Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Western Europe’s Hamas Networks Operate Openly

ResearchInvestigationsWestern Europe's Hamas Networks Operate Openly

After years of allowing Hamas operatives to operate on German soil, German security services officials have declared a leading activist, Majed Al-Zeer, to be as a central “Hamas representative in Germany.”

The designation was made public in December, shortly after officials arrested four other suspects involved with the Palestinian terrorist group allegedly plotting to attack Jewish sites across the country.

The German authorities’ declaration appears to have had little effect on Al-Zeer, who styles himself as a human rights activist, and continues to engage in anti-Israel advocacy across the continent.

Text Box: Figure 1https://blog.unwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/PRC-haniyeh.jpg
Majid Al-Zeer (center right) with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (center left)

Al-Zeer, a British citizen born in Bethlehem, has resided in Germany since 2014.  A prominent figure within Islamist circles, his Hamas ties have hardly been secret.

Al-Zeer has been photographed with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and its former head Khaled Mashal. And in 2014, Hamas sources reported that Al-Zeer brokered a “secret agreement” on behalf of Hamas with Turkey’s deputy prime minister, allowing the terror group to move some of its leadership to Istanbul.

European governments, however, have largely allowed Al-Zeer and his network to operate with impunity. This network can be found all across Western Europe.

Palestine Return Centre

Al-Zeer has served a long career in European institutions that appear to function as Hamas fronts. After 1996, Al-Zeer served as director of London-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC).  And since 2011, he has been occasionally listed as the PRC’s chairman.

The PRC’s Hamas connections have been repeatedly exposed. In 2010, Israeli authorities declared the PRC to be a “Hamas affiliated organization” that “organizes many conferences in various European countries for Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood activists” and is “involved in initiating and organizing radical and violent activity against Israel in Europe.”

The PRC threatened legal action, while some media accused Israel of attempting to deprive Palestinians of support.

But some European governments concurred. In 2011, German authorities stated “Hamas does not operate openly in Europe. Instead, it uses the Palestinian Return Centre in London as a forum.”

In 2011, a report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center uncovered “large amounts of circumstantial evidence” that the PRC’s leadership is the “organizational and coordinating arm of the Hamas movement in Europe. They maintain direct contact with senior Hamas figures, including the movement heads in Damascus.”  Other PRC officials include Zaher al-Birawi, considered “a liaison for Hamas.”

In the U.K, Birawi has served as a presenter on London TV channel Al-Hiwar, reportedly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The TV station’s guests have included Ibrahim al-Madhoun, a senior Hamas member based in Turkey.

George Galloway hands cash to Hamas leaders

Another PRC board trustee, Majdi Akeel, maintains links with the George Galloway-founded organization Viva Palestina. Akeel joined a convoy to Gaza during which Galloway was photographed handing cash to Hamas.

In 2015, Israel asked the UN not to afford the PRC an NGO accreditation because they “actively promote terrorism.” The UN did so anyway, providing open access to UN facilities globally.

According to the Associated Press, “Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s office announced that Haniyeh had called the NGO’s leader, Majed al-Zeer, and congratulated him on its recommended status. But a spokesman for the Palestinian Return Center, Sameh Habeeb, said al-Zeer had not received a call from Haniyeh. Later on Tuesday, a Haniyeh spokesman sent a message to reporters asking them ‘not to deal’ with the earlier announcement about the phone call.”

Interpal

Linked to Al-Zeer, the PRC’s Akeel and fellow official Ghassan Four are both part of the merry-go-round of activists between PRC and Interpal, an anti-Israel, Hamas-aligned NGO based in London since 1996, which reports millions in donations each year.

In 2003, the U.S. government designated Interpal as a terrorist organization, accusing it of funding Hamas. Interpal vigorously denied these allegations. Despite Interpal officials openly embracing senior Hamas leaders, Britain’s Charity Commission twice launched investigations into the claims, apparently finding no evidence to pursue further action, although an official admitted the investigations were “not in depth”.

