The Meir Amit – Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
November 13, 2011
Anti-Israeli networks and activists from the Middle East and beyond intend to initiate propaganda events in the near future to challenge Israel. They are planning, among other events, an Islamic gathering near the Israeli-Jordanian border, dispatching more boats to the Gaza Strip, and a protest “fly-in” to Ben-Gurion International Airport.
1. Regardless of the last flotilla’s failure to reach the Gaza Strip, anti-Israeli organizations and activists intend to continue challenging Israel with “awareness-raising” events, including flotillas, convoys and fly-ins. In some instances, the behind-the-scenes presence of international networks promoting the de legitimization of Israel can be felt, while in other instances local activists organize on their own to conduct ad hoc events. There is nothing new in the tactics they plan to use, however, in some of the events the organizers are planning to apply the lessons they learned from previous failures.
2. The following is an initial report of the main events planned for the near future:
1) An Islamic display called the “Million Man Worldwide Caravan” to be held near the Israeli-Jordanian border is planned for November 25, 2011: The participants will gather in the Jordanian valley north of the Dead Sea. They are liable to try to march to the Israeli border, even though in such a case they may be halted by the Jordanian security forces. Their main stated goal is to emphasize the Islamic nature of Jerusalem. In addition, towards the end of November, close to the 29th (the day the UN voted in favor of the Partition Plan), there may be rallies, demonstrations and other events in various locations in the Middle East and around the globe.
2) Sending isolated vessels to the Gaza Strip (no specific date known as yet): Applying the lessons learned from the failure of the July 2011 flotilla to reach the Gaza Strip, the flotilla organizers have announced that they plan to use a new strategy of sending isolated vessels from various ports instead of large flotillas with extensive media coverage, like the two vessels which set sail on November 2 and approached the Gaza Strip on November 4. Their objective is to exhaust Israel and exert continuous media and operative pressure. In addition, convoys routinely enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing after coordinating with the Egyptian authorities.
3) In April 2012 protest fly-in of pro-Palestinian activists is scheduled to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport, who will proceed to the Palestinian Authority territories: The objective of the fly-in, according to its website, is to “again challenge the Israeli policy of isolating the West Bank.” The activists will reenact their (unsuccessful) July 2011 arrival by air. It can be assumed that this time the organizers will attempt to bring a larger number of activists and will apply the lessons learned from the previous fly-in in an attempt to overcome the preventive steps taken by Israel, other countries and international airlines.
4) Plans made by various anti-Israeli networks around the globe whose objective is to breach the borders of the State of Israel in March 2012 to reach Jerusalem: Anti-Israeli activists plan to arrive in the Arab states bordering on Israel in convoys from countries in Asia, North Africa and Europe. Such events can take place only if the governments of the relevant Arab countries agree, which at this stage is not entirely certain.
3. Some of the events involve networks and activists familiar from their participation in previous anti-Israeli events. In general, in planning the events they are torn between their desire for broad media coverage to recruit as many activists as possible for impact, and the need for secrecy and keeping a low profile (as manifested by the last flotilla) to make it difficult for Israel to deploy and prevent them.
4. The fact that Israel prevented the last flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip and the number of flotilla failures during 2011 notwithstanding,1 the organizers do not intend to resign themselves to failure and are planning to continue their efforts to challenge Israel in various ways, including flotillas, convoys and fly-ins. As in the past, there may be a discrepancy between the intentions of organizers and their realization. Their main weak points are raising money (especially for purchasing ships), the international acceptance of Israel’s closure of the Gaza Strip as legal (The Palmer Report), international reservations concerning the flotillas, the objections of the Arab states to potentially violent activities along their borders and Israel’s early deployment. However, in our assessment, the networks and activists are implementing the lessons learned from previous failures and are looking for ways to overcome the weak points.
