The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine (GCRP)
Last updated: 05/16/21
- The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine (GCRP) considers itself an umbrella organization for groups who support the Palestinian cause all around the world.
- The Campaign enjoys significant popularity on social media with almost a million followers combined across its accounts and holds close relations with numerous civil society organizations around the world.
- The GCRP and its members cooperate regularly with terror organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and have well-established connections with Syria and Iran.
The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine is a Lebanon-based1 umbrella organization that was established on November 29, 2013,2 which claims to unite “civil society associations that support the Palestinian Cause, both in the Arab countries and the world.”3 The Campaign describes itself as “a league whose membership is open to all institutions, organizations and activists interested in the cause of Palestine and who believe in its justice, regardless of their intellectual and social frameworks.” It also claims that its members hail from more than 80 countries around the world, where they organize programs and activities and raise awareness of the Palestinian issue.4 The following map from the Campaign’s website shows the spread of their activities around the world:
(The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, Map, accessed 02/21)
The Campaign’s social media channels have gained notable traction, garnering 795k followers on its Arabic Facebook page created in February 2013,5 95k on its English page,6 1,200 on its Spanish page,7 670 on their French page,8 and 550 on their Brazilian page.9 Other media outlets include an Instagram account with 5,500 followers,10 a Twitter accounts with roughly 350 followers in Arabic11 and 100 in English,12 as well as a YouTube account with dozens of videos and more than 263k views.13
In 2015 the Campaign also established a framework named “The International Scholar Forum for Palestine” which aims to bring together Islamic scholars from around the world and from all Islamic schools and sects, to “meet around monotheism and the unity of efforts for the central cause of the Ummah, the Palestinian Cause.”14
Sheikh Yusuf Abbas
Abbas, a Shi’ite Islamic scholar from Beirut, is the general coordinator of the Campaign.15 He is also a member of the World Federation of Resistance Scholars,16 an organization which brings together Islamic scholars from around the Islamic world who support Palestinian resistance, and whose members have also voiced support for armed struggle.17 Moreover, Abbas appears to enjoy acclaim and influence in East Asia as well, as shown by the fact that he was hosted as a guest speaker in the 2019 Southeast Asia Conference for the Defense of Al-Quds.18 Abbas also cooperated with the Al-Aqsa Support Organization, a Lebanese Sunni organization which started the Lebanese campaign “Lebanese Against Normalization”,19 appearing as a guest speaker in a November 2020 conferences, and speaking in favor of regarding normalization as treason and calling for a united Islamic front to confront “the challenges of the Ummah and the efforts to annihilate Palestine.”20
Abd Al-Malik Sukkariyeh
Member of the Campaign in Syria23 and general coordinator of the GCRP-founded International Ulama Forum for Palestine.24 Katmato holds close ties with Sheikh Yusuf Abbas, as can be seen in the following photo.
Sheikh Yusuf Abbas (left) and Sheikh Abdullah Katmato (right), Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, A youth meeting to unify efforts for the Fourth Solidarity Forum, published 02/28/18, accessed 02/21
The Campaign focuses on a wide variety of activities, such as conferences, social media activities, exhibitions, documentaries, and commemorating of occasions affiliated with the Palestinian cause, such as Quds Day, Intifada Week, Land Day, and Day of Return.25 Other activities include annual conferences,26 campaigns to plant trees in solidarity with the Great Return Marches27 and to raise Palestinian flags on Nakba day,28 festivals,29 inter-faith forums against normalization,30 and twitterstorms under the hashtag “AllForPalestine” (in Arabic: كلنا_فلسطين).31
The GCRP’s events feature prominent speakers from around the world. For example, speakers at the Campaign’s annual conferences include BNC secretary Salah Khwajah,32 Paul Larudee from Al-Awda and JVP,33 former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Muhammad,34 founder and executive director of If Americans Knew, Alison Weir,35 and a plethora of terror-related figures and organizations to be discussed in the following section.
The GCRP also seems to have strong ties with the Al-Mayadeen channel, described as Hezbollah-affiliated36 and pro-Assad.37 In March 2018, GCRP general coordinator Sheikh Yusuf Abbas met with Al-Mayadeen head of board of directors, Ghassan Bin Jaddo, to discuss “ways to enhance and activate cooperation between the two sides in the field of media coverage.”38 The following picture from the meeting shows Bin Jaddo with members of the GCRP: secretary Abd Al-Malik Sukkariyeh, general coordinator Yusuf Abbas, and media relations official Mohammad Al-Abed.
