Instead of arresting those who pose a danger to Jews, the police hope we will sequester ourselves away

How is this meant to reassure the Jewish community, or indeed any law-abiding citizen?

October 20, 2023 16:32

On Wednesday I experienced one of the most disturbing incidents that I have seen in nearly a decade at Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA).

Since last weekend, we have been leading a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of Hamas’s hostages, including through leaflets and posters, billboards and digital vans that travel around London displaying the images of some of the child captives.

The images note that Hamas has kidnapped them and calls for their return — that is literally all it is. Given that Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation, this should not be controversial.

We know, sadly, that there are some in London who openly or privately support Hamas and the pogrom that it carried out in southern Israel, or are sympathetic to its objectives and methods. We therefore expected that there may be pockets of opposition from terrorist-sympathisers and their fellow travellers. What we did not expect was opposition from the Metropolitan Police.

In the early evening on Wednesday, there were anti-Israel protesters at a demonstration on Whitehall in which the genocidal “From the river to the sea” chant was heard. The Home Secretary agrees that this is antisemitic hate speech. The police were present but did nothing.

By chance, our van happened to be driving through Parliament Square on its route past London’s landmarks as the demonstration was winding down further up the road. Protesters who had left the demonstration came to the van and started shouting abuse at the van, leaving the driver and our volunteer feeling shaken. The police, only metres away, did nothing.

When the police finally did decide to take action, it was against the van. They claimed, with no legal basis, that the van risked breaching the peace, and that for the safety of the driver and volunteers, the images must be shut off and the van must leave central London.

Why did the police go after the victims, who were exercising their legal right to free speech, and not against the intimidating protesters who were trying to suppress that right and threatening innocent Jews? Because the van was a soft target. It was easier to order law-abiding citizens to take their rights elsewhere than it was to arrest those who were shouting and screaming.

How is this policy of policing meant to reassure the Jewish community, or indeed any law-abiding citizen?

The worst, though, was yet to come. When the volunteers explained to me what had happened, I returned with the van to the same location. By then, no protesters were present. But the police again ordered the van to stop displaying the pictures and get out of central London. Apparently there are too many people in London who are offended at a reminder that a proscribed terrorist group has abducted Jewish children for the police to control. The mob has won.

It is intolerable for Jewish people to have to confine ourselves to certain parts of London, or keep our heads down, or not raise awareness of the plight of our brethren in Hamas’s clutches, because antisemites seek to threaten us. The job of the police is not to order London’s Jews to sequester ourselves for our own protection: it is to arrest those who pose a danger to us so that we can safely be Jews anywhere in the city we call home.

In 2014, CAA was founded when the community witnessed that the authorities barely lifted a finger to combat antisemitism on our streets. We made our voices heard then outside the Royal Courts of Justice, but only towards the end of that surge in antisemitic incidents. This time, we must make our voices heard earlier, to shape how the Met polices our streets over the coming weeks.

We will be taking further action.

The police must defend the Jewish community against those who prevent us exercising our rights and who want to harm us.

Gideon Falter is chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism

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October 20, 2023 16:32

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