Being Jewish ‘never provocative’, says Home Office amid policing row

Being Jewish “should never be seen as provocative”, the Government has said following a row over the policing of a pro-Palestine march by the Metropolitan Police.

The force apologised on Friday after an officer used the term “openly Jewish” to describe an antisemitism campaigner who was threatened with arrest near the march on April 13.

A video clip showed an officer telling Campaign Against Antisemitism chief executive Gideon Falter: “You are quite openly Jewish, this is a pro-Palestinian march. I’m not accusing you of anything but I’m worried about the reaction to your presence.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office said the Government welcomed the Met’s apology and recognised “the complexities of policing fast-moving public protests”, but added that being Jewish or any other religion should not be seen as “provocative”.

A spokesperson for London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the Met’s handling of the incident was “concerning” and its original apology had been “insensitive and wrong”.

Screengrab of the first apology posted by the Metropolitan Police
Screengrab of the first apology posted by the Metropolitan Police (PA)

But the force subsequently issued another statement apologising for the “further offence” caused by its first apology.

It said: “Being Jewish is not a provocation. Jewish Londoners must be able to feel safe in this city.”

The Home Office spokesperson said: “We welcome the Met Police’s apology, and recognise the complexities of policing fast-moving public protests, but simply being Jewish – or of any other race or religion – should never be seen as provocative.

“Anyone of any religion should be free to go about their lives and feel safe doing so.”

It is understood that James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, has written to both the Met and London Mayor Sadiq Khan about the incident.

People take part in a pro-Palestine march in central London on April 13
People take part in a pro-Palestine march in central London on April 13 (PA)

“The way the original incident was dealt with by the Met was concerning and the original response put out by them was insensitive and wrong.

“The Met have an extremely difficult job – particularly so when it comes to operational decisions taken while policing marches – but in the end the Met must have the confidence of the communities they serve and it is right that they have apologised for the way the incident was handled and their original public response.”

Mr Falter said he had been walking in the capital after attending synagogue and was not there to counter-protest.

In the clip, another officer said to him: “There’s a unit of people here now.

“You will be escorted out of this area so you can go about your business, go where you want freely, or if you choose to remain here because you are causing a breach of peace with all these other people, you will be arrested.”

The officer said that Mr Falter’s presence was “antagonising”.

“Instead of addressing that threat of antisemitic violence, the Met’s policy instead seems to be that law-abiding Jewish Londoners should not be in the parts of London where these marches are taking place.

“In other words, that they are no-go zones for Jews.”

Israel-Hamas conflict
Pro-Israel supporters and pro-Palestine supporters hold opposing demonstrations in Tottenham Court Road, in central London (Yui Mok/PA)

On Saturday, two rival protests took place alongside each other in Tottenham Court Road, central London – one pro-Israel and one pro-Palestine.

The Met has faced criticism for its handling of a series of pro-Palestinian demonstrations since the renewal of hostilities in Gaza last October.

Last month, the Prime Minister said the public wanted to see officers “not merely manage these protests, but police them”, while his former home secretary, Suella Braverman, said the Jewish community had been “let down by the authorities”, during a Commons debate in February.

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