George Galloway, the leader and founder of the UK-based group Viva Palestina, met with leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad while in Beirut, Lebanon this week, according to an article that ran in Arabic in the news outlet Palestine Today on Tuesday.
Galloway, a former member of parliament, flew to Beirut to accept the TAKREEM Award for Exceptional Contribution to Arab Society.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism's translation of the Arabic article reveals that Galloway visited the office of Abu Imad Rifai, the representative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Lebanon. Three others accompanied Galloway, including Viva Palestina leader Kevin Ovenden, and Rov Hoveman, a Viva Palestina spokesman and former assistant to Galloway when he served as a British MP. Several other leaders of PIJ in Lebanon received Galloway and his delegation.
The United States named the Palestinian Islamic Jihad a foreign terrorist organization in 1995. The European Union has a similar designation. The group is responsible for dozens of large-scale suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, resulting in the death of American citizens as well. With financial backing from Iran, the terrorist group seeks to destroy Israel and create an Islamic state through the use of jihad. The group has received support from individuals in the U.S., including former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian. Al-Arian served on the PIJ governing board while living in Tampa. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide goods and services to PIJ in 2006.
During this week's meeting, Rifai thanked Galloway and his delegation for their efforts in Europe and other countries around the world in support of the Palestinian cause. Galloway and his delegation, in turn, expressed their pride in the "Return Marches," launched from Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on May 15th commemorating the Palestinian Nakba. "The Palestinian people sent a strong message to the whole world, that they are a people adhering to the right to return to Palestine," Galloway said. "We will continue with all our strength to work for the right to return, and will not waver at all, with many activists around the world, to focus on that right of Palestinians to return to all of Palestine. It is our future project."
On May 15th, tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered around Israel's borders, with some trying to cross into the country to reassert their perceived right of return to the land. The White House condemned Syria's role in inciting protests that occurred along Israel's border that day, including the regions Rifai referenced.
The event "marks the opening of the battle of the refugees with the Zionist enemy," Rifai said. "The blood of the martyrs shed in Maroun al-Ras and Majdal Shams, restored the pulse to the refugee camps, so no one can any longer keep them away from the course of the conflict with the Zionist enemy, and from working to retrieve all their rights."
Galloway's visit with Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders is not the first time someone from Viva Palestina met with members of the terrorist group. In October, 2009, Algerian and Turkish members of the Viva Palestina 5 convoy met with members of the Al Quds Brigades, the military wing of PIJ. Convoy participants visited Al Quds Brigades' military posts in the Gaza Strip, and some posed in pictures with PIJ terrorists while holding weapons and rocket launchers.
Viva Palestina has delivered millions of dollars to the Hamas regime in Gaza since its first convoy in March 2009. It has a reputation for meeting with leaders of terrorist groups. During all four of its land convoys to Gaza, Viva Palestina was greeted by leaders of the terrorist group Hamas, including Hamas Prime Minster Ismail Haniyeh, and Specially Designated Global Terrorists Mousa Abu Marzook, Khalid Meshaal, and Usama Hamdan, among others. During its most recent convoy to Gaza, Haniyeh told Viva Palestina convoy participants in a welcoming speech, "We welcome all the brothers and sisters in the name of our Palestinian people. We express our happiness, delight, pride and exultation with all of you. We ask God, Glorious and Exalted, to bless your efforts and Jihad, and that He makes your actions and deeds a firm step on the way to liberate Jerusalem and al Aqsa."
Additionally, Galloway praised Hizballah in a speech he delivered last July to a room full of students attending Viva Palestina Arabia's "Summer University of Palestine" in Lebanon. "You know the Hizballah are special people. I've been involved in the Arab world for 35 years exactly. And I can tell you, with all respect to all others, Hizballah are a special Arab organization," Galloway said. Students of the Summer University made a trip to Hizballah's museum in Beirut and visited other locations in Lebanon with the help of the terrorist organization Hizballah.
Viva Palestina's next Summer University of Palestine is scheduled to take place in July at the American University of Beirut. The program will feature over 20 speakers including Galloway; Leila Khaled; a member of the U.S. designated terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and particularly known for her role as the first female to hijack an airplane in 1969; Hamas supporter Azzam Tamimi; and IHH head, Bulent Yildirim, among other radicals.
Despite Galloway's documented terrorist ties, he has been a frequent visitor to the United States during the past two years, while raising money for Viva Palestina and engaging in speaking tours on behalf of other organizations. His most recent trip in January included speaking at a fundraiser for Viva Palestina and the U.S. Boat to Gaza, which is part of the Freedom Flotilla II initiative planned for late June.