Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters are expected to rally in London Sunday for an annual march often marked by extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and will be allowed to fly Hezbollah flags.
The Quds Day march, scheduled for 3 p.m. London time outside the Saudi Embassy, comes days after similar marches were held in Iran, Syria and other places, with protesters burning flags and chanting “Death to Israel.”
Earlier this month, London police confirmed they will not stop marchers from flying the flag of the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
Police said because British policy only designated the armed wing of Hezbollah as a terror group, and not its political arm, flying the flag was legitimate political expression.
In years past, the sight of the flag being flown on London’s streets has drawn the ire of the Jewish community and others. Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy group, is responsible for a string of deadly attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets around the world over the last decades, including the 2012 bombing of a bus of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.
“Purely holding a flag does not necessarily incite religious or racial hatred. It is the words or actions of the person holding the flag that can cause incitement,” police commander Jane Conners wrote in a letter on the matter to MP Louise Ellman, according to the JC.
Ellman called for Parliament to pass a new law blacklisting all of Hezbollah, which Europe has traditionally resisted, citing the group’s important role in Lebanese politics.
“If we see the machine-gun adorned flag of an antisemitic terror group on London’s streets again this June it will be due to the inaction of the government – they must act now,” Ellman wrote in response, according to the report.
The Zionist Federation said it was planning a counter-rally but warned far-right extremists not to join the pro-Israel demonstrators.
“Whilst we are proud to stand against this hate, we are acutely aware that elements of the far-right and neo-Nazi groups have been encouraging their members and supporters to also rally against the Al-Quds Day march,” the ZF said in a statement, according to the London-based Jewish News.
At a Quds Day rally in London in 2017, marchers carried Hezbollah flags and blamed “Zionists” for a fire in the low-income Grenfell Tower apartment complex in London that left 79 people presumed dead.
“This demonstration calls on justice for Grenfell. Some of the biggest supporters of the Conservative Party are Zionists. They are responsible for the murder of the people in Grenfell. The Zionist supporters of the Tory Party. Free, Free, Palestine!” one man shouted into a microphone during the march, according to the JC.
The Iran-backed Quds Day event occurs annually on the last Friday of Ramadan since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in the country, and this year comes amid higher than normal tensions along the Gaza border, where large-scale protests have taken place weekly, and jitters over a possible confrontation between Iran or Hezbollah and Israel in Syria. Palestinians and supports have also been incensed by the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as the capital of Israel.
Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem.
In a speech marking the day Friday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened that war was coming.
“We do not want to destroy or kill or throw anyone into the sea,” he said. “Get on your planes and boats and go back to the countries you came from.”
But “if you insist on the occupation, the day of the great war is coming, the day we will all pray in Jerusalem.”
Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issued a message calling on people around the world to attend Quds Day rallies.
“Quds Day is a historic day when everybody protests against tyrants and voices support for an oppressed people who have been displaced from their homes during the past 70 years,” he was quoted as saying by the official Mehr News website.