Iranian Involvement in the Marches to Israel’s Borders Planned for March 30, 2012
1. A number of simultaneous marches to Israel’s borders from the various Arab countries are planned for March 30, 2012, referring to themselves as part of the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ). The marches are expected to take place in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. The anti-Israeli boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is also planning a so-called “global activity day,” combining propaganda events in various places around the world with Land Day, marked by Israeli Arabs. The organizers of the events set up committees and umbrella networks in the various countries to deal with logistic deployment and propaganda.
2. Evidence in our possession indicates that Iran openly and with its own propaganda supports the March 30 events and is also involved in organizational preparations for the marches. To that end it employs proxies, including organizations and individuals, affiliated with Iran.
3. Iranian support for the marches and its involvement in their preparations are additional proof of the event’s extremist character. That is also manifested by the involvement of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, extremist organizations in Asia and the terrorist organizations (such as Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad) in the preparations. In our assessment the radical Islamic nature of the marches casts a shadow over the participation of various Western human rights organizations and NGOs, and may even make them reconsider. In addition, the presence of extremist Middle Eastern elements in the planned events, especially in the Lebanese sector, heightens the potential for violence and provocation, despite the fact that the march organizers have repeatedly stated that they will be non-violent.
4. To summarize, there is evidence that Iran, both directly and through its proxies, supports the marches and possibly additional propaganda events planned for March 30. In our assessment, Iran has a number of objectives: to strengthen its regional influence by exploiting the sensitivity of the Arab-Muslim world to the issue of Jerusalem, to draw international attention away from itself, and to broaden and deepen the delegitimization campaign being waged against Israel by channeling it to Iran’s own political needs.
Summary of Information about Iranian Involvement in the Marches
5. The following is a summary of the information in our possession, updated March 13, about Iranian direct and indirect involvement in the marches planned for March 30:
1) A February 26, 2012 Fars News Agency item quoted Khamenei as supporting the march to Jerusalem. He said Iran should openly support movements and groups operating against Israel. Support for the marches to Jerusalem was presented as part of a new strategy designed to increase regional unity against Israel, based on the so-called “resistance axis” [i.e., Syria and the terrorist organizations] and opposition to the so-called “occupation” of Jerusalem (Fars News Agency, Iran, February 26, 2012). In the same vein, Ghzanfar Asl Roknabadi, the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, said he hoped all “Palestine” would shortly be liberated from its “Zionist occupiers” and that cries of “Allahu Akbar” would be heard throughout Rehavia [an elite neighborhood in West Jerusalem] (ISNA, March 4, 2012).
2) In Iran as well as in other countries, a local committee was appointed to make preparations for the marches, called The Board of the Global [March] to Jerusalem in Iran. Its head is Hossein Shaikhol-Eslam, described as secretary of the Board and march coordinator for Iran. In addition, the umbrella organizations directing the project have two Iranian participants, in our assessment handled and directed by the Iranian regime. One of them is Saleem Ghafuri, an Iranian who was spokesman for the Asian March and is now, according to the Fars News Agency, head of the GM2J Board of Executives. The other is the aforementioned Hossein Shaikhol-Eslam, secretary of the board of the Global March to Jerusalem (both quoted in the Fars News item on February 26, see below).
Screen capture of the original Fars News Agency item
3) The Internet Haganah website, run by American professionals specializing in the analysis of jihadist Internet sites, examined the GM2J website and found indications of Iranian involvement in the marches. They found three domains of march organizers sharing an IP address with Ahl al-Bayt, an Iranian institution directed by Khamenei’s office which spreads Shi’ite and Khomeini ideology around the globe. It is headed by Khojat el-Eslam Mohammed Hassan Akhtari, the former Iranian ambassador to Syria. Ahl al-Bayt has an active branch in Britain. It has connections to another Iranian-oriented organizations operating in Britain, the Islamic Centre of England, one of the organizations participating in London’s annual Iranian-initiated Jerusalem Day (For further information about the Ahl al-Bayt institution, pro-Iranian bodies and individuals operating in Britain and their connection to GM2J, see the Appendix.).
4) Seyed Saleem Ghafuri, an Iranian participating in organizing the GMJ, told the Fars website that the [Asian] convoy was expected to arrive in Iran on March 14 (Fars News Agency, Iran, February 26, 2012). From Iran it planned to continue on to Turkey and from there to Lebanon.2 The previous Asian convoy left Iran in December 2011 and passed through Iran on its way to the Gaza Strip. Its visit to Iran was exploited for meetings with senior members of the Iranian regime and to defame Israel (with an occasional anti-Semitic aside) and the West, while showering praise on the Iranians.3 In our assessment the convoy’s stay in Iran will again be exploited to the the same end.
