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1. A large Asian aid convoy called the Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan left India for the Gaza Strip with about 500 activists from 17 Asian countries, some of them Muslim. The convoy set out from India to Pakistan and from there to Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.1 It is expected to set sail for El-Arish from the Syrian port of Latakia and to enter the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing towards the end of December 2010 (close to the date of Operation Cast Lead, which began on December 28, 2008). The voyage by sea has not yet been referred to in the organization's media reports and in our assessment that is because their arrival has not yet been arranged with Egypt.
2. An umbrella organization called the Asian People's Solidarity for Palestine (APSP), hostile to Israel, is prominent among the convoy organizers. Most of the participants are from India, but en route more activists are expected to join, including some from Pakistan and Iran (the convoy can potentially be infiltrated by activists from other organizations, such as Al-Qaeda, although we have no information of such a possibility).
3. The convoy's objectives, stated at a press conference held in Karachi (Pakistan) on November 29, 2010, are to "liberate Palestine," "break the siege on the Gaza Strip," "destroy the Israeli system of apartheid," and unite Asian countries in the effort to realize those objectives (Fars News Agency, Iran, December 1, 2010).
4. The following emerged from an analysis of the organizations and activists participating in the convoy:
A. Political and social composition: It is composed of organizations and activists affiliated with the extreme left (various types of Communists and Maoists) and Islamic organizations and activists. They were joined by human rights and social activists, separatists from various states in India, anti-establishment organizations and activists, and feminist activists (who have joined an effort to support the extreme Islamist Hamas administration, which systematically oppresses women and denies them their rights). There are also anti-globalists, activists who oppose the United States and "imperialism," and others.
B. National composition: According to the organizers, there will be participants from 17 countries, but a large percentage of them are Indian. Like the previous convoys, they will be joined by activists and receive support from the countries through which they pass, including Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.
C. Attitude towards Israel: Asian People's Solidarity for Palestine, the umbrella group organizing the convoy, is hostile to Israel, denies its legitimacy and supports the so-called "resistance" (Palestinian terrorism). It has stated its commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state within "historic Palestine" (i.e., a state from which Israel will disappear), and defines Zionism as a kind of colonialism and apartheid, and hostile to the United States and "imperialism." Some of the convoy members represent other organizations with a record of hostility toward Israel. On the other hand, many of the organizations and activists in the convoy have no stated policy regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
D. Linkage to previous convoys and flotillas: The convoy's organizers are linked to the Free Gaza Movement (FGM), a coalition headed by extreme leftist American activists which played a key role in previous flotillas. Huwaida Araf, a prominent figure in the FGM, visited Mumbai in September 2009 where she met with the head of the FGM's Indian branch. She played a central role in organizing the Indian convoy (See below). The APSP's website posts information about FGM and Viva Palestina flotillas and convoys, and calls for broad Asian participation in the international movement "to end the siege [sic] of the Gaza Strip" (www.countercurrents.org, August 20, 2010).
5. The convoy has many participants, some of them representing various organizations and groups, others participating on a personal basis. The most prominent organizer is Feroze Mithiborwala, a human rights and social activist from Mumbai, who is also head of the FGM branch in India. He was a leftist who worked to promote Muslims in Mumbai and founded an organization called the Muslim Intellectual Forum. He is also the president of Awami Bharat, an organization which calls for dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims (www.countercurrents.org). In July 2009 he was arrested in Mumbai during the American secretary of state's visit. On November 29, 2010, the eve of his departure for the convoy, Feroze Mithiborwala held a press conference in Karachi where he defined its goals (See above). He called the convoy a step in forming a front against imperialism and "world Zionism."
(Picture from the convoy's Facebook page)
6. Feroze Mithiborwala was in Beirut during the Second Lebanon War and wrote a column about what he called Lebanon's "victory" (www.aljazirah.info, August 26, 2010). He is the FGM's liaison in India and even hosted Huwaida Araf when she visited Mumbai in September 2009 (www.intifada-palestine.com, September 2009). On "Jerusalem Day" in Mumbai in September 2010 he said that Indians had to increase their solidarity with the Palestinians and support their "resistance" [i.e., the terrorist organizations] to the so-called "Zionist Israeli occupation." He said that the "Palestinian resistance" was "the international avant garde" in the joint struggle against imperialism and Zionism (www.twocircles.net).
7. Another activist who participated in organizing the convoy is Rakh Sehgal, from New Delhi, who is deals with collecting donations for it. It is unclear whether or not she will take part in the journey.
8. The organizers of the convoy and some of its participating organizations and activists are also active in the international campaign currently being waged to delegitimize the State of Israel (through boycotts and anti-Israeli propaganda). For example, the convoy's Facebook page features a call to cancel the appearance of an Israeli music group which the government is sending to perform in India (apparently a reference to the performance of the Israeli group Rockfour in India on October 26, 2010).
9. This bulletin contains two appendices:
A. Appendix I: The organizations participating in the Asian convoy.
B. Appendix II: Prominent activists participating in the convoy.
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1 The website published the convoy's route and timetable. Several changes were introduced as a result of administrative , logistic and political exigencies. There may be further changes.