Jewish News and the Zionist Federation (ZF) today call on the government to fully proscribe Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation after a loophole in the law enabled its rifle-branded flag to fly freely in London last Sunday.
Hundreds of anti-Israel demonstrators marched through central London for the annual Al Quds Day march, holding banners reading ‘Boycott Israel’, ‘Zionism=racism’ and ‘We are all Hezbollah’.
Organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, participants marched behind a Hezbollah flag while the group’s symbol was carried by supporters and worn on clothing, including by children, without police action.
Britain outlaws the military wing of Hezbollah but not its political wing – even though leaders of the group suggest they are one and the same.
Despite the group having only one flag, a disclaimer was pinned to some indicting support specifically for the political wing.
- Voice of the Jewish News: Terror loophole makes London a laughing stock
Lord Polak, honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel, has written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd saying separating the two wings “is both untenable and an artificial exercise. Is it not time the UK demonstrates its commitment to combating extremism by joining our allies in proscribing the terror group in its entirety?”
The call was echoed by Labour Friends of Israel vice chair Louise Ellman, who wrote to London Mayor Sadiq Khan asking for a review of policing at the march. “I am concerned the mayor and the Metropolitan Police Service are constrained in their attempts to deal with this issue by the current status of Hezbollah,” she said.
The ZF, in partnership with Jewish News, today announces a campaign advocating full proscription. A government petition will be launched when the new committee is in place, while supporters will be encouraged to write to their MPs after the parliamentary recess.
ZF chairman Paul Charney said: “The false distinction between the so-called military and political wings of Hezbollah makes a mockery of this country’s anti-terrorism policy, especially when its own leaders, most notably Mohammad Raad, Hezbollah’s leader in the Lebanese parliament, do not recognise such a distinction. The question must be asked why the British Government holds this distinction when Hezbollah themselves, and their funders in the Iranian regime, don’t. The ZF, alongside Jewish News, will campaign to end this dangerous distinction.”
Christians United For Israel UK has launched its own petition, which has so far had more than 4,000 signatures.
Around 250 Israel supporters joined a counter demonstration in Grosvenor Square organised by the ZF and addressed by leaders of the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and other communal groups.
Simon Johnson of the JLC said it had already made this “representation” about the Hezbollah flag to the prime minister for the past two years. “Now that we’ve suffered terrorist outrages in this country, surely it is time to be able to ban the flag of Hezbollah,” he said.
Speaking after addressing the counter-demo, Matthew Offord MP told Jewish News: “I’m going to continue to press the new [home secretary] to have this proscribed under the Terrorism Act.”
In the run-up to Al Quds Day, more than 15,000 signed a petition calling on Khan to stop the march. Although he does not have the power to ban the march, he relayed communal concerns to the Met Commissioner and pressed for action against anyone breaking the law.
Mandy Blumenthal, part of a group of Israel advocates who stood in the rally’s path, said: “They’re so used to having the narrative and control. We felt we had no choice but to stand up against terrorism. Anybody who thinks waving Hezbollah flags is not incitement to hate doesn’t understand what those expressions mean.”