The Iranian regime exploits the Asian convoy’s December 2010 visit for propaganda. Left: The American and British flags burned during a reception for the convoy activists, held in Palestine Square in the heart of Tehran (IRNA, December 14, 2010). Right: Iranian president Ahmadinejad delivers a speech to the members of the convoy (Mehr News Agency, December 13, 2010).
5) In Lebanon Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, two overtly Iranian-oriented terrorist organizations, are involved in organizing the march. Sheikh Abd al-Majid Omar, the Hezbollah representative, and Abu Imad al-Rifa’i, from the PIJ, participated in a meeting which took place on February 21, 2012 in Hamas headquarters in a southern suburb of Beirut. Also present were representatives from other Islamist bodies in Lebanon. They examined the possibility of holding a mass march to the Israeli-Lebanese border similar to the one held on May 15, 2011 (the Nakba Day march, which ended with casualties). A committee was appointed to contact various elements with the objective of enlisting as many Lebanese and Palestinians as possible to participate in the march (Al-Safir, February 23, 2012). In addition, several members of the Lebanese parliament attended a coordination meeting held in the Lebanese city of Tyre on March 1, among them Hezbollah’s Nawwaf al-Musawi (GM2J Arabic website).
6) An Iranian website connected, in our assessment, to the Iranian regime, initiated a cartoon contest in support of the marches. The cartoons are supposed to deal with the theme of the so-called “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees and with opposition to the so-called “occupation” of Jerusalem. Each of the three winning entries will receive a prize of $1000 and a trophy. Entries are to be sent to the Irancartoon.com website, the same site which on August 14, 2006, a few months before the Holocaust denial convention was held in Tehran, announced a contest for anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying cartoons. Two of the winning entries in 2006 were the following:
A Palestinian wearing the striped suit of an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate, submitted by Carlos Latif, a Brazilian who runs an anti-Semitic blog.
The Israeli security fence Judea and Samaria to prevent suicide bombing attacks compared to the electrified fences around Auschwitz, submitted by Abdallah al-Darqawi, Morocco.
Screen capture of the Irancartoon.com announcement of the competition. It includes a reference to the armed campaign against Israel (the assault rifle) and the “popular campaign” (the rifle formed fromf stones.).
Announcement of the cartoon contest in support of the GMJ issued
by the Fars News Agency, Tehran, Iran
7) The Iranian English-language Press TV channel was also enlisted to promote a propaganda campaign for the marches. On January 8, 2012, a video was posted on YouTube to promote the marches, produced by Press TV and featuring George Galloway, who gave his blessing to the marches, which, he said, would promote the return of the Palestinians to what [the Israelis] called Israel. Press TV also broadcast a conference call between George Galloway and a pro-Palestinian anti-Israeli Indian activist named Feroze Mithiborwala, an organizer of the Asian convoy and of the GMJ (YouTube). In addition, a Facebook page was opened in Farsi for the GMJ (Facebook.com/Farsi).
George Galloway in the Press TV video, part of the
propaganda campaign for the marches (YouTube)
8) Another manifestation of Iranian participation in the GMJ propaganda campaign was an open letter, in our assessment planted by the Iranian regime, posted on the marches’ website on March 5, purportedly written by Iranian Jews. Its heading was the Society of Iranian Jewry Supporting GMJ and it was signed by two Iranian Jews, one a Jewish member of the Majlis (the Iranian parliament) and the other a Jewish leader. In it the Society of Iranian Jewry expressed support for what the letter called a global demonstration in support of the liberation of Jerusalem from the Zionists, which was planned for March 30.4
6. For institutions and activists in Britain affiliated with Iran and their connection to the planned marches, see the Appendix.
1 Update of the February 22, 2012 bulletin “The organizations participating in the campaign to delegitimize Israel plan a series of propaganda events on Land Day, March 30, 2012, to challenge Israel and attract media attention. Among the events planned are a potentially violent march to Israel’s borders from the neighboring countries and worldwide BDS activities” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e153.pdf.
3 For further information see the December 12, 2012 bulletin “A convoy from India and other Asian countries left New Delhi to reach the Gaza Strip at the end of December. Among the participants are extreme leftist and Islamic activists who were joined by human rights activists…” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e146.pdf.
4 Aser Iran website, March 6, 2012/