UK to J'lem: Request probe of group 'with Hamas ties'

Despite Barak signing order deeming London-based Palestine Return Centre illegal, Israel hasn't asked British to investigate terror connections.

hamas man 311 (photo credit: AP)
hamas man 311
(photo credit: AP)
LONDON – The British government has invited Israel to submit a formal request that it investigate a London-based organization that Jerusalem accuses of being affiliated with Hamas and “complicit” in terrorist activities.
The Foreign Office told The Jerusalem Post this week that Israel had not yet raised any concerns or asked Britain to launch an investigation into the work of the Palestine Return Centre (PRC), despite Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s signing an order last month declaring it an illegal association.
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In the order, Israel said the PRC was closely affiliated with Hamas and involved in “initiating and organizing violent activity against Israel in Europe while delegitimizing Israel’s status as a nation among the European community.”
“The Israeli government has not raised with the Foreign Office any concerns regarding the Palestinian Returns Centre,” a spokesman told the Post.
The Foreign Office said that if the government of Israel were to bring up the issue with Britain, it would certainly investigate.
“If they [Israel] were to raise their concerns or pass any evidence to us of illegal activity, we would of course look into the issue, working with the relevant authorities in the UK,” it said.
Israel also said that among other terror-related activities, the PRC organizes many conferences in various European countries for Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood activists from around the world, along with active members of the center.
According to Israel, “the participants mostly include Hamas fundraising representatives in Europe, and even representatives of the Hamas organization from the Gaza Strip. The PRC officially declares its sole mission as being a means of promoting the issue of Palestinian refugees.
However in reality, the center functions as Hamas’s organizational branch in Europe and its members are senior Hamas leaders who promote the movement’s agenda in Europe, and directly interact with various Hamas leaders, particularly from Damascus.”
On Saturday, the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is set to host an anti-Israel conference organized by the PRC.
A host of anti-Israel activists will be taking part in the one-day conference, titled “The Ongoing Nekba” (catastrophe).
The university told the Post that the PRC was able to use the school’s facilities, as it was not a “proscribed organization.” The SOAS also highlighted that Israel had not raised the issue with the British government.
“SOAS has spoken with the Foreign Office about the PRC, and we understand that the Israeli government has not raised any concerns with them regarding this organization, nor is it listed as a proscribed organization by the Home Office,” the school said in a statement.
“SOAS is a popular conference venue for a range of organizations, including government agencies, other universities, not-for- profit groups and professional development providers,” it continued. “Those holding events at SOAS must follow the correct booking procedures and abide by the school’s strict code of conduct. SOAS does not tolerate hate speech or incitement to violence of any kind.”
The Reut Institute, a Tel Avivbased research and strategy organization that advises the government, has recommended that Israel lead a campaign to expose the Hamas presence in London – to “out, name and shame” leaders of campaigns that undermine the Jewish state’s existence by exposing their backgrounds and agendas.
Eran Shayshon, a senior analyst at Reut, told the Post on Thursday that the PRC’s activity in London contributed dramatically to London’s status as a key delegitimization hub – a matter the institute highlighted in a major report it published in November, reiterating that the PRC was a Hamas-affiliated organization central also to Muslim Brotherhood operations in the UK.
“The result of this activity is that the Hamas narrative has made significant inroads in mainstreaming itself within the London Muslim community,” he said.
“A further result is that in the eyes of some elements within Britain’s liberal elite, Hamas represents the sole authentic and legitimate Palestinian representative – as may also be indicated by the fact that a university in London hosts their event,” Shayshon added.
According to Israel, the PRC’s leaders include prominent Hamas activists such as Majed al-Zeer, Zaher Birawi and Majdi Akeel.
“Another activist, Assan Paur, also serves as a member of the Interpal Board of Trustees, also deemed a terrorist organization by Israel and the US on account of its direct involvement with Hamas global funding,” the order claimed.
Israel also claimed that the PRC was a leading contributor to a group called the European Campaign for Ending the Siege on Gaza (ECESG), and had been involved in transporting one of its main activists, Arafar Madi, to plan the violent confrontation on the Mavi Marmara ship during the Gaza flotilla incident in May.
“They had worked in cooperation with the IHH Foundation in Turkey, as well as other Hamas fundraising bodies within Europe and around the world,” the order stated.
Based in northwest London, the PRC was established in 1996 by Palestinian academic Salman Abu-Sitta. According to a report published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs last month, titled “Mapping the Organizational Sources of the Global Delegitimization Campaign Against Israel in the UK,” Abu-Sitta often equates Israel with Nazis and asserts that the “Palestinian Holocaust is unsurpassed in history.”
The report, written by Bar- Ilan University academic Ehud Rosen, identifies five of the PRC’s trustees – Zeer, Birawi, Akeel, Arafat Shukri and Ghassan Fa’war – as having a “clear” Muslim Brotherhood background.
At its London conference in 2009, the PRC invited MEP Kristina Morvai, leader of the far-Right Hungarian nationalist party Jobbik and ally of British Nationalist Party leader Nick Griffin.
In July of that year, Haaretz quoted Morvai as saying: “I would be glad if the so-called proud Hungarian Jews would go back to playing with their tiny little circumcised tail rather than vilifying me.”