Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has urged pro-Palestine protestors to stay home following ugly clashes between demonstrators on opposing sides. On Monday, police arrested three people attending protests and vigils across London. Pro-Palestine and supporters of Israel took to the streets in solidarity after the unprecedented and widely condemned Hamas offensive. While distancing themselves from the bloodshed, pro-Palestine groups have asked the international community and UK politicians to apply international laws and standards on both sides, maintaining that Palestinians have the right to resist military occupation and oppression. Speaking to Sky News, Mr Cleverly told of increasing concerns among the Jewish community frequently “on the receiving end of prejudice and threats of violence”.
“There is no need, there’s no necessity for people to come out. It causes distress.
“This is a difficult, delicate situation… I would encourage them just to pause.”
Protests took place outside the Israeli Embassy and in Downing Street.
While conceding that people have the right to protest, the Foreign Secretary coined Hamas “a proscribed terrorist organisation”, making it “an offence to fly their banners”.
He dodged questions relating to Israel’s treatment of the people living in Gaza, rejecting any mention of an equivalence:
“The truth is that the reason we express our solidarity with the people of Israel is because terrorists took action to murder, to kidnap, and we’re now seeing reports that they are threatening to execute people that they have kidnapped.
“The idea that somehow there is an equivalence, there is a kind of a balancing act between the actions of the Israeli government and their self-defence, and the actions of Hamas and their terrorists, is completely inappropriate.”
Hamas, a militant organisation classified as a terror group in the UK, fired thousands of rockets into Israel at the weekend. They sent fighters into Israel and kidnapped hundreds of Israelis. Over 900 Israelis and 700 Palestinians are reported to have been killed since the weekend. Israel has stopped deliveries of medicines, food, and fuel to Gaza in retaliation. Hamas said kidnapped civilians would be killed if Israel attacked civilians in Gaza without warning.
Speaking at a prayer service in support of Israel in London, Rishi Sunak said:
“I wanted to come here and stand with you in this hour of grief as we mourn the victims of an utterly abhorrent act of terror.”
He added that there was “no question of balance”.
Around 5,000 people gathered in West London outside the Israeli Embassy in support of the Palestinians under heavy police presence. In a statement, police authorities spoke of efforts to balance “the right to lawful protest against any disruption to Londoners while ensuring all communities are supported and reassured”.
Pro-Palestine protestors highlight ‘context’ of Hamas attacks
In a press statement published on its website, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), whose members co-organised the recent pro-Palestine protests, outlined its position on the escalation of violence:
“An offensive launched from Gaza can only be understood in the context of Israel’s ongoing military occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land, and imposition of a system of oppression that meets the legal definition of apartheid, which under international law constitutes a crime against humanity.
“From the beginning of 2023 up to 6 October, the day before the offensive from Gaza began, Israeli forces had killed 240 Palestinians, including 45 children, the highest level of killing since the UN began to keep accurate records in 2005.
“Beyond this immediate context, Gaza, with a population of over 2 million – of whom 50% are children – has been subjected to an Israeli-imposed blockade for the last 16 years. “
According to the PSC, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Galant said on 8 October 2023:
“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel; everything is closed.”
On X, Deputy Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, Ambassador Majed Bamya tweeted:
“We regret some countries are still incapable of calling for compliance with fundamental rules of international law without double standards and fail to acknowledge Palestinian victims. Does international law tolerate targeting of civilians if civilians are Palestinians ?!”