UK chief rabbi pans 'hateful extremism' of demonstrators

‘Free Palestine’ rallies in Washington, London and elsewhere accuse Israel of genocide

US capital sees largest anti-Israel protest in years; 29 arrested at London rally, where some celebrate October 7 attack; thousands in Toronto block main intersection with sit-in

Protesters gather with placards and Palestinian flags during the 'London Rally For Palestine' in Trafalgar Square, central London on November 4, 2023. (Justin Tallis/AFP)
Protesters gather with placards and Palestinian flags during the 'London Rally For Palestine' in Trafalgar Square, central London on November 4, 2023. (Justin Tallis/AFP)

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli protesters rallied in London, Paris, Washington, Berlin and elsewhere on Saturday calling for a ceasefire in Gaza as the intense fighting showed no signs of abating.

After US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken held talks in Israel for pauses to the fighting to allow humanitarian aid to make its way through the besieged enclave, the American capital saw its largest pro-Palestinian rally in years, with thousands calling for an end to US support for Israel and some outside the White House chanting for the elimination of the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, European capitals saw the latest of a series of rallies that have included both calls for a halt to the fighting and alleged praise for the Hamas terror group’s onslaught of southern Israel.

Many rallies featured protesters holding bloodied dolls or body bags, meant to highlight Gazan children killed during the fighting.

Israel launched its war against Hamas after the terror group carried out its brutal assault on southern Israel communities, killing some 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking over 240 hostages, including small children and the elderly. In response to the killings, Israel vowed to eradicate the terror group and has since hit thousands of Hamas targets inside the Strip with airstrikes and ongoing ground operations.

Israel says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates while seeking to minimize civilian casualties, while the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims over 9,400 people have been killed, without distinguishing between civilians and combatants. The terror group’s claims cannot be verified, and likely also include those killed by misfired rockets aimed at Israeli communities that fall short inside the Strip.

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in London, the fourth consecutive week that the British capital was the venue for a large rally in support of Palestinians since the October 7 massacres by Hamas.

Police estimated that about 30,000 attended the rally in Trafalgar Square in central London.

At the rally, protesters waved Palestinian flags and held placards calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Some signs appeared to celebrate Hamas’s October 7 attack, including one depicting a bulldozer tearing down Gaza’s border fence, and Demonstrators on a London tube ride traveling to the rally chanted: “Smash the Zionist settler state.”

Police said 29 people were arrested, including a person who gave an antisemitic speech, two people who displayed a banner supporting Hamas and others who incited racial hatred or attacked officers.

Metropolitan Police Commander Karen Findlay blamed the violence and racism on troublemakers at the fringes of the protest, saying most at the rally demonstrated peacefully.

“It is disappointing that various splinter groups were again responsible for behavior which has no place in London and we are determined to deal with this robustly,” she said in the statement.

Sama Dababneh, 26, a Jordanian business consultant who came to the rally with her Palestinian friends, said they were tired of the stream of upsetting images coming from Gaza.

“We came here to support the ceasefire,” she said. “We spend the whole week consuming the news and this is very draining, so this is our only form of outlet.”

Many of the rallies have set Jewish communities in Europe and elsewhere on edge, amid a spike in antisemitic attacks and sentiment worldwide.

Protesters gather with placards and Palestinian flags during the “London Rally For Palestine” in Trafalgar Square, central London on November 4, 2023. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

In an opinion piece in The Times newspaper, the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis issued a call to “redraw [the] lines of moral clarity without delay,” decrying the “hateful extremism” of those pro-Palestinian demonstrators who equate Hamas’s atrocities with “resistance.”

“They illustrate a world view in which the deliberate slaughter of babies where they sleep, the rape of women and the beheading of civilians in their homes, can be framed as ‘resistance.’ The organizers had described the perpetrators online as ‘heroic’ and as ‘brave fighters’ to whom they offered their ‘unconditional support,'” Mirvis wrote.

“It is a stain on our common humanity that so many seem to have lost sight of the moral distance between Hamas and Israel,” the piece read. “This is hateful extremism. We must have the moral courage to call it by its name and to face it down.”

“Make no mistake, at its heart, this is a war of values. Its consequences will shape the world that our children inherit,” he added.

Pro-Palestinian groups say they are planning to march in Britain’s capital again on Saturday, November 11, Armistice Day, to demand an immediate ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

On Friday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that planning protests for November 11, a day of remembrance for soldiers killed in the two world wars and subsequent conflicts, would be “provocative and disrespectful.”

There was a clear and present risk that the Cenotaph and other war memorials could be desecrated in a protest, something which would “be an affront to the British public and the values we stand for,” he said.

Dababneh said she would be one of those protesting on Armistice Day.