End of November: Event near the Israeli-Jordanian Border
5. An event is being planned by activists to emphasize the Islamic nature of Jerusalem. Participants are supposed to gather in the Sueima region in the Jordan Valley north of the Dead Sea. According to the Muslim Brotherhood newspaper, it is the closest place in Jordan which “looks out over Jerusalem” (Al-Sabil, November 1, 2011). The event will include a sermon, the Friday prayers and speeches. Some of the participants may try to march to the border, although in such a case the Jordanian security forces can be expected to prevent any attempt to cross the border into Israeli territory, as they did in the past.2
6. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose activists are important participants in the campaign to delegitimize Israel, is apparently involved in organizing the event on November 25. That is in spite of the fact that the movement spokesman in Jordan claim the event has been initiated by “international organizations” and “Arab organizations” to “defend Jerusalem” against Israel’s efforts to Judaize the city (Arabsolaa.com website). Kazim Ayash, Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood activist, said that the event was ” a very large popular movement directed at Jerusalem” and that its objective was to send a message that would “shock the Zionist entity” and make it clear that the Jordanians would not be silent in the face of “a deliberate, organized Israeli attack on Jerusalem” (The Muslim Brotherhood’s Al-Sabil, Jordan)
7. The march organizers claimed that Facebook had removed its page where, they said, several thousand activists had registered. They criticized the move, calling it surrender to “the Zionist occupation.” They also said they would not be deterred (Gerasanews website, October 29, 2011). Before the page was removed, it posted militant messages as well as a link to a video of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military-terrorist wing of Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Facebook page before it was removed
The New Flotilla Strategy
8. Several days ago another flotilla ended. The organizers called it the trial run for their new strategy of sending vessels to the Gaza Strip. Two small vessels, one Canadian and one Irish, set sail for the Gaza Strip from Turkey on November 2 carrying 27 passengers and crew3 after having kept their preparations secret. As they approached the Gaza shore, they were warned by the Israeli Navy that they were about to enter a closed area. After they refused to accept an alternate destination, Israeli Navy forces boarded the vessels and conducted both vessels and passengers to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, from which the passengers were expected to be deported to their respective countries (IDF Spokesman, November 4, 2011). In taking control of the vessels the Israeli Navy did not meet with violence and the event was not widely covered by the international media.
9. The transition from large-scale flotilla to sending isolated vessels is, in our assessment, the result of the organizers’ having learned the lessons of the failure of the June 2011 flotilla to the Gaza Strip. According to statements from the organizers of the flotilla campaign, following its failure they decided on a strategy of sending isolated vessels from different ports at different times, instead of sending large flotillas covered by the media and carrying many activists. Implementing the new strategy is cheaper and easier from the logistical point of view, while according to the declarations of the organizers and activists, it creates a continual operative nuisance for Israel.
10. David Heap, for example, an activist from the Canadian ship Tahrir, explained the new strategy (Occupied Palestine website, November 3, 2011) (ITIC emphasis):
“This is also the dawn of what we hope will become a new strategy in the international movement to break the blockade of Gaza. Freedom Waves to Gaza seeks to move away from large flotillas which are inherently cumbersome and difficult to keep quiet, towards more agile actions by smaller numbers of boats, leaving from different places at different, less predictable times, thus keeping the blockaders guessing and making the pressure on them more continuous.”
11. Two prominent figures behind the umbrella networks directing and organizing the flotilla campaign also spoke about the new strategy:
1) Huwaida Arraf, a prominent member of the pro-Hamas FGM (Free Gaza Movement), said that the vessels would be sent in organized waves (apparently the source of the name “Waves to Gaza”) (Haaretz, November 4, 2011).
2) Rami Abdo, spokesman for the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG), said that the two vessels were only “the first launch,” and would be followed by other flotillas (Sawt Al-Quds Radio, November 3, 2011).
