Seven arrests as hundreds protest against Netanyahu visit


Hundreds of activists brought Whitehall to a standstill during a major protest on Wednesday around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to London.

Chief Inspector Stephen Manger told the JC that there were 57 police in the area, "close to 1,000 Palestinians and around 500 Israel supporters."

Anti-Israel protesters were seen waving Hizbollah and Hamas flags and making antisemitic remarks as the demonstration took place outside Downing Street. Meanwhile, shofars were blown in front of the pro-Israel crowd.

Hendon MP Matthew Offord was among those to complain to police about the flags representing Hizbollah, which is classified as a terrorist organisation by Britain. He tweeted: "Attended Number 10 demo of Israeli PM to remind Met Police that displaying Hezbollah flags with guns is an offence under the Terrorism Act."

Seven people were arrested during the rival protests, with one pro-Palestinian supporter taken away by police on suspicion of grievous bodily harm against another pro-Palestinian.

One person is understood to have been arrested after apparently referring to Jews loving money, while another two were arrested for common assault.

There were also two arrests for obstruction and another for criminal damage, police have confirmed.

Hundreds of pro-Israel supporters sang and waved flags as police kept the two sides apart.

Fiona Sharpe of Sussex Friends Of Israel said there has been a “great turnout. I feel absolutely proud that midday, midweek people have come to show their support for Israel."

On the other side, Glynis Walker from the activist group Anonymous said: "We're protesting because Netanyahu is murdering innocent men, women and children on a daily basis."

Policemen have been stationed to contain the increasing violence. Sussex Friends of Israel leader Simon Cobbs was verbally attacked by protesters.

Gillian Merron, Board chief executive, said: "It's right and proper that we all come together to welcome Mr Netanyahu. It's important all the people of Israel know the support they have here. The Board represents the Jewish community which extends a very warm welcome to the Israeli Prime Minister. We want to say that loud and clear.

"They would do better to recognise that this is the only Prime Minister of the only democratic country in the region and he has an absolute right to be here to represent the views of his country. I have no expectation that a demonstration of this nature will do anything to detract from the true purpose of the visit."

Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush said: "I'm absolutely certain that the community overwhelming welcomes the visit of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, just as it has always welcomed visits by Israeli leaders. The visit is a cause for celebration and to reflect on the remarkably strong links of friendship, culture, commerce, medicine and science over decades between Britain and Israel.

"I was delighted to read that trade has never been higher than it is now and I was also pleased but not surprised to note the government's complete rejection of the misguided calls for the Prime Minister to be arrested.

"As I speak to you now, I'm looking across the road at the howling mob, some of them with their faces covered in keffiyot, in true terrorist style, and screaming their usual litany of obscenities and abuse. No doubt many antisemites are among them.

"The British government rejects them; the British people rejects them; we reject them. They are no more than a pathetic little pressure group that has no genuine interest in Palestinians and certainly no interest in peace. Let them scream and shout to their heart's content, because all it is is noise."

In a later statement, PSC chair Hugh Lanning said the group was appalled at “the acts of racism and antisemitism at the protest”, and any PSC members who were found to have commited them would be expelled.

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