The five faces behind London's Armistice Day protests

The five faces behind London’s Gaza protests REVEALED: Leicester optician, a ‘senior Hamas operative’ and a university professor are some of the ringleaders of groups organising pro-Palestine rally on Armistice Day

Pro-Palestinian protesters have been urged to call off a rally in London on Armistice Day as the Met gave its go ahead to the event. 

The groups organising the march have vowed to press on despite concerns of disruption to commemoration events taking place in the capital. 

They are led by five key faces, including a Leicester optician, a ‘senior Hamas operative’ and a professor at the University of Birmingham. 

All have rebuffed the Met’s calls to postpone the rally, and last night Sir Mark Rowley decided against using little used powers to ban it outright. 

This was despite fears of violent clashes between the marchers and Right-wing activists. The rally’s organisers had already rebuffed the Met’s pleas to postpone. 

The marchers have also defied Rishi Sunak, who said the event was ‘disrespectful’, and Suella Braverman, who called it a ‘hate march’.

Organisers: Ismail Patel, a Leicester optician and Chair of Friends of al-Aqsa (left) and Dr Anas Altikriti of the Muslim Association of Britain 

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is headed by British Palestinian engineering academic Kamel Hawwash, who is based at the University of Birmingham

Sir Mark said intelligence sources did not justify a ban, and he could not put one in place simply because people disagreed with the march. 

‘The laws created by Parliament are clear. There is no absolute power to ban protest, therefore there will be a protest this weekend,’ he insisted.

EXCLUSIVE – Football hooligans are planning to ‘team up’ and ‘protect’ the Cenotaph from pro-Palestine protestors 

However the commissioner said if the intelligence grew to suggest a threat of serious disorder he would ask the Home Office to impose a ban under section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986.

The powers were last used a decade ago when Theresa May prevented a march by the far-Right English Defence League in east London.

Groups of football hooligans are planning to join forces to ‘protect’ the Cenotaph from any protesters who veer off their official route. One of the groups – Football Lads Against Extremism – claims veterans have reached out and asked for support.

EDL founder Tommy Robinson wrote ‘Saturday 11/11/11 London, your country needs you’, in one of his first posts after being allowed back on to X, formerly Twitter.

Richard Kemp, a retired Army colonel who led British troops in Afghanistan, warned of possible clashes in the capital. ‘It is very likely we will see violence and serious disruption to Armistice Day events, and we have already seen attacks on poppy sellers,’ he said. ‘I am surprised the police have not already banned the march.’ 

Pro-Palestine protesters gather for a rally in Trafalgar Square in central London last Saturday 

Gangs of football hooligans are reportedly planning to ‘team up’ to protect the Cenotaph (pictured) from pro-Palestine protesters

Police were guarding Rochdale Cenotaph this morning after it was spray painted with ‘Free Palestine’ 

Jonathan Hall KC, the independent reviewer of terror laws, warned of a risk of an ‘extreme Right-wing terrorist backlash’ if the rally went ahead. 

READ MORE – Former Hamas chief who lives in London ‘is behind one of the groups planning  protest’

And former UKIP leader Nigel Farage accused the Met of being ‘gutless’ by failing to ban the event.

More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the demonstration on Saturday to protest against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza following the Hamas massacres of October 7.

Previous rallies have seen officers injured with fireworks, protesters flaunting extremist imagery and multiple arrests for anti-Semitic chanting.

Organisers, who have pledged to keep away from Whitehall and the Cenotaph, will not start their demonstration until 12.45pm, almost two hours after the two-minute silence. 

The route will take them from Hyde Park – about a mile from the Cenotaph – to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the Thames. 

Sir Mark Rowley – seen outside a COBRA meeting yesterday – said intelligence sources did not justify a ban on the march

But there are fears that splinter groups could clash with veterans, Right-wing activists and football fans at the Cenotaph. Arsenal and Crystal Palace are at home on Saturday as are West Ham and Chelsea on Sunday.

Several groups are co-organising this weekend’s pro-Palestine march.  The groups’ leaders include:

1. IsmaIl Patel

Among the organising groups of this weekend’s pro-Palestine march is The Friends of al-Aqsa, founded by Leicester-based optician Ismail Patel. 

In 2009, Mr Patel told a rally: ‘Hamas is no terrorist organisation… we salute Hamas for standing up to Israel.’

In 2009, it was only the military wing of Hamas that had been designated as a terrorist organisation.

Mr Patel also said at the time that ‘we are all Hamas’ and he attacked the Board of Deputies for ‘bringing shame’ on Jews by supporting Israel.

2. Dr Anas Altikriti

Another group organising Saturday’s march, the Muslim Association of Britain, lists Dr Anas Altikriti as a director on Companies House.

