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On March 30, 2018, a campaign called the “Great Return March” is expected to begin. The campaign will include a mass “non-violent” march to Gaza’s border with Israel and other marches in several countries to identify with Gaza. Several Israeli sources have already underlined the leading role played by Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood affiliates across the globe in supporting and

promoting the march, albeit with the probable involvement of other organizations like Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the PFLP and Fatah. According to Israeli TV news, Hamas spent $10 million behind the scenes to fund and organize the march. The TV news report referred mainly to senior Hamas official Fathi Hammad, designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist, as connected to the march. The Israel-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) specifically highlighted the involvement in promoting the march of Zaher Birawi, suspected of being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas.

Who is involved? Birawi, a former director of the London-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), and others connected to PRC and its initiatives are joined by other U.K. Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in the newly launched global “70th anniversary of the Nakba” Campaign. [JLNJ editor’s note: Nakba, in Arabic, refers to “the catastrophe,” and Nakba Day is commemorated by the Palestinians on May 15, the day following Yom Ha’atzmaut.] It should be assumed that for the Muslim Brotherhood, this march is part of a wider mobilization to try to implement its long-held aspiration to take over the PLO finally.

This suggests that a new phase can be expected, both in terms of the threat to Israel’s security and with the efforts to advance the delegitimization campaign—of which the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas have been key players for many years. The Islamist side is apparently relying on its abilities to mobilize the masses around Palestinian-related issues, amidst the fading away of the nationalist Palestinian appeal.

In this context, it is worth noting that Majed al-Zeer, who heads the PRC, recently issued legal proceedings against Thomson Reuters (owner of the financial intelligence service World-Check), which listed al-Zeer and the PRC in its “Category: Terrorism” on the private database of potential banking clients. The PRC claims there is no evidence whatsoever that it has any involvement in terrorism.

On March 14, 2018, the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad held a press conference in Beirut, where it announced the launch of its “70th anniversary of the Nakba” Campaign, which uses the English and Arabic hashtags #Nakba70 and #نكبة70. The campaign is held in cooperation with the Palestinians in Europe Conference; the FIDDER Turkish Organization in Solidarity with Palestine; INTIMAA International Campaign to Preserve the Palestinian Identity; and Aaidun Jordanian Society for Return and Refugees. Ziyad al-Aloul, a senior U.K.-based activist suspected of affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, serves as spokesman of the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad. He maintained that “through the campaign… the conference aims to activate the role of Palestinians abroad, mobilizes the potential which advocates the issue, and highlights the suffering of refugees in the camps.”

The official promotional video for the campaign reveals its major challenges:

On its Facebook page, Aaidun provides details about its fields of operation, such as spreading the culture of “return” among Palestinian refugees, spreading the culture of rejecting [Israeli] settlements, legal oversight for refugees and other legal services. It seems that Aaidun mainly holds relevant joint events with local Jordanian societies. It is headed by Kazem Ayesh, who was previously a member of the executive bureau of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, and who was responsible for the portfolio of “return.”

This article has been excerpted. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs also provides a short review of the organizations leading the “70th anniversary of the Nakba” campaign. To see the full article and footnotes, visit: http://jcpa.org/article/are-the-muslim-brotherhood-and-hamas-mobilizing-to-take-over-the-plo/

By Ehud Rosen/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

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