Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department
2 Marsham Street
By Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Thursday 24 May 2018
We are writing to demand urgent action from your office to protect this year’s Al-Quds Day demonstration in London from intimidation, harassment and violence threatened by far right and Zionist groups.
As you will be aware, Al-Quds Day is marked peacefully every year in the capital to commemorate the dispossession and continued oppression of the Palestinian people. For over 30 years it has been a regular fixture in the marching calendar with thousands of people from all walks of life taking part. It is an inclusive, family event that attracts people from all ethnicities and faiths and is popular with many women and children. As the organisers we are proud to say that since its inception not a single protestor has ever been arrested. In fact, the police have praised the peaceful nature of this event and have had to increase their presence only in response to violent threats against it from far-right and Zionist extremists.
Last year the march narrowly avoided tragedy when the man who went on the ram his van into a crowd of worshippers in Finsbury Park failed to break through police security to reach the procession which was his intended target. As Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said in her judgment in the Osborne case, he intended to ‘drive into and murder innocent people, lawfully assembling and protesting in London’, at Al Quds Day. Fortunately, ‘the detailed public safety arrangements made by the Metropolitan Police for the Al Quds Day march saved many lives’, https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/r-v-darren-osborne-sentencing-remarks-of-mrs-justice-cheema-grubb/
There is little doubt in our minds that Osborne was incited to his murderous actions by the demonization of Al-Quds day by extreme right-wing and Zionist groups. In the run-up to the event they ran a racist and Islamophobic hate campaign designed to tarnish it and those taking part. In video footage from last year’s counter-protests, pro-Israel groups are seen screaming, ‘You are terrorists’, ‘murderers’, ‘go back home’ at women and children, and extreme Right-wing protestors are seen shouting racist invectives like ‘F@%k the Palestinians’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UWb-xBzIx4&t=4s from 2:00:00 until 2:03:00).
This year similar demonisation and incitement is taking place. Already the same individuals have been involved in the criminal damage (which is being investigated as a hate crime) of a poster advertising the event and have made veiled threats of taking further action during the event itself. Among those involved in the counter-demonstration of Al-Quds Day is the Jewish Defence League, an organisation whose members have targeted Palestine activists with terrorist acts and extreme violence and which is banned both in the US and Israel as a terrorist organisation.
We are under no doubts that the continued demonisation of a legal event is putting the safety of its participants at risk of violence and harassment. Whatever one’s views about the message being promulgated, it remains that the event is a legal activity. People have the right to peacefully protest and should not be prevented, harassed or intimidated by others simply because they disagree and feel offended.
As the European Court of Human Rights put it in Handyside v. United Kingdom ‘freedom of expression is applicable not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.’
Our stance on what people say and do on the Al-Quds demo has always been very clear. As long as their actions remain within the law we are loathe to intervene. We will not permit the carrying of proscribed material.
In view of the above we urge you to protect the lawful, peaceful and inclusive activism of Al-Quds Day by publicly committing to its security and safety, eschewing all hate campaigns targeting it, pursuing to the full extent of the law, those who seek to incite violence against it, supporting the right to protest, free expression and the right to be protected from extremist and racist hatred and violence.
We also urge you to apply the full extent of the law against those who seek to incite violence against Al-Quds Day no matter how aggressive or vocal the demonising campaign they orchestrate, supporting the right to protest, free expression and the right to be protected from racist hatred and violence.
Attachment: Open Letter to Mayor of London
Mayor of London
The Queen’s Walk
17 May 2018
Dear Mayor Khan,
Re: Annual Al-Quds Day, 10 June 2018
We the undersigned write to demand that your office support the rights to free expression and to protection from racist violence with regard to the above event – contrary to your efforts at banning it.
As you will be aware, this is an annual event to campaign for the rights of Palestinians. It has run as a peaceful family friendly event in London for three decades. The procession is always a diverse inclusive group from a wide range of ethnicities and walks of life. The police have praised the peaceful nature of this event and have had to increase their presence only in response to violent threats against it.
In particular, the grotesque violence by Darren Osborne in Finsbury Park last year was initially targeted at Al-Quds Day. As Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said in her judgment in the Osborne case, he intended to “drive into and murder innocent people, lawfully assembling and protesting in London”, at Al Quds Day. Fortunately ‘the detailed public safety arrangements made by the Metropolitan Police for the Al Quds Day march saved many lives’, 02.02.2018, https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/r-v-darren-osborne-sentencing-remarks-of-mrs-justice-cheema-grubb/
Arguably Osborne was responding to the demonization of the event by extreme Right-wing and Zionist groups. Their campaign can be seen as incitement to religious and or racial hatred. In video footage from last year’s counter-protests, pro-Israel groups are screaming “You are terrorists” at women and children, and extreme Right-wing protestors are shouting racist invectives like “F@%k the Palestinians” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UWb-xBzIx4&t=4s from 2:00:00 until 2:03:00).
This year similar demonization and incitement is taking place. Already the same individuals have been involved in the criminal damage (which is being investigated as a hate crime) of a poster advertising the event and have made veiled threats of taking further action during the event itself.
In the run-up to Al-Quds Day last year and again this year, your office actively supported demands to ban it: “I’ve written to the Home Secretary asking her to ban the march using the powers that she has” (quoted in Jewish News, 15.04.2018, http://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/sadiq-khan-ill-carry-on-lobbying-hezbollah/)
We ask you instead to show your support for the lawful, peaceful and inclusive activism of Al-Quds Day by publicly:
– committing to its security and safety;
– eschewing all hate campaigns targeting it;
– pursuing to the full extent of the law, those who seek to incite violence against it;
– supporting the right to protest, free expression and the right to be protected from racist hatred and violence.
Les Levidow – Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG)
Saleh Mamon – Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC)
Sofiah MacLeod – Chair, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC)
Massoud Shadjareh – Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC)
John Tymon – Football Against Apartheid
Abbas Ali – Innovative minds
Sayyid Samir Al-Haidari – Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission
Azzam Mohamad – Ahl-al-Bait Society
(Rabbi) Ahron Cohen – Neturei Karta, Orthodox Jewish opposition to Zionism
Baroness Jenny Tonge – Independent Peer, Member of the House of Lords
Nadia Yaqub – Member of Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Ruth Tenne – Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Prof. Ilan Pappé
Michael Kalmanovitz – International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK
Averil Parkinson (Chair)
Cambridge Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Zareen Taj – Cambridge Stop The War Coalition
Prof. Haim Bresheeth – Professorial Research Associate, Faculty of Arts and Humanities
School of Oriental and African Studies and Director of Camera Obscura Films.
Tony Greenstein – Brighton & Hove UNISON local government and B&H Trades Union Council
Aberystwyth – Friends of Palestine
Mike Cushman – Free speech on Israel.
Khaled Khalil – Secretary & Spokesperson, Association of Palestinian Communities in Scotland
Mick Nepier – SPSC
Richard Haley – Chair, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Dr Issam Hijjawi – Association of Palestine
Balfour Declaration centenary campaign
Mir Ali Jabber- Palestine Democratic Forum
Abou Jaffar- Scottish Form for Middle East and North Africa.