Dr Altikriti defended Hamas in a 2009 piece for The Guardian newspaper, claiming that Hamas ‘supports democracy’ and calling for Britain to build diplomatic bridges with the terror group. No elections have been held in Gaza since Hamas took control.

Dr Altikriti defended Hamas in a 2009 piece for The Guardian newspaper, claiming that Hamas ‘supports democracy’. He is pictured with Jeremy Corbyn at the House of Commons 

Dr Altikriti is also a founder of the Cordoba Foundation, which has been linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. 

In 2009, David Cameron said in the Commons that the Cordoba Foundation was a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Both the Muslim Association of Britain and the Cordoba Foundation have denied any links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

3. Zaher Birawi

One of the leading figures of a group co-organising Saturday’s march, Zaher Birawi was recently described in the House of Commons as a ‘senior Hamas operative’.

The 62-year-old is linked to various pro-Palestine organisations and charities, including the Palestinian Forum for Britain, which is one of six groups helping to plan this weekend’s demonstration. 

In 2017, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre (an Israeli research group) said Mr Birawi was ‘affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas’.

Zaher Birawi was recently described in the House of Commons as a ‘senior Hamas operative’

He was designated by Israel as a senior Hamas operative in Europe in 2013, Labour MP Christian Wakeford told the Commons recently.

The Meir Amit dossier on the activist said: ‘He has extensive experience in dispatching flotillas from Europe to the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of ‘breaking the siege’ of the Gaza Strip.’

Mr Birawi, who lives in Barnet, north London, has previously criticised Israel’s designation and defended the Gaza freedom flotillas as human rights activism.

4. Ben Jamal

In 2016, Ben Jamal became the first Palestinian appointed as director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). 

The son of an Anglican priest says his father’s family of Christian Arabs were driven out of Jerusalem in 1948.

Ben Jamal from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign addresses the crowd in Trafalgar Square

Mr Jamal’s great-uncle, Shibli Jamal, was the secretary to a Palestinian delegation which came to Britain in 1921 to negotiate with Winston Churchill – then secretary of state for the colonies – to overturn the Balfour declaration, a British pledge to establish ‘a national home for the Jewish people’ in Palestine. 

The delegation held the first pro-Palestinian rally in Hyde Park at the time, Mr Jamal wrote on the PSC website.

5. Professor Kamel Hawwash

The PSC is headed by British Palestinian engineering academic Kamel Hawwash, who is based at the University of Birmingham.

Professor Hawwash, who was head of the School of Civil Engineering between 2008 and 2011, is also a founding member of the British Palestinian Policy Council.

In 2017, he became one of the first people denied entry to Israel under a controversial law banning supporters of the boycott movement.

Professor Hawwash had been trying to visit relatives in east Jerusalem with his wife and five-year-old son for the Easter holidays but was detained and forced to fly back to Britain.

‘We’ll do everything to ensure Armistice Day isn’t disrupted’: Sir Mark Rowley’s full statement on Saturday’s protests 

Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: ‘The events taking place this weekend are of great significance and importance to our nation. I completely recognise the significant public and political concern about the impact of ongoing protest and demonstrations on this moment of national reflection. Therefore I am determined we will do everything in our power to ensure they pass without disruption.

‘The reason we have an independent police service is so that among debate, opinion, emotion and conflict, we stand in the centre, focused simply on the law and the facts in front of us.

‘The laws created by Parliament are clear. There is no absolute power to ban protest, therefore there will be a protest this weekend.

‘The law provides no mechanism to ban a static gathering of people. It contains legislation which allows us to impose conditions to reduce disruption and the risk of violence, and in the most extreme cases when no other tactics can work, for marches or moving protests to be banned.

‘Many have called for us to use this power to ban a planned march by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign on Saturday.

‘But the use of this power is incredibly rare and must be based on intelligence which suggests there will be a real threat of serious disorder and no other way for police to manage the event. The last time it was used was over a decade ago.

‘Over recent weeks we’ve seen an escalation of violence and criminality by small groups attaching themselves to demonstrations, despite some key organisers working positively with us.

‘But at this time, the intelligence surrounding the potential for serious disorder this weekend does not meet the threshold to apply for a ban.

‘The organisers have shown complete willingness to stay away from the Cenotaph and Whitehall and have no intention of disrupting the nation’s remembrance events. Should this change, we’ve been clear we will use powers and conditions available to us to protect locations and events of national importance at all costs.

‘Officers will continue to take swift and robust action against any breakaway groups or individuals intent on using legitimate, lawful protest for their own agenda through Saturday and Sunday.

‘If over the next few days the intelligence evolves, and we reach a threshold where there is a real threat of serious disorder we will approach the Home Secretary. Right now, we remain focused on the facts in front of us and developing our plan to ensure the highest levels of protection for events throughout the weekend.’

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