‘Flying the Hezbollah Flag Risks Arrest’: Upcoming ‘Quds Day’ Marches Face Legal Sanctions, Political Opposition
Organizers of the annual “Quds Day” protests — which will take place this coming Friday to Sunday in several cities around the world — could be facing an unprecedented pushback this year from both political opposition and potential law-enforcement measures.
A tradition first instituted during the final week of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran’s Islamic Republic, marches and rallies calling for the elimination of the State of Israel and the “liberation” from the “infidels” of Jerusalem — known to Muslims as “Al-Quds” — are the main feature of “Quds Day” events.
Alongside Tehran, Beirut and Damascus, “Quds Day” rallies are held in several European and American cities, among them London, Berlin and Toronto, under the auspices of pro-Iranian Muslim organizations.
As well as providing a platform for openly antisemitic speakers, the rallies have become notorious for proudly displaying the flag of Hezbollah, Iran’s Shi’a proxy terror organization in Lebanon.
This year, however, the display of Hezbollah flags at the “Quds Day” march in London will likely result in arrests, following the British Parliament’s vote in February to end the UK’s controversial distinction between Hezbollah’s “political” and “military” wings. The entire organization is now proscribed and British police have been granted greater authority to confiscate flags and other items bearing Hezbollah’s symbol — which features a upheld rifle poised beneath a quotation from the Qu’ran, “Then surely the party of God are they that shall be triumphant.”
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), a pro-Iranian NGO which organizes the London march, conceded in its latest published advice to participants that carrying a Hezbollah flag would probably result in a police detention.
“Based on advice from the police and lawyers, please be aware that flying the Hezbollah flag could lead to you being arrested as it may be interpreted as support for a proscribed group, as Hezbollah is now a proscribed organization,” the IHRC cautioned in a post on its website dated May 17.
The IHRC added: “If we see people waving flags to show their support for any proscribed organization, our stewards will ask for the flags to be taken down and for the individuals to leave the march.”
The group also counseled marchers to “remain vigilant, remain safe, but most of all let us collectively stand up to the fascists and Zionism.” Participants in the 2019 march “should not engage with the fascist counter demonstrators as they will be violent and abusive,” the IHRC said, referring to the simultaneous solidarity rallies with Israel that are staged by Jewish community groups.
In 2018, dozens of Hezbollah flags, alongside signs reading, “We Are All Hezbollah,” were freely displayed throughout the march in central London.
In Berlin, meanwhile, participants in this year’s “Quds Day” march on Saturday will face a counter-demonstration supported by Jewish, Kurdish and LGBT+ groups, among others.
Berlin news outlet RBB 24 reported on Tuesday that “the Jewish Forum, the Kurdish community, the Lesbian and Gay Association, the American Jewish Committee Berlin and most of the parties represented in the Berlin House of Representatives” were calling on their supporters to attend a rally headlined “No Is, amism and Antisemitism in Berlin — Against the Quds March.”
The German government’s commissioner to combat antisemitism also encouraged people to attend the counter-demonstration as a gesture of solidarity with the country’s Jewish community, following a 20-percent increase in antisemitic incidents over the last year.
In a statement on Tuesday, federal commissioner Felix Klein declared that he was calling “on all citizens of Berlin and across Germany to wear the kippah next Saturday if there are new, intolerable attacks targeting Israel and Jews on the occasion of Al-Quds Day in Berlin.”
At last year’s “Quds Day” march in Berlin, antisemitic signs comparing Zionism with Nazism and calling for a boycott of Israel were widely distributed.
On this side of the Atlantic, Jewish activists in Toronto — where a “Quds Day” march will occur on Saturday — have been pressuring city authorities to “stop subsidizing this hate rally at taxpayers’ expense.”
In an op-ed published on Tuesday in the Toronto Sun, Michael Mostyn — chief executive officer of B’nai B’rith Canada — lambasted municipal officials for not implementing city council instructions from earlier this year to impose financial penalties on “organizers of hate activities on city property.”
The result, Mostyn argued, was that “taxpayers — including Jewish and Israeli residents of Toronto — will be forced to pay for this outpouring of hate.”
He continued: “Organizers of peaceful, lawful public events — such as Ribfest, the Walk with Israel, and the Roncesvalles Polish Festival — all pay their own fees. But hatemongers seemingly get a free pass from the city.”