Poster featured on the FOA website
The Friends of Al-Aqsa logo
1. Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA) is an anti-Israeli NGO established in Britain in 1997. The organization is based in the city of Leicester (home to a large Muslim population) and has branches in London and other British cities. Self-described as anti-Zionist, the FOA qualifies Israel’s policy as "apartheid”, supports Hamas and the "resistance” (i.e., terrorism), and seeks to put an end to Israel’s existence as the state of the Jewish people under the title of "liberation of Palestine”. Similarly to other organizations taking part in the delegitimization effort, the FOA attempts to conceal and play down its real objectives by fine-tuning its rhetoric for Western ears and using such terms as "peace in Palestine”, "respect for international law”, "respect for human rights”, and "implementation of UN resolutions”.
2. The FOA takes part in the campaign to delegitimize Israel in Britain, collaborating with like-minded organizations and activists in that country and elsewhere. In this context, it actively participates in the campaign to boycott Israel and Israeli products (BDS) and has even expanded the campaign to boycott large Western companies that maintain business relations with Israel (such as McDonalds, Coca Cola, and Amazon).
3. In addition, the FOA also disseminates anti-Israeli propaganda ("education on Palestine”, as stated on its website), while its activists are involved in sending flotillas and convoys to the Gaza Strip with the purpose of challenging Israel and assisting the Hamas de facto administration. Since the beginning of the Palestinian terrorism campaign (the second intifada), the FOA has taken part in anti-Israel and anti-West demonstrations in London. It is one of the 18 organizations and groups from Britain that participated in the Jerusalem Day march and rally held in London on August 21, an international anti-Israel and anti-West propaganda event initiated by Iran. 1 (Note: In the rally, held in Trafalgar Square, demonstrators carried flags of Hezbollah and raised signs such as "Death to Israel”. A summary of these events will be published separately).
4. The leader and founder of the FOA is Ismail Patel, a British citizen of Pakistani descent, graduate of Manchester University, from Leicester. In the past Ismail Patel made vicious anti-Israeli statements in public and private settings. In his remarks, he dismissed the Zionist ideology underpinning the state of Israel and announced its coming demise ("The Zionist edifice... will soon fall. It’s a matter of time now...”). He also expressed support for Hamas by stating that it was not a terrorist organization and saluted Hamas for standing up to Israel. Ismail Patel took part in the Mavi Marmara flotilla in May 2010 and in the Miles of Smiles 3 convoy in June 2011, whose leaders met with Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration.
The FOA’s establishment and ideology
5. FOA is an NGO founded in 1997 by its current leader, Ismail Patel. The organization is headquartered in Leicester, a city some 100 km north of London and home to a large Muslim population.2 The FOA has additional branches across Britain, including in London, Bradford, and Glasgow. The organization’s yearly membership fee is £10.
6. While the FOA’s stated purpose is to protect "Palestinian rights”, it actually supports Hamas, its ideology, and terrorism (the so-called "resistance”). The organization emphasizes the theme of "protecting the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and has embraced the false argument peddled by Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, about the so-called threat posed by Israel to the mosque (Ismail Patel was present at Sheikh Ra’ed Salah’s hearing following the latter’s recent detention in Britain).
7. According to its website, the organization aims to raise awareness of what it refers to as "violations of Palestinians’ human rights” and pressure Israel into respecting international law. It does so by raising the issue of Palestine (from a clearly anti-Israeli standpoint) at international and human rights forums, accusing Israel of pursuing a "policy of apartheid” and disregarding international law. In addition, the FOA actively participates in the battle for hearts and minds by producing publications, organizing lectures, and holding conferences. However, for all the human rights rhetoric geared towards Western audiences, the organization harbors an intense hatred for Israel, campaigns for its elimination, denies its Jewish character, and supports Hamas, which can be seen in statements made by FOA leader Ismail Patel (see below).
Highlights on Ismail Patel’s profile
8. The FOA is headed by its founder Ismail Adam Patel, the organization’s dominant figure. Patel, a British citizen of Pakistani descent, born in 1963, father of three, from Leicester, Britain, graduated from Manchester University, optician by trade, has two clinics in Leicester and Derby.
