A triumph of solidarity
The March Against Anti-Semitism showed us what real anti-racism looks like.
En route to the big March Against Anti-Semitism in London yesterday, there were plenty of reminders of why it was so sorely needed. Walking to the Royal Courts of Justice – where the march set off around 2pm, delayed because of the swelling crowd – I spotted at least three defaced hostage posters, bearing the names and faces of the Israelis snatched and taken to Gaza during the pogrom on 7 October. In a crowded field, the routine ripping-down of these posters, these plaintive reminders not to forget the terrified, kidnapped innocents, has been among the more disturbing examples of the casual anti-Semitism that has burst out into the open these past seven weeks. Calling out Jew hatred apparently irks the Jew haters no end.
On that score, yesterday will have left them seething. Tens of thousands of marchers showed up – Jews and non-Jews, united against anti-Semitism. The organisers, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, say 104,000 people wound their way from the Strand to Parliament Square. Families and friends and family friends jostled to find each other in the unexpectedly huge crowd. ‘Cable Street 1936 – Strand 2023’, read one of the placards, nodding to the last time British Jews and their allies amassed on the streets of London in such large numbers, against Oswald Mosley’s fascists in the East End. But the mood yesterday was as jubilant as it was defiant, with plenty of Jewish humour. ‘Racists, curb your enthusiasm’, was among the most inspired slogans.
Naturally, this good-natured anti-racist march infuriated the anti-racist left. ‘Supporters of a genocide of indigenous Palestinians gather in London and insist that you should feel sorry for them because they’re the real victims’, tweeted one deranged leftist with a depressingly sizeable following. Others dwelled on the very brief appearance by Tommy Robinson, as they tried to paint the march as a magnet for the hard right. Robinson was arrested before the march began – one of only two people arrested yesterday. Novara Media put out a video of his nicking and heavily implied the marchers were fuming about it, all because a couple of people – among a crowd of thousands – could be heard defending him.
In fact, the organisers had told Robinson he wasn’t welcome, but he refused to leave – keen, as ever, to make everything about Tommy Robinson. The police insist his ‘continued presence in the area was likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress to others’. Now, I’d rather the cops didn’t arrest people, no matter how wrongheaded their views, for showing up in a public place where others might not appreciate their presence. But the attempt to tar the march as EDL-adjacent was truly desperate stuff.
The truth is, the March Against Anti-Semitism has shamed the anti-Israel set. And deep down I think they know it. Having spent weeks trying to present those weekly ‘pro-Palestine’ demos – which have been organised by groups with links to Hamas and attended by a staggering array of anti-Semites – as being all about peace and solidarity, yesterday they were confronted with the real deal. Having spent their entire political lives defining themselves as anti-racists and anti-fascists, they were noted by their absence yesterday – as Brits of all faiths and none marched against the fascism of Hamas and the grim re-emergence of the world’s oldest hatred. By contrast, a day before, at their protest on Saturday, someone was arrested for brandishing a swastika.
Those trying to claim the pro-Palestine protests have been unfairly smeared, and that there were probably just as many ‘bad apples’ on the March Against Anti-Semitism, should check out Peter Tatchell’s X feed. The veteran human-rights activist took part in yesterday’s march, carrying a sign saying he stood with both the Israelis and the Palestinians against hate. He says he received zero aggro for doing so, and plenty of pats on the back. Contrast that with his reception at a Palestine march two weeks back. Tatchell claims stewards from the Stop the War coalition – the left-wing group which has long confused being anti-imperialist with being pro-Islamist – blocked his way, accusing him of being a ‘trouble-maker’. His crime? Holding a sign condemning both the Israeli government and Hamas.
One of the most striking things about yesterday was how different the crowd felt to the sort of protesters who will hop on any anti-Israel, anti-Brexit or anti-fossil-fuel thing going. These weren’t, in the main, protest people. They were not the well-drilled sons and daughters of Islington, for whom demonstrations have become a sort of day out / social event. Or the students who show up at Palestine marches, openly admitting they know nothing about the conflict. Yesterday, by contrast, we saw tens of thousands of people, from all walks of life, who were there because they felt they had to be there. Because they felt they had no choice but to be there. Because the stakes were simply too high. There were more pensioners than I think I’ve ever seen on a demonstration, braving the drizzle and the winding, crowd-controlled protest route, marching alongside their kids and grandkids.
The March Against Anti-Semitism really was a triumph of solidarity, of real solidarity – of ordinary people compelled to take a stand against the poison of Jew hatred. What a tragedy that it was so badly needed.
Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
Picture by: Getty.
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