For the past 20 weeks, Jewish News has counted down the days remaining for the government to ban Hezbollah terror flags from flying in London at the annual Al Quds parade. We’ve gone from 156 days all the way to three [see below] to no avail. In 72 hours time, those hateful flags will fly once again in Marble Arch and Oxford Street.
Around the world each year at the end of Ramadan, millions show solidarity with the Palestinians. In London and elsewhere this manifests in the Iranian-inspired Al-Quds Day march. To show solidarity with Palestinians is one thing. To wave the flag of a group set up specifically to kill Israelis is quite another. The giant rifle in the centre of the flag offers the clueless a clue.
Hezbollah has been responsible for some one of the worst terrorist outrages against Jews. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said: “If Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”
Protesters in London are allowed to wave Nasrallah’s flag because the UK Government only outlaws the ‘armed wing’. So organisers of last year’s Al Quds hate-fest were emboldened to publish the following directive ahead of the march: “You can bring a Hezbollah flag to show support for the political wing of Hezbollah.” Allowing this ludicrous loophole is a stain on this country and a slap in the face of British Jews.
The problem, alas, goes far deeper. Combine the flags with speakers who blame Grenfell on “Zionists”, organisers who quote Iranian leaders who’d like Israel “wiped off the map” and the star billing this year of Rev. Stephen Sizer, the vicar who blamed 9/11 on Jews, and the whole thing starts to look, feel and smell less something much less benign.
Some 13,500 people have signed Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Parliamentarty Petition calling for Hizballah to be fully proscribed, which means it will now require a response from the Home Office.
But the government must step up, too. The Jewish community’s more-than-reasonable request is that the UK follow the US and Arab countries and proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety. To do so is a Home Office prerogative, but diplomats – who know Hezbollah runs Lebanon – advise against it, because they want to keep lines of communication open.
We understand the realpolitik, but there are times when you need to put values first. Just as free speech is a value, so too is the duty to condemn terrorists and to back that up with policy.
We hope new Home Secretary Sajid Javid sees it the same way.