The three-vessel flotilla is backed by the “Freedom Flotilla Coalition” of 13 organizations.
One of the coalition’s founders, Zaher Birawi, was designated as a member of a terrorist organization – Hamas Headquarters in Europe – by Israel’s Justice Ministry in 2013.
Birawi is based in London and is head of the “International Coordination Committee for the Great Return March,” meaning the rioting on the Gaza-Israel border in recent months, as well as the “International Committee for Breaking the Siege on the Gaza Strip.”
In May, Birawi posted photographs on Facebook of himself taking part in the “final preparations for the Freedom Flotilla” in Copenhagen, and at the flotilla departure point in Palermo. He has continued posting regular updates on the flotilla as recently as last week, although he did not embark on the journey to Gaza himself.
One of the flotilla’s funders is MyCARE, based in Malaysia, which calls itself a “humanitarian care” organization. MyCARE posted dispatches on Facebook from its associates on the flotilla, including Dr. Mohd Afandi Salleh, who they wrote had 116 boxes of medicine, and Aiman Khairul Azzam who was part of the flotilla’s central command.
MyCARE has direct connections with Hamas. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh publicly thanked MyCARE “for the continued support of the Palestinian defense,” at an event in Gaza in 2015, and the organization’s activists have posed with Haniyeh, together with their logo on at least one other occasion.
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition also includes the Islamist, Turkish IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, which was behind the 2010 Gaza flotilla, including the MV Mavi Marmara incident. Israel views IHH as a terrorist organization. The group is supported by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and its Hamas ties are well-established.
The NGO Monitor research institute identified several other flotilla participants with ties to the terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The Union of Agricultural Work Committees, a Freedom Flotilla partner, is called an affiliate of the PFLP by USAID and Fatah. The organization provides funding to the PFLP and coordinates interests with it, and is involved in PFLP political activities. The US, EU, Canada and Israel have all designated the PFLP as a terrorist organization.
Dr. Swee Chai Ang, head of Medical Aid for Palestinians, was also on the flotilla. MAP works with Palestinian organizations that have ties to the PFLP. Ang also circulated a link to an antisemitic video by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, in which he called US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan a “Zio-tribalist,” and argued that “Zios invaded and took over Walt Disney Corp. just as they invaded and took over Palestine.” However, Ang said of the video that she doesn’t “think it’s entirely anti-Jewish.” MAP also promoted an anti-Israel play that the UK Jewish community said was a modern version of the blood libel.
Flotilla participant Laura Roger is a member of the Health Work Committees, whose former executive director Majed Nassar has ties to the PFLP. As a result, Israel’s High Court of Justice upheld a decision not to allow him to travel. Daoud Ghoul, another senior HWC official, was convicted by an Israeli court of being a PFLP member.
Also aboard the flotilla was Oldoz Javidi, a candidate for the Swedish Parliament, who in addition to calling Israelis “brainwashed killing machines,” said earlier this month that Jews should be transferred from Israel to the US.
“They seem to do well in each other’s company,” Javidi said of Israeli Jews and Americans. “Then, the Palestinians can live in peace and rebuild the land that was once theirs.”