Just imagine, for one second that supporters of a group who had used terrorist tactics, kidnappings and murder, were waving their flags in the streets of London. Then imagine that people were wearing caps of this very group. Or that young people were exposed to such material. Would you not want to see it curtailed? Then imagine that a day for Jerusalem – Al Quds – was the place where such material was flouted and worn? Would you be distressed, concerned or just outraged?
The fact is that anyone can march and demonstrate. That is the cornerstone of our healthy democracy; it is the touchstone of having the right to dissent. To that effect, Al Quds Day as a day for demonstration is not the issue and there are people who feel an affiliation to this day because of a link to Jerusalem’s Arab, Palestinian and Muslim history. What is the issue is what rallies around this march and the world views that express themselves through symbolism which comes to light during the demonstration. Hezbollah flags are the culmination of one element of that symbolism.
This means that people waving flags of groups whose military wings have used terrorism as a weapon, send out a signal of division, hatred and intolerance towards other British citizens, when they are waved on our streets in the United Kingdom. We simply cannot have this and whilst the military and political elements of Hezbollah may want to give the impression that they are different, one must be talking and engaging with other, since the two cannot act separately.
Furthermore, Hezbollah flags with AK47’s emblazoned on them, instigate fear within Jewish communities and are no different to Muslims feeling fear when far right groups march with aggressively anti-Muslim symbols on their clothing. The problem though, is that Hezbollah has ‘form’ in kidnappings and in extra-judicial assassinations in places like Syria and during the brutal Lebanese civil war. Frankly, who would not be scared of the symbolism of such a group who have showed their killing prowess which they have fine tuned over the last three decades.
I want to make clear that those who march on Al-Quds day have every right to march and every right to demonstrate. They have every right to dissent in their views, but waving flags of violent groups like Hezbollah crosses a line. Just imagine the opposite, of a group waving a Phalangist flag, the group which was involved in the brutal murder of Palestinians in Sabra and Chathila in the Lebanon in 1982. This would be a step too far, as are the symbolism of Hezbollah on the streets of our capital.
Now is the time to draw a line. The Al-Quds Day march must never again be associated with any Hezbollah symbolism.