Britain, 1973: That Was the Support for Israel That Was

Massive demonstration for Palestine last summer in London

I was in London at the time, and attended the Zionist Federation’s huge pro-Israel rally in Trafalgar Square on a crisp autumnal Sunday afternoon, 14 October, at which speakers denounced the Heath government, the Foreign Office, the Arab aggressors, and the United Nations.

The throng – which included well-known stars of stage and screen, including such non-Jews as Donald Pleasance – was estimated by The Times (15 October 1973) as 10,000 strong, but the Jewish Chronicle (19 October 1973) put the figure at 20,000.

Speakers included the Israeli ambassador, Michael Comay, the Federation’s president (life peer Lord, formerly Sir Barnett, Janner), the president of the Board of Deputies (Sir Samuel Fisher), a former president of the Liberal Party (life peer Lady [Nancy] Seear), Conservative MP Hugh Fraser, and Labour MP Peter Shore. Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits recited a prayer.

Lending support by their presence were the 89-year-old Jewish Labour life peer Lord (Manny) Shinwell, and the 89-year-old non-Jewish Conservative peer Lord Barnby.

I can see the latter clearly in my mind’s eye: standing proud and erect in a tan-coloured overcoat, this right-wing aristocrat who spoke up for Israel in the House of Lords that week; to my disgust, the Jewish Chronicle failed to record his presence, even after I wrote to remind them of it…