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Friends of Al-Aqsa and Israeli propaganda

A response to the deeply-misleading Meir Amit Report

It is the usual policy at Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA) not to respond to blatant attempts to discredit our work by Israel's propaganda machine. Since 1997, many such attempts have been made, yet our organisation goes from strength to strength and our support base continues to grow. However, the Meir Amit Report on FOA is deeply and deliberately misleading and requires a response.

Since the inception of FOA almost 15 years ago, we have worked peacefully and tirelessly with individuals and organisations across the globe on highlighting the issue of Palestine, the Occupation and the threats posed to the sacred Al-Aqsa Sanctuary in Jerusalem. During this time we have witnessed innumerable human rights abuses, increasingly audacious attempts by Israel to "transfer" native Palestinians away from their homeland, and countless acts of aggression and escalating aggression labelled as "responses" to Palestinian threats.

Our data, literature and materials are all researched thoroughly and based on facts and statistics obtained by human rights organisations who work on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel itself. These include United Nations agencies and well-established and respected international human rights groups. We also consult Israeli and Palestinian organisations for verification of the materials' accuracy where possible.

The staff and volunteers of Friends of Al-Aqsa are all British and based in Britain. Our views and narrative reflects this. We live in a real democracy and are able to decipher the difference between the equality afforded to, say, all British citizens, and Israel's brand of apartheid, which is a deliberate denial of equal rights to almost a quarter of its citizens based purely on ethnic and religious factors, and to the Palestinian population which it controls through its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel continues to flaunt itself as a democracy even though FOA's work, and the work of hundreds of organisations like us around the word, has revealed numerous Israeli policies which contradict fundamental democratic principles. As a result, Israel has escalated its propaganda war against Friends of Al-Aqsa, relying on its own distorted vision to push it forward. This is clear in the latest Meir Amit Report which seeks to highlight issues to do with religion and ethnic origin as a means of distinguishing FOA from other British organisations. Unfortunately, Meir Amit's internet-based research has failed to reveal the simple fact that FOA's membership spans a cross-section of British society. It seems we are not as concerned about racial and religious segregation as Meir Amit.

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre

The report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre seeking to tarnish and discredit the work of FOA is an embarrassingly defective piece of work based; it would seem, wholly on internet research including our very own web-site.

Meir Amit is known unofficially as a branch of the Israeli Defence Forces; it peddles misinformation in a bid to make Israel's untenable political positions and military actions seem justifiable and therefore acceptable. It plays a big role in Israel's self-proclaimed drive against 'de-legitimisation', by attempting to discredit all those who take legitimate stands against Israel's Occupation and human rights abuses.

Thus, Meir Amit has produced an extremely poorly researched, deliberately misleading report on FOA.  It makes for embarrassing reading given that it has been produced by what is alleged to be one of the most sophisticated institutions supposedly monitoring terrorism. The report is inaccurate and deliberately obfuscatory, and attempts to place a sinister cloak over what is actually a very open organisation. Perhaps Meir Amit's "researchers" need to be reminded that Friends of Al-Aqsa is based in Britain, not Israel. We have laws which apply to everyone equally, and we abide by them.

All the information compiled by Meir Amit pertaining to FOA and our Chairman Ismail Patel is available widely on the internet. The only information apparently not available is Mr Patel's ethnicity, so Meir Amit seems to have decided to take a stab in the dark. Incidentally, he is not from Pakistan.

In order to confer the Report with credibility in the UK, Meir Amit has naively used the utterly vacuous blog "Harry's Place" as a source. Clearly, news of the many actions for defamation springing from that website hasn't filtered through. The sham articles on Harry's Place are regurgitated against anyone who dares to take up the mantle of the Palestinian cause. The spineless writers behind Harry's Place have no confidence in the veracity of their own output, so they cower behind pseudonyms in order to tarnish reputations without the need to substantiate their allegations.

Perhaps this is the new age of intelligence gathering which, rather like lazy journalism, can be accomplished by anyone with a laptop and access to the internet. We await eagerly Meir Amit's promise to provide further evidence of FOA's 'written material', but we rather suspect checking out www.aqsa.org.uk may provide all the information needed.
Friends of Al-Aqsa – The Facts

1. FOA Chairman Ismail Patel participated in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. He witnessed the murder of one Turkish peace activist who was shot right in front of him. His ordeal was detailed in a press conference and numerous interviews covered by dozens of TV Channels, radio stations and newspapers.

2. The website www.aqsa.org.uk attracts hundreds of visitors daily who are looking for news and updates on Palestine. It carries detailed information about our vision, aims and ethos.

3. FOA works with numerous organisations, including some run by Jews, Christians and people of no faith who share common goals. We all promote the boycott of Israeli goods as a means of opposing Israel's Occupation and human rights abuses. We organise demonstrations and pickets in London and elsewhere as a means of getting the voices of ordinary British people heard.

4. FOA has no need for 'fine-tuning its rhetoric for Western ears' and uses such terms as "peace in Palestine", "respect for international law", "respect for human rights", and "implementation of UN resolutions" as they are commonly understood in British society. These are clear mission statements. We are part of the fabric of our societies and communities and we live in the West. Clearly, this makes our 'ears' also 'Western'. We have no need to spin or 'fine-tune' propaganda the way Israel does.

5. FOA does not support any particular Palestinian political party. We believe that the Palestinian people have a right to choose their own leadership. FOA has met with several Palestinian political leaders, figures and peace activists from a cross-section of Palestinian society. It does not discriminate amongst them based on political leanings.

6. FOA supports the right of the Palestinian people to resist occupation strictly in accordance with international law. FOA strongly condemns all violence against civilians which have been perpetrated in the main by Israeli armed settlers and army personnel and to a lesser degree by armed Palestinian groups. The armed conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is unequal and the death toll on the Palestinian side bears testimony to this. Deaths of innocent civilians on both sides of this conflict are avoidable and this makes the losses even more tragic and damning.

7. FOA believes that Israel's policies against Palestinians who are Israeli citizens are discriminatory. Numerous policies including those relating to housing and schooling are racist in nature, providing Israel's Jewish citizens with far more rights than its Palestinian citizens (Christian and Muslim) although all are expected to pay the same taxes.

8. FOA believes that Israel's policies on the ground in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, including settlement building, land expropriation and the building of the Wall on occupied land, have made a two-state solution to the conflict unviable. However, the ultimate decision rests with the Palestinians.

About Meir Amit

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre is based in Tel Aviv and is headed by a former Israeli Army Colonel, Reuven Erlich. According to the Washington Post, Meir Amit maintains an office at the Israeli Defence Ministry, and has close and direct connections with the Israeli government and Israeli lobby; the centre acts as a conduit for Israeli government propaganda.

These facts reflect the defective and predictable narrative emanating from the Centre and anyone wishing to obtain accurate information about the work of Friends of Al-Aqsa should not hesitate to contact us or simply visit our website.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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