Tag Archives: Muslim Brotherhood

Centre for Palestine Studies and UJIA swap roles on Israel for the night.

There must have been something in the London air last night. While the United Joint Israel Appeal, Union of Jewish Students and “Pro-Israel” Yachad hosted Israel boycotter Peter Beinart via Skype, further down the Northern Line SOAS’ Centre for Palestine Studies hosted Professor Jean-Pierre Filiu.

Beinart will have been trying his best to persuade his Jewish audience (the talk was restricted to Jewish students and members of Jewish youth groups only) to boycott the livelihoods of innocent Jewish families living in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

Meanwhile, at SOAS’ usually anti-Israel Centre for Palestine Studies Professor Filiu gave an interesting talk on the history of Gaza. Not only did Filiu recognise Israel’s security needs but he attacked Hamas for its mistreatment of Palestinian women. There were no calls for boycotts.

Filiu’s main thesis was that peace in the Middle East would only come via Gaza as, historically, control of Gaza was pivotal to control of the Middle East. The most recent example was General Allenby who won control of Gaza a month before entering Jerusalem.

Filiu said the Muslim Brotherhood opened a branch in Gaza in 1946 and its founder, Hassan al-Banna, visited Nuseirat sometime before May 1948 to urge his followers to fight for Palestine.

Filiu described Gaza as a “Noah’s Ark” for 200,000 Palestinian refugees, but it was  the Sinai Desert that kept the refugees in Gaza otherwise they would have journeyed on to Egypt. Gaza’s original population was 80,000.

Filiu splits Gaza’s recent history into three 20 year cycles:

“1947 – 1967 Obliteration of Palestine” – Filiu claimed that during the winter of 1948/1949 many children died of hunger and cold and that the Quakers and Turks were the first in to offer tents. The only two political parties were the Muslim Brotherhood and the Communists.

In 1955 Ariel Sharon’s Unit 101 launched a raid into Gaza to attack terrorists. An Intifada soon followed. The battle cry of the Brotherhood and the Communists was “Nasser dictator, traitor of the Palestinian cause.”

During Israel’s short occupation of Gaza to try to destroy Fedayeen nests 1,000 Palestinians died out of a population of 300,000. (NB. there are no proper archives on Gaza’s history so figures may well be inaccurate)

After the 1956 Suez Crisis Israel withdrew from Gaza. Egypt took over. The Fedayeen weren’t allowed to operate. Many left Gaza for the Gulf and founded Fatah. The Muslim Brotherhood went underground.

“1967 – 1987 Reoccupation” – This period was characterised by Palestinian civil resistance to Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood’s continued oppression by Nasser, infighting between Palestinian Nationalists and the Muslim Brotherhood and a boycott by President Sadat when the Palestinians condemned Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel.

Islamic Jihad was formed and they regarded Palestine as a priority, but not its Islamisation. The 1987 Intifada took both the PLO’s external leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood by surprise. The Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza turned itself into Hamas.

“1987 – 2007 Cycle of Intifadas” – Filiu said this was a time of collective sorrow, desolation and Palestinian infighting. Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades executed many Palestinians for being collaborators.

The peace process brought hope but when Arafat divorced himself from Gaza Palestinians living there felt they had paid the price for bringing him back from Tunis, especially when Palestinian police opened fire on their own people and many were tortured to death. Gaza totally lost out in the peace process.

Israel again withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but it was Fatah’s change of rules for the 2006 Palestinian elections, hoping to prevent a Hamas victory, that actually allowed Hamas to win. Hamas immediately offered a national unity government but Fatah wasn’t interested in Gaza. After the 2007 coup Hamas fully controlled Gaza.

Filiu said that Palestinians in Gaza are fed up with Fatah and Hamas’ petty war. He acknowledged Israel’s security concerns but said Israel “should deal with the people, not bomb and kill them”. He said there is no other way but for Israel to lift the “blockade” of Gaza, which he viewed as helping Hamas to build a police state and control the population, especially the women.

