Hezbollah flags fly as pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel demonstrators face off in UK

Anti-Zionist speakers at Quds Day event in London include Anglican cleric who in 2015 accused Israel of perpetrating 9/11 attacks

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Illustrative: A Hezbollah flag is waved during an Al-Quds rally in London (Steve Winston/via Jewish News)
Illustrative: A Hezbollah flag is waved during an Al-Quds rally in London (Steve Winston/via Jewish News)

Some 200 pro-Palestinian protesters and a similar number of pro-Israel counter-demonstrators faced off in London on Sunday, as the former group marked the annual anti-Zionist Quds Day.

The event, which takes place in many cities worldwide, but mainly in Iran and some parts of the Muslim world, is held ostensibly to protest Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as their capital in any future peace deal. Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem.

Critics say Quds Day, which was initiated by Iran in 1979, it is not only anti-Zionist but also anti-Semitic.

One of the speakers at Sunday’s event was the Anglican Church cleric Stephen Sizer, who in 2015 posted an article to his Facebook page titled, “9/11: Israel did it,” which alleged that the Jewish state was behind the 2001 attacks that killed approximately 3,000 people on the east coast of the United States.

A reporter for the UK’s Sky TV network tweeted that there was a “calm but lively atmosphere,” as riot police and barriers kept the two sides around 15 meters (50 feet) apart.

Also spotted in the crowd of anti-Israel protesters were anti-Zionist members of the Jewish ultra-Orthodox community who do not recognize the State of Israel, maintaining that the Jewish state should not exist until the messiah appears.

The flag of the Iran-aligned Lebanese terror group Hezbollah was flown at the protest.

Earlier this month, London police confirmed they would not stop marchers from flying the flag, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

Police said that 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.

The Jewish Chronicle also reported that London’s Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, subsequently appealed to Home Secretary Sajid Javid to ban Hezbollah’s political wing as well, and to close the legal loophole that enabled people to fly the group’s flag on political grounds.

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 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.

Louise Ellman (Robbiedogg/Wikipedia)

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 anti-Semitic 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.

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 72 people 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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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