Death threat to Jews sung openly at rallies across the UK

Prosecutors acknowledge the antisemitic cry is criminal incitement to racial hatred but Jewish community leaders say police are “reluctant” to enforce the law


Pro-Palestinian activists and supporters wave flags and hold up placards during a demonstration in support of the Palestinian cause outside the Israeli Embassy in central London on May 15, 2021, as violence escalates in the ongoing conflict with Israel. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Crowds of anti-Israel protesters have repeatedly chanted a chilling Arabic death threat to Jews under the noses of police without a single person being charged, a JC investigation has revealed.

Officers and prosecutors have acknowledged the antisemitic cry is criminal incitement to racial hatred, with a penalty of up to seven years in jail.

But Jewish community leaders say police are “reluctant” to enforce the law even as hundreds of protesters shout out vile hate speech at demonstrations against Israel.

The chant, “Khaybar, Khaybar Ya Yahud, Jaish Mohammed Sauf Ya’ud” means “Watch Out Jews, Remember Khaybar, the Army of Mohammed is returning”.

It refers to a massacre of Jews said to have been carried out at Khaybar in Arabia in 628CE — more than 1,300 years before the modern state of Israel was founded.

The Arabic-language cry has the “official endorsement” of Al-Qaeda Central — the terror group’s global hub — which issued a statement praising those who used the chant after it was heard at demonstrations in Britain and Israel.

It said: “How did life revive in us with your glorification and your shouts with the oath of loyalty and your chants!

“How much you cooled our chests with launching your jihadi missiles at the people of Zion.”

The chant can be heard in video recordings of seven separate rallies last year, all of which took place across Britain against the background of the conflict in May between Israel and Hamas.

The first of the seven demonstrations took place in London on 11 May, 2021, and was attended by Richard Burgon, the hard-left Labour MP for Leeds East.

The chant was again in the capital on 15 May, when both former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott addressed a huge crowd, which chanted “death to Israel” in Arabic.

The Khaybar cry was heard the same day at a protest in Newcastle attended by former MP and Labour National Executive member Laura Pidcock. It was also heard at another event in Manchester the same day, attended by local Labour MP Afzal Khan.

On 16 May, Geraint Davies, the Labour MP for Swansea West, made a speech attacking Israel at a rally in Wales. When he had finished, he handed the microphone to man wearing a keffiyeh who promptly used the mic to work the crowd up to a fury by leading the Khaybar chant.

It was heard again in London on 22 May at a rally addressed by former Labour deputy leader John McDonnell, and yet again at a further demonstration there the following day. On this occasion a video recording shows protesters being escorted away from the protest by police. One says very clearly in English: “We’ll find some Jews! We want the Zionists! We want their blood!”

The chant’s use in Britain dates back at least to 2010, when it was shouted at the then-Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon when he spoke at the Oxford Union. The JC reported this at the time, and the Community Security Trust (CST) stated then it should be treated as a crime.

It was already an established battle cry used by members of al-Qaeda. After Amrozi bin Nurhasin was convicted in an Indonesian court for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing that killed 202, he shouted “Khaybar, Khaybar, ya Yahud” as he was sentenced to death.

In 2009, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, described by terrorism experts as al-Qaeda’s “ideological father”, published a book that that used the words of the chant as its title.

The newly elected president of the NUS, Shaima Dallali, tweeted the hate chant in 2012, though she has now apologised for the “unacceptable” post.

The chant was recorded at a protest outside the Israeli embassy in London in 2017.

But the upsurge in its use in 2021 was triggered by the latest conflict in Gaza, which saw Hamas fire more than 4,000 rockets at Israel, followed by Israeli strikes.

Dave Rich, spokesman for the CST, told the JC that he had been in correspondence with both the police and the CPS for many months over the use of the chant. He said both have accepted that its use constitutes a crime of incitement to racial hatred under section 18 of the Public Order Act.

He added that South Wales and the Metropolitan Police have told him they were “investigating” the use of the Khaybar chant following the protest in Swansea and one of those in London.

Mr Rich told the JC: “We’ve been tracking this for years. But the police remain deeply reluctant to make arrests in the middle of a demo and, so far, have only investigated after the event.

“Yet this really impacts the Jewish community and it damages confidence. It would be much better if the police were proactive and intervened when it’s used.”

Protest organisers and MPs who attended also bore a heavy responsibility, Mr Rich said, and rejected politicians’ excuse that they did not understand the Arabic chant.

Responding to the JC, Geraint Davies MP said: “In my speech I called for an end to the killings of civilians in Palestine and Israel, peace and reconciliation, a two-state solution and adherence to international law.

“I have no responsibility for and do not and did not support the chanting in Arabic that followed from a hardline outside minority who I am told (as I don’t speak Arabic) were calling for the opposite. I oppose any expressions of antisemitism and will continue to speak out against racism in all its forms.”

A spokesperson for Afzal Khan MP said: “Afzal attended the event briefly and was unaware of the reported comments. He completely condemns this language.”

A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn said: “Jeremy Corbyn spoke at a demonstration for rights and justice for the Palestinian people and did not hear any such chant. He is a longstanding supporter of peace and justice for both Palestine and Israel.”

Ms Pidcock, Mr McDonnell, Ms Abbott and the Met Police were contacted for comment.

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