Review of the Year July 2014: Gaza war and Muslim organisations targeted

In July 2014 tens of thousands of people joined a pro-Palestine/anti-Israel protest in London as a 12-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was held in Gaza.

Protesters chanted “Free Palestine” outside the Israeli Embassy as they called for an end to the conflict. The event in Kensington High Street, west London, was the latest in a series of protests organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, as tensions soared in the Middle East.

Several similar protests were held across the country.

In the Middle East, almost 900 Palestinians (mainly civilians) and 40 Israelis (mainly soldiers) had been killed up to that point.

Hugh Lanning, PSC chair, said: “Israel is in violation of international law with its attack on the civilian population of Gaza. Our aid and arms are helping to kill these innocent people in Gaza. Now it’s time for our government to respond appropriately and impose sanctions, in particular an arms embargo, unless Israel ends this bloody campaign of collective punishment against the Palestinian people.”

HSBC bank

Also in July there were growing calls in the Muslim community for a boycott of HSBC bank after it closed the bank accounts of a prominent Muslim activist and his family members.

Anas Altikri, the CEO of The Cordoba Foundation, said that HSBC had informed him that he, his wife and two sons would have their personal accounts closed down. According to Altikriti, HSBC didn’t offer an explanation for these actions.

President and founder of the Cordoba Foundation, Anas Altikriti
President and founder of the Cordoba Foundation, Anas Altikriti

Altikriti subsequently tweeted: “I’ve been with HSBC for 29 years, my wife for 19. The way we’ve been treated is incredibly disrespectful and shoddy… As much as we’ve tried to get an explanation for HSBC’s decision to close down our accounts, no response has been forthcoming… The only explanation that cones to mind is my work for Palestine and Gaza. If not, then I call on HSBC to deny it…”

He added: “While one could see why my account would be closed, why my wife and my 16 and 12 year old sons?… The fact that HSBC are hiding behind their terms and conditions in closing down accounts for children is disgraceful… We’ve all heard that HSBC has also closed down accounts for Finsbury Park Mosque and the Cordoba Foundation. Who next? … From what happened to me and my family and the lack of explanation from HSBC, it’s time to choose your account before they do.”

British banks have closed down the bank accounts of several Muslim organisations and charities in the past but the targeting of individuals seems to be a new phenomenon.

Muslims urged not to travel to Syria

Meanwhile, imams from across the UK, of various denominations of Sunni and Shia, came together to urge British Muslims not to fall prey to sectarian divisions and to call on people not to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight in the escalating conflicts.

Qari Mohammed Asim from Leeds Makka Mosque was one of the signatories
Qari Mohammed Asim from Leeds Makka Mosque was one of the signatories

Qari Mohammed Asim, Imam at Leeds Makka Mosque, who played a key role in developing an open letter signed by more than 100 Imams from across major theological backgrounds, said: “The scale of the humanitarian disaster in Syria and the escalating violence in Iraq calls for an unprecedented response. As we near the end of the first week of Ramadan our message is simple, we have come together to urge British Muslim communities not to fall prey to any form of sectarian divisions or social discord.

“Here in the UK we are Sunnis and Shias, brothers in Islam – and brothers in Britain too. The conflict in Syria and Iraq can never change that no matter how bitter the fighting. We urge members of the community to echo this sentiment by adding their signature to this letter, joining the many others that have done so already.”

And Imam Shahid Raza from Leicester Central Mosque added: “Like everyone I am immensely proud of the response to the humanitarian crisis from communities across the UK. As the scale of the crisis escalates we need to appeal to our communities to ensure they are helping Syria and Iraq in the safest possible way and that sectarian divisions do not divide us here in the UK.”

“Gaza re-occupation”

On the international scene the deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, called on the Israeli Defence Forces to attack and re-occupy Gaza, to effectively expel most of its Arab residents, and to repopulate the area with Jews.

