their significance and importance. He said the flotillas’ main goal is propaganda aimed at keeping the Palestinians, the Gaza Strip and the ‘siege’ as ‘live’ topics in international public discourse. According to Birawi, the objectives of the flotillas are to defame Israel, and to increase the effect of the political and media campaigns accompanying the flotillas…

“[T]he real aim of the Mavi Marmara was not to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, but rather for propaganda and political capital: to demonstrate support for Hamas, to exert pressure on Israel to unilaterally change its policy of closure on the Gaza Strip; to create sympathy in the media for the suffering of the Palestinians resulting from the ‘siege’ and to deepen Israel’s isolation.”

Birawi met Ismail Haniyeh and other leaders of the terror group in Gaza in 2012.

The real reason for the Mavi Marmara flotilla, of course—the reason Israel stopped it—was not propaganda.

Turkey’s supposedly humanitarian relief organization, the IHH, turned out to be secretly carrying weapons to Gaza. Israel had first offered the flotilla to dock in the port of Ashdod for inspection. There appear to be propaganda counter-efforts to suppress information about the attempted arms transfer.

Too often, unfortunately, those many propaganda goals evidently correspond to what the organizations behind the never-ending pro-Hamas protests in London—and around the world—seek to obtain: Creating sympathy for Hamas and the Gazans, demonizing Israel, which is fighting terrorism for all of us so that we will not have to, and increasing pressure for a permanent ceasefire that will enable Hamas to survive.

Two former leaders of the third group behind the protest, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, reportedly met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza in 2012.

The fourth group behind the protests is the Friends of al-Aqsa (FOA). According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:

“Is an anti-Israeli NGO established in Britain in 1997… the FOA qualifies Israel’s policy as ‘apartheid’, supports Hamas and the ‘resistance’ (i.e., terrorism), and seeks to put an end to Israel’s existence as the state of the Jewish people under the title of ‘liberation of Palestine’. Similarly to other organizations taking part in the delegitimization effort, the FOA attempts to conceal and play down its real objectives by fine-tuning its rhetoric for Western ears and using such terms as ‘peace in Palestine’, ‘respect for international law’, ‘respect for human rights, and ‘implementation of UN resolutions.'”

FOA’s leader, Ismail Patel, has met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.

All of the above prompted critics to demand that the protests be canceled. According to Sky News, half of all Britons wanted the march that took place on Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, to be banned. Sir Mark Rowley, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, however, apparently saw no grounds to ban it.

This extremely lax relationship of the British police towards Hamas-affiliated groups in Britain is dangerous to the United Kingdom itself.

At the beginning of December, Israel sent personal letters to about 20 European leaders, including the United Kingdom, that included evidence of the terrorist activity of Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in European cities. The letter stated:

“Since the [Oct. 7] massacre, calls for violence against Jews worldwide have increased by 120%—a shocking statistic. Unfortunately, Hamas’s bloodlust is not limited to Israel and Jews but also extends to Europe and Christians. I want to remind you that in the past, Hamas members expressed the Islamic intention to conquer Europe….”

Tzur Bar-Oz, head of the Research and Foreign Relations Division at the Israeli Diaspora Affairs Ministry, added in the letter:

“Hamas has been operating for many years worldwide, mainly through covert humanitarian donations. It is a complex network of hatred operating in many countries, including Western and highly democratic ones. This phenomenon must be uprooted and eradicated as soon as possible.”

Uprooting Hamas in the United Kingdom anytime in the near future, given the lack of enthusiasm that the Met Police have shown in the wake of the pro-Hamas demonstrations, sadly seems unlikely.

“Speeches at pro-Palestinian rallies in the UK might have glorified terrorism” according to the U.K. government’s independent reviewer of terrorism.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to his immense credit, as soon as the pro-Hamas demonstrations began in the United Kingdom, said:

“Inciting violence, racial hatred, is illegal. People who are acting in an abusive or threatening manner causing distress are breaking the law. The police have the power and the tools that they need to ensure they can stop that from happening and you will see that in full force in the coming days to make sure anyone who breaks the law meets the full force of that law.”

While the Met Police have made some arrests, they have overall allowed the chanting of terrorist slogans to continue at the many weekly protests. On one occasion, police even tried to explain away the meaning of chants of “jihad” that had occurred at one Hizb-ut Tahrir protest:

“The individual has not been arrested with the Met saying the word jihad has ‘a number of meanings’, and specialist counter-terrorism officers had not identified any offences arising from it. Instead, officers spoke to the man to ‘discourage any repeat of similar chanting.'”

In London, it is still appeasement time.

Originally published by The Gatestone Institute.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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