Warns of groups that 'lurk just below terrorism threshold'

UK counterterror official: Anti-Israel protests make central London ‘no-go zone for Jews’

Robin Simcox warns ‘permissive environment for radicalization’ emerging; security group head says many British Jews avoid center of capital on Saturdays for fear of violence

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)
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)

The streets of central London have become “a no-go zone for Jews every weekend” because of massive weekly anti-Israel demonstrations held by pro-Palestinian protesters, the United Kingdom’s counterterrorism commissioner has warned.

The protests have seen anti-Israel chants and a number of arrests. However, many in the British Jewish community believe that policing has not gone far enough.

In an opinion piece published Thursday by The Telegraph, Robin Simcox described the atmosphere in Britain since Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, which has led to “skyrocketing” antisemitism in the UK.

“Inflammatory and borderline criminal rhetoric widely shared on social media. A sense that the terrorism threat is rising,” Simcox wrote.

“Protests becoming ever more vociferous, with ‘from the river to the sea’ beamed onto the side of Big Ben during a vote on Gaza. MPs more fearful for their safety than ever,” he wrote, referring to a slogan that critics say is a genocidal call for Israel’s destruction.

The commissioner was also likely referencing the recent decision of Conservative Party MP Mike Freer — an outspoken supporter of Israel — not to seek reelection this year, noting “serious threats” to his safety.

Hamas supporters at a march in London, November 11, 2023. (Metropolitan Police)

Major demonstrations have taken place in London on most Saturdays since the war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 massacre, when 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.

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.”

Demonstrations have also featured people glorifying Hamas, and antisemitic incidents and chants.

British Jews say they have been subject to verbal abuse by some pro-Palestinian supporters since the devastating October 7 terror attack carried out by Hamas in southern Israel and the subsequent war against the terror group.

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.

Jewish man uses grocery store trolley (R) to fend off knife-wielding pro-Palestinian assailant at Kay’s Local kosher supermarket in Golders Green, London, on January 29, 2024. (Social media/X; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Simcox said “all these things and more have become normalized in the UK,” which he blamed on an emerging “permissive environment for radicalization” that he said must immediately be tackled.

He also charged that Iran is sponsoring British schools and mosques, and that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas back charities and television channels operating in the UK.

“We have not betrayed democracy if extremists are no longer able to operate television channels,” he said. “And we will not have become an authoritarian state if London is no longer permitted to be turned into a no-go zone for Jews every weekend.”

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

In the op-ed, Simcox applauded his government’s efforts to tackle extremism on British soil, but urged it to also target “the activities of those groups who propagate extremist narratives but who lurk just below the terrorism threshold,” mentioning the religious and educational institutions.

Responding to Simcox’s article, the head of UK Jewish security group CST told the BBC that he — along with other London Jews — avoids going into the center of the city for fear of violent incidents surrounding anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian protests in the area.

“I don’t go into town when there’s these demonstrations,” CST chief executive Mark Gardner was quoted by the UK Jewish News as saying.

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters wave Palestinian flags and chant slogans during a demonstration in central London on January 6, 2024, calling for a ceasefire in the war in Gaza. (Henry Nicholls/AFP)

Last month, CST said 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 rise appeared, at least initially, to reflect a celebration of the Hamas attacks rather than anger at Israel’s military response in Gaza, the CST said its data suggested.

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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