Anti-Israel bigots do not own our streets

Why we need to counter-protest against the ‘pro-Palestine’ marches.

Mark Birbeck

Topics Free Speech Politics UK

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Since the 7 October pogrom, there have been regular marches across the UK, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Stop the War Coalition, calling for an unconditional ceasefire and an arms embargo against Israel. Both demands amount to the same thing: for Israel to surrender to Hamas and so risk suffering a repeat of 7 October.

This isn’t hyperbole. Hamas worked for half a decade to create the military infrastructure that would allow its fighters to execute 7 October. The attack itself was planned more than a year before it took place. Senior Hamas figures have also readily admitted that they would repeat these atrocities if given the chance.

While ‘progressives’ have marched, week after week, on the side of Islamists, Britain’s Jewish community, its allies and supporters of Israel have largely confined themselves to dignified Sunday vigils – to remind the public about the Israeli hostages still held by Hamas.

But there is also a growing movement of protesters standing up against anti-Semitism at home and for Israel’s right to defend itself. Last November, tens of thousands of people took part in an impressive mass march against anti-Semitism in London. The following month, more than 1,500 people rallied outside Whitehall to protest against UN Women for its prolonged silence on the mass rape of Israeli women on 7 October. In February this year, the ‘No to Terror’ rally in London’s Tavistock Square was attended by survivors of the Nova music festival in southern Israel.

Many have also started counter-protesting the ‘pro-Palestine’ marches directly. There is a sense that the PSC and Co cannot be allowed to own the streets of the UK’s major cities, from London to Liverpool, every Saturday. Many Jews find these weekly marches, with their often outright displays of anti-Semitism, extremely intimidating. If these protests remain unchallenged, onlookers will simply assume that this bigotry speaks for Britain.

The best example of these counter-protests has come from Iranian dissident Niyak Ghorbani. He has been campaigning against the Islamic Republic of Iran for years, but he has recently focussed his attention on Hamas. He wants to remind people that Israel is a key ally in the fight against tyranny. Unlike many in the West, he knows that Israel is on the front line in the struggle against Islamism.

Niyak’s protest strategy is to attend pro-Palestine rallies, full of marchers calling for an immediate ceasefire, while holding a sign that declares Hamas to be a terrorist organisation. This simple act of truth-telling has been incredibly powerful, provoking anger from protesters who would prefer to ignore the fact Israel is fighting a war against Hamas, not Gazan civilians.

His protests have also confused the police, who have arrested and then ‘de-arrested’ him twice since the beginning of March. Niyak’s bravery and tenacity has provoked national debates about Britain’s two-tier approach to policing and has encouraged others to follow suit.

The number of counter-protests has grown since the middle of March. Some have been large and loud, but others have come from small, brave, vocal and local groups. Many of these counter-protests have also been more focussed. Last week, the campaign group ‘Enough is Enough!’ turned up outside a Barclays branch in London, which was being boycotted by the PSC campaign because it does business with Israel. On this occasion, the counter-protesters actually outnumbered the boycotters.

In the current climate, solidarity with the Jewish community and with Israel, as well as greater opposition to arms embargoes and boycotts, are sorely needed. If you can get to London this Saturday, 27 April, then join us for the next lively counter-protest from midday (further details to follow). If not, then join a counter-protest in your area. If there isn’t one, why not set one up? You won’t regret it.

Mark Birbeck is a co-founder of Our Fight, a new campaign in support of Israel and against anti-Semitism. Visit the website here and follow them on X: @OurFightUK.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Free Speech Politics UK


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