Briefing Note: International NGOs and the "Flytilla"
July 07, 2011
- Approximately 300-600 individuals are planning to fly into Ben Gurion Airport (Tel Aviv) via commercial airlines on July 8, 2011 allegedly in order to "respond to an appeal of 15 West Bank Palestinian civil society organizations." Organizers are calling the event "The Return from Exile Project" and claim they are flying "in support of the Palestinian strategy for returning to their homes, restoring their freedom and exercising their self-determination."
- Organizers chose the date to commemorate the July 9, 2004 advisory opinion on the security barrier by the International Court of Justice
- Organizers hope to disrupt operations at the airport via a well-organized propaganda campaign. They have encouraged activists to "not be entirely forthcoming about their travel plans" when entering Israel. Activists will be met at the airport with Israeli lawyers meant to facilitate their entry into the country.
- The focus of the campaign is on Palestinian participants; a call was previously posted on Hamas' main website for "Palestinian refugees" to take regular commercial flights to Israel's airports on June 4 or 5 as part of the events of Naksa Day.
- Organizers have specifically recruited participants from countries not requiring a visa to travel to Israel in order to facilitate their entrance into the country. Organizers are also promoting noncompliance with airline procedures in order to avoid deportation.
- Participants claim they are scheduled to tour the West Bank and visit various Palestinian communities; they will be "accommodated locally."
- An American activist described her participation as follows: "It releases every natural rebellious instinct, the very impulses that draw people to Palestine in the first place, and channels them into mass action. The prospect of getting deported alone is lame, pointless and depressing. The prospect of getting deported along with hundreds and hundreds of people who are challenging Israel's racist, repressive entry policies sounds like it just might be worth it."
Major Organizers of the 2011 Flytilla
International Solidarity Movement (ISM):
Free Palestine Movement:
- The Free Palestine Movement is an outgrowth of the Free Gaza Movement. Both groups were active in the organization of various flotillas and convoys to Gaza.
- The Free Gaza Movement (founded by ISM activists, including Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro) leads a coalition of groups that has sent nine sea delegations to Gaza since 2008.
- Both organizations refer to Israel as “Palestine” and encourage boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns against Israel.
- The Free Palestine Movement is a California-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
- Dr. Paul Larudee is a co-founder of the Free Palestine Movement as well as ISM. He received a Palestinian passport from Ismail Hanniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration and an award from Haniya in honor of his activities supporting Hamas in 2009.
- Dr. Larudee has written an article expressing sympathy for a suicide bomber and was a passenger in the 2010 flotilla.
- Free Gaza Movement co-coordinator Caoimhe Butterly spent 16 days in April 2002 as a “human shield” in Yasser Arafat’s compound and encourages “resistance” activities. Board of Directors member Greta Berlin is a Hamas supporter and made false statements alleging Israeli violence to the media in the wake of the May 2010 flotilla.
- Mary Hughes Thompson, co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement, wrote (April 28, 2011): “God bless you Vittorio. Your star will shine long after Zionist Israel is no more.”
- Both the Free Gaza Movement and the Free Palestine Movement rely on fundraising efforts from its many affiliate groups. The website and the websites of their affiliates encourage individual supporters to donate via PayPal.
- Calls itself the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition; it is registered as a U.S. nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
- Al Awda employs offensive and inflammatory rhetoric. Many of this language violates antisemitism guidelines implemented by the US State Department.
- Its general coordinator Salman Abu Sitta, for instance, defends Hamas rockets, saying “they are throwing their home-made projectiles on their own land, at its occupiers, in a symbolic gesture to assert their right for their homes in the occupied land.”
- Al Awda states that “the racist state of Israel… engages in a genocidal project to eliminate the indigenous Arab people of Palestine,” and claims that the problem of Palestinian refugees is the result of Israel’s “systematic policy of ethnic dispossession and elimination.”
- Mazen Qumsiyeh, an activist/professor with the group, accuses Israeli soldiers of acting “like Nazi guards in various situations,” and refers to the Palestinians as the “victims of Israeli colonialism” and the “apartheid wall.” Qumsiyeh is a proponent of a “one-state solution.”