Moshe Feiglin is Deputy Knesset Speaker and represents the Likud Party of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. On his Twitter page he said he is “dedicated to making Israel a truly authentic Jewish State: free, modern and thriving.”

Writing in the news site Arutz Sheva, Feiglin said:

“Ultimatum – One warning from the Prime Minister of Israel to the enemy population, in which he announces that Israel is about to attack military targets in their area and urges those who are not involved and do not wish to be harmed to leave immediately. Sinai is not far from Gaza and they can leave. This will be the limit of Israel’s humanitarian efforts. Hamas may unconditionally surrender and prevent the attack.

Moshe Feiglin
Moshe Feiglin

“Attack – Attack the entire ‘target bank’ throughout Gaza with the IDF’s maximum force (and not a tiny fraction of it) with all the conventional means at its disposal. All the military and infrastructural targets will be attacked with no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage’. It is enough that we are hitting exact targets and that we gave them advance warning.

 

“Siege – Parallel to the above, a total siege on Gaza. Nothing will enter the area. Israel, however, will allow exit from Gaza. (Civilians may go to Sinai, fighters may surrender to IDF forces).

“Defense – Any place from which Israel or Israel’s forces were attacked will be immediately attacked with full force and no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage’.

“Conquer – After the IDF completes the “softening” of the targets with its fire-power, the IDF will conquer the entire Gaza, using all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations.

“Elimination- The GSS and IDF will thoroughly eliminate all armed enemies from Gaza. The enemy population that is innocent of wrong-doing and separated itself from the armed terrorists will be treated in accordance with international law and will be allowed to leave. Israel will generously aid those who wish to leave.

“Sovereignty – Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever. Liberation of parts of our land forever is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land. Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel. The coastal train line will be extended, as soon as possible, to reach the entire length of Gaza.

“According to polls, most of the Arabs in Gaza wish to leave. Those who were not involved in anti-Israel activity will be offered a generous international emigration package. Those who choose to remain will receive permanent resident status. After a number of years of living in Israel and becoming accustomed to it, contingent on appropriate legislation in the Knesset and the authorization of the Minister of Interior, those who personally accept upon themselves Israel’s rule, substance and way of life of the Jewish State in its Land, will be offered Israeli citizenship.”

HT reject “ISIS Khilafah”

Meanwhile, Hizb ut-Tahrir were one of many Islamist groups to have rejected ISIS’s declaration of the Khilafah.

The director of the central media office of HT in Lebanon, Osman Bakhach said: “Resurrecting the caliphate should not be accomplished through blood, charges of apostasy and explosions.

HizbTahrir_logo_main

“We are invested in the question of the Islamic caliphate and are advocates of the idea. We devised for this end a certain approach – the prophetic approach – calling for a state that opens its arms to all people, Muslims and others, including Christians and Jews, not to be a state where Muslims can not stand each other and fight amongst each other. That is something we categorically reject.”

He added: “We do not approve of the methods and practices of some Islamist groups today. Intra-fighting, in our opinion, is not the right way to bring about the caliphate. Threatening those opposed to the establishment of the caliphate in this way is improper. Establishing the Islamic state is not accomplished by considering every dissenter an apostate whose killing is deemed lawful. In this way, ISIS proclaims itself both adversary and arbiter.”

Bakhach did not rule out that individuals will support the idea “because the caliphate is the dream and wish of every Muslim. Some simple-minded people might get carried away by this call and support it.” He argued that “the political context of ISIS requires reassessment, especially in Syria because since its inception, the group did not fight the Syrian regime, rather it raised the banner of liberating the liberated and entered into conflict with the opposition. That is why we believe that its call is a claim that is not undisputed.”

Opinion and analysis

5Pillars deputy editor Dilly Hussain said Israel’s unprecedented use of violence against the Palestinians proves that it is incapable of making or keeping peace.

