Global March to Jerusalem: damage control begins

Ha’aretz reported the following on March 28th:

“Haaretz has learned that major disagreements have developed between leading, mostly Palestinian, protest organizers in the West Bank and neighboring Arab countries, and other activists identified with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

It has also been learned that the protest organizers, who are billing the event as the Global March to Jerusalem, are attempting to refine their protest message and avoid a physical confrontation with Israeli forces.”

…….

“On Tuesday, the organizers of international protest marches scheduled for Friday expressed concern that the demonstrations could get out of control due to the involvement of outside activists, some from as far away as East Asia.

The rift between the initial organizers and the outsiders developed after a delegation of pro-Palestinian activists from East Asia and some Arab countries promoting the Global March to Jerusalem arrived in Iran and met with a senior Iranian adviser to the country’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran promised support for the protest, which was not widely welcomed by the initial group of mostly Palestinian organizers of the protest, who wanted to maintain their independence.

Particular concern is being expressed that the outsiders will take over protest marches and seek confrontations on Israel’s borders, particularly the Lebanese and Syrian frontiers, and that the outsiders will convey messages contrary to the original organizers’ wishes.”

These claims are of course disingenuous. On January 17th & 18th 2012, Mustafa Barghouti and other Palestinian representatives attended the Global March to Jerusalem Central Committee meeting held in Beirut. The committee’s final communique clearly stated that:

“The conference was attended by members of the Central Committee and representatives from national and international committees for the march, representing a large number of Arab countries and various continents of the Globe.”

The International Central Committee and the International Executive Committee and National Committees which were ratified at that meeting already included members from Iran and with connections to Syria and Hizballah as well as several representatives from “as far away as East Asia”. George Galloway – a former Iranian regime Press TV employee with links to both Hizballah and the Syrian regime – spoke at the meeting and the event was covered by PressTV, to which at least one committee member gave an interview.

Pre-meeting publicity stated the intention to organize convoys – including from Asia.

“The conference will also discuss the national events and actions that will be launched in all countries starting from mid January, 2012 and until the date of the march towards Jerusalem or the nearest possible point to it, from inside Palestine and the neighbouring Arab countries, as well as the convoys from Asia, Africa and Europe that will converge on the march date.”

Barghouti himself produced a video at the meeting calling for world-wide participation in the march.

However, now apparently some Palestinian GMJ organisers would like to persuade us that they were unaware of the march’s extremist connections. For their benefit, here is the Beirut meeting report which they seemingly neglected to read.

GLOBAL MARCH TO JERUSALEM (G M J) / Beirut Meeting Report
VENUE: DAL AL NADWA, HAMRA, BEIRUT, LEBANON.

As part of our ongoing effort to build an international mass popular movement centred on Jerusalem, we convened our first collective gathering of leading representatives from across 15 nations & 4 continents.

The agenda was to build a people’s movement across the world, wherein the issue of Jerusalem comes to the centre stage of International politics. The Israeli occupation of Palestine, lies at the centre of the geo-political crisis of our times & at the heart of that conflict, lies the core issue of Jerusalem.

The International delegates included:
1) Mustapa Mansour (Malaysia)
2) Feroze Mithiborwala, Gauhar Iqbal & Shaheen Kattiparambil (India)
3) Sabir Ejaz Karbalai & Maulana Qazi Ahmed Nourani Siddiqui (Pakistan)
4) Salim Ghafouri & Roohulla Rezvi (Iran)
5) Yalkin Gok & Omer Kesmen (Turkey)
6) Dr. Ribhi Halloum & Saud Mahfuz (Jordan)
7) Maan Bashour, Isaam Namaan, Nabil Hallak, Dr. Ali Fayyad, Prof Mohsen Saleh, Ali Barakeh, Visam Hassan, Dr. Nasir Haider, Munir Shafique, Rihab Mokahal (& other names that brother Nabil needs to complete & add from the lists) – (Lebanon)
8) Palestinians were present from Jordan, Lebanon, UK & other countries of the diaspora.
9) Dr. Magdy Hossein (Egypt)
10) Khalid Soufiani & MansourI Abdelah (Morocco)
11) Algeria:
12) Zaher Birawi (UK)
13) Paul Larudee (USA)

We also discussed the process with Ronald Kesliris (South Africa), George Galloway, Ghada Karmi, Kevin Ovenden, Rob Hoveman(Britain), Rami Zurayk, DR. Haidar Dekmark, Dr. Yehya Ghaddar, Hisham Yacoub, Dr. Abdul Malaksukkarie (Lebanon), Dr Abbie Bakan(Canada), Fra Hughes (Ireland) amongst others, who we met at the “Palestine Summer University” or then at smaller meetings in Beirut at our hotel.

