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The staggering ignorance of the ‘pro-Palestine’ protesters

Young, idealistic activists seem blissfully unaware that they are marching alongside Islamists.

Potkin Azarmehr

Topics Politics UK

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‘Pro-Palestine’ protests have become a near-weekly occurrence across Britain. Since Hamas’s 7 October massacre, regular marches have been drawing in a growing number of young people, marked by passionate advocacy and fervent slogans. Yet despite their zeal, many of these protesters lack a fundamental understanding of the conflict they are so vociferously decrying.

In the past six months, I have attended many of these marches. Having engaged with numerous protesters, I have noticed a startling disconnect between their strong opinions on the Gaza conflict and their shaky grasp of basic facts about it. Among the most perplexing are the LGBT and feminist groups (the ‘Queers for Palestine’ types) who flirt with justifying Hamas’s atrocities. This is a bewildering alliance, given that Hamas’s Islamist ideology is clearly antithetical to the rights and values these groups claim to champion. Its reactionary agenda is profoundly hostile to women’s rights and LGBT individuals.

Protesters seem eager to make excuses for Hamas, but are conspicuously uninformed about exactly what or who this terrorist group represents. On 18 May, during a protest at Piccadilly Circus in London, I spoke to demonstrators who firmly believed that Hamas represents all Palestinians. When I questioned a well-educated participant about the last Palestinian election, she was unaware that none had occurred since 2006, when Hamas gained power in Gaza.

It wasn’t just young people who were uninformed. An older woman with an American accent, seemingly a veteran protester, admitted she knew that Hamas was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, but had no deeper knowledge of its ideology or history. Others, such as members of revolutionary socialist groups, displayed similar gaps in understanding, unaware of critical events like the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

That revolution gave birth to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a theocratic regime that brutally oppresses its own citizens. It also sponsors Islamist groups like Hamas. I left Iran for the UK not long after that regime began and have spent years resisting its religious extremism and ruthless political intolerance. Protesters were not only unaware of these facts about the Iranian regime, but also ill-informed about the struggle against it, such as the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ protests against the government that began in 2022.

One particularly telling conversation involved a man advocating for a ‘Global Intifada’ to replace capitalism with socialism. When asked about successful socialist models, he was unfamiliar with the Israeli kibbutzim, one of history’s few successful egalitarian experiments. His ignorance of these communal settlements in Israel, built by socialist Jewish immigrants, was all too typical.

Perhaps the most telling moment was captured by commentator Konstantin Kisin earlier this year, when he encountered a young man holding a ‘Socialist Intifada’ placard. The protester admitted he had no idea what this meant and that he had taken the sign simply because it was handed to him.

Reflecting on past movements, such as the American anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s and the British Anti-Apartheid Movement of the 1980s, one can’t help but note a stark contrast. Protesters then were generally well-informed about their causes. Today’s pro-Palestine protests, however, seem to be driven more by unthinking fervour than by an understanding of the issues at hand.

Throughout all these protests, I am yet to encounter a single participant who condemns Hamas or carries a placard denouncing its terrorism. This not only undermines the protesters’ cause, but also risks aligning them with groups whose values fundamentally oppose the very rights and freedoms they claim to support. It appears that today’s young protesters are high on ideology, but woefully thin on facts.

Potkin Azarmehr is an Iranian activist and journalist who left Iran for the UK after the revolution of 1979.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics UK

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