PRO-HAMAS SPEAKERS at a fundraising event held at the RDS in Dublin at the weekend argued that the recent violence in Gaza, in which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, was a “victory” because it put the Middle East conflict back on the international agenda and galvanised Muslims worldwide.
The Al-Aqsa Festival, which was headlined “Gaza Victory: The Road to Al-Quds”, drew hundreds of people to the RDS Concert Hall on Saturday.
The event, organised by the Palestinian Rights Institute – a body established several years ago by Palestinians living in Ireland, was covered by a TV crew from Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language channel.
Speakers included Azzam Tamimi, the Palestinian director of the London-based Institute of Islamic Political Thought, and Sheikh Yousef al Baz, a Muslim cleric from the West Bank.
Speaking in Arabic, Sheikh al Baz said the January conflict between Israel and Hamas had “revived the issue of Palestine throughout the world after it was almost dead”, and it had “restored to every Muslim his honour and dignity”. He argued that the war had proved that “resistance is the only way, and not negotiation”.
Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation by the EU and Washington.
Sheikh al Baz’s speech prompted shouts of “Allahu Akbar” from the audience, drawn mostly from the Muslim community. “We supported the jihad and we will do so until Allah grants us victory,” the cleric said. “And that day is not far.”
Pro-Hamas paraphernalia, including DVDs featuring armed Hamas fighters and Sheikh Yassin, the group’s spiritual leader who was assassinated by Israel in 2004, were on sale at the event.
Mr Tamimi, who has written a number of books on Hamas, railed against the US and Europe for insisting that the organisation must meet certain conditions, including recognising Israel’s right to exist, before any engagement occurs.
“Once you recognise Israel, you say to the world that the rape of my country and my people is acceptable,” Mr Tamimi said. “It is a crime against humanity to recognise Israel’s right to exist because that would legitimise the crimes against humanity Israel has committed.”
Had Hamas agreed to meet the conditions laid down by the international community, he said, “they would no longer have my support”.
Hamas, Mr Tamimi argued, was “an alternative to those who sold out” and it “represents our dream” as the “true representative of the Palestinian voice”.
“When the world opposes Hamas, it opposes Palestinian self-determination,” he said, adding that the international community must recognise the “legitimacy Hamas has gained through resistance and elections”.
Branding the EU as “cowards” for not engaging with Hamas, Mr Tamimi added: “Hamas is who the world should be talking to if it is serious about solving the Palestinian issue.”
Later, Mr Tamimi drew applause when he praised insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. He said he disagreed with the Taliban’s views on certain matters, but added: “With regard to their attitudes to liberation I say ‘Long live the Taliban’.”
Richard Boyd Barrett of the Irish Anti-War Movement told attendees that it was “entirely legitimate” to argue that “Israel has no right to exist” because “it is not a normal state but a state built on violence, oppression and apartheid”.
“We must convince people that [Israel] has no right to exist as long as it denies rights to Palestinians,” he added.
Organisers told The Irish Times that the €7,000 raised at the event would be given to Human Appeal International, a registered charity with offices in Manchester.
Human Appeal International was one of 36 organisations banned by the Israeli government last year due to alleged links with Hamas.