He wrote: “The siege of Gaza is entering its third week and the Palestinian death toll continues to rise. Yet again, it’s the Palestinian women and children who are paying the price for the Zionist entity’s incapability of maintaining a ceasefire. As if aerial and naval bombardment of the biggest open air prison on earth is not enough, Israeli forces mounted a ground offensive on Thursday night. The Muslims of Gaza have become used to being attacked during the holy month of Ramadān, a form of psychological warfare intentionally enacted by Israel…

“People of conscience around the world, Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs have been protesting, boycotting, praying and giving charity. These are all sincere and well-intended actions, which have undoubtedly raised awareness of Israel’s bloody and ruthless rampage.

dilly“However, and not to sound like a pessimist, I ask myself how fruitful boycotting and protesting is. How effective is boycotting Israeli products when it receives more than a third of all U.S. aid and is ranked one of the richest nations in the world? If two million people marched in London against the Iraq war which fell on deaf ears, what will hundreds of thousands demonstrating outside Downing Street or the Israeli embassy achieve when the successors of Mark Sykes and Arthur Balfour stand in adamant support of their exceedingly bias Middle East foreign policy?

“Whilst well-armed neighbouring Arab states that bodyguard Israel sit idly and spectate the bloodshed taking place before their eyes, here at home, PM David Cameron reaffirms his allegiance to Israel and its “right to defend itself.”

“Unsurprisingly, Israel has agreed to a ceasefire proposed by the butcher of Rabaa, the Pharaoh himself, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The ‘ceasefire,’ other than having overlooked the resistance’s stance completely, in effect grants the Zionist entity international legitimacy to carry on bombing Gaza whilst viperously diverting blame for Israel’s atrocities onto Hamas. The UN, OIC and the Arab League have once again proven their ineptness as they witness the one-sided war that is turning Gaza into a city of rubble and stray limbs—again. They do, however, throw the occasional one-liners of condemnation, but the bitter truth is that they have never been able to contain Israel’s manoeuvres due to their obedience of string-pullers in Washington, London and Paris.

“Once this reoccurring episode passes, empty talks of ‘peace’ and ‘practical solutions’ will dominate the post-siege narrative by the usual suspects—the same protagonists that created Israel and continue to fund it. However, our hope in Allāh (swt) is great and peace will be dictated on the terms of the most resolute, and by His will, justice will serve a humiliating blow to the Zionist oppressors.

Plot to shut down Cage?

Many of our supporters have recently had their regular standing orders to our bank accounts dishonoured with the answer “Account Closed”, wrote CAGE’s Fahad Ansari.

He continued: “While the closure of our accounts has created a high level of operational inconvenience which has disrupted our projects and campaigns, we are in the process of applying for a new bank account. For those who wish to continue to donate to CAGE in the meantime, we are more than happy to receive cash donations and are willing to facilitate this through arranging to collect donations personally from supporters.

cage

“Following the arrest of our Outreach Director Moazzam Begg on 25 February 2014, we have noted with great concern that there appears to be a concerted effort to shut the organisation down or to at least render it operationally ineffective. This has recently taken place through the imposition of unwarranted pressure on some of our most significant donors as well as through the closure of our business bank accounts.

“Like any business, CAGE requires the use of bank accounts in order to function and had accounts open with Barclays and the Co-Operative Bank. In March this year, both banks closed CAGE’s accounts without any prior notification. Direct Debits were cancelled and Standing Orders returned with no explanation other than the banks that the accounts had been closed. Shortly after the CAGE account was closed, Barclays also closed the personal accounts of CAGE’s Treasurer and a senior CAGE volunteer…

“CAGE has been at the forefront of exposing the role of the UK government in rendition and torture for over a decade and has been a persistent and vocal critic of its counter-terrorism laws and policies. CAGE has always carried out its activities within the remit of the law and the message that we are propagating is reaching an increasing number of people both in the UK and abroad. It is only to be expected that CAGE too would become a target of those measures as a result.”

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