Continued here, including the expression of clear intentions to have an Asian convoy visit Iran.

 “For example, the Asian convoy starting from India, would have to embark by the 1st of March & wind its way across Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria & into Jordan & plan to arrive atleast 3 days prior to our stated date.”

Global March to Jerusalem leader compares Israel to Nazis & declares their readiness for “martyrdom”

Prior to its departure for Lebanon from the Turkish port of Tasucu, the Global March to Jerusalem’s SE Asia delegation was joined by Turkish activists.

According to the Iranian Fars news agency, some of them previously took part in the 2010 flotilla aboard the IHH-owned Mavi Marmara.  The ‘Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine’ website carries the same information.

At the SE Asia caravan’s final stop in Turkey – Konya – Global March to Jerusalem organiser Feroze Mithiborwala is reported to have made a speech somewhat contradictory to the march’s professed commitment to non-violence.

“Firouz Mitiborwala, representative for IEC and ICC, was invited to the podium to address the people of Konya. He stated that Palestine has become an element of unity for the people of Asia. In regards to Israel’s threats towards the GMJ – Asian Caravan, he stated, “Israel has gone crazy, and they are acting no different than Nazi’s. Our response to them is a response of bravery. We are ready for martyrdom for our Palestinian brothers.” 

Meanwhile in Lebanon itself, the Daily Star reports that the number of activists permitted to take part in Friday’s demonstrations may be limited to 5,000.

“The committee organizing the march, which is expected to attract several hundred international activists along with thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians, met Monday and decided that the number of people gathering at Beaufort Castle in Nabatieh would have to be limited in number.

They settled on Beaufort Castle, near the village of Arnoun, but members of the organizing committee visited the site Monday and voiced concerns that it could only handle 5,000 people.

Beaufort Castle is located on a steep hill. Members of the organizing committee, which includes representatives of Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as civilian groups, expressed their worries about the venue, which is located on an outcropping with steep slopes on all sides.

A member of the committee, who requested anonymity, said that much of the enthusiasm for the event was waning because the authorities refused to give permission for a gathering south of the Litani River.”

Zeid Daher of Hezbollah and Yasser Ali of Hamas inspect the site.(Daily Star)

Global March to Jerusalem journalist/activist Kunal Majumder’s selective reporting

 Kunal Majumder, journalist for the Indian weekly political magazine, Tehelka, is embedded with the SE Asia delegation to the Global March to Jerusalem which, after having been joined by Turkish activists en route, is currently on its way from Turkey to Lebanon.

In his latest article Majumder appears to have succumbed to the phenomenon of an over-active imagination which seems to be plaguing so many GMJ participants.

“As the Asian delegates prepare to leave for Beirut from the Port of Tasucu in Turkey, the talk among the protesters is whether Israeli forces will follow the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ) ship like it did last time during the Asian convoy to Gaza. A cargo ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists was followed as it traveled from Latakia port in Syria to Al-Areesh in Egypt on 1 January 2011. The memories of the Mavi Marmara massacre in 2010 are still fresh in the minds of the Turks.”

“Even as activists of GMJ use multiple methods to publicise the event, counter publicity stunts allegedly on behalf of Israel is at work. An anti-GMJ website called http://www.gm2J.co has been constantly following the activities of the march and making numerous allegations. It claims to be a forum to expose “the truth about the Global March to Jerusalem.” Among numerous mails and online forums targeting GMJ, the most amusing attack came from “WORLD MUSLIM ZIONIST ORGANIZATION” based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It claims that there is an extensive history of collaboration of GMJ organizers with the jihadist Palestinian war criminals in Gaza, the Fatah gangsters in Ramallah, and the Hizbullah heretics in Beirut.” The organisers have refused to respond to such allegations.”

Of course Majumder is being somewhat disingenuous here. It is difficult to believe that he does not know of the participation of Ajit Sahi – until fairly recently his former executive editor at Tehelka – in the 2010/11 Asian convoy to Gaza and that Sahi was on board the ship he mentions above as having been followed.

