Alleged front group for Hamas hosts hundreds at prestigious Brussels venue

(JTA) – Hundreds attended an event that an association with allegedly close ties to Hamas organized at a prestigious venue in Brussels.

Some 300 people showed up on Saturday at the College Saint-Michel for an event organized by the Palestinian Return Centre, a British nongovernmental organization that has denied allegations by the Israeli government and other bodies that it is “a front” for Hamas.

An appeal by the European Jewish Parliament to the mayor of Etterbeek — one of the municipalities that make up the Belgian capital — failed to prevent the event, which was advertised as the 11th Palestinians in Europe Conference.

“The circumstances do not permit me to legally ban this event,” Deputy Mayor Vincent De Wolf wrote to European Jewish Parliament co-chair Joel Rubinfeld on May 17.

Rubinfeld told JTA, “The fact that a facade for an organization like Hamas is allowed to speak at all in Belgium, a country where Hamas is considered a terrorist organization, is deplorable. That one of Brussels’ most distinguished venues has rented out its space for this encounter adds insult to injury and shows that when it comes to Israel, some feel the rules simply don’t apply.”

One of the speakers at Saturday’s event was Michel Collon, a journalist who has called Israel “the most racist country in the world.”

According to a 2011 report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center in Israel, “senior PRC figures send flotillas and convoys to the Gaza Strip and transfer funds to Hamas.” Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh spoke via satellite uplink at the seventh PRC annual conference held in Milan in 2009.

One article on the PRC website reads: “It is a lie to speak of ‘democracy’ when fair elections in 2006 had Israel and the world denying Hamas the right to govern. It is a charade to accept ‘internal security’ when arming and training Palestinians to police their own people covers for Israel’s and America’s divide and conquer scheme.”

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