Left to right: Abd Al-Malik Sukkariyeh, Ghassan Bin Jaddo, and Sheikh Yusuf Abbas. The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, The Global Campaign Coordinator meets the Chairman of the Council of Al Mayadin Media Network, Ghassan Bin Jeddo, published 03/06/18, accessed 03/21)
In January 2021, the GCRP organized and led an event titled “Launching 2021 as the Year to Confront Normalization”, alongside dozens of endorsers and participants from all over the world, such as United States Palestinian Community Network, Samidoun, Anti-Zionism Coordination, Collectif Palestine Vaincra, Boycott Campaign Palestine, Global Campaign for Quds, and Palestine, and more. The event also featured guest speakers such as Hamas official Bassem Naim and Palestinian Islamic Jihad official Khaled Al-Batsh.39
(The Global Campaign to return to Palestine, Facebook, published 01/16/21, accessed 02/21)
It is also worth mentioning that this event was broadcast in tandem with a parallel event against normalization which took place in Tehran and featured speakers from the Iranian parliament, as well as formal representatives from Hamas, PIJ, and Syria.40
(Al Mayadeen, YouTube, published 01/18/21, accessed 02/21)
Moreover, in April 2019, the Campaign co-organized an exposition on Palestinian heritage featuring participation from Hamas foreign relations official, Osama Hamdan,41 who spoke in favor of armed struggle, saying “The solution to our cause is liberating the land by force. Without force, the issue goes away. The backbone of our power is armed resistance.”42
In addition, in December 2019 the GCRP organized an event in solidarity with Palestinian archbishop Atallah Hanna, an Israeli-born archbishop who was arrested by Israel several times and condemned by the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem for incitement to violence and support for terrorism.43
The event saw participation of Holder of the Palestine Portfolio in Hezbollah, Hasan Hoballah,44 who called to continue armed resistance and claimed that “the enemy [Israel] does not understand and is not deterred except by armed resistance.” Participants also included the representative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Lebanon, Ihsan Ataya,45 who stated that “the Palestinians have no choice to liberate Palestine but [with] armed resistance.”46 It is worth noting that the corresponding report on the formal GCRP website regarding the event dropped the references to armed resistance, and stressed remarks on “resistance” alone.47
Picture showing Sheikh Yusuf Abbas (circled) with a poster featuring Atallah Hanna in the background during the event. Al-quds News Agency, A solidarity meeting in the municipality of Ghobeiry with Bishop Hanna … and words commended for his stances, published 12/24/19, accessed 02/21
Other GCRP events with leaders of terror organizations include:
- August 2018 – The GCRP held an interview with Palestinian Islamic Jihad official, Khaled Al-Batsh,48 where the latter spoke in favor of armed resistance, saying: “Armed confrontation is required at this stage.”49
- March 2018 – The Campaign invited head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, and deputy secretary general of Hezbollah, Sheikh Naim Qassem to speak at their convention for solidarity with Palestine. Qassem spoke in favor of armed resistance, adding: “There is no solution and no option to restore Palestine except through resistance of all kinds, especially armed resistance, which we will not abandon until the enemy acquiesces.”50 The following photo from the event shows Qassem speaking with the GCRP logo in the background:
(The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, YouTube, published 03/13/18, accessed 02/21)
- 2015 – The official Hamas website reported about Hamas representative in Lebanon, Ali Baraka, hosting a GCRP delegation in his office in Beirut, along with Hamas political officer in Lebanon at the time, Ziad Hasan.51 In July 2020 Baraka personally delivered a letter to Abbas that was addressed to him from Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.52
(Left to Right: Yusuf Abbas, Ali Baraka, Ziad Hasan. Hamas, Baraka Receives the General Coordinator of the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, published 11/19/15, accessed 02/21)
Beyond GCRP official events and meetings, its members have their own personal ties with terrorists and Iran. For example, in 2017, Abbas, Sukkariyeh & Katmato held a meeting with co-founder and deputy secretary general of Hezbollah, Sheikh Naim Qassem.53
(Left to Right: Abbas, Katmato, Naim Qassem, Sukkariyeh; Yusuf Abbas, Facebook, published 10/16/17)
In 2018, Abbas and Sukkariyeh also had a personal meeting with Hezbollah political bureau member, Hasan Hoballah.54
(Yusuf Abbas, Facebook, published 02/28/18, accessed 02/21)
Sukkariyeh also met with the head of media relations in Hezbollah, Mohammad Afif, in 2015.55
In June 2019, Abbas participated in a conference on Jerusalem and Palestine, which featured a recorded speech by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, in which Abbas spoke about: “Jerusalem in the eyes of [Ayatollah] Khomeini.”56
(Braikeh, A meeting in the diwaniyya of Abu Al-Fadl Al-Abbas – Braikeh, on the occasion of International Jerusalem Day with His Eminence Sheikh Yusuf Abbas, General Coordinator of the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, published 06/01/19, accessed 02/21)
Beyond a close relationship with leaders of Hezbollah, Abbas also has connections to Iran and the regime in Tehran. In January 2020 Abbas participated in a memorial event to commemorate the death of Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force.57 Moreover, in March 2017 he participated and spoke at a conference titled “The Sixth Global Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada” convened in Tehran, where he thanked the Islamic Republic for their support to the Palestinian issue “ever since the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution led by Imam Khomeini”.58 In addition, in October 2020 Abbas spoke at an Iran-organized webinar titled “the 34th international conference for Islamic unity” alongside Hamas official Ismail Radwan.59
(Yusuf Abbas, Facebook, published 05/31/20, accessed 03/21)
The GCRP has also shown support for terror, violence, and anti-Semitism on various occasions.