Ajit Sahi (right), senior journalist from India on the caravan

It is also difficult to believe that Majumder is unaware of the fact that among Ajit Sahi’s fellow travelers on that convoy were Global March to Jerusalem organisers Feroze Mithiborwala, Mustapa Mansour, Sandeep Panday, Shaheen Kattiparambil, Gauhar Iqbal, Shaheen Mohideen, Salim Ghafouri and Roohulla Rezvi.

Equally unlikely is the possibility that Majumder is unaware that the Asia to Gaza convoy was aided in its organization by the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas-linked IHH, or that it visited Iran, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon en-route with its participants meeting senior members of the Syrian Ba’ath party, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Khaled Masha’al , Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al Zahar in person.

Gauhar Iqbal (first on the left)

Roohulla Rezvi visiting the tomb of Hafez al Assad whilst en route with the Asia to Gaza convoy

Feroze Mithiborwala presenting Khalid Masha'al with a gift in Damascus whilst en route with the Asian convoy in 2010

Mithiborwala meeting Mahmoud al Zahar upon the arrival of the Asia to Gaza convoy

Majumder must also be aware that Ajit Sahi has shown considerable support for and collaboration with both Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and its youth group the Solidarity Youth Movement’. He might even be privy to the fact that even whilst Sahi was still his boss, he was already on the GMJ organiserse-mail list.

He will of course know that just a few days ago Sahi, along with Muthu Krishnan, (both of whom will be joining the GMJ in Jordan) in Hyderabad organized by Hyderabad City Students Islamic Organization and Friends of Palestine in solidarity with the Global March to Jerusalem.

“Addressing the participants of this long March, Mr. Ajit Sahi, Editor Tehelka and a renowned journalist expressed his support for the proposed march and said that the atrocities on Palestinians should be stopped by Israel. He appealed to all the countries of the world to bring Israel to the talking table. It should be imposed many restrictions. Private companies of Israel should not be allowed to transact any business in our country. They should not be allowed to invest money here. Universities and academicians of Israel should also be boycotted. Economic sanctions should be imposed against Israel. Referring to defense deals, he told that all the defense transactions should be withdrawn. All diplomatic ties should be discontinued. Famous columnist Muthu Krishnan condemned the attack on Gaza.

Israel Govt. has deprived the Palestinians of their basic amenities. Even drinking Water and electricity supply has been discontinued. He appealed to the organizers of the rally to express their solidarity to Global Peace March.”

If Kunal Majumder is really unaware of all of the above, one wonders how on earth he got his job as senior correspondent for a magazine which describes itself as ‘investigative’.

If he is better at his job than would seem from his latest articles, then his indignant cries of wolf indicate that he has embraced the role of useful idiot’ for the GMJ convoy and that  ‘unbiased journalist’ he certainly is not.

Further in the above mentioned article, Majumder complained:

The anti-GMJ activists have even started targeting independent participants, including this writer, through Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.”

He also Tweeted his displeasure with certain “anti-GMJ activists”.

Tweet by Majumder

Additional Tweet by Majumder:

In fact, one cannot but wonder if his former executive editor’s well established connections to the Global March to Jerusalem organisers had something to do with his getting the gig in the first place.

Global March to Jerusalem’s SE Asia caravan reaches Iran, meets Ahmadinejad

The South-East Asian contingent to the Global March to Jerusalem arrived in Iran at the end of last week.

On Saturday the caravan members were received by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Presidential Palace in Tehran.

Note the delegates’ cries of ‘free Palestine’, ‘from the river to the sea’ and ‘b’ruh, b’dam’ which is an often-used chant translating as ‘in spirit and in blood we will redeem Palestine’. 

Ahmadinejad told the visitors that “the existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to freedom, justice and all independent nations” and added:

“The Europe and the US spend tens of billions of their wealth on the Zionists each year to help a criminal regime…continue its occupation [of Palestinian lands]”

He also slammed the Western states for showing no tolerance towards questioning the existence of Israel. 

“Despite all liberal claims of the Western states, nobody is ever allowed to ask a question or conduct a research [sic] on how the Zionist regime was established,”

“The issue of Palestine is not an argument between one person and another or a conflict created between the followers of one prophet and another …but the dispute over Palestine is a dispute over dominating and managing the world,”

According to another report, Ahmadinejad also said that:

“..the Palestinians must rule the land. “No matter how strong the enemies are, they will be destroyed and we must prepare for the great day in which arrogance will be wiped from the face of the earth”. 

