A British newspaper has disclosed that a former Hamas chief is linked to one of the groups organizing anti-Israel protests scheduled in London on Nov. 11—Armistice Day, or the day of remembrance, which aligns with Veterans Day in the United States.
Muhammad Kathem Sawalha, who led the proscribed terrorist group in Judea and Samaria in the late 1980s, is alleged to have been instrumental in devising Hamas’s military strategy. Sawalha, whose involvement has been reported as recently as 2019, currently resides in a London property that he purchased from the local authority with a discount, subsidized by the state.
Sawalha is a founder of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), one of six groups organizing the Nov. 11 march. Israeli authorities have said that Sawalha’s son, Obada Sawalha, is the vice president of MAB.
The revelation raises significant concerns, with half of the groups behind the Armistice Day march potentially having Hamas links, per The Telegraph. Despite calls from the Metropolitan Police to cancel the event, the groups are moving forward with their plans.
The elder Sawalha, 62, directed MAB from 1999 to 2007 and played a pivotal role in its foundation after he gained British citizenship in the early 2000s. The BBC program “Panorama” reported in 2006 that he was believed to have “masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy.”
In 2004, Sawalha was named as a co-conspirator in a U.S. indictment, alleging that he had assisted in financing Hamas. He was also part of an official Hamas delegation to Moscow in 2019 and served on the Hamas politburo between 2013 and 2017.
A 2015 British government review revealed that the MAB, founded in 1997, had been “dominated” by the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that the report found had made “support for Hamas” a priority. The Muslim Brotherhood is the parent organization of Hamas; associations with it have been considered a potential indicator of extremism by the UK government.
The MAB claims to “oppose terrorism and extremism in all its forms.”
Zaher Birawi, a leader of the Palestinian Forum in Britain, another group involved in organizing the Armistice Day march, has been described as a “senior Hamas operative in Europe” designated by Israel in 2013. He currently resides in Barnet in North London, close to Sawalha. Birawi allegedly met with Hamas’s senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza in 2012 and was photographed alongside him.
The Friends of Al-Aqsa, a third group behind the protest, is chaired by Ismael Patel, a Leicester-based optician, who has also visited Haniyeh in Gaza and participated in the Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla incident in May 2010.
According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the Friends of Al-Aqsa harbors an intense hatred for Israel, campaigns for its elimination, denies its Jewish character and supports the Hamas terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip.