Is it illegal to call Hamas terrorists?

The arrest of an anti-Hamas counter-protester shames the Metropolitan Police.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Politics UK

Is it now a crime to call Hamas a terrorist group? It may be a statement of fact to describe the Islamists responsible for 7 October – the deadliest day for Jewry since the Holocaust – as a terrorist outfit. It may also be the view of the UK government – Hamas is officially a proscribed terrorist organisation. And yet, incredibly, London’s Metropolitan Police have started cracking down on those who dare to apply the T-word to Hamas. On Saturday, officers wrestled a man to the ground, arrested him and seized the banner he was waving. On it were three words in large type: ‘Hamas is terrorist.’

Niyak Ghorbani, an exiled Iranian dissident, was in central London to counter-protest one of the now weekly ‘pro-Palestine’ marches. As anyone who has been paying attention will surely now know, for all that most marchers claim to be moved by humanitarian concern for civilians in Gaza, there is a significant pro-Hamas element on these demos. Indeed, many of the organisers have links to Hamas, have met with Hamas officials or have publicly praised Hamas’s terrorist atrocities. One group, the Muslim Association of Britain, was co-founded by Muhammad Kathem Sawalha, a former Hamas chief who now lives in London.

If there were any doubt as to whether these ‘peace’ marches were stuffed with Hamas fanboys, then the response to Ghorbani’s counter-protest has surely dispelled it. Videos show him holding his sign aloft and quickly being rounded on by protesters who object to his anti-Hamas message. The police then rush in to stop the disorder. But instead of coming to his defence, instead of holding back the baying mob, police decide to arrest him, remove him from the scene and take away his sign.

The Met Police have since insisted Ghorbani’s arrest had nothing to do with the anti-Hamas sign and have subsequently ‘dearrested’ him. In a statement, they said he was arrested for ‘assault’ and to prevent a ‘breach of the peace’. ‘The arrest was not made in relation to the placard’, police insist. But as the footage makes clear, it is Ghorbani who was rounded on by angry protesters. And if the banner were not an issue for the police, then why were officers so determined to seize it from him, even after he had been removed from the angry crowd?

For months now, the Metropolitan Police have tried to deny there have been double standards in their policing of the ‘pro-Palestine’ marches. Week after week, we have seen police turning a blind eye to the virulent anti-Semitism and Hamas apologism that has become a feature of these marches. And this from a police force that would normally be all too keen to bundle Londoners into a van for making rude comments on social media. What Ghorbani’s arrest reveals is that this is actually so much worse than just a case of double standards. The police aren’t simply applying a light touch to the ‘pro-Palestine’ crowd’s Jew hatred – they are actively appeasing the most hateful elements.

Indeed, this isn’t the first time the Met have forcibly removed Ghorbani from a demo while he has voiced his opposition to Hamas. Last month, he turned up at a march outside the Israeli embassy with a placard that read: ‘Do you agree: Hamas is a terrorist organisation? Yes or yes?’ Needless to say, this enraged the ‘mostly peaceful’ mob, who started abusing him and spitting at him. Once again, when the police arrived, they decided that he was the problem. Two officers dragged him away, although they had the decency not to arrest him that time.

The Met have sought to justify their softly softly approach towards Hamas-sympathising protesters by appealing to free speech and to the right to peaceful protest. These things are indeed important to uphold. We at spiked are opposed to banning these awful marches, or otherwise criminalising Palestine protesters for offensive chants, signs and clothing. But free speech is meaningless if it only applies to one side. A police force that was actually interested in upholding the freedom to protest would allow peaceful counter-demonstrations. The harassment of Niyak Ghorbani proves that the Met have taken sides here – the side of the Islamists against their critics.

Far from upholding free speech, what the Met are essentially doing is trying to shield Hamas supporters from offence, for fear of a volatile reaction. They are effectively protecting them from encountering criticism of their favourite Jew-murdering terrorists. In other words, the Met are slowly turning London into a ‘safe space’ for Islamist anti-Semites.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, then just look at how, in the weeks after 7 October, posters of Israeli hostages were torn down by police officers, supposedly to calm ‘community tensions’. Or how volunteers for the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism were threatened with arrest for a ‘breach of the peace’ over a mobile billboard displaying images of the children who had been kidnapped by Hamas. Drawing attention to Hamas’s crimes, accurately describing Hamas as terrorists, is treated by the Met as somehow inflammatory and provocative. Of course, the only people who are actually angered by facts about Jewish suffering or Islamist atrocities are deranged anti-Semites. This is who the Met now feels the need to take the knee to.

The Met’s capitulation to Hamas supporters is shameful and cowardly. Its appeasement of Islamist bigotry is grotesque. The scandal of two-tiered policing can be ignored no longer.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

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