One of the organisers of the “school strikes for Palestine” movement, which saw thousands of children bunking off school to join anti-Israel protests last month, posted messages on a WhatsApp group glorifying Hamas and justifying the killing of a British teenager, the JC can reveal.
As a result of our investigation, he has been reported to the police by the Department for Education.
The activist, who goes by the name of “Dean”, was exposed after this newspaper infiltrated a chat group set up to co-ordinate anti-Israel rallies attended by schoolchildren across the country, including the one due to take place this Thursday.
In one message shared in the group, Dean posted a message celebrating the detonation of a mine by Hamas terrorists “against eight Israeli foot soldiers”.
“Anyone who survived the mine blast was shot dead by Mujahideen [holy warrior] sniper,” it said.
The message, posted on Sunday, added that “perhaps the biggest achievement of the day” was an attack on an Israeli camp, where “many Israeli soldiers died”.
The post ended with emojis of a heart, a flexed bicep and the Palestinian flag.
On Monday, Dean posted a photo of Binyamin Needham, the 19-year-old from Edgware who was killed serving with the IDF on Sunday, saying he was a “British Zionist terrorist killed by Palestinian resistance forces… this Brit who opted to fight for a foreign, genocidal terrorist organisation survived less than 48 hours in the Gaza Strip.”
The Department for Education told the JC it was “extremely concerned” about the posts and confirmed on Wednesday that it had passed them on to the police and Home Office, asking them to investigate further.
Expressing or encouraging support for Hamas, a proscribed organisation, is an offence under the Terrorism Act 2000.
The “school strike for Palestine” marches are organised with the help of the hard-left activist group Stop the War Coalition.
Thousands of schoolchildren skipped classes to go to the last one, on 16 November, where the chant “Israel is a terror state” was widely heard.
The rally set to take place outside Parliament on Thursday will be addressed by Jeremy Corbyn and the rapper Lowkey, who this week was suspended by X/Twitter for “violating” the platform’s rules. There is no suggestion Lowkey or Corbyn are aware of the posts glorifying violence.
Dean founded the Barking and Dagenham school strike WhatsApp group early last month, and he belongs to least three other similar groups. Schools protest organisers in Newham, Redbridge, Hackney and elsewhere are known to have established other such chat forums, which have up to 800 members each.
Some of the posts in the Barking and Dagenham group urge members to get their children to write letters to the prime minister calling on him to demand a permanent ceasefire and an end to the “occupation” of Gaza, or to boycott chains such as McDonalds, Costa Coffee and Starbucks because of their supposed links with Israel. Other posts amount to logistical arrangements for the strikes.
The Barking and Dagenham Whatsapp group contained no criticism of the posts approving of Hamas violence. Dean is one of three group administrators, who include an imam at Barking’s Dahrul Issam mosque. He refused to comment when approached by the JC.
After saying that “these are statements released on social media by the people in Gaza”, Dean refused to comment further when the JC contacted him on Tuesday.
However, shortly afterwards he added another post to the group, saying: “It would appear Islamophobic, Zionist media journalists have infiltrated this group. If you receive any calls from any journalist DO NOT TALK TO THEM.”
The imam also posted a link to a document giving advice on how to avoid prosecution issued by Cage, the prisoners’ support group whose research director once praised the Isis murderer known as Jihadi John as a “beautiful young man”. Speaking in the Commons, the former home secretary Suella Braverman said Cage “legitimises extremism”.
His post added: “Our posting of these messages is not to glorify or encourage support, rather it is to inform the conversation and simply for newsworthiness.”
Last week the think tank Policy Exchange published Schools Out, a study of the anti-Israel strikes.
It revealed that setting up Whatsapp groups to organise the strikes had first been recommended by Stop the War Coalition. However, it added that although missing school to protest would count as an “unauthorised absence”, enforcement of the law is so lax that in many areas, a parent would not be fined unless they had kept a child off school at least four times within a short space of time.
The report said the strikes “may increase the potential for schoolchildren to be drawn into political extremism. This may occur via exposure to extremist chants and literature, or via association with groups or individuals involved in violent or non-violent extremism”. It is unclear whether any of the Whatsapp group members are themselves schoolchildren.
The report’s co-author, Dr Paul Stott, Policy Exchange’s head of security and extremism policy, told the JC: “The school strikes are not only distracting children from their education, they increasingly appear to be a plaything for adults to disseminate their own political views. It is particularly concerning to see material appear on one group which reports on alleged actions by Hamas, and comes complete with emojis of a heart, flag and flexed muscles. That may constitute support for Hamas – a criminal offence.”