Central London was brought to a chaotic standstill today as thousands marched and rallied against Israel at the “National Demonstration for Palestine: Exist! Resist! Return!”
The march saw open antisemitism from attendees, many of whom cheered as one speaker told adoring crowds that Jewish organisations are “in the gutter” and “part of the problem”. Numerous antisemitic banners and placards were carried through the streets, including one declaring that “Israel provokes antisemitism.” Marchers included senior Labour MPs, known Islamist extremists, and Tony Martin, the leader of the neo-Nazi National Front.
Volunteers from Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Demonstration and Event Monitoring Unit went into the thick of the protest to gather evidence which our Crime Unit is already reviewing.
Under a heavy police presence, protesters assembled outside the BBC headquarters and marched to Whitehall, the heart of British democracy, via iconic Regent Street. The BBC is just a short walk from Central Synagogue where many Jews were gathered for the Sabbath.
Various placards and badges on brazen display drew upon antisemitic conspiracy theories. One large placard declared that “Israel provokes antisemitism”. A badge emblazoned with a Star of David with a Nazi swastika in its midst proclaimed “Down with Zionism”. Another placard repeated the rhyme frequently chanted by the marchers; “From the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, Palestine will be free”, which only makes sense as a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement with a Palestinian state, and is thus an attempt to uniquely deny Jews the right to self-determination. One marcher held aloft a placard suggesting that the BBC is controlled by the Israeli Prime Minister, whilst others hinted strongly at blood libels, carrying a coffin emblazoned with a claim that “Israelis execute Palestinian children” while another held a placard showing a diamond dripping with blood, stating that Israel exports “blood diamonds”, a phrase normally used to refer to diamonds mined by war criminals, usually using child slave labour.
Known Islamist extremists were also spotted by our volunteers, including one who was wearing the emblem of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Activists from “Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism” or LAZIR, founded by Pete Gregson, who was reportedly expelled from the GMB Union over his claims that Israel “exaggerates” the Nazi Germany’s genocide of six million Jews “for political ends” and who seeks to drive “Zionism out of the Labour Party”, handed out leaflets claiming that Zionism, the movement to grant Jews self-determination, is “racism”.
Marching alongside them was the antisemitism-denial group, the sham Jewish Voice for Labour. Its Secretary, Glyn Secker, made a speech which was rapturously received, claiming that Jews were “in the gutter” and “part of the problem”.
Holding American Rabbis responsible for fuelling the neo-Nazis behind antisemitic terrorism, including the fatal terrorist attack on Poway synagogue, Mr Secker claimed that they were “unleashing the extreme-right to win key votes in marginal states which determine the presidency”.
He then called 119 Labour MPs who are “friends of Israel” a “fifth column in the Labour Party led by [Dame Margaret] Hodge and [Tom] Watson and the Jewish Labour Movement.” Upon hearing the name of the Jewish Labour Movement, the crowd booed loudly.
“What on earth are Jews doing in the gutter with these rats?” Mr Secker asked, after claiming that the “Zionist Federation embraces the [far-right] English Defence League”, which is a fabrication. The crowd responded with calls of “Ban then from the Labour Party”.
Mr Secker then asked when Jews would fight fascism, before building to a crescendo: “Here’s a warning to the [British] Jewish leadership, while you foment your campaign of allegations of antisemitism against Corbyn and the left to silence Israel’s critics, while you cry wolf month after month, year after year in the Labour Party and remain blind to the explosion of the far-right and Islamophobia, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” The crowd cheered, by Mr Secker continued: “You serve to protect the poison that would destroy both our freedom and yours. Well brothers and sisters, we are on the side of the Palestinians. We are on the side of the freedom marchers of ghetto Gaza.”
Labour leaders previously intervened to stop Mr Secker from being punished under the Party’s disciplinary process.
Ahed Tamimi, who served almost eight months in prison in Israel for assault, was the star attraction and addressed the crowd briefly. She finished her speech by repeating the antisemitic chant: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Demonstration and Event Monitoring Unit saw no attempt by stewards from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) to remonstrate with any of the speakers or marchers.
Jeremy Corbyn, who is patron of the PSC, gave the march his ringing endorsement. A statement from him was read out by Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott and videoed by a Twitter user who is well-known to us for sending Jews abuse online. The crowd began cheering at the mere mention of Mr Corbyn’s name and applause and cheering continued as his statement was read. Mr Corbyn has long championed the PSC, attending many of its events, including one of which at which he was filmed applauding antisemitic poetry.
Richard Burgon, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, who previously claimed that “Zionism is the enemy of peace” having told a court under oath that he had said no such thing, also addressed the crowd. The fact that Mr Burgon and Ms Abbott, such senior Labour politicians, attended an event which saw widespread antisemitism should be a cause for considerable concern.
The marchers, however, did not have the streets of central London to themselves. A brave group of anti-terrorism activists waving Israeli flags confronted the marchers.
The protest was organised by the PSC, Stop the War Coalition, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Friends of Al- Aqsa and the Muslim Association of Britain. It was supported by the pro-Corbyn Momentum faction of the Labour Party as well as trade unions Unite, PCS, Unison, GMB, RMT, ASLEF, UCU, NEU, TSSA, CWU, and other organisations including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Amos Trust charity.
An investigation by Campaign Against Antisemitism in 2017 exposed extensive antisemitic bigotry amongst supporters of the PSC. Just this week, an Evening Standard investigation uncovered supporters of the PSC sharing antisemitic posts comparing Israelis to Nazis. The shocking antisemitic posts reportedly included a cartoon comparing Israeli Jews with white power neo-Nazis and an image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bathing in Palestinian blood, posing with Adolf Hitler.
The fact that this march saw such brazen displays of antisemitism, with warm support for and from the Labour Party and major trade unions, as well as with the attendance of Islamists and at least one neo-Nazi leader, clearly shows the coalition of antisemitism that British Jews now find themselves the target of. The far-left, the far-right and Islamist extremists clearly all share a common hatred of Jews, and they all attempt to conceal their antisemitism as opposition the world’s only Jewish state.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Crime Unit is now reviewing the evidence gathered today by the volunteers of our Demonstration and Event Monitoring Unit. Where crimes have been committed, we will pursue prosecutions.