I was proud to be one of over 500 at the counter-protest against the forces of hate gathered at the Al Quds Day rally on July 3 2016 this year.
The counter-protest united thousands of supporters of Israel from across every corner of the UK and showed that in the face of growing anti-Zionism, which often crosses the line into antisemitism, we will no longer be silent.
I was inspired by the work of the Co-Chair of Sussex Friends of Israel Simon Cobbs who, alongside many other pro-Israel organisations, including We Believe in Israel, helped ensure the counter protest was a model for how positive action in support of Israel can make a real difference. I was there representing the Friends of Israel groups in Scotland, which follow Simon’s vision of active grassroots advocacy aiming to ensure that Israel cannot be demonised without impunity. Israel Hate Watch will be a massive help in these endeavours.
It was important for me to be at the counter-protest to show solidarity with other pro-Israel activists. Day in day out, often in hostile conditions, these unsung heroes of the grassroots Israel advocacy movement are making the case for the state of Israel to live in peace and security. When we act together like this we amplify our solidarity towards Israel and all her citizens.
Being there also meant we could highlight the absurdity of the rally we were countering. The whole point of the Al Quds Day rally is to put out a message that there is no connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. This is clearly absurd since the connection is both ancient and intimate. I decided to fly the royal standard of Scotland, the Lion Rampant, which being red on gold not only stood out amongst a sea of blue and white, but was also redolent of the arms of the City of Jerusalem, the lion of the tribe of Judah.
I support the clear message of our counter-protest that “Peace not Hate” has to be our motivation. Peace is a process that begins with dialogue, or at the very least a recognition that all have the right to live and prosper. In pursuit of peace, wonderfully reflected in the glorious Hebrew word ‘shalom’, grassroots advocates from all over the UK are working together to host an inaugural International Shalom Festival next month in Edinburgh. It is part of the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival and will be a joyous celebration of how ordinary Israelis work towards and celebrate coexistence. It would be brilliant if those who turned out to protest with righteous indignation did the same in Edinburgh on Wednesday August 17 for exuberant festivity! You can buy your ticket here.
What I saw at the Al Quds Day rally in London was some of the worst expressions of humanity. I was shocked and saddened to see so many Hezbollah flags being flown. The support shown for this vile antisemitic terrorist organisation was proof that those taking part in this rally were motivated by hatred. This sort of hate should have no place whatsoever in the UK and I’d therefore urge people to take part in We Believe in Israel’s campaign to ensure that the flag of Hezbollah will never again pollute the skyline of London. You can find out how to take part in the campaign here.
I want to end this post on a happy note, as I believe the forces of hope will always win out over the forces of despair. The counter-protest attended by hundreds was a reminder of the positive moral energy you see when Jews, Christians and many from across the political and religious spectrum come together to express their love of Israel. Despite attempts by those who seem to spend every minute of their day trying to demonise Israel, it is important to remember that Israel has many friends in the UK, who are prepared on a daily basis to take positive action to campaign for Israel, for all her citizens, for peace.