Julie Russell

March of Terror in London

March of Terror (image JER)

It was the overwhelming sound of the ‘zaghrouta’ that finally made me realize I felt scared in the streets of London, possibly for the first time ever. Hundreds of women were performing the ululation or ‘tongue wag’, a high-pitched shriek with a trilling sound normally heard at joyous events, such as weddings and births. But there was literally nothing joyous about the pro-Palestinian March on 11th November 2023, so it felt gravely inappropriate. I’d travelled by tube to Hyde Park to observe hundreds of thousands of protesters marching from Marble Arch to Nine Elms, demanding an end to Israel’s offense of Gaza. I wanted to witness the sort of people who were there and hear their messages.

It was billed by some as a ‘peace march’ and I saw people marching who were clearly pacifists, those who disapprove of hostility in all forms. Whilst I don’t agree with their stance, I recognize their right to demonstrate peacefully and present their views. After all, don’t we cherish the right to freedom of speech in the UK? There were also people calling for an end to the war, people entitled to those views, although I suggest some of those may have forgotten there was no war in the Middle East until Hamas made an unprovoked attack on Israel, massacred over 1200 Israelis and seized hostages who remain imprisoned in tunnels in Gaza. Given Hamas’s appetite for torture, it’s frightening to even think about the conditions under which they are being kept.

A very rare acknowledgement of the Israeli hostages (image courtesy of author)

I recognize that some people are sentimental, idealistic and react emotionally to any form of suffering; I even witnessed one woman pushing an obese chihuahua wearing a Palestinian scarf in a children’s buggy, which bore a sign ‘For the Animals of Gaza’. It felt like everyone and everything in Gaza was represented there, without any recognition of the women, children and, of course, the animals in Israel, suffering under a daily bombardment of rockets.

For the Animals of Gaza
(No mention of the beloved animals of Israel) (image courtesy of author)

There is a hugely significant difference between freedom of expression and criminal behavior, which includes incitement to commit acts of discrimination and violence. Despite this, a sea of hateful, provocative posters were held aloft:  ‘Muslim Armies – Rescue Gaza’, ‘Jihad’ and the ubiquitous ‘From the River to the Sea’, the latter chanted again and again, offensive and sinister. I didn’t see a single person challenge any of the messages of hate, holocaust references or the illegal incitements to violence and the extinction of Israel. Maybe, like me, some marchers were too afraid, especially if they were surrounded by masked Muslim men dressed as Hamas terrorists. The fact that so many were proclaiming Israeli defense measures to be ‘genocidal’ is a bitter irony as they stood side-by-side with those chanting in favor of the destruction of Israel.

Inciting Violence: Muslim Armies Rescue Gaza (image courtesy of author)
(image courtesy of author)

There were hundreds of signs waving around me with messages such as ‘So You Think Its {sic} Alright To Kill Children?’ and ‘Children do not Deserve War’ which seem misplaced and might have been more appropriate on a march against Hamas terrorism in support of the Israeli people or demanding the release of the 37 Israeli children taken hostage on 7th October. There were no messages for two-year-old Aviv Katz Asher, five-year-old Emilia Aloni or nine-month-old baby, Kfir, still held hostage by Hamas after more than a month.

So you think its alright to kill children (A question for Hamas to answer?)(image courtesy of author)
I Hate Genocide
(But do Hamas Terrorists Agree?) (image courtesy of author)

The empathy gap between these people’s response to Israeli men, women and children, who have experienced unspeakable horrors, when compared to the plight of the Palestinians who are suffering as a direct result of the actions of the Hamas terrorists who rule them, is difficult to comprehend. Could it be ignorance or lack of education?

Maybe we should call it by its name: Antisemitism.

Israeli children sheltering in an underground ‘safe room’ from Hamas rockets (image TWS) (image courtesy of author)

Julie Russell and Tom Waterton-Smith

11th November 2023

About the Author
I am a former clinical microbiologist, now working as a qualified English Language teacher teaching English to refugees and migrants in London. I have travelled worldwide both for pleasure and as part of my former scientific role. I have lived in London for more than 30 years. I love to run and workout in the gym. I write these blogs with my best friend, Tom Waterton-Smith
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