UK Jewish Community Has Suffered ‘Absolutely Profound’ Impact From Protests, MPs Told

The House of Commons home affairs committee has heard evidence from Jewish leaders and pro-Palestinian march organisers about how the protests were policed.
UK Jewish Community Has Suffered ‘Absolutely Profound’ Impact From Protests, MPs Told
People attending a vigil for the victims of the Hamas attacks in Israel, outside Downing Street in central London on Oct. 9, 2023. (PA)
Chris Summers

The Hamas attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 and the subsequent upsurge in anti-Semitism has had an “absolutely profound” effect on Britain’s Jewish community, MPs have been told.

Dave Rich, the director of policy at the Community Security Trust (CST), told the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee the “absolutely horrific” attacks by Hamas, that killed 1,200 people had, “sent shockwaves through the Jewish community” in Britain and around the world.

Mr. Rich described British Jews at the time as a, “completely traumatised and grief-stricken community,” and he said they were shocked to see “pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrations starting in towns and cities around the country ... while that terrorist attack was still going on.”

He went on to say: “The first demonstration in London was called to be held outside the Israeli Embassy on Monday (Oct. 9), and these protests were organised in language that seemed to welcome and endorse what Hamas had done. Speeches were given that celebrated it.”

Mr. Rich said a demonstration in the centre of Manchester on Oct. 8 had, “big banners saying glory to the freedom fighters.”

He said the scale of the protests rapidly grew to the point where, “there were more people marching than there are Jewish people in the whole of Great Britain.”

Mr. Rich said the CST asked through Jewish community networks and WhatsApp groups for impact statements from ordinary British Jews and got more than 60 within three hours.

‘I Feel Very Unsafe Living in My Country’

Quoting from them, he said: “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,’ ‘I feel afraid on the Tube.”

He said people changed the times and dates of hospital visits to avoid being in the vicinity of the protests, and synagogues in central London changed their service times so that congregants did not clash with protesters as they left the services.

Mr. Rich said the impact on the Jewish community of the protests alone had been “absolutely profound” and he added: “Of course this has happened at a time when there is an unprecedented spike in anti-Jewish hate crime happening across the country, and also very much in London that is still ongoing.”

He said the organisers of the pro-Palestinian protests had not sought a “dialogue” with the Jewish community and he added: “I’ve not seen any public calls by the organisers for people not to bring anti-Semitic placards, not to chant certain chants. I’ve not seen any calls, for example, for supporters of Hamas, a proscribed terrorist group, not to come on those demonstrations. That kind of thing would be welcomed, but I’ve not seen it or heard it.”

Gideon Falter, the chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, told MPs they had carried out a poll of around 4,000 British Jews a few weeks ago, which had come up with some shocking results.

9 out of 10 Jews Avoid City Centres During Marches

He said: “Sixty nine percent of British Jews say that they are less likely now to show visible signs of their Judaism. A staggering 90 percent of British Jews say that they would avoid travelling to a city centre if one of these major marches or demonstrations were taking place.”

Mr. Falter said, “Only 16 percent of British Jews believe that police treat anti-Semitic hate crime the same way as other forms of hate crime.”

People at a pro-Palestinian rally in Trafalgar Square, London, on Nov. 4, 2023. (Victoria Jones/PA Wire)
People at a pro-Palestinian rally in Trafalgar Square, London, on Nov. 4, 2023. (Victoria Jones/PA Wire)

Earlier, Chris Nineham, vice-chair of the Stop the War Coalition, was asked by the same committee how many people on the marches had been carrying offensive placards or making offensive chants and he said, “Extremely small numbers.”

He said: “I think there’s a tiny minority of people who have had placards that we challenge. We have an operation with our hundreds of stewards to try and make sure that anyone who does this, anyone who holds placards or flags or anything that could be construed as liable to be inciting hatred or of proscribed organisations, are talked to and are removed and that’s been a very effective operation.”

Protesters Claimed Police Under ‘Political Pressure’ to Ban March

Ben Jamal, a director at the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, claimed the Metropolitan Police had come under “extreme political pressure” to ban marches, especially the one on Nov. 11.
He gave an example of the police asking for protesters not to arrive in central London before midday on Nov. 11, but to be ready to move off at 1 p.m. and he said, “That by any standard is not sensible policing.”
Mr. Jamal said, “This is the police, we think, responding to political pressure that is seeking to demonise these protests.”
Mr. Jamal said they had written to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Mark Rowley, several weeks ago asking for a meeting to sort out some of these issues and had not received a reply.