Citing emergency defense regulations, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has outlawed The Council for European Palestinian Relations, a Belgian-registered non-profit organization that serves as terror group Hamas’s mouthpiece in Europe.
The move, enacted two weeks ago, but revealed by Israeli daily Ha’aretz on Tuesday, means that all of the executives and directors of CEPR, including four current European MPs and a former British cabinet member, could be arrested upon arrival in Israel.
The members of parliament include British Labour MEP Richard Howitt, German representative Alexandra Thein, Swiss MP Geri Müller and British MP Norman Warner, a member of the House of Lords, who was a health minister in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government, and now serves on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Palestine. Former British International Development Secretary Clare Short, who resigned in 2003, when the UK entered the Iraq War, is Chair of CEPR’s Board of Trustees, and would also be barred from Israel by the move.
Short told Britain’s The Independent: “I’ve never been with CEPR via Israel, been to Gaza a number of times but always via Rafah.”
The director of the NGO is Dr. Arafat Shoukri, a resident of London who has been active for many years in various organizations working against the State of Israel, and was one of the leaders of the campaign calling for the lifting of the Gaza security blockade, Ha’aretz said.
In the past three years the CEPR has organized six delegations of European MPs, who visited Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. In 2010 Shoukri met with the then-chairman of the EU Parliament. The organization acts as a lobby for the Gaza government in the European Union, the Israeli newspaper said.
Also outlawed by Israel was European Empowerment Services, a Norwegian NGO, and the European Campaign to Remove the Siege Against the Gaza Strip, which Ha’aretz said “is a media name only, without any real organization behind it.”
Ha’aretz cited a statement from Israel’s Shin Bet security services as saying that CEPR was declared an illegal organization, “in light of the fact that it is Hamas’ leading organization in Europe, which carries out its activity under cover of being a pro-Palestinian organization. The organization is headed by senior Hamas activists, including Arafat Shoukri and Rami Abdo.”
Meanwhile, Shoukri told The Independent: “The decision of the Israel defense minister is based on false accusations and has no shred of truth and we will challenge it through the legal means.”
While he denied being a Hamas mouthpiece — “The CEPR is a non profit organisation and is not affiliated to any political party whether inside or outside Palestine” — Shoukri pushed for the inclusion of Hamas controlled Gaza in the political process aimed at reaching a peace deal between the Palestinian Authority, controlled by Hamas-rival Fatah, and Israel — “We also believe that the international community should respect the democratic and transparent elections that took place in Palestine 2006 and engage with all representatives of the Palestinian people.”