Central London was brought to a standstill today as thousands marched and rallied against Israel and the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, with antisemitic themes emerging from the protest.
The march was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Palestinian Forum in Britain (PFB), Friends of Al Aqsa (FOA), Stop the War Coalition (STW) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), some of which have been found to have antisemites amongst their supporters. The march started outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, went via iconic Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square and finished with a rally in Parliament Square opposite the Houses of Parliament, the seat of British democracy.
Volunteers from our Demonstration and Event Monitoring Unit went into the thick of the protesters to gather evidence.
Campaign Against Antisemitism is pleased that an announcement was made over the loudspeaker by a member of the organising committee at Grosvenor Square stating that “The police have told us that people will commit an offence if you fly the Hizballah flag.” When we asked a police officer about the announcement they replied: “I’m glad he said that.”
Along the route, we photographed a disturbing banner claiming: “Zionist media covers up Palestinian Holocaust.” According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions” and “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is antisemitic.
We also took multiple video recordings of marchers chanting: “From the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, Palestine will be free”, a chant that only makes sense as a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement with a Palestinian state. Under the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” is antisemitic.
However, the marchers did not have the streets to themselves. As they continued through the heart of London, their path was blocked by pro-Israel demonstrators waving Israeli flags and singing Israeli songs, bringing the march to a standstill for a time.
At Parliament Square, in the shadow of Big Ben, the protesters heard a series of speeches, including a pre-recorded video message from the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who called for the recognition of Palestine. The crowd responded by singing “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” to the tune of White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”.
Two speakers then led the crowd in the antisemitic chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa was a common theme in the many speeches, with speakers calling for the strengthening of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and demanding that the Prime Minister apologise for the Balfour Declaration, which was a milestone on the way to the establishment of the State of Israel.
The march was backed by major trade unions and addressed by politicians including Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott. Their support for an event which saw widespread antisemitic chanting should be a cause for considerable concern.