The Islamic Human Rights Commission, which organises the march, has provided guidance on its website for participants, advising that they are “welcome to bring flags that show solidarity with the Palestinian cause”, stating that while flags of illegal organisations are not allowed, demonstrators may bring a “Hezbollah flag to show support for the political wing of Hezbollah” as the political wing of the Lebanese-based terror group is “not a proscribed organisation”.
The annual Al Quds Day march has taken place in London for at least 12 years. Posters at previous marches have displayed signs calling for the destruction of Israel and marchers have carried flags of Hezbollah, whose military wing is blacklisted by the EU as a terrorist organisation.
A spokesperson from the Community Security Trust said: “We have long argued that it is deeply unacceptable for Hezbollah flags to be flown here in the UK, especially on this annual outpouring of hatred”.
They added: “Hezbollah itself makes no distinction between its political and military wings”.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is due to discuss the demonstration with Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, today after an online petition calling for the annual march to be stopped received over 8,000 signatures.
CFI Officer Matthew Offord, MP for Hendon, has previously condemned the Metropolitan Police’s “lack of action” over the display of flags of proscribed terror groups. Dr Offord has said that “the display of Hezbollah, Hamas and Daesh flags causes great distress to many of my constituents and the population as a whole and, in my opinion, is contrary to the Terrorism Act”.
Baroness Tonge, who chaired an event in the House of Lords last year in which Israel was compared to ISIS and the Holocaust was blamed on Jews, is set to address the 1,000 demonstrators expected to attend this weekend.
Hundreds of protesters are expected to join a counter-demonstration on Sunday organised by the Zionist Federation called ‘The Stand against Hate’ rally, backed by the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council.
In past years, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has previously described terrorist organisations Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends”, has spoken at the event.
Hezbollah (“Party of God”) is a radical Shi’a Islamist terror group based in Lebanon. The Iranian-backed organisation has de facto control of Lebanon’s Government and boasts the country’s largest military infrastructure.
In July 2013, the EU proscribed Hezbollah’s ‘military wing’ as a terrorist organisation after a UK-led effort. The U.S., Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Israel designate the entirety of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. In March 2016, the Arab League announced that they consider Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.
Hezbollah does not recognise the existence of Israel and continues to pose a strategic threat on Israel’s northern border.
It has a history of international terror attacks, including the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, killing 85.
The terror group is believed to have amassed a current arsenal of up to 150,000 rockets – over 10 times more than the amount it had in 2006. The rockets include hundreds of long-range Iranian-made missiles capable of striking Israeli cities from north to south, as well as systems with improved accuracy.
According to Israeli security officials, recent satellite imagery shows that Hezbollah has moved military positions and rockets into villages in southern Lebanon. Israeli officials warn that this amounts to the organisation using Lebanese civilians as a human shield.
The organisation is deeply engaged in supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, providing thousands of fighters since the civil war began in 2011, of which up to 2,000 have reportedly been killed and 5,000 wounded.
Hezbollah has more than doubled its fighting capabilities since the 2006 war, and currently has an estimated 45,000 fighters, many of which have extensive battle experience from their time in Syria.