UK police forced to clarify 'being Jewish not a provocation'

London cops apologize for implying Jewish man’s kippa ‘provoked’ anti-Israel crowd

Filmed incident of officer stopping man in yarmulke from approaching pro-Palestinian march, while ‘openly Jewish’ remark escalates into media blunder for police

A screenshot from video released by the Campaign Against Antisemitism shows a London Metropolitan Police officer threatening the CAA's Gideon Falter with arrest because his presence is "antagonizing" to pro-Palestinian demonstrators at an anti-Israel march in London, April 13, 2024. (X video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A screenshot from video released by the Campaign Against Antisemitism shows a London Metropolitan Police officer threatening the CAA's Gideon Falter with arrest because his presence is "antagonizing" to pro-Palestinian demonstrators at an anti-Israel march in London, April 13, 2024. (X video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A video of a London police officer telling a man wearing a kippa that he’s too “openly Jewish” to approach an anti-Israel march safely has gradually escalated into a full-blown media blunder for the Metropolitan Police.

Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist on Thursday apologized for the “openly Jewish” remark, but in the same statement also invited fresh criticism by criticizing pro-Israel individuals for being “provocative.”

Following a further torrent of criticism, the police on Friday deleted the earlier statement from its X account and issued a new one, in which the force apologized for the wording of some of the previous apology and clarified that “being Jewish is not a provocation.”

The video from the April 13 incident shows an officer blocking Gideon Falter, head of the Campaign Against Antisemitism watchdog, from crossing a street with many people carrying Palestinian flags, telling him “If I can ask [you] to stay there please.”

In response, Falter told the officer, “I don’t want to stay here, I want to leave.”

“Well in that case sir, when the crowd is gone I’ll happily escort you out,” the officer said, while continuing to prevent Falter from getting around him. “I don’t want anybody antagonizing anybody.”

“At the moment sir, you are quite openly Jewish. This is a pro-Palestinian march. I’m not accusing you of anything, but I am worried about the reaction to your presence,” the officer added.

Later in the video, another officer is seen telling Falter that if he did not agree to be escorted from the area, he would be arrested.

The weekly marches of tens of thousands of people through the UK capital have seen calls for an “intifada” or uprising, as well as chants that advocate the destruction of Israel, such as, “We don’t want two states, Palestine ’48.”

In the since-deleted statement by the Metropolitan Police, Twist said the footage of Falter being blocked will “further dent the confidence of many Jewish Londoners which is the opposite of what any of us want.” He added: “The use of the term ‘openly Jewish’ by one of our officers is hugely regrettable. It’s absolutely not the basis on which we make decisions, it was a poor choice of words and while not intended, we know it will have caused offense to many. We apologize.”

But the statement courted fresh controversy with a paragraph that read: “In recent weeks we’ve seen a new trend emerge, with those opposed to the main protests appearing along the route to express their views. The fact that those who do this often film themselves while doing so suggests they must know that their presence is provocative, that they’re inviting a response and that they’re increasing the likelihood of an altercation.”

Many critics called out the police over the paragraph, including Falter’s group, which on X accused the force of “victim blaming.” Police then issued a new statement, which said that the previous one had “been removed. We apologize for the offense it caused.”

The new statement reiterated the apology for the “openly Jewish” remark, adding: “We have reflected on the strength of the response to our previous statement. In an effort to make a point about the policing of protest we caused further offense. This was never our intention.”

“Being Jewish is not a provocation. Jewish Londoners must be able to feel safe in this city. Our commitment to protecting the public extends to all communities across London. It’s important that our public statements reflect that more clearly than they did today,” the statement added.

Commenting on the earlier statement, Stephen Pollard, editor-at-large of The Jewish Chronicle, said it “effectively blames Jews for having the audacity to stand at the side while marchers call for intifada and chant ‘From the River to the Sea’ — a call for the elimination of Israel and its Jews.”

Following the new statement, Pollard wrote on X: “The Met have lost it. Completely. They have now apologized for their previous apology — which wasn’t an apology but a statement of what they actually think and do. So as things are tonight the Met is apologizing for how it intends to carry on behaving.”

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrators wave Palestinian flags and hold placards as they protest in Parliament Square in London on February 21, 2024, during an Opposition Day motion in the House of Commons calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. (Henry Nicholls/AFP)

Major demonstrations have taken place in London on most Saturdays since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 massacre in which thousands of terrorists rampaged through southern Israel, murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians slaughtered amid brutal atrocities and sexual assault, and kidnapping 253 to Gaza, half of whom remain in captivity.

Falter, the activist against antisemitism whom a police officer blocked from approaching anti-Israel protesters, was walking nearby while carrying a bag containing his prayer shawl when he came across the march, the London-based Daily Telegraph reported.

In an interview, Falter said that he “was identifiable as a Jew but was otherwise like any other Londoner.”

“I was not part of any protest or counter-protest and was not wearing any stickers or carrying any signs, flags or the like. I was exercising my right to walk around my home city as a Jewish Londoner. A year ago, that would not have been controversial. But now, it is,” he said.

Falter also claimed that the police “believes that being openly Jewish will antagonize the anti-Israel marchers and that Jews need protection, which the police cannot guarantee.”

Protesters hold up banners, flags and placards as they walk along the Embankment by the River Thames during an anti-Israel demonstration in London on January 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

In March, the United Kingdom’s counterterrorism commissioner warned that the streets of central London have become “a no-go zone for Jews every weekend” because of the weekly demonstrations. Commissioner Robin Simcox added that the charged atmosphere since the October 7 onslaught has also led to “skyrocketing” Jewish bigotry in the UK.

In January, workers and shoppers at a family-owned kosher supermarket in Golders Green fended off a knife-wielding attacker who asked them, “Do you support Israel or Palestine?”

There have also been numerous reports of antisemitic attacks on people hanging posters of hostages kidnapped by Gaza terror groups, and while speaking Hebrew on the streets of London as well.

The UK Jewish security group CST said in February that it had recorded an all-time high in antisemitic incidents last year, with the number after October 7 exceeding all previous totals in the 40 years the group has been tracking antisemitism in Britain.

The previous record for antisemitic incidents in Britain was in 2021, fueled by a rise in violence amid an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas that year.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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