9. In addition to his activity in the FOA, Patel is also a consultant and commentator on Muslim community affairs in Britain for the Conflicts Forum, a British organization which supports radical Islam and promotes dialogue with it. In addition, Patel is a spokesman for the British Muslim Initiative (BMI), an organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.3 Patel was the director of IslamExpo, a BMI-sponsored exhibition and festival of elements affiliated with radical Islam. He is also a member of an organization known as the Special Advisory Board of Clear Conscience. Patel is a commentator for various media, including the British dailies The Guardian and The Independent, the English-language edition of the Al-Jazeera channel, and a periodical dedicated to business in the Arabian Peninsula (Arabian Business).
10. Ismail Patel is actively involved in projects carried out as part of the delegitimization campaign against Israel. He is involved in convoys and flotillas (e.g., he took part in the Mavi Marmara flotilla), has visited the Gaza Strip (where he met with Ismail Haniya), and takes part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations and in disseminating anti-Israel propaganda in London. He often makes appearances at universities to indoctrinate students with anti-Israel propaganda. In recent years he has made appearances at the following universities: Birkbeck, Warwick, SOAS, Nottingham, Leicester, Kingston, De Montfort, Cambridge, Birmingham, etc. (Harry’s Place, 2011).
11. Ismail Patel has taken part in anti-Israel demonstrations in London and often made vicious remarks against Israel in his public appearances and interviews. For example:
a. On September 28, 2002, the peak year of Palestinian suicide terrorism, a mass rally was held in London to mark the second anniversary of the Al-Aqsa intifada (the Palestinian campaign of terrorism known for deadly suicide bombing attacks).4 The main slogans of the events were "Freedom for Palestine” and "Don’t Attack Iraq”. One of the speakers was FOA leader Ismail Patel, who read a statement on behalf of Neturei Karta (an act which we believe reflects his sympathy for that orthodox anti-Israel group): "There should be no doubt that the root of the problem facing the entire middle east and the world is the terrorist Zionist state - what has been perpetrated by the Zionists, the heretics with religious collaborators who unfortunately sold their soul to irreligious Zionists for money and power... Fear not brothers and friends, evil cannot long triumph. The Zionist nightmare is at its end, it is exhausted, it’s lasted its brutalities, its death rattle of terminal illness... We will yet need to see the day, the day when Jews in Palestine will embrace in peace under the Palestinian flag in Jerusalem” (inminds.co.uk). In his speech, Patel strongly condemned Tony Blair and the presidents of the United States ("Little Bush and Big Bush”) for the war in Iraq. He called on the British public to demonstrate its commitment to the "oppressed” in Palestine, Iraq, and wherever they are. He issued a call for action so that Palestine is free from the "oppression” of Sharon, Bush, and Blair (inminds.co.uk).
Ismail Patel giving a speech at the anti-Israel demonstration in London (September 2002)
Ismail Patel reading a statement on behalf of Neturei Karta, with two members
of that organization standing to his left and right (inminds.co.uk)
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1 See our August 14, 2011 Information Bulletin: "Jerusalem Day, marked on August 26 this year, is an annual Iranian-sponsored event in support of the Palestinian cause. The Iranian regime expects extensive participation in events in Iran, the Arab-Muslim world and the West (including the United States and Britain). The events are traditionally exploited for anti-Israeli anti-West incitement”.
2 In a few years, Leicester will become the first British city where immigrant communities make up the majority of the population. For more information, see "King Muhammad: Welcome to Leicester. The city offers some services in Hindi, half of the students don’t have English as their native language, and studies show that the immigrants are set to become the overwhelming majority in a few years. This is how an average city in central England is becoming Europe’s first multicultural city. And then the floodgates will open” (Doron Ben Gil, Ma’ariv, Saturday Supplement, June 25, 2010, in Hebrew).
3 Harry’s Place website, 2011. Muhammad Sawalha, a Hamas activist who was granted asylum in Britain, and Dr. Azzam al-Tamimi, an activist affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, are among the founders of BMI.
4 During the second intifada (2002-2005), terrorist organizations perpetrated 146 suicide bombing attacks, killing 518 Israelis, most of them civilians. The peak year of suicide bombing attacks was 2002 (with 60 suicide bombings), marking the beginning of a gradual decline. This was mostly due to the intensive activity conducted by the IDF against hotspots of terrorism in Judea and Samaria since Operation Defensive Shield (April 2002) and the completion of many sections of the security fence. No mention was made of Palestinian suicide terrorism at the anti-Israel demonstrations held in London during that time.