British Home Secretary toughens stance on pro-Palestinian activism

A key figure in the UK government said on October 11 that the flying of the Palestinian flag in the country “may not be legitimate”, reports British news outlet, The Independent. 

Home Secretary, Suella Braverman questioned the legitimacy of the flag and claimed that it could be perceived as a symbol of support for terrorist acts. 

Shortly after the attack on Israel, hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in London, chanting “ Free Palestine”, amongst other pro-Palestinian slogans, and declaring that “Israel is a terrorist state”. 

The ruling Conservative Party has used Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Israel earlier this month as a justification to further target pro-Palestinian activists and demonstrations. 

The government has already introduced measures that seemingly limit the right to protest. In 2021, the Public Order Bill was passed, a bill that critics claim is “an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens”. 

This year, the Anti-Boycott Bill was introduced, a measure that many believe stifles freedom of expression and targets those who support a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) of Israel for its continuing occupation of Palestinian territories amongst other human rights violations. 

UK pro-Palestinian group, Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has repeatedly called on its supporters to protest and voice their displeasure at the bill, stressing that,“boycotts are a key part of our democracy”. 

Braveman claimed to have heard pro-Hamas chants during demonstrations in the British capital recently and also had concerns about other songs and slogans. 

The cabinet minister said, “It is not just explicit pro-Hamas symbols and chants that are cause for concern, “I would encourage police to consider whether chants such as ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ should be understood as an expression of a violent desire to see Israel erased from the world, and whether its use in certain contexts may amount to a racially aggravated Section 5 public order offence.” 

UK Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer noted that the flying of the flag could be problematic in some cases and told UK radio station, LBC that “It’s very important that at times like this we don’t conflate peaceful discussion of Palestinian issues with Hamas.”

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak promised to hold people to account if they are found to be supporting the militant Islamist group in Britain. 

The Independent

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