More than 700 pro-Israel supporters were outside the Israeli embassy on Wednesday night, waving flags, singing and denouncing Israel’s treatment by politicians and by the media.
One supporter who broke through the police barriers was taken away by police. He is thought to have been carrying a paint bomb, but police did not confirm why he had been arrested.
Rumours that the English Defence League were planning to attend the demonstration appeared to be unfounded. One EDL member was spotted by protesters on the other side of the street but he did not join the throng.
The protest, organised by the Zionist Federation, was countered by approximately 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who stood just a few metres away, separated by a heavy police presence. The demonstrators included Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
Louise Ellman MP came out to support the protest and called for an enquiry into the deaths of nine activists on board the Gaza flotilla.
She told the JC: “This was a terrible tragedy, and we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that innocent people have died. But we cannot apportion blame too hastily. We must have a full enquiry, without jeopardising Israel’s legitimate security.”
She added: “We know that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.”
Director of the Centre for Social Cohesion Douglas Murray, chairman of the ZF Andrew Balcombe, Christian Friends of Israel representitive Candido Giraldo and Rabbi Geoffrey Shisler of New West End synagogue also spoke.
The supporters, many of whom were teenagers and young adults, sang ‘Hatikvah’, ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ and ‘We support the IDF’, whilst their counterparts sang ‘Long Live Hamas’.
Most of the banners called for an end to the conflict, stating ‘Free Gaza, from Hamas’ and ‘Aid not Arms’.
The ZF’s Jonathan Turner said he was delighted with the turnout. “We’ve had a lot of people walking by, giving us the thumbs up.”
Israel Connect’s David Cohen expressed his relief that the EDL did not make an appearance, saying: “We wouldn’t have stood for it, and nor would the police or the CST.”