Concerns raised after anti-Israel demonstrators set off flares near synagogue

Police are investigating the incident that took place near St John's Wood shul


The Metropolitan Police are investigating claims that anti-Israel demonstrators targeted Jewish families leaving a London synagogue on Shabbat.

Families attending the Masorti New London Synagogue on Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, in northwest London, on Saturday were "being targeted on their way out of synagogue", the Campaign Against Antisemitism claimed.

CAA said that it had "received multiple reports of police having to escort congregants away in groups for their own safety." 

However, Rabbi of New London Synagogue, Jeremy Gordon said: "Roadworks along Abbey Road resulted in a significant backlog of traffic. The car would have been held up by these roadworks and it seems likely the man got out of the car while it was in traffic."

He felt it was "less likely that the protestor deliberately stopped" to target the Synagogue.

Rabbi Gordon said: "The protestor may have acted in ways I would oppose. But it is not correct to say his actions should be construed as an attack on the Synagogue."

He added: "There is nervousness among the members of the community I represent. I feel it in myself. I went down to experience the end of the pro-Palestine march last week. There were chants, fliers and signs which, at the very least, seemed to call for the ethnic cleansing of some 7 million Jews between ‘the river and the Sea.’"

The chair of St John’s Wood Synagogue, which is also in the area, told the JC that while there was a car in Abbey Road with anti-Israel demonstrators setting off flares and waiving a Palestinian flag, it was not near the synagogue and therefore did not appear to amount to an intentional threat to shul-goers.

Michael Abraham, said the car was “near Pizza Express, not outside of the shul” and the incident “happened in the afternoon and not when people were leaving Shabbat services”.

Footage posted to social media showed a group of people setting off flares and waving Palestinian flags in the vicinity of the shul.

"Since the Jewish Sabbath ended, we have been receiving information from across the Jewish community," CAA said. "We are aware of Jewish families being targeted on their way out of synagogue."

The group added: "The placards [at the march] bore slogans and imagery that would not have looked out of place in Nazi Germany.

"Islamist extremists, the far-left and the far-right were out on the streets, all on one day. What a day to be a Jew in London."

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was in close contact with police over the incident and they had identified the cars involved and were working to locate the suspects.

Khan said: "Places of worship are sanctuaries and targeting a synagogue or Jewish worshippers is unacceptable and racist." 

The Met said they were "actively looking" for individuals seen displaying antisemitic placards at the Armistice Day anti-Israel demonstration advertised as "pro-Palestine" in London

The demonstration, which was labelled as a "hate march", by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, drew an estimated 300,000 people to central London, according to Scotland Yard.

Numerous examples of antisemitic placards carried by protestors were shared on social media. The Met have responded to a number of the posts, saying they are working to identify those involved.  

Officers said they are looking to identify protestors who wore what were described as Hamas-style headbands and a woman with a racist banner depicting Rishi Sunak and Braverman as "coconuts". 

Police are also looking for a man who held a sign reading: "Welcome to Gaza, twinned with Auschwitz".

Other signs included images showing the Star of David wrapped around a Nazi swastika. The placard carried the slogan: "No British politician should be a 'friend of Israel'." 

Protestors could also be heard chanting of "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" which is widely viewed by Jews as antisemitic. The chant is understood to mean a call for the eradication of the state of Israel. 

Meanwhile, on social media a video has circulated in which a woman yells “Death to all the Jews” in a crowded London underground station surrounded by people carrying Palestinian flags.

The Prime Minister condemned the incidents of antisemitism witnessed over the weekend. 

He said: "I condemn the violent, wholly unacceptable scenes we have seen today from the EDL and associated groups and Hamas sympathisers attending the National March for Palestine.

"The despicable actions of a minority of people undermine those who have chosen to express their views peacefully. 

"That is true for EDL thugs attacking police officers and trespassing on the Cenotaph, and it is true for those singing antisemitic chants and brandishing pro-Hamas signs and clothing on today's protest. The fear and intimidation the Jewish Community have experienced over the weekend is deplorable. 

"All criminality must be met with the full and swift force of the law. That is what I told the Met Police Commissioner on Wednesday, that is what they are accountable for and that is what I expect." 

Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper condemned the "appalling cases of antisemitic hate, intimidation, and support for terrorist groups like Hamas." 

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael added: "The horrific cases of antisemitism and support for terrorist organisations that we have seen on the streets of London today need to be totally condemned. It has no place in our society. 

"Those who have participated in this hate and disorder should feel the full force of the law." 

Met Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: “While the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) march did not see the sort of physical violence carried out by the right wing, we know that for London’s Jewish communities whose fears and concerns we absolutely recognise, the impact of hate crime and in particular antisemitic offences is just as significant. 

“At the end of the PSC march, we once again saw breakaway groups behaving in an intimidating manner.

“Officers intercepted a group of 150 who were wearing face coverings and firing fireworks.

“Arrests were made after some of the fireworks struck officers in the face.   

“There were also a number of serious offences identified in relation to hate crime and possible support for proscribed organisations during the protest that we are actively investigating. 

“Locating and intercepting suspects in a crowd of the size we saw today will always be challenging, but we were further limited in our ability to do so due to the number of officers we had to deploy, from early in the day, in response to violence from the right wing groups in central London.” 

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