At a time when British armed forces are engaged in assisting the fight against ISIS terrorism in Iraq and Syria, the flags of another, equally racist, antisemitic and would-be genocidal terrorist movement, Hezbollah, were waving in the centre of London.
Al Quds Day was invented by the Iranian Islamist regime in 1979. The then ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini, announced it along with a call for ‘the victory of the Muslims over the infidels’. In Iran, the event is an entirely state-sponsored affair.
On Sunday 3 July some of the 600 Al Quds Day demonstrators waved Hezbollah flags, held signs saying “We are all Hezbollah” and carried anti-Israel signs through the streets of London. The event was organised by the ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’. Some indication of this group’s views can be gleaned from its decision last year to award its ‘Islamophobe of the Year’ award to the murdered staff of Charlie Hebdo. At their ‘awards ceremony’ for this the IHRC even joked about what a shame it was that none of the staff of Charlie Hebdo were around to collect the award.
Al Quds Day has little to do with human rights or Palestinian statehood. It is an Islamist event dedicated to the destruction of Israel. A banner reading “Dismantling of Zionist State = End Of Bloodshed” led the procession, while placards accusing Israel of genocide were handed out to the crowd. One handmade sign stated “Israel is a cancer, We are the cure.”
Where these events have been staged in the past, they have been almost entirely unopposed. Not this time. 400 – 500 pro-Israel counter-demonstrators opposed this protest of hate, and the two groups had to be separated by a line of police. In contrast to the protesters message of hate, the counter-demonstrators handed out signs proclaiming “Peace Not Hate.”
A puzzling feature of the event is the attitude of the authorities, specifically the Police. Counter-terrorist legislation bans the use of flags and other symbols of terrorist organisations in the UK. Indeed, Section 13 of the Counter Terrorism Act of 2000 states that people who ‘wear clothing or carry or display articles in public in such a way or in such circumstances as arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of the proscribed organisation’ are guilty of a criminal offence.’ On top of this, Theresa May has also given clear guidance to all police forces that makes specific mentions of antisemitism and confirmed that the flying of Hezbollah flags is criminal offence.
In addition, Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation was proscribed in March 2001 and in 2008 the proscription was extended to Hezbollah’s Military apparatus including the Jihad Council. Although Hezbollah’s political wing is currently not banned in the UK, we believe that all wings of Hezbollah are working in the cause of terrorism.
Indeed, speaking in October 2012, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem stated:
“We don’t have a military wing and a political one; we don’t have Hezbollah on one hand and the resistance party on the other…Every element of Hezbollah, from commanders to members as well as our various capabilities, are in the service of the resistance, and we have nothing but the resistance as a priority.”
Yet despite all of this, the London Metropolitan Police did not interfere when Hezbollah Flags were waved and placards held in support of Hezbollah.
The Conservative MP for Hendon, Matthew Offord, who spoke at the counter-demonstration, has previously written a letter to the Metropolitan Police voicing his objections to the flying of the Hezbollah flag, ‘contrary to Section 13 of the Terrorism Act (2000)’ and has pledged to raise the issue again in Parliament. Sadly however, official responses have revealed an alarming ambiguity and confusion in the government’s stance. Officially, the armed wing of Hezbollah is a proscribed terrorist organisation but its political wing is not – a fiction which allows those who show support for Hezbollah not facing criminal charges. The fact that the Hezbollah flag – proudly waved at the demonstration – includes a picture of an automatic rifle merely highlights the absurdity of such a distinction between two wings of the same organisation.
Mr Offord deserves our support in his efforts to secure the banning of terrorist symbols in the capital. That the British government appears helpless in the face of such provocation should be a source of shame. That such events can no longer pass without vocal opposition is a source of pride.