Jewish and British leaders say that a pro-Palestinian rally that took place on Saturday during Armistice Day, later known as Remembrance Day, should be a red flag for Brits who care about their free and open society.
“Those who March against Israel are almost always opposed to many aspects of a free society, which Remembrance Sunday is about defending,” said Gary Mond, chairman of the National Jewish Assembly.
“They often oppose Christianity, capitalism, freedom, and the rule of law. The Jews and Israel are simply an initial target.
“That is why fundamentalist Islamism sometimes uses the expression – first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.”
More than 300,000 people joined the pro-Palestinian rally, which turned violent and resulted in around 140 arrests. The protestors chanted “free, free Palestine,” “ceasefire now,” and the offensive “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” refrain.
The protests were partially planned by former Hamas chief Muhammad Kathem Sawalhi, the Telegraph reported.
Other planners included Convoy4Palestine and 1Vision, according to The Jewish Chronicle. These convoys were responsible for driving through the Jewish neighborhood of Golders Green in 2021 while calling for the rape of Jewish women.
The march was both an insult to British society – Armistice Day marks the final agreement that ended World War I, in which 876,084 were killed between 1914 and 1918 – and a threat to the local Jewish community. These marches, according to retired British Army Officer Col. Richard Kemp, that are against the British government’s policy to support Israel “are also an attempt to intimidate British Jewry.”
He added that the march was an “insult to the memories of those who died fighting the kind of violent totalitarianism that the protesters support.”
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had described the events as “disrespectful,” although they were allowed to go through.
Understanding Armistice Day
Armistice Day marks the final agreement that ended World War I, and a two-minute silence is held at 11 a.m. in commemoration of those who gave their lives in the service of their country during that period.
In the UK, Remembrance Sunday is also honored on the second Sunday of November as an additional day to thank and remember the service men and women for their sacrifice. The two days have become known as Remembrance Weekend. A march of 10,000 veterans bypasses the Cenotaph memorial in London, and the Royal Family attends the occasion.
During the weeks leading up to Remembrance Weekend, a paper and plastic poppy pin is fashionable to buy and wear. Many landscapes were left muddy and barren after the devastating fighting between Germany and the Allied forces. Still, the poppy flower was able to grow and flourish, according to the British Legion, which later inspired the adoption of the flower as a symbolic tribute. In 1921, the poppy was sold by Anna Guérin, which enabled her to raise £106,000 to help veterans with housing and employment. Understanding the power of the poppy to do social good, Major George Howson set up a poppy factory to employ disabled veterans.
“[For] anyone who has served or is still serving, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday are sacrosanct,” said Colonel Martin Newman, a former Jewish British reservist involved with several veterans organizations and charities and former chairman of the Jewish Committee for HM Forces and national chairman of AJEX. “Those are the days when we remember those who have fallen for this country and our freedom. Ironically, those who laid down their lives won the freedom to protest, and, sadly, these people [the PSC protesters] do not understand this.”
Violence has been on the rise since Oct. 7
Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Britain, which has stood by the Jewish state, has seen escalated violence and crime targeted towards British war memorials and those fundraising in the names of veterans.
The Rochdale Cenotaph was graffitied with “Free Palestine” multiple times and has had the poppy wreaths destroyed, according to Rochdale Borough Council. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Rochdale confirmed that they had arrested two males concerning damage to the Cenotaph.
In addition, 78-year-old Veteran Jim Henderson reported that he had been physically assaulted at Waverley Station in Edinburgh by a pro-Palestinian activist, according to multiple media reports. Local police are still investigating the incident.
Henderson was selling poppies when he was punched and kicked, according to the BBC.
A spokesperson for Poppyscotland told the BBC, “While we respect the rights of people to protest within the law, the safety and welfare of our volunteers is of paramount importance.”
Army officer Kemp told The Jerusalem Post that the assault on Henderson was an attempt “by so-called pro-Palestinian protesters to intimidate other poppy sellers.” He also informed the Post of an incident where “wreaths were removed from one war memorial and a Palestinian flag substituted.”
National Jewish Assembly’s Mond added that he felt “the attack on the poppy seller and the vandalism of the war memorial are all part and parcel of the contempt for Britain felt by the same people who demonstrate against Israel.”
MP Lord Ian Austin mirrored the concerns of Mond and Kemp, telling the Post that “Those who attack poppy sellers or vandalize war memorials are totally at odds with British values. These actions cannot be tolerated, and I call for those responsible to feel the full force of the law.”
The violence, antisemitism and detainmemnts made visible by social media only proved what the experts forewarned, that the pro-Palestinian protests had no place on a day reserved for protecting the national memory of militarily heroism.