But after years of taking part in anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activity, Hafeez's beliefs took an unexpected 180-degree turn. The man who now calls himself "a proud Muslim Zionist" has arrived in Israel for a four-day visit on Saturday as part of his effort to battle misinformation about the Jewish state.
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In a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and the press on Sunday, Hafeez noted that much of the hatred and intolerance of Israel stems from ignorance.
"I've always said that (the problem) with Israeli advocacy (is that) we're not getting the truth out there," he said. "(…) People don't know the facts. I would say to anybody, come to Israel. See the rights that Muslims have.
"It's a beautiful thing, Israel is truly a nation of all its citizens," he added.
UK media's bias
The activist and blogger's perception of the Jewish state changed a few years ago, after he came upon a copy of Alan Dershowitz’s "The Case for Israel."
He initially dismissed the book as "vile Zionist propaganda," but decided to read it after all – a decision that stirred what he calls "a real crisis of conscience" and led him to a period of research and soul-searching. His studies and a visit to Holy Land eventually taught him to love Israel and prompted him to join StandWithUs, an international pro-Israel advocacy group. He now operates the Israel Campaign, a venture that aims to educate about Israel.
Hafeez said on Sunday that the media in the United Kingdom demonstrates a deep bias against Israel, a phenomenon he says has a hand in turning the public against the Jewish state.
"Israel can do no right in the UK press," he said. "Israel is always wrong and everything has a very negative slant.
"It has become very black and white, where the Palestinians are right, and Israel is wrong… It is helping to poison people towards Israel because they are not being told the truth of the conflict. I think there is a case where if you tell a lie enough times, people accept it as being true."
'Palestinian state never existed'
His mission, he said, is to prevent others from growing up brain-washed, the way that he did.
"It's so key that we get the facts out there," he said. "We're sitting here in the Middle East's only liberal democracy, where there are no restrictions on what people can believe. People can vote for their leaders. People of all colors, all races, all backgrounds co-exist here, and people just don't know," he says.
Hafeez lauds a video made by Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon and StandWithUs, noting that its value lies with the way it relays the truth about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
"A Palestinian state never existed," he said. "It's a fact and people don't know it."
In their meeting Sunday, Ayalon urged Hafeez to organize a group of European Muslims who would visit Israel and learn about the country.
The official asserted that one of the problems that the Israeli diplomacy faces is the inability to penetrate the wall of animosity. He expressed hope that more Muslims would choose Hafeez' path, noting that this is the way change Israel's image and solve the conflict.
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