The Metropolitan Police have admitted they are unlikely to arrest anti-Israel demonstrators who chant the Hamas slogan "From the river to the sea" unless they do so outside a synagogue - while revealing that antisemitic hate crimes officially recorded in London have spiked by a staggering 1,350 per cent since the atrocities perpetrated by the terror group on October 7.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan, the “gold commander” in charge of maintaining public order on the streets of the capital in the wake of the attacks, said that in the period October 1 to October 18 this year there were 218 separate recorded offences, including hate speech, vandalism and assaults, compared to just 15 in the same period last year.
Hate crimes recorded against Muslims had also risen, Adelekan said, but less steeply – from 42 last year to 101, an increase of 140 per cent. He added that to date, police have arrested 21 people for both types of hate crime, and many more investigations were ongoing.
Speaking at a press briefing, Adelakan went on to say that pro-Palestinian protestors who chant the Hamas slogan that calls for the destruction of Israel, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, would probably not be arrested unless they did so outside a synagogue or a Jewish school, or “against a Jewish person”.
Adelekan also tried to justify the decision taken by police on Wednesday to tell members of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) that they must either switch off electronic billboards calling for the return of Jewish Hamas hostages or face arrest for causing a breach of the peace: It had to be realised the issues involved were “difficult and complex”.
He said that the huge anti-Israel march due this Saturday – whose organisers, the JC has revealed, include groups that have had close ties to Hamas – had police permission to go ahead. Participants would be forbidden from gathering outside the Israeli embassy, the scene of ugly celebrations by Hamas apologists on the evening after the attacks.
This week, more than 1,000 Met officers would be deployed, he went on: “We will police this demonstration impartially, and we will intervene swiftly if hate crimes are being committed.” Any overt support for Hamas or Hezbollah would be unlawful, since both are proscribed in their entirety under the Terrorism Act.
There were some chants that would definitely be unlawful, Adelekan said. But with others, “there is dispute over their meaning, including one particular chant that has been frequently heard at pro-Palestinian demonstrations for many years” - by which, he made clear, he meant “from the river to the sea”.
He said: “While we can see scenarios where this would be unlawful, such as outside a synagogue or Jewish school or directed against a Jewish person, it is likely that it will not result in an arrest.”
Asked how officers could know whether Jews were in earshot, and why this would make any difference since the meaning of the chant would be the same, whether they were or not, he replied: “It’s really, really difficult. I understand the issues around that chant. I will assure you we will not stand by if a hate crime is being committed”.
The JC also pressed him about the billboards incident, when the organisers of a CAA convoy of vehicles bearing images of Hamas hostages that was driving around central London landmarks were told to switch off their signs in Whitehall after being confronted by a group of protestors, who started a chant claiming Israel was a “terrorist state”.
Adelekan said he “absolutely understood” why the CAA was upset by the police instruction, given that were “trying to highlight the plight of the hostages. We have wish to limit the freedom of expression.”
But, he went on, the police involved had been dealing with a Palestinian demonstration that was winding down, and they were trying to keep the this and the CAA “separate”. There were still about 100 pro-Palestinian protestors in Whitehall, and it had to be realised that sometimes these decisions were “very difficult and complex”.
Adelakan said he had since “reached out to the CAA”, and discussions were continuing.
Also speaking at the briefing was Dominic Murphy, the commander in charge of the Met’s counter-terrorism unit, SO15. He said his officers were supporting British families who lost members in the attacks, and helping to bring home their remains before coroners’ inquests.
He said counter-terrorism officers would be watching street protests carefully, and would take action when breaches of the Terrorism Acts took place. Last week, he revealed, they arrested a man seen carrying a Hamas flag.
Murphy said SO15 was also working with the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, which looks for evidence of support for terrorist groups online.
He ended by warning that in the wake of the Hamas attacks, police believed there was a heightened risk of further attacks in Britain. Anyone with any relevant information suggesting this might happen, should contact the police Anti-Terrorism Hotline, 0800 789321, he added.