Friday, August 31, 2007

The UK: Hamas Sanctuary

Just weeks after assuming the role of Middle East envoy on behalf of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU, outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing his first serious test. The Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC) in Herzelia, Israel, considered the “public face of Israeli intelligence,” has issued a scathing report (to read the report in pdf format click here) wherein it accused Britain of being a “major source of publishing and distribution of Hamas incitement.”

As Britain’s former leader, Blair ultimately bears the responsibility for allowing the terrorist press to operate freely on his watch.

But the problems go beyond Blair. The IICC report notes that even today Britain “does not stop the distribution of hateful propaganda against Israel and the West and publications glorifying suicide terrorism.” The report moreover notes that “British authorities have yet to take effective action to put an end to the exploitation of their country by Hamas for spreading incitement…” Declassified and distributed to the intelligence community and to the media this week, the report further points out that while the Hamas “media empire“ is “guided from Damascus and assisted by Arab countries,” it also has a “branch operating in Britain and uses it for printing and distribution of Hamas publications.”

Prominent among these publications is the monthly Filastin al-Muslimah. Hamas's major publication since 1981, it is available in paper edition and on the Internet.
The monthly is about what one would expect from a publication whose editorial line is directed by the Hamas leadership in Damascus. Spreading incitement and hatred against Israel and the West in the spirit of Hamas's ideology, it preaches the justice of terrorism and glorifies its perpetrators. From Britain, it is distributed worldwide in both its on-line and hard copy editions. To avoid unwanted attention from British security services, Filastin al-Muslimah stopped publishing its address in Britain on the front page at some point during 2004. However, it is still published with impunity.

Directly associated with the monthly is a London-based publishing house called Filastin al-Muslimah Publications. In the past, the publishing house has printed books commemorating terrorists responsible for planning and initiating suicide attacks. Books on senior figures in the Hamas operative-terrorist wing -- such as Salah Shehada, Yahya Ayyash, and Imad Aqel -- are typical of the kind of works in which the publishing house specializes.

In this context, it should come as no surprise that one of the major founders of the Filastin al-Muslimah publishing house is Ghassan Daw'ar, hailed by Hamas as “the historian of the intifada” (i.e., the campaign of terrorism against Israel) and “the historian of the shahids” (i.e., suicide bombers). In addition to writing books about Yahya Ayyash and Imad Aqel, two of the most prominent architects of Hamas's suicide bombings, Daw'ar also writes articles for Hamas's main website (palestine-info). In 1999, he was arrested in Jordan with other Hamas leaders. According to the Hamas website, the cause of his arrest was his involvement in a committee that objected to the normalization of relations with the “Zionist enemy.” Though it now avoids publishing its address in Britain, the publishing house continues to advocate Hamas’s terrorist cause -- apparently without interference from British authorities.
Not all these publications are aimed at adults. For the junior jihadist, there is the online bi-weekly Al-Fateh. Combining articles and illustrations, it is geared towards children, whom Hamas considers a highly significant target audience. In particular, Al-Fateh is designed to inculcate in children support for radical Islam, violence and terrorism. Al-Fateh is published in London, a fact openly stated on its homepage at Al-Fateh's editor-in-chief and founder is Sami al-Halabi, though according to the report, this is the pen name of Abdallah al-Tantawi, a senior figure in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in the mid-1990s (Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood).

The IICC report asserts that Hamas's use of Britain as a major source of publishing and distribution of incitement is “hardly coincidental.” On the contrary, “there are several factors at play: first, the policy of the British government, allowing Hamas (and radical Islamic elements in general) a relative freedom of action on British territory, particularly in the sphere of propaganda; second, the existence of a network of Arab/Muslim supporters in Britain; third, the technical ability to produce high quality publications in Britain and distribute them across the globe.”

The fact that these publications have maintained a presence in the UK during the Blair government's decade in office suggests that Blair was ready to tolerate the presence of radical Islam -- even after the deadly Islamic attacks on London on July 7, 2005. Will Blair in his new role ignore Hamas’s murderous rhetoric? If he hopes to have any credibility as a negotiator in the Middle East, it is a question that he will have to answer.

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