The Israeli military claimed today that it had “uncovered financial links” between the Gaza-bound flotilla and the Palestinian movement Hamas. But their claims are based on unsubstantiated assertions and outright fabrications.
In a press release, the Israeli military made the following sensational claim:
According to Israeli military intelligence, the terrorist organization Hamas and several organizations behind the 2011 Gaza flotilla have similar funding sources. Three Islamic charity funds from the Hamas-affiliated Charity Coalition directly fund Hamas and some of the organizations connected to the 2011 Gaza flotilla.
The press release focuses on the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG) and asserts:
ECESG, one of the flotilla’s leading organizers, is a UK-based umbrella organization of more than thirty Europe-based organizations; it openly supports Hamas. Most of its organizations – founded as Muslim Brotherhood branches in Europe – are participating in the 2011 Gaza flotilla. Israeli military sources found that some of these umbrella organizations are sponsors of Hamas terror activity in the Gaza Strip.
Arafat Madi Mahmoud Shukri
Israel’s military presented absolutely no evidence to back its laundry list of familiar accusations, except for supposedly one damning connection:
ECESG Chairman Dr. Arafat Madi Mahmoud Shukri also serves as chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC). Due to PRC’s flagrant links to Hamas, it was declared illegal in Israel.
However, this information is false. PRC’s General Director Majed al-Zeer told The Electronic Intifada that Shukri is not and has never been chairman of PRC. Moreover, the connection – even if it were true – does not amount to evidence of anything.
Yesterday’s fabrications are today’s “evidence”
The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), a London-based advocacy organization, has become the latest target of defamation and attempted sabotage in Israel’s ongoing campaign against groups and individuals active in promoting the issue of Palestine and Palestinian human rights.
According to a 27 December 2010 statement by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, PRC “is involved in initiating and organizing radical and violent activity against Israel in Europe, while delegitimizing Israel’s status as a nation among the European community” (“European Hamas Affiliate Deemed Illegal by Minister of Defense,” 27 December 2010).
Israeli security agencies accused the PRC of being a “Hamas affiliate,” which was followed by a decree signed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak stating that the organization is “illegal” in Israel.
The attack on the PRC appears to be the latest installment in a campaign by supposed nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel, coordinated with the Israeli government, to accuse groups advocating for Palestinian rights in Europe, the US and elsewhere of “delegitimizing” Israel. Last month, two such organizations released reports accusing London, and the UK as a whole, of being hubs of “delegitimization.”
Israel never presented any evidence to support its lurid accusations against PRC either, and it continues to function as a legal organization doing normal educational and advocacy work as we reported.
Israel’s “evidence” of financial links between Hamas and the flotilla amounts to the alleged involvement of one person in an organization Israel baselessly defamed in the past, with another Palestine solidarity grouping that it is slandering now. In other words, Israel cites its own fabrications as “evidence.”
The Israeli military press release also claims – without presenting a shred of evidence – that two other European organizations “are openly and intimately involved in Hamas charity efforts as well as efforts to illegally break the lawfully enforced naval blockade on Gaza.”
If Israel had any actual evidence it would present it. Because it doesn’t it has to resort to this sort of laughable smear tactic backed only by its own fabrications.