During the Q&A Filiu was asked about the possibility of a one state solution. Filiu said a two state solution was the only way forward and that this is what the PLO had just asked for at the UN and that this had been celebrated even in Gaza.

Apart from Filiu’s wanting Israel to lift all restrictions on Gaza, which would lead to increased suicide bombings in Israel, it was as objective and interesting a talk about the conflict and Hamas as I have heard from any non pro-Israel organisation.

Muslim Brotherhood’s Dr Kamal El-Helbawy defines who is a Jew, and who isn’t.

Dr Kamal El-Helbawy, Andrew Murray, Seumas Milne at the SOAS Respect meeting.

Dr Kamal El-Helbawy, Andrew Murray, Seumas Milne at the SOAS Respect meeting.

When I went to SOAS on Sunday for the Respect Party’s public meeting Where now for Egypt and the Middle East?, chaired by The Guardian’s Seumas Milne, I didn’t expect a sermon on who is, and who is not, a Jew.

Dr Kamal El-Helbawy, Chair of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and former speaker for the Muslim Brotherhood in the West, was updating us on the political situation in Egypt as he saw it. He welcomed the fact that 75% of the new Egyptian parliament was now Islamic, but said that he hoped for increased Coptic Christian participation and the promotion of women.

The Muslim Brotherhood isn’t especially keen on Jews. For example, Hamas, the Brotherhood’s subsidiary in Gaza, remembers us in their Charter by calling for us to be killed.

However, Dr Kamal El-Helbawy seemed to be concentrating on Egypt’s pressing internal issues. Could this be a new Egypt; a Light Unto the Arab nations, I thought? Fifteen minutes into his speech and Dr Kamal El-Helbawy still hadn’t mentioned Israel and the Palestinians.

Finally, Dr Kamal El-Helbawy, a self-proclaimed scholar of comparative religion, introduced the subject as follows (see clip 1 below):

“I have Jewish friends who are really Jewish. They stay with me, they eat with me, they sleep with us at home. Who are real friends. Like Neturei Karta people. Like Dovid Weiss and hundreds of others, who are real Jews. And we respect them and we love them. We are brothers in humanity if not in religion. But unfortunately the ones we have in Israel, the Zionists, are not Jews. I am happy with what usually my dear brother George Galloway says ‘atheist Jews’. Even I say they are Zionists. They have nothing, nothing at all related to Jewish religion. Moses did not order people to kill each other and the Christ did not ask people to kill each other or colonise each other or destroy each other or stop, for example, Iran doing good research in atomic energy.”

During the Q&A I said I thought it disrespectful of him to tell us who is, and who isn’t, Jewish and that just because one might disagree with someone’s political view shouldn’t make anyone less of a Muslim, Jew or Christian for it. To applause he responded (see clip 2 below):

“I have 100% right to define. I am a scholar of comparative religion as well. And I understand, and I have many friends who are Jews, and I don’t believe that the Nobel Laureate Peres is a Jew at all, is a Jew. Who is a Jew is the one who follows Moses, peace be upon Him. Who’s a Christian is the one who follows Jesus Christ, peace upon Him. Who is a Muslim is the one who follows Muhammad the Prophet, peace be upon Him. So it is not difficult to define who is a Jew and can measure who is a Jew, who is not. If you kill you are not a Jew, because Moses did not ask you to kill people. If you ousted them from their lands and houses and destroy them you are not a Jew.”

Meanwhile, Gorgeous George described (see clip 3) the Balfour Declaration as “142 words that have produced nearly a hundred years of misery and disaster in the Middle East” before continuing:

“Mark Sykes hated Jews. He was a vicious, foul anti-Semite, but he loved Israel and he loved the idea of Israel. Like so many he saw Zionism as a means of ensuring that he would never have to look at Jewish people on the streets of London. He talked openly about ‘we’ll be able to clean the East End of London if we can create Israel and, by one means or another, encourage or otherwise, the Jews of the East End of London to go and live in Palestine’. He hated Arabs also who he described as venal and lazy.”

