Police must understand that Jews do count, says Braverman

Home Secretary tells JC that the Government is cracking down on antisemitism with new task force


Home Secretary Suella Braverman is a fan of David Baddiel’s book Jews Don’t Count. She confides this fact while speaking to the JC inside the London headquarters of the Community Security Trust (CST). It certainly seems to have affected her thinking.

“When it comes to antisemitism, I have felt for a long time that there’s a double standard,” she says. “Racism that would be called out if it were directed against any other minority is explained away or ignored when it comes to Jews.

“We need to be really clear. Antisemitism is not racism-lite. It’s racism.

“But whereas racism directed against other minority groups would trigger a very firm response from law enforcement, when similar behaviour is targeted towards the Jewish community, it tends to be accepted.

“A blind eye is turned, and so it becomes normalised. That is something we cannot tolerate.”

We’ve just been inside the CST’s high-tech London control room, where footage from thousands of CCTV cameras at Jewish targets such as schools and synagogues is gathered, processed and, when necessary, acted upon.

Having witnessed this and other CST operations, and been briefed by CST chief executive Mark Gardner, Braverman is in no doubt of the scale of the threat. And today she is promising action.

“When you’re here at CST and you hear about the hundred plus reports of antisemitism it gets every month, when you hear about the convoy of cars which descended on north London, when there was vile sloganeering and abusive behaviour going on in the heart of the Jewish community, and you listen to the real concern among the Jewish community that police did not respond sufficiently, you can’t but say that yes, collectively, as a law enforcement community, we can do better. And we must,” she says.

Part of the reason for her anger is that her husband, Rael, is Jewish. “The Jewish community is our community,” she said. “My husband is a proud Jew and Zionist.

“He’s lived in Israel. We have close family members who serve in the IDF. My children will be raised with a strong sense of Jewish values and their Jewish heritage. We enjoy Friday night dinners at our mother-in-law’s.

“I love Jewish culture and I have very much loved learning and embracing the Jewish way of life, and our children being raised with a very strong connection to it.”

Clearly, the issue is personal. Today, she is doing something about it.

The solution, she says, is a new Jewish Community Police, Crime and Security Task force. Led by the Home Secretary herself, it will include senior figures from the Home Office, Crown Prosecution Service, CST and police. (The official announcement was made later that day at a glamorous CST dinner.)

The Task force will meet three times a year to strengthen accountability and enhance efforts to combat antisemitic crime and violence against Jewish communities. It will provide a regular forum to discuss security concerns relating to policing, terrorism, state threats, hate crime and public order matters.

“This problem of normalised abuse towards a particular community has gone on for far too long, so we have a situation where it needs a home-grown security service,” she says.

Home Office figures show that “Jews suffer the most hate crime per capita by far,” she points out. “They make up 25 per cent of religious hate crime in the UK, even though they’re less than 1 per cent of the population. That’s sickening. A colleague of mine was recently shocked when he asked another colleague what she was doing over the weekend, and she told him that it was her turn to stand outside her synagogue in a stab vest.

“That’s where this leads.”

The very existence of the CST — whose Home Office grant, she reveals, will increase to from £14 to £15 million next year — suggests that law enforcement authorities have not been doing their jobs adequately.

She says: “I applaud the CST. I applaud the Jewish community for their resilience and ingenuity. But it is a sorry state of affairs that we have to have organisations like this.

“We should all be able to rely on a robust police response wherever we are, whoever we are, and I would encourage everyone in law enforcement not to be ignoring this.”

The Home Office says the Task force will consider if it is necessary to review operational policing guidance in light of concerns shared by the Jewish community.

Braverman tells the JC: “I feel there is a gap, and I want a meaningful dialogue and meaningful action to be taken so that everyone feels this need is addressed.

“It will help ensure that we are properly reflecting and responding to the community’s security concerns, including those around so-called anti-Israel protestors singing antisemitic chants like ‘from the river to the sea’ with impunity, or people waving flags of proscribed terrorist organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah. That’s totally unacceptable. And I’d expect the police and CPS to act where they encounter this.”

Finally, she says, she wants the Home Office “to encourage people to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.”

To reinforce the move, she says: “I’m writing to all Home Office public bodies and police leaders to ask them if they’ve adopted it.  And I’ll encourage them to do so if they haven’t.”

Referring to the threat to British Jews from Iran and the Islamic Republic Republican Guards Corps (IRGC), which the government’s security minister Tom Tugendhat told the JC has been carrying out surveillance of prominent community members as a prelude to possible attacks, the Home Secretary reveals she discussed the issue with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to London last week.

She said: “We’ve seen how the IRGC sponsors terrorism across the globe and has used its illicit money to suppress dissent in Iran itself.”

However, she will not be drawn on whether or when the British government might proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist group, a move which, it is understood, is being fiercely resisted by the Foreign Office.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on that. What I can say is that government and I are well aware of the threat that Iran and the IRGC pose and we will take robust and appropriate action to keep the British public safe.”

Braverman also addresses criticism made by the Board of Deputies this month over the measures she is overseeing to deal with immigration, including new legislation to detain those crossing the Channel in small boats without the right of appeal and to deport them in large numbers to safe countries of origin or Rwanda.

The Board issued a statement expressing “significant concerns” about the plans, pointing out that “today’s Jewish community is descended from refugees and/or migrants” and claiming that the proposed new legislation may breach the UN refugee convention and the Human Rights Act.

Braverman remains unruffled. She praises the Board as “one of the great institutions that the Jewish community has”, but points out: “Obviously, I disagreed with their statement. And I know that other leaders in the Jewish community did too.

“I think it was particularly unfortunate — and I wrote to them about this — that the Board chose not to engage with the Home Office before publishing the statement. Had they done so, we would have set out why their assertions on international law are misinformed.

“It’s ultimately for members of the Jewish community to assess whether it was an appropriate intervention that truly represented the diverse views and interests of the Jewish community.”

It is a community she feels very close to. “The Bravermans love Larry David and do very good impersonations of scenes from Curb Your Enthusiasm,” she says. “And I have been educated by my mother-in-law on the wisdom of Jackie Mason. I love Jewish culture and I have very much loved learning and embracing the Jewish way of life, and children are being raised with a very strong connection to it.”

She followed her visit to the CST with a trip to Grodz, the nearby Jewish bakery. There, after spending time talking to customers, she emerged with a large bag of pastries.

In a statement, the Met police said: “The Met is clear that we will not tolerate any form of hate crime, including antisemitism, and will do everything possible to bring offenders to justice.

“We continue to increase victim referrals to CATCH, a group of charities who give specialist help and advice to victims and witnesses of hate crime.

“The Community Security Trust (CST) form part of this alliance that protects British Jewish communities from antisemitism and related threats.

“We are also working closely with Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) hate crime leads to explore all opportunities to increase our sanction detection rates around hate crime.

“Anyone in London who is a victim of a hate crime is asked to report it to the police via 101 or tweeting @MetCC. Information can also be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online, or via the TruVision website:

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