Al Quds March to go ahead tomorrow despite Hezbollah flag controversy

The annual Al Quds Day march

The annual Al Quds Day march for Palestine will go ahead tomorrow in London despite attempts by the pro Israel lobby to get it banned.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission – one of the organisations which organises the event – has condemned attempts by “Zionist groups to smear the event with the aim of concealing the ongoing crimes of the Israeli regime.”

The IHRC said complaints about the demonstration being “a vehicle for anti-Semitism” have become an annual feature of the Al-Quds day build-up.

“It is evident from their baseless claims that there is an ulterior motive at play. This is to silence any criticism or opposition to the Zionist regime in Israel which continues to routinely oppress and violate the human rights of Palestinians both inside and outside the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“Their aim is to brush under the carpet Israel’s ongoing atrocities, demonising those who stand for Palestine using cheap smear tactics so that in the absence of an alternative narrative they can force their deliberately distorted image of a peace-loving Israel on everyone else.

“IHRC rejects the claim that the event is anti-Semitic. Indeed, it is supported by many Jewish organisations and every year there are many Jewish speakers. Last year, the main speaker at the event was renowned activist Michel Warschawski from the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem.

“If anything, the diversity of people at this demonstration – Jews, Muslims, Christians, people of other faiths and none, shows that people can come together to work together for justice for Palestinians, in a way that effectively challenges antisemitism.

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“The organisers refuse to be cowed by this kind of abuse, harassment and intimidation. We will not allow a small but vocal minority of nationalists, who defend and advocate violence against innocent Palestinian civilians, to hinder or defeat our attempts to highlight the plight of Palestinians which continues to deteriorate day after day, year after year.”

A particular source of contention seems to be the presence of Hezbollah flags at previous rallies. The military wing of Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organisation by the UK, but not its political wing which is part of the Lebanese government.

The Hezbollah flag

IHRC says participants are welcome to bring flags that show solidarity with the Palestinian cause but flags of proscribed organisations will not be allowed. So people can bring a Hezbollah flag to show support for the political wing of Hezbollah.

IHRC added that if there are counter demonstrations, participants should not communicate with them.

Thousands are expected to turn out to commemorate al-Quds Day, a day that has been marked globally since being inaugurated in 1979 by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini who asked for the last Friday in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to be set aside as a day for uniting against Israel and showing support for the dispossessed and oppressed Palestinians.

Since then it has snowballed into a general show of solidarity drawing in people of all faiths and political persuasions. This year’s London event will again feature people of all political and religious persuasions including Jews from Israel, Christians and Muslims.

Demonstrators will assemble in Duchess Street before marching through the busy streets of central London to Grosvenor Square, home to the US embassy.

The embassy has been selected as a rallying point because of Washington’s continuing support of Israel. The US continues to underwrite the Zionist regime financially, militarily and politically and block all attempts at finding a just solution to the Palestinian issue.

The Zionist regime has continued its relentless policy of settlement building, confiscating and isolating Palestinian lands and restricting Palestinians’ movement and access to the necessities of daily life such as water and medical care. Resistance to the occupation has been met with bullets – scores of Palestinians have again been killed in the last year.

The Gaza Strip remains effectively blockaded by Israel on one side and the Egyptian regime on the other. The siege has crippled the economy with nearly half of all people out of work, higher than any other economy in the world. Youth unemployment is believed to be 60%. Some 80% of inhabitants are dependent on external aid to survive.

Speakers tomorrow will include Mick Napier of Scottish Palestine Solidarity, Baroness Jenny Tonge, and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods. Supporting organisations include Union of Islamic Students Association in the UK, Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Muslim Association of Britain, Neturei Karta UK and the Stop the War Coalition.

Meanwhile, the Campaign Against Antisemitism says it has met with the Metropolitan Police Service but were told that the march will go ahead and those flying Hezbollah flags would be protected by police officers.

Campaign Against Antisemitism has made representations to the Metropolitan Police Service, the Charity Commission and the Home Office.

Gideon Falter, Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “We would like to note that despite various calls from within the Jewish community for the Mayor of London to take action against this procession, he has no statutory power to do so and criticism of him for failing to exercise a power he does not possess is misplaced. Both the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime have been very helpful in facilitating contact with the right people within the Metropolitan Police Service, and we are grateful to them for their efforts. We also wish to thank Andrew Dismore, Member of the London Assembly for Barnet and Camden, who has been extremely supportive of our efforts.”

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