And:

“The Zionist regime is like a malignant cancerous cell, and even one or two cells are enough to infect the whole body”

Ali Akbar Velayati – who holds the title of ‘chief advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader in International Affairs’ – said at the reception that:

“Washington and Tel-Aviv have intensified psychological war against Islamic Republic by increasing their accusations; Iran has been the victim of terrorism and has always condemned all kinds of terrorism; any country which has been opposed to Zionist regime and US is accused of terrorism; Zionist regime and US officials have always declared officially that they would use terror to eliminate their opposition around the world.”

Velayati is also reported as having commented that:

“Terror scenarios in India and Georgia and claims by the Zionist regime about Iran’s role in the terrorist operations were also another phase of psychological war against Tehran.

 Iranian officials have strongly dismissed the US allegations as a prefabricated scenario which is totally unfounded and described it as worn-out approaches which are based on the old hostile policies of the American-Zionist axis to sow discord among Muslims.”

And:

“The West aims to break the chain of resistance against Zionist regime and they are not advocates of Syrian nation; Damascus is the pioneer of fight against occupying force of Zionist regime and a big supporter of Lebanese resistance movement, elimination of anti-Zionism thoughts and eliminating Bashar Assad government are the goals of the West efforts,” he added.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March with organized attacks by well-armed gangs against Syrian police forces and border guards being reported across the country.

In October, calm was eventually restored in the Arab state after President Bashar al-Assad started a reform initiative in the country, but the US and Zionist regime plots could spark some new unrests in certain parts of the country.

Velayati concluded that Global March to Beitol Moghadas [Farsi synonym for “Jerusalem”] shows the Muslim public commitment to free Palestine.”

Members of the convoy visited the Iranian parliament where they were addressed by its Speaker.

“Addressing members of the convoy in Tehran, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani noted that even if the UN imposes more sanctions on Iran, the Iranian nation will never stop supporting the Palestinian nation.”  

Larijani (a potential presidential candidate) is also reported as having stated that:

“…the real reason behind the pressure from US, EU and Israel is not its nuclear programme. “One European foreign minister once told me that the real problem is our stand on Palestine. We have refused to allow the Zionist to fulfill their dream. Their nuclear issue is just a farce,” he added.”

According to other reports, Iranian athletes will be joining the convoy in order to take part in the march.

GMJ International Executive Committee and International Central Committee member Feroze Mithiborwala was somewhat coy when interviewed in Pakistan on March 13th about Iranian involvement in the Global March to Jerusalem by a journalist travelling with the convoy.

“A lot of questions are being raised about the Iranian support to your movement. What do you have to say?
We’re very clear about Iran’s support. For us, Iran is our ally, those Arab powers that are anti-American are our allies, Chavez, Putin are our allies. We would like to see the Government of India supporting the anti-Imperialist people movements in South Asia, just as the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia do, although that will be a long time coming. We collect the money from our delegates. They are not from foreign funded NGO backgrounds, they’re not from upper or middle class backgrounds, but are grass root level political activists.

Coming back to the question of Iranian support, what is the nature of help you get from them? Who is sponsoring your event?
We have been very transparent with our activists and the core leadership of the Global March India. Even the first Asian convoy to Gaza had this element of support, but we only took the support of return flight tickets as it was beyond our means. But this time, we have collected money from India. The entire movement in India is being supported by Indians.

Anybody who is working for an anti-Imperialist cause will seek support from sympathetic quarters. Our civil society friends in Iran who have the resources are supporting us. But even other anti-imperialist movements have been getting support from Iran. We’re not foreign funded activists, we’re not FCRA holders, we’re not NGOs. Our support is very clear, from where we’re getting it, be it Iran, be it Lebanon, the people of Jordan, or the people of Egypt—all we’re asking for is support in terms of return tickets. Everyone anti-American is our ally. We seek to build a powerful South Asian anti-imperialist movement.”

After the same journalist had accompanied the GMJ delegation on its visit to Iran, he appeared to have reached his own conclusions:

“Meanwhile, the region is preparing for another major clash between the pro-Palestinian activists who are coming from around the world and Israeli forces on 30 March—the Palestine Land Day. Activists in Asia, Europe and Africa have given a call for a million march to Israeli borders in Lebanon and Jordan. The Iranian government along with Hezbollah in Lebanon has openly supported the call.”