LONDON (May. 27)
A member of the London Mayor’s Office has condemned
the recent Israel solidarity rally held here earlier this month.
Kumar Murshid, who chairs the London Muslim Coalition in addition to
serving in the mayor’s Advisory Cabinet, claimed in a news release that the
Jewish community’s May 6 rally, which drew some 50,000 people, was a show
of support for “the massacre of innocent children, women and civilians.”
He went on to describe the rally as an “assembly of hatred which poses a
major threat to community relations.”
Murshid signed the statement giving his address as the Greater London
Authority, another term for London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s government.
A spokesperson for the authority released a response from the mayor denying
any prior knowledge of Murshid’s statement.
“Ken Livingstone neither endorses nor condones the statement and would like
to underline that Trafalgar Square” — the site of the pro-Israel rally –
“comes under his control, and he gave permission for the rally to take
place,” the spokesperson said.
Asked if the mayor would take any action concerning Murshid, the
spokesperson declined to comment.
The Board of Deputies, the umbrella organization that represents most
British Jews, wrote to Livingstone asking him to disassociate himself from
statements like Murshid’s.
The board’s president, Jo Wagerman, emphasized that the message of the
rally was to “stop the terror and to support peace.”
She also wrote that to suggest the gathering incited racial hatred was
“grossly insulting for those who attended and organized the event.”
Trevor Phillips, chair of the London Assembly, the body that oversees the
Mayor’s Office, welcomed Livingstone’s response.
“It is a traditional right of Londoners to demonstrate in support of their
views. This does not imply that the mayor or assembly take a position in
support of, or against, any particular cause,” Phillips said.
Murshid “is free to express his own views, but they should not be
attributed to the assembly. Condemning the Israeli solidarity rally earlier
this month is not something which the assembly would or should do.”
Among those addressing the May 6 rally were former Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks.
Approximately 350 buses brought tens of thousands of Jews from all over
Britain, including thousands of students and members of youth groups.
Sacks called the turnout the greatest gathering in the history of British
A small but noisy pro-Palestinian demonstration was held nearby, with
protesters carrying banners supporting the intifada and denouncing the
Two people at the counterdemonstration, which drew about 300 people, were
arrested for disturbing the peace.