Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators came eyeball to eyeball on Tuesday as they staged rival rallies in Anglo-Jewry’s heartland where Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was addressing a JNF meeting.
The presence of the controversial minister, which caused a heated debate in the Jewish community and enraged anti-Israel groups, brought hundreds of people onto the streets outside Hendon’s Pillar Hotel in north-west London where he was speaking.
Police struggled to keep the two sides apart as they chanted, waved flags and banners and exchanged insults.
There were Jews and Muslims on both sides with pro-Palestinian demonstrators supported by Jews For Justice for Palestinians, Neturei Karta and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Produce. The pro-Israel side was supported by British Muslims for Israel.
“I never thought I would see a Palestinian flag flying near my home,” said one woman, who had draped an Israeli flag over her shoulders.
Brian Sacks, from Finchley, confessed that while he was not a fan of Mr Lieberman, he was standing up for “peace, for negotiations and for Israel”.
Finally the pro-Palestinian demonstrators, still waving banners and chanting, retreated under police protection towards Hendon tube. All along the route they were confronted by youths waving Israeli flags.
“We turned back the anti-Zionists. This is anti-fascism work at its finest,” declared Ari Soffer, director of the British Israel Coalition which organised the pro-Israel rally.
He took a swipe at those Jews who, while supporting Israel, declined to demonstrate in support of the right-wing Mr Lieberman.
“British Jewry no longer has to suffer under pusillanimous leadership in the face of vicious anti-Israel sentiment. Now Jews, Christians and Muslims are standing up against the bullies who make up the anti-Israel network.”