Additional NGO Organizers/Supporters of the Flytilla
- Al-Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Centre: founded in 1998 in the Aida refugee camps; names their project "Beautiful Resistance" and partners with the French Consulate, Ashoka/Nike, and the Netherlands Representative Office.
- Alternative Information Center: a radical political organization; funders include: Diakonia (Swedish government), Christian Aid, (Irish government); NGO PTM – Mundubat (Spain), and Sodepau (Catalan government in Spain); AIC endorses BDS campaigns against Israel and accused Israel of "apartheid, colonization, and occupation."
- BADIL: objective is to “defend and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees and IDPs; uses demonizing language such as “Israel’s colonial apartheid regime,” “state-sponsored racism,” and “systematic ethnic cleansing,” and claims that “[i]nstitutionalized racism and discrimination” is the “root cause…of the ongoing internal forcible displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people.” An antisemitic cartoon won a monetary award for 2nd prize in BADIL’s 2010 Al-Awda Nakba caricature competition. The cartoon is a blatant representation of classic antisemitic tropes, including a Jewish man, garbed in traditional Hasidic attire, with a crooked nose and side locks. He stands above a dead child and skulls, holding a pitched-fork dripping with blood. The antisemitic caricature was subsequently removed from BADIL’s website. Partners include Trócaire, Norwegian Peoples Aid, United Methodist Church, Oxfam, and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
- Bil'in Popular Resistance Committee: Organizes protests and violent confrontations with the Israeli army at locations near the security barrier; According to news reports, the group was involved in a cover up of attempted rapes of female activists. As reported in Haaretz, leaders of the Palestinian popular protests in Bil’in, Na’alim, and Umm Salmuna tried to "keep [the] story away from both public knowledge and the media’s eye." Furthermore, the victim of the attempted rape was pressured by both the Palestinian popular protest movement and the PA to withdraw her complaint, and prevented her from making her story public. Eventually, she succumbed to this political pressure and retracted her complaint. The group partners with various French and Swedish, pro-Palestinian organizations; non-transparent funding.
- Grassroots Palestinian Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign: seeks a dismantling of the security barrier and is an organizer in several BDS campaigns; funding is non-transparent.
- Handala Center: website hosting various cartoons intending to “depict the complexities of the plight of Palestinian refugees" but many images show antisemitic tropes and incitement to violence; donors are asked to contact the Break the Silence Mural Project which is connected to the Middle East Children's Alliance.
- HLT Director Sami Awad calls the demolition of illegally-built homes “ethnic cleansing”. HLT held a conference in December 2005 which included radical NGOs such as the International Solidarity Movement, Sabeel and ICAHD. HLT has also signed a petition calling for the academic boycott of Israel. HLT receives funding from the British government.
- Medical Relief Society: uses inflammatory rhetoric such as "war crimes" to delegitimize Israel and perpetuate distrust; partially funded by the Swedish Mission Council.
- Open Bethlehem: claims it is attempting to save Bethlehem from “strangulation"; funding is non-transparent
- Palestinian Return Centre (UK): group is affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and many of its leaders are Hamas activists; the group rejects the Oslo Accords, calls for a one-state solution, and is banned in Israel; non-transparent funding
- Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People: operates under the direction of the ISM; non-transparent funding.
- Palestine Justice Network: calls for a one-state solution and names Israel an apartheid state "worse than South Africa"; advocates for boycotts; presents no transparent funding.
- Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee is an activist network that promotes "nonviolent" resistance against Israeli security forces, though many of the protests devolve into violence; active in the BDS campaigns; funding non-transparent.
- Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies: Run “alternative tours” to make tourists “more aware of the situation in Palestine”; non-transparent funding
- Youth Against Settlements: Seeks “to end Israeli colonial activities in Palestine” through “civil disobedience”. They organized Nakba protests in Hebron, among other protests; funding is non-transparent.
- Friends of Freedom and Justice, Bil'in: Claim to “remove borders”, “build bridges”, and “achieve justice"; Founder Iyad Burnat was arrested in 2010 for forewarning about “the third intifada”; non-transparent funding.
- Palestine Solidarity Project is an activist group which promotes non-violent direct action and ignores the security context of Israeli policies; funding is non-transparent.