The police are under pressure to ban a pro-Palestinian march through central London after a JC investigation revealed that leaders in several of the groups behind it had links to Hamas.
Some of them have been photographed meeting terror chiefs in Gaza and several have openly expressed support for the violent organisation, in apparent defiance of British law.
This weekend’s rally, due to set off from Marble Arch on Saturday, is expected to be larger than the protests attended by tens of thousands last weekend, where there was open support for the terrorists.
Six campaign groups are organising the march. Leaders in four of them — the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), the Friends of al-Aqsa, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) and the Palestinian Forum for Britain (PFB) — have had apparent ties with Hamas or have expressed sympathy for its views.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in central London last weekend (Photo: Getty Images)
Hamas was proscribed as a terrorist group in its entirety in November 2021. Under the Terrorism Act, supporting it carries a maximum of 14 years in prison.
The Friends of al-Aqsa is led by Leicester-based activist Ismael Patel.
An outspoken supporter of the disgraced academic David Miller, who was sacked by Bristol University after being accused of antisemitism, Patel has visited Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.
Ismail Patel speaks at March For Palestine (Photo: Alamy)
Patel was filmed at a rally in 2009 saying: “Hamas is no terrorist organisation. The reason they hate Hamas is because they refuse to be subjugated, to be occupied by the Israeli state, and we salute Hamas for standing up to Israel.”
He added: “We are all Hamas,” and attacked the Board of Deputies for “bringing shame” on Jews by supporting Israel. In 2021, Patel praised the killer of tour guide Eli Kay in Jerusalem as a “martyr” on X/Twitter. He did not respond to a request for comment, sent by the JC via his group.
Two former leaders of the PSC, another group organising the rally, also met with Haniyeh in Gaza in 2012. Last weekend, John Nicholson, a leading figure in Manchester PSC, told a PSC rally in Oldham: “We support the Palestinian resistance… Let Suella Braverman hear this clearly: Oldham supports the Palestinian resistance.”
The activist continued: “We have a right to free speech in this country. We have a right to demonstrate… We have a right to wave a flag, we have a right to sing a little song that they are forbidding, and I’ll ask you to join with me, if you want to do a little gentle law-breaking in Oldham this afternoon. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Lord Pickles (Photo: Getty Images)
The group has not responded to requests for comment.
Lord Pickles told the JC: “We don’t want a march glorifying racial hatred on our streets. The march should be cancelled. ‘From the river to the sea’ is an ethnic-cleansing chant that says Jews will be removed from Israel by force and bloodshed.”
Lord Carlile KC, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, added: “The wise course would be for the demonstration not to take place, and for a period of public calm respectful to all victims in Israel and Gaza to occur.”
A third group behind the protest, the Palestinian Forum for Britain, is led by Zaher Birawi, who met Haniyeh and other leaders of the terror group in Gaza in 2012. On a later visit, he was photographed with both Haniyeh and the former Hamas military chief Mahmoud Zahar, along with the former Respect MP George Galloway.
In 2021, the JC reported that the PFB’s vice chair had posted a photo of Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin with a caption stating “I love this man”, and was working for a London-based Arabic language channel whose Editor-in-Chief had been dubbed Hamas’ “special envoy” to Britain. The PFB did not respond to requests for comment.
Lord Carlile (Photo: Houses of Parliament)
The Muslim Association of Britain is also staging the march. Anas Altikriti, a director of the limited company that runs the group and its former president, also founded the Cordoba Foundation, described in Parliament by David Cameron as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group of which Hamas is an offshoot.
Altikriti has posted a picture on Facebook of his meeting with Haniyeh in June 2012. Later that same year, he visited the virulently antisemitic preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Qatar.
In 2022, Altikriti spoke at a MAB event to mourn al-Qaradawi’s death. His sister, Raghad, who now heads the MAB, has saluted the Palestinian “resistance”. Last month, the MAB published a Facebook post that celebrated the battle of Khaybar, when a Muslim army led by Mohammed massacred Jews in the year 628. There was no response to requests for comment.
Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (Photo: Getty Images)
Steve McCabe MP, the chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: “The recent rise in antisemitism and glorification of Hamas terrorism on the streets of Britain is shameful.
“We urge immediate action to protect the Jewish community and ensure those who commit hate crimes and express support for proscribed terror groups face the full force of the law.”
A Community Security Trust spokesman told the JC: “Given the context of the appalling Hamas terror attack last week, there are serious questions to be asked about whether mass gatherings and demonstrations praising ‘resistance’, giving the impression of support for Hamas and their actions, ought to be taking place at all.
“We certainly expect the policing of these demonstrations to be as robust as possible and arrests made wherever and whenever people break the law.”
Buckingham University intelligence and security expert Professor Anthony Glees added: “Any glorification of Hamas’s pogrom on 7 October must be seen as a criminal offence.
“These marches don’t just glorify, they radicalise. Not every radical Islamist is a terrorist, but every Islamist terrorist has been a radical.”
He said the march should be “very closely monitored and surveilled” and anyone chanting “from the river to the sea” should be arrested, “either on the spot or subsequently”.
It comes after Home Secretary Suella Braverman wrote to chief constables urging them to clamp down on those who glorify terrorism.
Suella Braverman (Photo: Getty Images)
She referred to the chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” as “a staple of antisemitic discourse”, adding: “To hear it shouted in public causes alarm not just to Jews but to all decent people.”
This slogan, which amounts to a call to annihilate Israel, was heard repeatedly last weekend, along with calls to support “the Palestinian resistance”.
Marchers were also seen wearing stickers depicting paragliders, glorifying the terrorists who used them to get into Israel. One Iranian activist waving an Israel flag was set upon by a mob and threatened with beheading. He had to be protected by police.
A CPS spokesperson said: “We understand that this chant is offensive to many and the decision to charge will always depend on all the facts and circumstances of the offence.
“Hateful chanting or waving of offensive flags in relation to the current situation in the Middle East may constitute an offence and where behaviour goes beyond lawful protest we will not hesitate to prosecute.”