Support for Terrorists
In January 2020 the GCRP Facebook page uploaded a post concerning “the martyrdom of the commander of Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani.”62
(The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, Facebook, published 01/06/20, accessed 02/21)
Additionally, the Campaign’s headquarters appear to feature photos of terrorists and terror-related figures, such as Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and Basel Al-Araj, who acquired weapons for a cell of Palestinian terrorists he headed in an attempt to carry out terror attacks against Israelis,63 and who was also invited to speak at an event organized by the GCRP in 2015.64
(The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, YouTube, published 03/16/18, accessed 02/21)
Moreover, in May 2020, the GCRP posted a series of posters on their Instagram account featuring the faces of “martyrs”. One of those featured in the series was Yahya Ayash, who established the Hamas militia group Az A-din Al-Qassam brigades. The poster was accompanied by an anti-Semitic quote apparently by Ayash saying “The Jews can uproot my body from Palestine, but I want to plant something in the people that they cannot uproot.”
(Return_palestine, Instagram, published 05/23/20, accessed 03/21)
Likewise, in January 2020 the GCRP uploaded to its Instagram account a poster mourning the “martyrdom of leader Ali Hasan Salameh”, who was responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympics.65
Support for Violence and Extremism
The Campaign has also showed support for the Great Return Marches (GRM) and the Intifada: in September 2018 they organized an event in Lebanon as a “commemoration of Intifada Week and support to the GRMs” which included the launching of balloons and kites in the colors of the Palestinian flag, in an allusion to the incendiary kites and balloons used by residents of the Gaza strip targeting Israeli citizens and fields.66
In September 2019, the GCRP published a violent and anti-Semitic caricature in support of “intifada week” showing an Israeli soldier switching the crescent on the Dome of the Rock with a Menorah and then being stabbed to death by a tree of crescents. The caricature was accompanied with the hashtags “intifada_week” and “the intifada lives.”
(return_palestine, Instagram, published 09/26/19, accessed 03/21)
In June 2018, the Campaign’s website featured an op-ed by member of the GCRP in Kuwait, Abdullah Al-Musawi, which argued that “international law, and specifically the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Peoples under Occupation, gives the right to occupied peoples to resist in all forms, including armed resistance, which is referred to unfairly and falsely as ‘terrorism’.”67
In a short clip from December 2017, Katmatu threatened Israelis with violence and negated the Jewish connection to the land: “I say today to every Israeli, every Zionist … you will depart [from the land] … if you are real human beings – leave this land to its people, for you have no roots, and this land is somebody else’s. If not, you shall depart by means of another language, which you committed against others, and it will be committed against you.”68
In November 2020, the GCRM Facebook page uploaded a photo of North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, quoting his blessings to the Palestinian people.
(The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, Facebook, published 11/18/20, accessed 02/21)
In May 2019, the GCRP uploaded an anti-Semitic caricature by Ala’ al-Laqta to their Instagram page, showing a stereotypical Jew auctioning the Dome of the Rock and Palestine with the USA as his auctioneer.
