No arrests at Closer to Israel as volunteers help keep the peace

By Marcus Dysch, June 6, 2013

It took weeks of planning and required hundreds of volunteers, but the huge operation mounted by the Community Security Trust ensured Closer to Israel passed off safely.

According to CST, more than 250 of its members were brought in from across the country to police Sunday’s event.

Plans for the day were worked out at a series of briefings between Jewish communal groups and London authorities, including Scotland Yard, Westminster Council and the Mayor of London’s office, in the weeks leading up to the celebration.

Richard Benson, CST chief executive, said: "It was a fantastic team effort and I want to thank everyone who helped secure this key Jewish communal event in the heart of London. The day passed peacefully and the co-operation we received from so many of those attending was deeply appreciated."

The JC understands supporters of the right-wing English Defence League had indicated their intention to attend the event on online forums, but were advised that their presence would not be welcomed.

On the edge of the square, two anti-Israel protests, led by the strictly Orthodox anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta and Jews for Justice for Palestinians, each drew around 20 supporters.

Jews for Justice spokeswoman Diana Neslen claimed that Israel was a country "that’s in an occupation, that doesn’t negotiate in good faith for peace."

Pro-Israel activists spent part of the afternoon robustly debating points with the protesters, but with the two groups largely kept apart by police, no serious flashpoints occured.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the force could not comment on the number of officers who attended Closer to Israel, but confirmed no arrests were made.

The largest group of non-Israelis present were 200 Turkish expatriates holding a entirely separate protest in solidarity with the demonstrators in Istanbul.

Last updated: 3:49pm, June 6 2013