Hamas-affiliated network in Europe fails to gaslight Swedes - opinion

The annual European Palestinians Conference (EPC) took place in Malmo, Sweden last month. The Conference's sole aim was to unjustly demonize the State of Israel.

 Amin Abu Rashid (right) with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh  (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Amin Abu Rashid (right) with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)

On May 27th, the annual European Palestinians Conference (EPC) took place in Malmo, Sweden, the sole aim of which was to unjustly demonize the State of Israel. Attendance, however, was less than the EPC anticipated, after news spread about the conference’s links to the EU-designated Hamas terrorist organization, causing several Swedish parliamentarians to quickly withdraw their attendance, rightfully hesitant to tarnish their reputations by sharing a stage with terror-linked individuals.

After years of casually spreading Hamas-laden propaganda throughout Europe, perhaps finally, the danger that EPC poses will be taken seriously. But in order for that to happen, the truth about the EPC must be exposed.

The most troubling aspect of the EPC is that its President, Amin Abou Rashed, is a former member of the Al-Aqsa Foundation Netherlands, a Hamas network led by the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader Yusuf Qardawi before his death. The foundation was designated by the US Department of Treasury as part of a coalition of organizations fundraising on behalf of Hamas. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that Abou Rashed has been repeatedly photographed embracing Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at Hamas events.

For this and other reasons, Israel’s Defense Ministry designated Abou Rashed as a terrorist in 2013. The Ministry also designated EPC Secretary General, Dr. Mazen Kahel, as a terrorist due to his Hamas affiliation. 

The EPC’s issues also extend to the groups that comprise it. Since its first annual conference in 2003, the EPC has repeatedly been organized by the UK-based Palestine Return Centre (PRC), a staunch advocate of the so-called Palestinian “right of return,” which would effectively lead to the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state. Zaher Birawi, the former head of the Centre, was designated by Israel as a terrorist for his involvement with Hamas, as was its former general director, Majed Khalil Musa Al Zeer. In 2010, PRC was outlawed by Israel for acting as an organizational and coordinating arm of Hamas in Europe.

Of course, the content of the conferences themselves is also extremely problematic. The featured guest speakers have included Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Hassan Khreisheh, a reported Hamas parliamentarian, and Basem Naim, who has been referred to as the head of Hamas’ Political and External Relations Departments.

Despite the copious links between Hamas and the EPC, European politicians would nearly always speak at the annual conference with little pushback. This is likely due to the EPC’s faux image as a “humanitarian” organization fighting for human rights, a common tactic used by groups aiming to conceal their ties with illegal entities.

Yet this time, the widespread condemnation of the conference was so fierce that the EPC and Abou Rashed had to hold a press conference a week after the event, trying to gaslight Europeans and claim he does not have any connection to Hamas. 

It was the first time that the EPC ever held a press conference regarding its problematic activities and connection to the Palestinian terror group, frantically threatening anyone who would dare bring up its connections with Hamas.

It appears that the European Palestinians Conference (EPC) is finally feeling the push-back to their actions.

Now that the issue of Hamas-linked activity in Europe has finally risen to the surface, it is time for European authorities to look further into the EPC, expose its links to Hamas, and ban the event from taking place on European soil ever again.

Even more urgent, however, is for the EU to begin taking seriously the danger of a Hamas-linked network of organizations like the EPC and PRC. At the very least, European politicians should heed the commendable examples that were set by the Swedish parliamentarians who backed out of the Malmo event and strongly reject any relationship with these terror-linked organizations.  

Anders Bjerkhoel is the CEO MIFF Sweden. MIFF (With Israel for Peace) is a non-partisan, non-religious pro-Israel organization, active in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland.

This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Elena Yacov and Jason Harris.