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