“I am coming for sure,” she said. “What is happening in Palestine shows that we didn’t learn anything from what happened before.”

Protesters gather with placards and Palestinian flags during the “London Rally For Palestine” in Trafalgar Square, central London on November 4, 2023. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

Joanna Mazouzi, 50, said she attended the march because she cares about the suffering of the Palestinian people.

“They have a right to live on their own land, in their own country.”

“It’s huge and every week there are more and more because the more Israel bombs and kills innocent, defenseless people, the more people will come.”

Abdullah Hussain, 37, unemployed, came to the rally with his two sons, both aged five.

“We see thousands of children dying, schools are bombed, hospitals are bombed, and it’s indiscriminate,” he said.

Smaller pro-Palestinian protests took place in cities across the United Kingdom, including in Sheffield, Manchester, and Glasgow, where protesters waved Palestinian flags and called for an immediate ceasefire.

In Belfast, 4,000 protesters marched on the US consulate. Demonstrators placed teddy bears at the site’s entrance to represent children killed in Gaza.

Mairead Maguire, a Northern Ireland peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, called on the Irish government to trigger the 1951 Genocide Convention over Israel’s offensive.

“The genocide of the Palestinian people has been going on since 1945,” she said in her address to the demonstration, then went on to claim that Israel would “clear Palestine” after Gaza.

“And if we, as the people of the world, allow the Palestinian people to be destroyed further, it will be to our utter shame. Who is next?”

Protesters in Paris cast Macron as an ‘accomplice’

Across the English Channel in Paris, several thousand pro-Palestinian protesters called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, with some shouting “Israel, assassin.”

Demonstrators took aim at French President Emmanuel Macron, chanting “Macron, accomplice.” Some carry placards that read “Immediate ceasefire,” a cry also chanted repeatedly by the crowd. Banners on a sound system truck at the center of the march read “Stop the massacre in Gaza.”

Demonstrators also chanted “Palestine will live, Palestine will win,” with many carrying Palestinian flags.

The demonstrators’ planned route ran between two large public squares in eastern Paris, République and Nation. Paris’s police chief authorized the march but vowed that any behavior deemed antisemitic or sympathetic toward terrorism would not be tolerated by police officers mobilized to keep order.

Protesters hold a Palestinian flag during a demonstration “in solidarity with the Palestinian people” in Paris, on November 4, 2023. (Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

Biggest DC pro-Palestinian rally in years

Some 10,000 people descended on Freedom Plaza near the White House for Washington’s largest pro-Palestinian protest in years.

Demonstrators at the rally chanted slogans such as “Free Palestine” and “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.” The latter is a slogan used by Hamas and others to advocate for the destruction of Israel, since Israel, the West Bank and Gaza sit between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.

In a call and response, a woman was heard saying into a microphone “Long live the intifada,” to which the crowd responded, “Intifada, intifada, intifada.”

Some participants also rallied outside the White House’s gates, chanting “We don’t want a Jewish state, we want ’48” — an apparent call for Israel’s destruction — and smearing red paint on concrete posts along the compound’s outer fence.

While there was a great deal of anger among participants, there were no reports of violence or clashes with local law enforcement securing the rallies.

Speakers called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and accused Israel of carrying out a “genocide” in the Hamas-run enclave.

Demonstrators rally in support of Palestinians and against Israel, in Washington, on November 4, 2023, amid the ongoing war between Israel and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)

The speakers also expressed their major frustration with US President Joe Biden over his support for Israel and warned that it will cost him their votes in the next presidential election.

Rapper Macklemore was one of the most high-profile participants to address the rally, saying, “I don’t know everything, but I know enough that this is a genocide.”

It’s unclear where such voters would turn, though, given that the Republican party’s approach to the conflict is further out of step with their own and nearly a dozen GOP lawmakers have introduced dead-on-arrival legislation seeking to expel Palestinians from the US.

In Toronto, some 25,000 people marched in front of the US consulate to protest against Israel, in what was called the Canadian city’s largest pro-Palestinian demonstration since the start of the war. Participants blocked a main intersection and said they would refuse to leave until their voices were heard, the Toronto Star reported.

‘Fight against global arrogance’

In Tehran, Iran, demonstrators gathered in front of the former US embassy chanting “Down with USA” and “Down with Israel.”

They set ablaze an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu as well as the US and Israel flags in front of flag-waving crowds.

The demonstrations came on the Islamic Republic’s “day of the fight against global arrogance.” November 4 marks the day Iranians attacked the US embassy in 1979 and the taking of 52 American diplomats as hostages, which lasted 444 days.

Iran, which backs Hamas, has labeled the Israeli bombardment of Gaza “genocide” and has allegedly directed a number of attacks against Israel via proxy groups in Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.

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