This picture should sicken every Londoner: the Hezbollah flag flying free and, inexplicably, legally in the streets of our capital during last weekend’s anti-Israel Al-Quds rally. The dictionary defines incitement as ‘provoking unlawful or violent behaviour’. So, is waving the flag of a group committed to killing Jews incitement? Apparently not.
So, once again, those yellow flags adorned with automatic weapons flew through London on Sunday. They fluttered from poles, they were proudly worn across backs and over heads. No arrests were made. No one was told to remove them. It was shameful, sickening and predictable. To say the Home Office has questions to answer is to significantly underplay the situation.
London prides itself on tolerance. It is home to people of more faiths and languages than any other city, Jews among them. But this is not a Jewish community issue, any more than flying an ISIS flag is an issue only for those who would support peace in Damascus, Baghdad or Ankara. Terror is terror is terror.
So it is with Hezbollah, which – like the IRA – splits itself between an armed wing and a political wing. The armed wing is listed as a terrorist organisation; the political wing isn’t. They are the same group, sharing the same flag, but because the political wing is not proscribed, flag wavers have a get-out.
The Home Office, whose job it is to issue guidance for the police to follow, says that “for it to be an offence… the context and manner in which the flag is displayed must demonstrate that it is specifically in support of the proscribed elements of the group”. Despite both elements having the same flag…
Try calling the Home Office. They’ll tell you it’s a policing matter. Try calling the police. They’ll tell you it’s a Home Office matter. Try asking politicians. Some (like Boris Johnson) say “we live in a free country”. Others (like David Cameron) say those caught waving terrorist group flags should be arrested. It’s as clear as mud.
The Community Security Trust and communal leaders have long demanded action to end a scandal that shames our city and our country. Last year, two arrests following similar scenes during the UK visit of Benjamin Netanyahu fuelled hope of a change in tack. Sunday showed we are back to Square One.
It is not so many years ago that Jewish News wrote of hate preachers going about their business in Britain with seeming impunity. We all remember Abu Hamza, on streets of the capital, in the full view and ear-shot of both the public and police. Thankfully, those days are gone. It is about time Sunday’s sights also became a sorry memory.
There can be no room for equivocation here: Hezbollah is Hezbollah is Hezbollah.
Theresa May, who could be prime minister by September, has been at the forefront of the fight against hate. Action now to stop a repeat of the shame of last weekend would reinforce the government’s message of zero tolerance of terror. Inaction will simply provide succour to those who perpetrate evil.
Enough is enough is enough.