Communist demo calling for Israel boycott halts Tower Hamlets council meeting
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Communist protesters brought last night’s Tower Hamlets council meeting to a halt in a demonstration against Israel from the public gallery.
They unfurled a 6ft banner claiming Zionism was "racist" and supporting Palestinians in protest at the council last year having adopted the international UN definition of anti-Semitism.
A council security officer trying to remove the banner grappled with the demonstrators who chanted a Hamas slogan against the Jewish State "from the river to the sea".
The orchestrated protest ignited the second the mayor began his monthly "state of the borough" address and shouting him down, which lasted for 20 minutes.
The Council Speaker and all members of the Labour party and the opposition Lib Dem and Tory groups walked out after a few minutes—leaving the demonstrators shouting to an empty chamber with the rest of the public gallery having already left from earlier debates.
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The protesters ignored security staff, holding onto their banner calling for a boycott of Israel and waving placards.
One councillor, Marc Francis, was visibly upset by the protesters and confronted them over their extremist language, defending the council for having adopted the UN definition on anti-Semitism in 2018.
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"This showed there are some on the fringes of politics who have no appreciation of how threatening their language is to the Jewish community," Cllr Francis told the East London Advertiser afterwards.
"We have a responsibility to challenge that language wherever it rears its ugly head and to question whether support for the Palestinian people is their real agenda at all.
"There is no just and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict that doesn't recognise the right of the State of Israel to exist."
Another councillor recognised one of the protesters as "an agitator" who had also disrupted a meeting of Camden Council on the same issue, claiming the group who turned up last night had been disrupting local authority meetings across London where the UN definition had been adopted.
The demonstrators chanting Hamas's slogan "from the river to the sea" echoed Middle East Arab leaders' calls during the 1948 and 1967 conflicts to drive the Jewish State "back into the sea".
Tower Hamlets had adopted the international UN code last year which defined extremist rhetoric against Israel and Zionism as "covert antisemitism".
Last night's protesters eventually left the empty council chamber after 20 minutes and were escorted from the town hall as councillors returned with the Speaker resuming the meeting.