British Jews ‘forced to hide’ during London anti-Israel protests, says activist

Gideon Falter also revealed the scale to which Jewish people were hiding their identities


British Jews were forced to leave their homes for several days during anti-Israel protests in London, Campaign Against Antisemitism bosses have said. 

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the CAA, also revealed the scale to which Jewish people were hiding their identities since the demonstrations started in October.

Thousands of demonstrators have converged on London over the past few weekends, leading politicians to pressure the Metropolitan Police to ban several marches. 

Speaking to MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday, Falter said the marches had prompted Jews to “vacate their homes” and “remove their Star of David necklaces and hide their kippahs”.

Falter also discussed the Jewish communities' trust in the Met Police’s policing of the demonstrations, which have been branded ‘hate marches’ by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

He added: “There is a really a sense of grave disappointment and even betrayal within the Jewish community because of the fact that we are seeing week after week, tens even hundreds of thousands of people coursing through the capital city.

“In those marches, you have people who are clearly glorifying terrorism, displaying placards whose messaging would not have been out of place in 1930s Germany and apparently no reaction from people surrounding them to that.

“These [demonstrations] are happening week after week, this is about to be the ninth weekend of this.

“The sense from the Jewish community that something has changed in this country and protection that people thought they had is now lacking is now palpable.”

Dave Rich, director of policy at the Community Security Trust, also addressed the panel and said: “We have to go back to the beginning of where this started on October 7 with the absolutely horrific terrorist attack in southern Israel.

“It sent shockwaves through the Jewish community here and around the Jewish world. That left a traumatised and grief-stricken community.

“But within 24 hours, the first pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests were beginning starting in towns and cities on 8th October.

“Actually on the afternoon of October 7, whilst that terrorist attack was still going on, the first demonstrations in London were called to be held outside the Israeli embassy on 9 October.

“These protests were organised in language that seemed to welcome and endorse what Hamas had done.”

Rich cited examples of a man in Brighton who had been arrested for supporting Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK and referenced a demonstration in Manchester on 8 October where banners read “glory to the freedom fighters”.

He said that as the protests grew into the scale seen in central London in recent weeks with more than 100,000 people, the CST had put out a call for impact statements from British Jews on how it made them feel.

He said: “Within three or four hours, we had over 50 impact statements from Jewish people across London because we were focussing on the big demonstrations here.

“It was statements like: ‘I feel very unsafe living in my country, I’ve been afraid to go into London every Saturday, I’ve avoided making plans and I feel afraid on the tube’.”

“Many also changed the time of hospital appointments, central London synagogues changed their service times and many parents wouldn’t allow their children to use the tube on the weekends.

"So the impact on the Jewish community has been absolutely profound.”

Rich also said he had not seen any public calls by the organisers of anti-Israel protests for “people not to bring antisemitic placards, not to chant certain chants or banning supporters of Hamas from attending.”

Meanwhile, Chris Nineham, vice president of the Stop the War Coalition and chief steward on one of the biggest marches on Armistice Day, argued the marches had “been very peaceful”. Nineham told MPs: “We’ve been in regular contact with the police about the demonstrations, we’ve planned them and we’ve told the police about our plans.

“I’d say there are two areas that we have concerns about where things have got difficult with the police. The first is the police have been part of what is a wider tendency to mischaracterise the demonstrations and give the impression that somehow they are ‘hate marches’ and to give the impression that they are somehow violent or hateful or somewhat threatening.

“That’s included the unprecedented use of section 12 orders, that’s included huge police mobilisations very publicly presented, that’s included giving out leaflets on the demonstrations talking about possible arrests and generally tweeting about the demonstrations implying that they have somehow been problematic.

“The other aspect that has been a big problem is the police really pressured us to cancel the demonstration on 11 November.”

Meanwhile, Ben Jamal, director of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), defended the 'from the river the sea, Palestine shall be free' chant, which Jewish groups argue is antisemitic and is a call for the destruction of Israel.

He said: “It describes how their rights are deprived across all of historic Palestine, including if they are citizens of the state of Israel or living under military occupation. It in no shape or form seeks the abrogation of anybody else's rights.

“To suggest that it does is actually a way of saying 'let's not listen to Palestinians when they say what they mean, when they choose the words they say’.”

Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman Dame Diana Johnson interjected abruptly however, adding: “Mr Jamal I am chairing this meeting. We understand your views on that, but equally there are people who find that chant very offensive and believe that it is about the annihilation of the state of Israel.”

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