New Home Secretary Sajid Javid has been urged to give “personal attention” to tackling public support for Hezbollah in the UK.
The ex-Communities Secretary’s promotion was warmly greeted by Jewish organisations who highlighted his record speaking out against anti-Semitism and opposing boycotts of Israel.
But six weeks before Hezbollah flags are again expected to be waved in central London at the annual al-Quds day rally in June, Javid was urged to urgently act. The government currently makes a distinction between the political and military wings of then group, only proscribing the latter. The group has only flag which bears a gun, but the loophole in the law enabled signs to be fixed to the flags signalling support for the political part.
Matthew Offord, MP for Hendon told Jewish News he has written to the new Home Secretary calling on him to proscribe Hezbollah “in its entirety”, after Amber Rudd failed to do so, despite repeated calls from the community and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellmann, the vice-chair of Lavour Friends of Israel, also wrote to Javid and to Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, asking her for clarification on whether Hezbollah flags will be allowed at this year’s demonstration.
Writing to Javid, she says the “flouting” of the law is “an affront to Britain’s commitments to fight extremism and a cause of serious distress to the Jewish community, who have to witness an annual display of support for an organisation which actively seeks their destruction”.
She calls on the new Home Secretary to give “personal attention to the issue”, by either proscribing Hezbollah fully or clarifying the law regarding the flying of its flag.
Javid’s appointment coincides with a new campaign to ban Hezbollah ahead of the next rally on 10 June. The Israel Britain Alliance (IBA) and its partner organisations said this week that the time for “excuses” was over, as they called for the rally, organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), to be stopped.
“Occasionally in politics there are absolute rights and wrongs,” said IBA director Michael McCann, a former MP. “Allowing the Al Quds event to go ahead would be a massive mistake.”
Last year’s rally saw one of the organisers blame the Grenfell Tower disaster on “Zionist” supporters of the Tories.
Ahead of this year’s march, IHRC issued advice saying: “Based on advice from the police and lawyers please be aware while flying the Hezbollah flag is not illegal by itself waving the flag alongside words and actions showing support for the military wing of Hezbullah is an offence and may lead to you being arrested.”
Welcoming Javid’s appointment, the Community Security Trust (CST) said they “hope to continue working with you to protect our Jewish community”, while the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council thanked him for his support for the community to date Karen Pollock, CEO of the Holocaust Educational Trust said Javid was “a true champion of our cause”.
Javid has also proved a friend of Israel, telling a CFI lunch in 2012 that he was a “proud British-born Muslim” who would choose to live in Israel over any other Middle East country if ever forced to leave the UK.
Tributes were also paid this week to Amber Rudd for her support safeguarding the community after her resignation in an immigration scandal on Sunday. The CST thanked Rudd for supporting “our crucial work protecting our community”, after she spoke at the organisation’s recent annual dinner, at which she confirmed £13.4m in funding to safeguard shuls, schools and communal buildings.
Javid’s replacement as Communities minister, James Brokenshir, also committed to help protect the community in new role.