Fewer flags flown, but foot­ball thugs thrown into ac­tivists’ mix

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY BEN WEICH

HEZBOL­LAH FLAGS were again flown at Sunday’s an­nual Al Quds Day march in Cen­tral Lon­don, with one speaker call­ing for Is­rael to be “wiped from the map”.

The an­nual anti-Zion­ist demon­stra­tion clashed with pro-Is­rael counter pro­test­ers and far-right na­tion­al­ists. Po­lice ar­rested one per­son on sus­pi­cion of pos­ses­sion of a nox­ious sub­stance.

Sam Shah, who at­tended the rally, de­fended the fly­ing of Hezbol­lah flags, ar­gu­ing the right of ac­tivists of Le­banese de­scent to sup­port “an or­gan­i­sa­tion which has formed a re­sis­tance to Is­rael”.

He said: “If there are Le­banese here who share a sen­ti­ment with Hezbol­lah that is their pre­rog­a­tive. But this march has noth­ing to do with Hezbol­lah, re­ally.

“I think the Zion­ists are con­fused. I think they have been brain­washed. And they’ve been found out, so to speak. Peo­ple now in Bri­tain are acutely aware. In of­fices and workspaces across

A young pro­tester at the rally the coun­try they are talk­ing about Pales­tine.”

Judy Bud­nick, 68, a counter-pro­tester, told the JC she was of­fended by the sight of Hezbol­lah flags be­cause they “rep­re­sent the destruc­tion of the Jews and Is­rael”.

Ad­dress­ing the crowd of thou­sands, Shaykh Mo­ham­mad Saeed Bah­man­pour also claimed “the Zion­ists’ days are num­bered”.

Nazim Hus­sein Ali, who last year claimed there was a con­nec­tion be­tween the Gren­fell Tower tragedy and “Zion­ists”, again led the protest. To cheers, he urged the crowd to thank “peo­ple of Jewish back­grounds” who at­tended the rally, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the strictly Or­tho­dox anti-Zion­ist Ne­turei Karta sect. Demon­stra­tors also burned an Is­raeli flag. Sup­port­ers of Is­rael played the coun­try’s na­tional an­them on speak­ers, as well as Is­rael’s re­cent Euro­vi­sion-win­ning en­try.

Fiona Sharpe, co-founder of Sus­sex Friends of Is­rael, said: “It’s im­por­tant that the Jewish com­mu­nity has a pres­ence here. While we don’t want to cur­tail any­one’s free­dom of speech, we do not want it to be­come hate speech.

“Fly­ing the Hezbol­lah flag crosses the line.”

As the Al Quds march pro­ceeded to­wards Down­ing Street, pro-Is­rael ac­tivists chanted “Ter­ror­ist scum, off our streets”, and “Whose streets? Our streets”.

Ear­lier, a group of far-right foot­ball fans were cleared from the area af­ter at­tempt­ing to en­ter the zone in which pro-Pales­tinian demon­stra­tors had con­gre­gated. The far-right na­tion­al­ists, many back­ing EDL founder Tommy Robin­son, were kept apart from the proIs­rael rally by po­lice.

Danny Kir­ton, one of the pro­tes­tors, told the JC: “We’re all foot­ball lads. We’ve come here to smash the ter­ror­ists. We’ve come to do them.”

Ahead of the rally, the Com­mu­nity Se­cu­rity Trust (CST) and the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion had in­sisted the far-right demon­stra­tors were sep­a­rated from the area des­ig­nated for pro-Is­rael ac­tivists.

A CST spokesman said: “It was a chal­leng­ing task, re­quir­ing strong co­op­er­a­tion from both the ZF and the Metropoli­tan Po­lice, made harder due to the var­i­ous far-right and foot­ball gang type groups.”

A Jewish lawyer who halted the an­tiZion­ist Al Quds Day rally for an hour by re­fus­ing to move his wheel­chair said he did so to protest against Hezbol­lah flags and “in­flam­ma­tory rhetoric”.

Thou­sands gath­ered out­side the Saudi em­bassy in Cen­tral Lon­don on Sunday, where they flew flags of the Le­banese Is­lamist group.

Their march to­wards Down­ing Street was due to be­gin at 5pm but demon­stra­tors were un­able to progress af­ter Mark Lewis, who suf­fers from mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis (MS), re­fused to move.

Mr Lewis at­tended the coun­ter­demon­stra­tion with a con­tin­gent from the UK branch of Herut, a right-wing Zion­ist party founded by Me­nachem Be­gin.

He told the JC that he halted the demon­stra­tion for “about an hour”, be­fore be­ing threat­ened with ar­rest and then forcibly moved to the side of the road by a po­lice of­fi­cer. De­fi­ant: Mark Lewis holds back the crowds

“The prob­lem is the gov­ern­ment and the Home Sec­re­tary for al­low­ing ter­ror­ists on our streets.

“I take ex­cep­tion to the Hezbol­lah flags and the in­flam­ma­tory speeches call­ing for the destruc­tion of a coun­try.

“Hope­fully we got the mes­sage across. Enough is enough — we need to ban ter­ror­ists march­ing

through our streets. This has to be the last year.”

The march even­tu­ally pro­gressed to­wards Pic­cadilly Cir­cus af­ter Mr Lewis’s de­lay.

Mr Lewis fea­tured in a Chan­nel Four doc­u­men­tary last year which fol­lowed him in a clin­i­cal trial for MS treat­ment at Is­rael’s Hadas­sah hos­pi­tal.

PHOTO: EL­LIOT SIN­CLAIR

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