It should have been breathtaking and it was. It should have been unnecessary and it wasn’t.
One hundred thousand philosemitic folk from the five corners of this Septic Isle, marching from the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand to an erected stage in Westminster.
100,000 people, flanked by whey-faced police-persons on the shift one day after the programmed pro-Palestinians spewed their weekly, scarcely veiled anti-Zionism/antisemitism onto the freedom of our streets.
There were so many people in attendance that when the frontline, sporting Rob Rinder, the Chief Rabbi, Rachel Riley, Tracey-Ann Oberman, Elliot Levey, Vanessa Feltz, Michael Brandon, Glynis Barber and me reached Westminster, there were still thousands, still waiting to set off from the Courts of Justice.
Somewhere in the crowd were David Baddiel, Boris Johnson and Felicity Kendal. Tom Tugendhat, Robert Halton, Peter Kyle and Edward Lucas. All coming together to fight antisemitism.
There were 100,000 supporters according to the organisers – although there were only 60,000 according to the BBC, who had “suggested” to their staff that they must stay away from this utterly peaceful approbation of the rights of Jewish people to live peacefully in their UK homeland.
We chanted ‘Bring them Home’, but not in any organised way; we were slightly embarrassed to chant, perhaps, or was it ‘100,000 Jews, 200,000 opinions’?
One wonders whether their staff would have been banned from a similar March for LGBT or for the safety of Sikhs.
Nonetheless, we quietly marched, holding up our placards demanding safety and understanding. We chanted ‘Bring them Home’, but not in any organised way; we were slightly embarrassed to chant, perhaps, or was it ‘100,000 Jews, 200,000 opinions’?
We sang Oseh Shalom (Give Us Peace) in Hebrew, which I joined in singing but worried it excluded the many righteous gentiles who gave up their Sunday roasts to walk shoulder to shoulder with those loyal, creative British citizens, with whom they had grown up in harmony.
The speeches were rousing and good, with Chief Rabbi Mirvis at his most robust and rousing and actor Eddie Marsan bringing an almost Arnold Wesker-like passion to his plea for diversity and peace.
I did suggest coming on at the end to say: “This is the largest Jewish gathering in history, without food!” I always want to plump for levity when the issue is so serious. It’s what we Jews do. Still.
I was very proud of my brave people and their compassionate colleagues. There were few lefty Jews and fewer Union ones and neither Reform Jews nor the Board of Deputies were on the platform. In Israel all factions left and right have come together to fight an existential threat. And here in England we need no schisms in our society. We should bring all Jews closer as we face the peril of being the scapegoat for society’s ills, YET AGAIN. Prejudice is cyclical and we can’t afford to only remember that every 70 years.
Robert Crampton wrote that he enjoyed the fact that we had no chant. If we had, I would have had David Baddiel leading us chanting: “One hundred thousand – a stunning amount! PROUD TO SHOW YOU JEWS DO COUNT.”
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