Pro-Palestine NGO calls on UK to boycott 'Israeli apartheid'
A British pro-Palestine group has called on the UK to "boycott Israeli apartheid" in a march through London on Saturday.
Friends of Al-Aqsa (FoA) gathered 25 supporters dressed in new merchandise launched at the demonstration, spokesman Shamiul Joarder said. This merchandise will help fund the group's activities.
Joarder added that attendees chanted slogans, waved Palestinian flags and handed out leaflets at the protest, which targeted several companies FoA claimed are "complicit in Israeli apartheid".
The march came after Amnesty International adopted the position that Israel was perpetrating apartheid against Palestinians in a historic report issued earlier this month.
"The response of the public was really good… I've got to say," Joarder told The New Arab on Saturday. "[Lots] of people beeping horns. [Lots] of people just raising their fists up in the air, saying, 'Free Palestine' along with us.
"Israel has definitely lost the propaganda war in terms of the public understanding that Israel is practising apartheid."
The protest, which ran from 10:30 GMT to 15:30 GMT, began outside sportswear brand Puma's Carnaby Street shop.
It came amid a call for the boycott of the company over its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association (IFA).
Puma's logo was displayed on the IFA's website and a July 2018 report from SportBusiness Sponsorship described their relationship as a "kit partnership" set to last for four years.
An FoA press release about Saturday's protest contended that the IFA has teams in settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
The pro-Palestine group alleged this "mak[es] Puma complicit in Israeli apartheid".
Information on the IFA website indicates at least two teams whose grounds are listed as being in illegal settlements in Palestine's West Bank recently played, with one of these matches having been at home.
The New Arab has asked the IFA to clarify whether there were teams affiliated with it who play or are otherwise based in settlements. Puma and the IFA have been asked for comment, and to detail the nature of their relationship and whether this remains active.
Saturday's London demonstrators also marched to Britain's parliament, calling for sanctions against Israel "until it complies with international law".
FoA said it was also outside Parliament to decry a potential legislative move targeting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) efforts against Israel.
Robert Jenrick, a backbench Conservative lawmaker, told a digital event in December that "what we want to do is pass a piece of legislation [...] within a year or two" that will see the UK "have an absolute ban on BDS".
The New Arab has contacted the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for comment.
Joarder said that "From the river to the sea" was among the chants employed on Saturday. He added that this is a "chant for Palestinians, for justice for their homeland".
Joarder explained this was done in reaction to a controversial January comment from Nadhim Zahawi, the British education secretary, that the police should be informed about university pupils using it.
At a virtual event concerning anti-Semitism held by the Department for Education, Zahawi argued the chant "promot[es] the murder of Jewish people" and is "anti-Semitic".
Questioned on whether universities ought to probe students using the chant, Zahawi later told The Jewish Chronicle: "Absolutely. This is a proscribed organisation. And I think any proscribed organisation should be reported to the police and authorities."
The Department for Education (DfE) said the minister had not been threatening people's right to protest. It confirmed he had been referring to Gaza rulers Hamas.
However, the slogan is in widespread use among Palestinians and pro-Palestine campaigners of all political and religious backgrounds.
Advocates of "From the river to the sea" maintain it expresses their desire to see freedom from Israeli violations for Palestinians across all of Palestine-Israel, strongly rejecting claims it urges Jews be wiped out.
The "river" is the River Jordan in the region's east, while the "sea" refers to the Mediterranean in the west.
A DfE spokesperson said: "Hamas is a terrorist organisation and proscribed as such by the UK Government.
"Freedom of speech does not include unlawful bullying, harassment and intimidation which have no place on our university campuses. The right to protest is a freedom which must be protected but it is not acceptable if the effect is to shut down debate in an unlawful manner or if it unlawfully infringes other peoples' rights.
"Statistics published this month show an increase in antisemitic incidents at campus last year and is exactly why we hosted a summit with vice chancellors and leading Jewish groups, to discuss measures and commitments to eradicate antisemitic abuse."
Note: This article was updated at 11:46 GMT on 15 February to correct the Department for Education's statement regarding the date anti-Semitism statistics were released.