(Return_palestine, Instagram, published 05/29/19, accessed 03/21)
In July 2020 Sukkariyeh alleged in an interview that “the enemy, World Zionism and the USA and their agents in the area … imposed regimes on the people whose objective is to starve them so that the citizens … lose interest.”69 In the same interview Sukkariyeh was asked “what are the steps [to oppose the Zionist enemy]?” he said: “Resistance. Armed resistance and popular resistance, boycotts, military resistance.”70
Katmato has also voiced anti-Semitic statements, alleging that Zionism and America are behind the rifts in the Islamic Ummah.71
The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine appears to be a very large group in terms of its social media impact, global connections, and mobilization abilities both in the Arab world and outside it. Its many connections to terrorist organizations and personalities appear to imply an intimate relationship, and even some sort of cooperation, between these groups and the GCRP.
For these reasons, the organization should be closely monitored to gain a deeper knowledge of its ties, activities, and plans. Additionally, an operational lead to disclose these connections and lead global organizations to severe ties with it should also be examined.
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1 The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, Sheikh Maher Hammoud visits the headquarters of the global campaign, published 1/18/18, accessed 02/21
2 Al-Manar, The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine launches the activities of the Solidarity Day: # We are all Palestine, published 11/29/20, accessed 02/21
16 Al-Jumhuriyya, Qablan hosts a delegation of the federation of resistance scholars, published 07/22/15, accessed 02/21
19 Palinfo, The Al-Aqsa Support Authority launches a series of activities entitled “Lebanese against normalization”, published 11/10/20, accessed 02/21
22 El-Akhbar, Abd al-Malik Sukkariyah: Youth against normalization, published 08/21/2019, accessed 03/21
23 The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, ‘Intifada is life’ a forum on the occasion of the anniversary of the Palestinian popular intifadah in Damascus, published 10/01/19, accessed 02/21
24 Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, A youth meeting to unify efforts for the Fourth Solidarity Forum, published 02/28/18, accessed 02/21
38 The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, The Global Campaign Coordinator meets the Chairman of the Council of Al Mayadin Media Network, Ghassan Bin Jeddo, published 03/06/18, accessed 03/21
39 Samidoun, Monday, 18 January: Launch of 2021 – Year to Confront Normalization, published 01/17/21, accessed 02/21
41 AA, Osama Hamdan from Nouakchott: We will topple the “Deal of the Century”, published 07/21/18, accessed 04/21
42 The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, The opening of the 12th Palestinian National Heritage Exhibition, in cooperation with the campaign, at the Medina Theater in Beirut, published 04/01/19, accessed 02/21
44 Sada sour, A Greek delegation received the official in the Palestine file in Hezbollah, Haj Hassan Hoballah, published 05/16/18, accessed 04/21
46 Alquds News Agency, A solidarity meeting in the municipality of Ghobeiry with Bishop Hanna … and words commended for his stances, published 12/24/19, accessed 02/21
47 The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, A meeting in solidarity with Bishop Atallah Hanna is in Beirut, published 12/25/19, accessed 02/21
48 Taghreeb, Leader Al-Batsh: Martyr Soleimani formed a lever for all the branches of the national and Islamic resistance, published 12/21/20, accessed 04/21
49 The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, Chairman of the High Commission for the March of Return and Breaking the Siege: Our mission in Palestine is to keep the torch of resistance burning, published 08/30/18, accessed 02/21
50 The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, The third day of the Fourth International Forum of Solidarity with Palestine, published 03/13/18, accessed 02/21
51 Hamas, Baraka Receives the General Coordinator of the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, published 11/19/15, accessed 02/21
52 Hamas Islamic Resistance, Hamas chief sends letter to Global Return Campaign, published 07/01/20, accessed 02/21
55 Hezbollah media relations, Media Relations Officer received a delegation from the media meeting 4/9/2015, published 04/09/15, accessed 03/21
56 Al-Arabi Press, His Eminence Sheikh “Yusef Abbas”: Jerusalem in the Khomeinist Insight, published 06/01/19, accessed 03/21
57 Al-Manar, A memorial assembly in Burj Al-Barajneh camp following the martyrdom of leaders Soleimani and the engineer, published 01/10/20, accessed 02/21
59 Taqrib, West of Asia; Iraq, Palestine, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, accessed 02/21
61 Palestinian Information Center, Hani Al-Thawabta: Two important achievements of the return process, and harmony is the secret of its continuation, published 06/04/18, accessed 04/21
71 IRNA, America and Zionism stand behind the fragmentation of the Islamic nation and the scenarios that happen, published 10/26/16, accessed 02/21