Amid all this fascination with Jews Galloway, Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND, and Andrew Murray, founder of the Stop The War Coalition, rejected all types of outside intervention in the affairs of Syria instead calling for the revolution to be allowed to take place from the ground upwards on the basis that there had never been an example of outside intervention working effectively in the Middle East and that such intervention always took place out of pure self-interest.

Clip 1: Dr Kamal El-Helbawy discusses Israel and the Palestinians

Clip 2: Dr Kamal El-Helbawy responds to criticism of his definition of Jews

Clip3: George Galloway on Mark Sykes and more

If Egypt falls to the Brotherhood, Hamas could “go overseas”.

Hamas

Hamas

It needs no overstating that what happens next in Egypt is of crucial importance to not only Israel but the world.

It is obviously not right for the Egyptians to live under the yoke of oppression and poverty but as a people they need to draw lessons from the Iranian Revolution of 1979 so as to not go from one extreme to another.

In the rush for deserved freedom they could end up worse off.

In the 1979 Revolution Ayatollah Khomene’i was the figurehead behind which liberals, communists and religious Muslims coalesced to force out the Shah.

But once the Shah was ousted that coalition was soon quashed in a bloody Islamist coup, which led to the installation of extreme religious rule and a worse civil liberties situation than under the Shah.

Egypt is at a similar stage. The banned Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot, has not been actively calling its supporters on to the streets but their presence is casting a dark shadow over proceedings and they will make their play for power when the time is right.

If Egypt ends up like Iran then all bets are off. The Israel-Egypt peace treaty will be under serious threat and for the first time in 38 years the prospect of war between Israel and an Arab country will be rekindled.

Then there’s Hamas. The “siege” of Gaza by Egypt has been far more brutal than anything Israel has imposed.

But an Islamist Egyptian government, whether democratically elected or imposed by force, would allow Hamas freedom of movement through Egypt which would increase its access to Israel and the rest of the world.

An Israeli woman was murdered after the Gaza-Egypt border was breached by frustrated Gazans in February 2008 when a suicide bomber from Gaza crossed into Israel from Egypt.

Israel needs to complete the security wall that will run the length of its long border with Egypt as soon as possible.

Some argue that, unlike Al Qaida, Hamas’ terrorism is purely limited to attacks on Israel. But lack of international activity by Hamas could well be purely down to lack of opportunity due to it being hemmed in Gaza and cracked down on in the West Bank.

Hamas could take heart from just how successful the PLO was in bombing its way to the negotiating table.

Although the PLO attacked civilians in Israel 181 times between 1967 and 1979 between that same period there were at least 201 PLO attacks on aircraft and other civilians outside Israel, which, all told, involved attacks on the property and civilians of some 40 countries (Israel and Palestine – Assault on the Nations of Law, Julius Stone).

With freedom to operate freely through Egypt Al Qaida style international bomb attacks by Hamas could make Western nations pressurise Israel even more. Countries attacked might threaten to withdraw support for Israel if Israeli doesn’t acquiesce in making concessions that could compromise its own security.

In the same vein Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq after the Madrid bombings.

Hezbollah, which claims to be protecting Lebanon from Israeli aggression, “went overseas”. In 1992 it killed 29 people when it blew up the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and in 1994 87 died when it blew up the Jewish Community centre located in the AMIA building in the same city.

Although international warrants were issued for arrests of the perpetrators they are now safely ensconced in Iran. Hezbollah has denied involvement just as it is denying involvement in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri.

Hamas is an acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement”. “Palestine” does not feature in its name and it has never claimed any pretence that its terrorist operations were restricted to what it considers “Palestine”.

Unlike the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) at least Hamas is honest in that respect.