Thursday, 7 Dec 2023

Suella Braverman demands police crack down on anti-semitism by pro-Palestinians

She told forces “heavy criminal consequences” would stop thugs celebrating atrocities committed in Israel by Hamas.

And she warned even waving a Palestinian flag could “glorify” acts of terrorism.

In a letter to chief constables in England and Wales, Mrs Braverman said forces should consider whether certain chants expressed “a
violent desire to see Israel erased from the world”.

She said: “There can be no place for anti-Semitism or glorification of terrorism on the streets of Britain.

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“I therefore expect the police to use the full force of the law against displays of support for Hamas, other proscribed terrorist groups or attempts to harass and intimidate British Jews.

“Ensuring that there are heavy criminal consequences for any perpetrators is the best way to deter future offending and ensure the confidence and safety of our Jewish communities.”

Warning that Jewish people, their businesses, memorials or ­religious sites could be targeted in the coming days and weeks, Mrs Braverman urged police top brass to take a wider view on potential hate crimes.

She told them: “It is not just explicit pro-Hamas symbols and chants that are cause for concern.

“I would encourage police to consider whether chants such as, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” should be understood as an expression of a violent desire to see Israel erased from the world and whether its use in certain contexts may amount to a racially aggravated public order offence.

“I would encourage police to give similar consideration to the presence of symbols such as swastikas at anti-Israel demonstrations.”

Saying “context is crucial”, Mrs Braverman added: “Behaviours that are legitimate in some circumstances, for example, the waving of a Palestinian flag, may not be legitimate such as when intended to ­glorify acts of terrorism.

“Nor is it acceptable to drive through Jewish neighbourhoods, or single out Jewish members of the public, to aggressively chant or wave pro-Palestinian symbols at.

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“Where harassment is identified, I would encourage the police to take swift and appropriate enforcement action.”

Mrs Braverman, who accompanied police chiefs in London on Monday, said any protests must have a “strong police presence”.

She warned escalations of previous Middle East conflicts had led to people in convoys of cars “hurling anti-Semitic abuse” in Jewish neighbourhoods.

The Home Secretary also told police to treat online abuse as seriously as threats on the street.

She said both police and tech companies must be ready to remove terror videos from social media immediately.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak threw his weight behind the effort and warned anyone found to be supporting Hamas following its “barbaric acts of terrorism” would be held to account.

He said police have been given clear guidance to “clamp down ­on any behaviour that falls foul of the law” and his administration “stands ready” to support families with loved ones in Israel.

During a visit to East Stafford­shire, Mr Sunak said: “I want to reassure them we’re doing everything we can, working very closely with the Israeli authorities to establish what is happening on the ground, provide support to people where it is needed.”

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urged UK pro-Palestine supporters to “pause”, saying demonstrations were creating “distress”.

He said there was no “equivalence” between Hamas’s attack and Tel Aviv’s response, which has put Gaza under siege. Mr Cleverly said the protests were causing ­concern in the Jewish community “who have often been on the receiving end of prejudice and threats of violence”.

He added: “There is no need, there is no necessity for people to come out. It causes distress.

“This is a difficult, delicate situation.”

The Cabinet-level support came after three men were arrested when police separated Palestinian and Israel supporters in West London on Monday.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian ­protesters including Stop the War and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington.

They waved placards calling for Israel to “end the occupation”, let off fireworks, lit flares and chanted “Israel is a terrorist state”, “Free Palestine” and “Allahu akbar”.

A few miles away, more than 4,000 people joined a Jewish community vigil for Israel organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council outside Downing Street.

The Metropolitan Police said that officers would continue to have an “enhanced visible presence” on London streets to reassure the public, with a particular focus on Jewish communities.

A spokesman said: “UK policing has an obligation to uphold the right to protest.

“However, we are clear that where any activity crosses into criminality, we will, and have, taken action.”

Meanwhile, British Transport Police arrested a 15-year-old boy in Kensington on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker, racially motivated criminal damage and possessing an offensive weapon.

A 70-year-old man was also arrested in the same area on suspicion of racially motivated criminal damage.

Police also arrested a 29-year-old man in Oxford Street on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and possessing an offensive weapon.

They said further inquiries were under way, including a probe into criminal damage to a building in Kensington High Street.

The force said officers were “balancing the right to lawful protest against any disruption to Londoners while ensuring all
communities are supported and reassured”.

They said they were aware of concerns about the use of flags and symbols “that could lead to people feeling threatened”, although no offences have been identified.

The spokesman said: “The ­waving of a particular flag is not in itself a specific criminal offence unless it relates to a proscribed organisation.

“We have zero tolerance for any hate crimes.”

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