12. While the leaders of the flotilla campaign make plans to continue sending vessels to challenge Israel and attempt to reach the Gaza Strip without authorization, overland humanitarian assistance convoys entering the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing have become routine. The convoys originate in Britain and other countries and coordinate with the Egyptian authorities, and Israel does not interfere with them (despite the suspicion that they also serve as a channel for transferring funds to Hamas).4
13. For example, one of the convoys was Miles of Smiles 7, which entered the Gaza Strip on November 4, 2011. The first stage of the convoy was comprised of 113 activists from various countries who brought 11 ambulances and medical equipment. The second stage is currently en route with 21 ambulances, vehicles for the handicapped and medicines. Issam Yussuf, the convoy’s official spokesman and head of the British Interpal fund (which supports and assists Hamas) stressed that the convoy’s passage into the Gaza Strip had been facilitated by the Egyptian authorities (Wafa News Agency, November 4, 2011).
April 2012 Fly-In: Pro-Palestinian Activists to Arrive at Ben-Gurion
International Airport and Proceed to Judea and Samaria
14. Pro-Palestinian networks behind the July 8, 2011 fly-in are planning to organize another one and fly activists to Ben-Gurion Airport via commercial flights on or about April 15, 2012 (the Easter season). After landing they plan to go to Judea and Samaria to participate in an “educational project.” However, their main objective is political rather than educational. According to the organizers’ website, they plan to “again challenge the Israeli policy of isolating the West Bank.”
15. The activists will seek to pass through the airport without delay and go to Judea and Samaria. The plan is to organize a thousand people from around the world. Among those who have signed the initiative are the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ronnie Kasrils (former South African intelligence minister), Noam Chomsky, and Abd al-Fatah Abu Srour (the director of the Al-Rawad Center in Bethlehem) (Bienvenueenpalestine website, October 30, 2011).
16. It will be the second attempt to send a large group of pro-Palestinian activists from around to the globe on commercial flights to Judea and Samaria via Israel. On July 8, 2011, a similar, media-covered event was scheduled to take place at Ben-Gurion Airport, in which hundreds of activists from Western Europe (especially France) and the United States were supposed to arrive and go to Judea and Samaria. The event was prevented, for the most part by Israel, the countries from which the demonstrators departed and the various airlines. It can be assumed that this time the organizers will try to make difficulties for the various agencies trying to stop them.
March 2012: Marches to Israel’s Borders
17. International anti-Israeli networks and activists (some of them members of organizations participating in the campaign to delegitimize Israel) have raised the possibility of repeating the Nakba Day events of May 2011, which focused on the “success” of breaching Israel’s border in the Golan Heights town of Majdal Shams.
18. They have proposed sending a number of convoys from around the world in March 2012 with the stated objective of “reaching Jerusalem.” The main weakness of the idea is that various Arab countries bordering on Israel may have reservations about permitting such marches in their territory because of their proven potential for violent complications with Israel. However, the organizers may attempt to exploit the political unrest in Syria and the popular anti-Israeli sentiment in Egyptian and Jordan to operate against Israel from their territory.
19. Meanwhile, various “routine” anti-Israeli activities around the world continue as part of the campaign to delegitimize Israel (propaganda, lawfare, the BDS campaign to boycott Israel). For example, an event is planned for the week of November 9-16 called “The Anti-Apartheid Wall Week,” i.e., a week of protests against the security fence, to be held in countries around the world. Its status is uncertain.
1 For further information see the September 14, 2011 bulletin “Analysis of four propaganda displays in May – July 2011: background, analysis and conclusions” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e223.pdf
2 During the Nakba Day events (May 15, 2011), a march, called the “March of Return,” was held in Jordan which approached the Israeli border. The demonstrators (Palestinians, Jordanians and even a Turkish delegation) gathered in the village of Karameh and from there marched to the Allenby Bridge. They refused to obey the instructions of the Jordanian security forces, tried to cross the border and clashed with the Jordanian security forces. One demonstrator was killed and several dozen wounded.
3 For further information see the November 4, 2011 bulletin “Another Flotilla to the Gaza Strip” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e238.pdf.
4 For further information see the August 3, 2011 bulletin “Senior [figure]s in Interpal, a British fund that supports Hamas, play a major role in sending aid convoys to Gaza. South African organizations belonging to the Union of Good are also involved. It is our assessment that convoys portrayed as a humanitarian project are also a means of transferring money to Hamas” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e148.pdf.