This inaction was chosen despite documentation seized in the West Bank showing Interpal transferred $33,800 to Al-Islah, a charity founded by Hamas operative Jamal Tawil, believed responsible for planning multiple suicide attacks. According to one law firm, Tawil “acknowledged founding the Al-Islah charity as a purportedly legitimate entity through whose accounts he could launder the monthly fund transfers he received from Hamas.”

The Charity Commission’s ruling allowed Interpal to continue operating. Trustees of Interpal subsequently sued British news companies and other critics, winning over £250K in defamation claims.

Interpal chairman Ibrahim Hewitt (far left) prays, with two other Interpal staff, at the grave of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin

Perhaps inspired by Interpal’s successful lawsuits, Al-Zeer sued World-Check, an online risk database used by banks. It had placed Al-Zeer under a “terrorism category.” World-Check buckled to the pressure, removed Al-Zeer from its list and settled – paying £10,000 in libel damages. World-Check claims it is “designed to alert users to possible risk and to situations where further scrutiny may be appropriate.” FWI contacted World-Check to ask if they would now re-instate Al-Zeer, given the German government’s warnings. We have not yet received a response.

Activism Across Europe

Al-Zeer’s activities are not just limited to Germany and the UK. He remains active organizing and attending demonstrations throughout Europe. He is frequently filmed delivering fervid speeches before Islamist crowds.

In December, Al-Zeer advertised a protest for ‘Palestinian Community in the Netherlands (PGNL)’ to release Amin Abu Rashid, a suspected terrorist reportedly arrested on suspicion for transferring €5.5 million to Hamas. One of Al-Zeer’s Instagram posts seems to describe Rashed as his “beloved brother.”

In another post, Al-Zeer states: “I have prepared in full swing for a Palestinian national event unprecedented in the continent.” He also posts videos on his Instagram account that indicates his attendance at radical events in at least 10 European countries.

As illustrated through posters in his Instagram account, Al-Zeer organizes, advertises and attends anti-Israel events all across Europe

European Palestinian Council for Political Relations

If Hamas’s associates organizing protests across Europe is not concerning enough, they also exert significant political influence. Al-Zeer is the CEO of European Palestinian Council for Political Relations (EUPAC), a political lobbying group in Brussels. EUPAC states it “works to achieve its goals through civil, political and diplomatic means.” EUPAC claims thirteen members are “placed all around Europe, and they are in contact with members of state parliaments around the continent, not only the MEPs. This provides us with a very broad net of support that is convergent at all the levels.”

EUPAC officials claim to use the “European system of law and human rights to our advantage” and works with the International Crime Court to focus on “Israeli military personnel who also have European passports…we want the EU to create a system of punishment for them.”

In 2013, Israel designated EUPAC’s deputy CEO, Mazen Kahel, because of his involvement with Hamas. 

EUPAC in Brussels Parliament with Speaker of the Flemish parliament

Al-Zeer’s PRC, meanwhile, regularly organizes and has spoken at the European Palestinians Conference (EPC), held annually in Europe since 2003.  Speakers have even reportedly included Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and other senior leaders of the terror group.

In 2023, perhaps with motives less virtuous than they appear, the Palestine Liberation Organization boycotted the EPC’s 20th Conference in Malmo, accusing the organizers of links to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

A significant proportion of Hamas’s activities are subsidized through funding and lobbying efforts provided by Western organizations. Government inaction and lawfare tactics by Hamas’s proxies has allowed these organizations to flourish with impunity throughout Europe.

Al-Zeer has served as a crucial figure in the European Hamas industry for decades. Itai Reuveni, Director of Communications for NGO Monitor, argues this “demonstrates that European governments have failed to address the deadly nexus of terrorism, NGOs, and financial support. Numerous reports from both governments and civil society present open-source information that clearly exposes the connections between NGOs and designated terrorist organizations.”

He warned: “However, when it comes to Palestinian terror groups, many European governments choose to turn a blind eye. These NGOs continue to operate in Europe, receiving funding, sometimes even from European governments themselves, which enables them to propagate hatred and incitement and in some cases to serve as a civilian facade for murderous terrorist organizations.”

Anna Stanley recently left the British Foreign Office and is currently an open-source intelligence analyst.

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