Call for closer scrutiny of Palestine Solidarity Campaign after ‘genocidal call’ projected onto Big Ben

The stunt showed ‘utter contempt for Parliament and the concerns of the Jewish community’, the Board of Deputies said


The Gaza rally outside Parliament (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Jewish leaders have called for “closer scrutiny” of the activist group Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) after the “genocidal” slogan “from the river to the sea” was projected on to Big Ben during a PSC protest this week. 

The stunt, which took place during a PSC protest in Parliament Square as MPs took part in Wednesday’s chaotic Commons debate on a Gaza ceasefire, provoked widespread outrage and is being investigated by the police.

The Board of Deputies said it showed “utter contempt not only for the concerns of the Jewish community but for our Parliament.

“From the river to the sea is seen by many Jews as a hate slogan.” 

Anti-racism group Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “This is an organisation that clearly warrants closer scrutiny, especially given the influence that it is bringing to bear on our politics and the impact that it is having on our city centres.”

Ben Jamal, the group’s director, said later it “didn’t do the projection but I wish we had”. The PSC’s X (formerly Twitter) account carried a photo of the projection accompanied by the hashtags “NoCeasefireNoVote”, “StopBombingGaza” and “StopGazaGenocide”.

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Tory MP Andrew Percy warned that Islamists and their fellow anti-Israel travellers were threatening democracy.

“For months I’ve been standing up here talking about the people on our streets demanding ‘death to Jews’, demanding jihad, demanding intifadas as the police stand by and allow that to happen,” Percy said.

“Last night, a genocidal call of ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ was projected onto this building. That message says no Jew is welcome in the state of Israel or in that land. This is going to continue happening because we’re not dealing with it.”

The PSC has a long history of radicalism and links with Hamas. In 2012 its then-chair Hugh Lanning, a former civil service union leader, was photographed in Gaza meeting the then-Hamas prime minister, now its politburo chief, Ismail Haniyeh, and its hardline defence minister Mahmoud Zahar.

He was accompanied by the PSC’s then director Sarah Colborne, who two years earlier had written a newspaper article revealing she had sailed on the Mavi Marmara, which tried to break Israel’s “blockade” of Gaza.

She was detained after some of her fellow passengers fought a pitched battle with Israeli commandos who boarded the vessel, an incident in which ten people were killed.

Lanning was refused entry to Israel and deported soon after landing at Ben Gurion airport in 2017.

A statement issued by Israel’s immigration authority and the Ministry of Public Security noted the presence of PSC members on the Mavi Marmara flotilla and Lanning’s meeting with Haniyeh.

The Foreign Ministry said Lanning was “associated with the leaders of Hamas, which is designated as a terror group across the European Union; a group whose antisemitic charter calls for killing all Jews”.

Also speaking at Wednesday’s protest was Raghad al-Tikriti, leader of the Muslim Association of Britain, which was once described in Parliament by then-Prime Minister David Cameron as a “front” for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group of which Hamas is an offshoot.

Her brother, MAB’s founder Anas Altikriti, reportedly met Hamas leaders in Gaza. In September, the MAB published a Facebook post that celebrated the massacre of Jews by a Muslim army at the battle of Khaybar in 628.

The PSC has been operating with impunity since October 7, with no sign of any attempt by police to disrupt chants of “from the river to the sea”. A week after the massacre, John Nicholson, a leading figure in Manchester PSC, told a PSC rally in Oldham: “We support the Palestinian resistance… Let Suella Braverman hear this clearly: Oldham supports the Palestinian resistance.”
The activist went on to taunt then-Home Secretary Braverman: “We have a right to free speech in this country. We have a right to demonstrate… We have a right to wave a flag, we have a right to sing a little song that they are forbidding, and I’ll ask you to join with me, if you want to do a little gentle law-breaking in Oldham this afternoon. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Speakers at Wednesday’s PSC protest in Parliament Sqaure included Jess Barnard, the former chair of UK Young Labour and a member of the party’s national executive. She accused party leader Sir Keir Starmer of “failing Palestinians time after time” and “war-mongering”.

Joining her on the platform were former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn; Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef; Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy; Justine Mercer, president of the University and College Union; and the Green MP Caroline Lucas, who accused the government of “weaponising antisemitism” through its support for Israel.

Also present was Corbyn’s former strategy chief Andrew Murray, who said the event was "rattling the windows of Buckingham Palace and shaking the Establishment". He called on the crowd to "to sweep away the imperialists behind us".

Police took no immediate action against the projection of the slogan on Wednesday, nor against sections of the crowd recorded chanting calls for the destruction of Israel and support for the Houthis, the Iranian proxy terror group that has been attacking shipping in the Red Sea.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who is facing mounting pressure to resign following his decision to breach normal parliamentary rules during the Gaza debate,  justified it by saying he was motivated by the “absolutely frightening threats” directed at MPs since the massacre.

His ruling breached protocols by allowing a Labour amendment to a motion by another opposition party, the SNP, to be debated and put to a vote – which averted a predicted rebellion against Starmer.

The former immigration minister Robert Jenrick voiced similar concerns, saying: “We have allowed our streets to be dominated by Islamist extremists, and British Jews and others to be too intimidated to walk through central London week after week.

“Now we’re allowing Islamist extremists to intimidate British Members of Parliament. This is wrong. It has to stop.”

Claudia Mendoza, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, told the JC: “This incident has contributed to an intimidating environment for MPs, for people working in parliament and for the Jewish community. It feels like there’s no single arena where this toxicity is not manifest. We are fielding calls daily from members of the community who feel like the police are not taking strong enough action.”

The Board of Deputies said: “From the river to the sea is seen by many Jews as a hate slogan. For it to be projected on to Big Ben is a demonstration of the utter contempt these extreme campaigners have not only for the concerns of the Jewish community, but for our Parliament.”

In an article published by the Telegraph on Friday, Braverman said: “The truth is that the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now. They have bullied the Labour Party, they have bullied our institutions, and now they have bullied our country into submission.

“This is a crisis. And the fightback must start now, with urgency, if we are to preserve the liberties we cherish and the privileges this country affords us all. If we are to have any chance of saving our country from the mob.”

Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt told the Commons on Thursday that the protest and the projection of the slogan on to Big Ben were being investigated by the Speaker’s Office, parliamentary security, the Metropolitan Police, and Westminster city council, who will be responsible for pursuing prosecutions in that case”.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “This is a chant that has been frequently heard at pro-Palestinian demonstrations for many years and we are very aware of the strength of feeling in relation to it.While there are scenarios where chanting or using these words could be unlawful depending on the specific location or context, its use in a wider public protest setting, such as [Wednesday] night, is not a criminal offence.”

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “The PSC seems to be at the centre of the coalition of organisations and activists that are bringing extremists to our streets on a regular basis, hounding MPs, attempting to flood Parliament with activists and subvert the democratic process.

"Its director has gleefully and shamelessly stated that he and his organisation engages in the genocidal ‘From the River to the Sea’ chanting. Are we really expected to believe that this extremely well-funded and well-connected organisation just happens by coincidence to be at the centre of these activities?
“Our first major investigation into the PSC found it to be a bigoted organisation. Years later, it remains an organisation that has no regard for the ostracism and intimidation that Jewish citizens feel in response to its activities, and even denies the problem, and whose latest stunt shows utter contempt for the most iconic symbol of British democracy.”

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