On Sunday some 300 people marched through London demonstrating for a free Palestine. George Galloway addressed the crowd. But, although supported by Respect, the Al-Quds demo wasn't much like a Stop the War demo-cum-SWP rally.
For a start, I only saw one SWPer on the march. There were many, many more Hezbollah flags than Palestinian ones, with dozens of "We are all Hizbullah" placards. Respect might nominally have backed the Al-Quds day protest, but were clearly embarrassed to turn out to an event supported by groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and other far-right Islamist organisations.
The demonstration was a disgrace, with dozens of supporters of clerical fascist causes in the Middle East making their allegiances known. The AWL decided to protest against the event - but rather than just standing in the enclave the police had barricaded off for us, myself, two AWL comrades and Peter Tatchell leafleted the demonstrators themselves.
As soon as we arrived at the end of the column marching down Park Lane, we faced attack. The tannoy led the chants "Peter Tatchell, paedophile" and "Peter Tatchell, child killer". A man in a Hezbollah t-shirt ripped my leaflets (with the title "Support the workers, women and students of Iran - against US imperialism, against the Islamic Republic") out of my hands, and when I grabbed them back, a policeman struck me on the arm. The police then formed a cordon around the demonstration, while we leafletted passers-by and tried to engage the Al-Quds protestors in conversation.
Most of them offered wild abuse - "You are in the party of Satan"; "You are in the pay of the CIA"; "You are cheap, you sold out to the Zionists"; and so on. One of their number spat at a woman comrade.
Although disgusted by their behaviour, I was also strongly opposed to the chants of Blairite Zionists taking part in the counter-demonstration - to shout "terrorists" at people of Arabic descent on the streets of Britain is extremely provocative, whatever the politics of the Hezbollah supporters among them.
Should we have bothered? We knew that the Hezbollah flag-wavers would be aggravated and respond hysterically rather than talk. But we weren't looking to sell lots of copies of Solidarity. We wanted to plant our flag in the sand against the idea that supporting the Palestinians has anything to do with supporting the clerical fascists.