Chief Rabbi condemns anti-Israel marches by Palestinian activists

Sir Ephraim Mirvis said the lines between demonstrators and 'those who support the brutal terrorism of Hamas' had become 'badly blurred'


LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 4: People protest in support of Gaza on November 4, 2023 in London, United Kingdom. The action is being held to call for a ceasefire in the Hamas-Israel conflict. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

The community’s leading rabbis have condemned the weekly anti-Israel marches taking place across the country.

The rallies, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other anti-Israel groups, have attracted tens of thousands of people and been described by Home Secretary Suella Braverman as “hate marches”. The decision to hold a march this Saturday on Armistice Day was “provocative and disrespectful” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Writing in the Times, Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis said that the lines between demonstrators and “those who support the brutal terrorism of Hamas” had become “badly blurred”.

He cautioned against “hateful extremism” in the wake of the Hamas terror attacks on Israeli civilians, writing: “The world feels different because at the very moment when it should be clearer than ever what is meant by Hamas’s ‘resistance’, ‘jihad’, ‘uprising’ or ‘intifada’, more and more people are now openly calling for these things in cities across Britain and the world. This is hateful extremism.”

He urged people to “have the moral courage to call it by its name and face it down”.

Mirvis referenced the rhetoric on banners and signs wielded by anti-Israel demonstrators, arguing that the words “Palestinian resistance” unambiguously supported the actions of Hamas.

“Did every person who attended that march truly wish to associate themselves with acts of such barbarity? I sincerely hope that they did not. Nevertheless, it could not be clearer that, at the very least, the lines between those who wish only to advocate for the welfare of innocent Palestinians and those who support the brutal terrorism of Hamas have become badly blurred.

“Those lines have remained blurred in the subsequent demonstrations, in which a minority have proudly displayed their extremism on their banners and in their chants, while the majority stand alongside them.”

Rabbi Mirvis pointed to the rise in antisemitic incidents on college campuses where a minority of students and lecturers openly declared support for “intifada”, while the majority appeared “indifferent”.

He wrote that it was “imperative that we redraw these lines of moral clarity without delay”.

His views were echoed by the heads of Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Charley Baginsky and Rabbi Josh Levy, who, in a joint statement, said that there  “should be no tolerance for those who are chanting antisemitic slogans, celebrating violence or calling for uprisings against Israel and against Jews.

“They should not be welcome on the demonstrations and should be dealt with by the full force of the law.”

While they recognised “the diversity of voices on these demonstrations, and that the right to protest is an essential part of living in a democratic society… there are limits to what is acceptable on demonstrations”.

They said: “Those who protest have a responsibility to do so with thought for the impact on others,” adding that it was imperative that protesters and organisers thought “carefully about the real meaning of their words and about the impact of their actions on those encountering them.”

They said that they were especially worried about “the impact on Jewish students and children who are already feeling vulnerable” and “deeply concerned about the relationships between different communities in the UK”.

They called for the public to “consider how we speak with one another”.

Saturday will be the fifth weekend of anti-Israel marches since October 7.

For all the latest from Israel, click here to see all our coverage.

To sign up to our daily war briefing, click here. 

To listen to our new Israel podcast, click here.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive