LONDON - Hundreds of pro-Israel demonstrators took to the streets of London on Sunday to protest against this year’s Quds Day march, an annual event established by Iran to promote the destruction of Israel. A counter-demonstration was organized by Jewish organizations, including the Zionist Federation of the UK, StandWithUs, the World Jewish Congress and the WJC's UK affiliate, the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Police forces were on alert along the parade route as around two hundred anti-Israel protesters made their way through central, London only two weeks after the third deadly terror attack to rock England this year. Waving the flags of Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist organization, the marchers called for boycotts of Israel and accused the Jewish state of perpetrating genocide against the Palestinians.
Small children were also draped in the Hezbollah flag, which features an image of a fist gripping a Kalashnikov assault rifle, prompting speakers at the counter-demonstration, to highlight the Quds Day organizers of using children to promote their cause in a form of child abuse.
Expressing his “revulsion at this obscene march,” Jonathan Arkush, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said that he believed that the police should have used their authority to curtail the anti-Israel event, turning it into a fixed protest rather than a parade.
“They have the power to determine where the static demonstration should have taken place. I wish they’d used it. So I’ve got a suggestion for next year. If they want to gather and have a static demonstration let them. I suggest next year they gather in Tehran,” Arkush told the crowd.
A member of the WJC’s Jewish Diplomatic Corps, Vladimir Bermant, also addressed the counter-demonstration, saying:
“The flag’s symbolism…is not subtle – violence is the way, violence brings glory, and violence will make Hezbollah triumphant, as the inscription suggests.
“Unfortunately, we Londoners now know all too well that people who attend marches like this, people who wave terrorist flags and shout Death to Israel and Death to America, are the kinds of people who may end up as terrorists themselves – in London Bridge, at a peaceful concert in Manchester, at Westminster, or – God forbid – somewhere else. This is why the Al Quds Day march should be banned. Bringing young children to an event that celebrates a terrorist organization and promotes bigotry is nothing less than child abuse. It poisons fertile minds at a young, vulnerable age and creates problems of radicalization which will be very difficult to solve in future.”
Over the past several weeks, more than 20,000 people have signed a petition calling for the event to banned due to the presence of the pro-Hezbollah elements. However, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that he did not believe he held the authority to prohibit the march. Britain has banned Hezbollah’s militant wing while permitting its political side, a loophole which permitted the marchers to publicly the group. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, however, has explicitly said that he sees no difference between the two halves of the organization.
Clad in Israeli flags and carrying signs proclaiming “peace not hate,” the pro-Israeli demonstrators at one point blocked the passage of the march, standing across the road and singing Hebrew songs of brotherhood. For the most part, however, there was little friction between the groups, which were kept apart by the police.
“Zionism is a noble movement for self-determination of the Jewish people and the creation of Israel is Zionism’s crowning achievement,” WJC Jewish Diplomat Vladimir Bermant told the crowds gathering in central London.
“It is an accomplishment we should be proud of and which we should celebrate…We hold dear inviolable principles of democratic governance, gender equality, individual freedom to pursue one’s individual conception of happiness, and a shared commitment to building a better future. Israel is a glowing example of this. Especially remarkable as it is surrounded by a region of despotism and intolerance.”
The counter-demonstration was a joint initiative of the Zionist Federation of the United Kingdom, StandWithUs, the World Jewish Congress, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, We Believe in Israel, Sussex Friends of Israel, North London Friends of Israel and the Israel Advocacy Movement.