10 NOVEMBER 2023 | OPINION
As the period of Remembrance approaches this weekend, Armistice Day has been overshadowed by a bitter row over the possibility of a marching demonstration in opposition to Israeli military action in Gaza.
Over recent weeks, protesters in London – and across the country – have continued marches calling for an end to the “occupation” of the Palestinian people. But growing concerns over the timing of demonstrations this weekend have led to calls, ranging from commentators and political leaders, for the Metropolitan Police to ban these protests.
Notwithstanding the conflict itself, the conversation should be directed more appropriately at the protests happening in London. Since the Israeli offensive in Gaza escalated in response to Hamas’ raids on 7 October, the capital itself has seen a rise in alleged hate crime incidents – both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic – according to the Met.
Indeed, the Met itself is under scrutiny from the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, after she accused the force of political bias over its position that the prevailing protests have not met the threshold required for police intervention to ban them. But these arguments are futile, and conversations instead should turn to focus on what is really the issue.
Britain is, thankfully, a free country. And, as such, the public have a democratic right to protest. The demand to ban the marches – most ironically coming from figures who claim freedom is paramount, and who lashed out at the Government for its plans to outlaw smoking – is absurd, for the very reason that this is a democracy; so long as these protests do remain peaceful.
But this does not absolve the protesters who will descend upon the capital. To stage these demonstrations over the Remembrance period is not only shamefully disrespectful, but also in bad taste; it is a gross error in judgement. Sympathetic or not to the cause of the protests, and regardless of being ‘pro-Palestine’ or ‘pro-Israel’, they should not go ahead.
However, that is no reason to ban them. Remembering the war dead is a solemn occasion, and it is a time of year that Brits feel a strong connection to. Particularly when today’s conflict is so divisive, and there are clear concerns about the prospect of the spread of hate, perhaps even violence, against minority groups, the pro-Palestinian protests are entirely undignified.
The idea that Remembrance should be used as an excuse to justify such controversial marches because participants say they are calling for a ceasefire, thus making it the perfect time to make their point is seriously misjudged. Even if the organisers held their own temporary armistice, and resumed their demonstrations the following week, it would show some degree of dignity and decorum. That, however, is unlikely.
As Iraq veteran Brian Wood MC put it to ITV News: “There are so many other days of the year they can choose to march, and this one day that we’re asking for, just be silent. It concerns me because the veteran community, and the service community, at some stage will react – and they will go on the offensive if we’re intimidated.”
Yes, Mr Wood. Quite.