By Khadija Khan
The increase in anti-Semitic incidents following Hamas’s barbaric attack on Israeli civilians on October 7 is abhorrent – but regrettably not surprising.
Whenever tensions flare up between Israel and Palestine, this decades-long conflict spills out from the middle east and makes its way to our shores.
When Hamas terrorists crossed the border from Gaza into Israel, and slaughtered 1,400 people before taking hundreds of innocents as hostages, most right-thinking people sympathised with Israel. For this was the worst pogrom against Jews since the Holocaust.
And yet large numbers of people have since come out to celebrate – something which should shame us all.
The Community Security Trust, a charity which supports British Jews, has reported a four-fold rise in “anti-Jewish hate” incidents. Some Jewish schools in the UK closed for a day, with others telling their pupils that they could avoid wearing their school uniforms amid safety fears.
Given the circumstances, appropriate measures should be taken to protect the members of the British Jewish community.
But why, in this day and age, is this even necessary? Warning Jewish people they shouldn’t express their identity, avoid protests, or cease wearing the traditional kippah skullcap in public or at school is a surrender to anti-Semitism.
The Metropolitan Police has announced that it has stepped up police presence throughout London in response to complaints that individuals appeared to be celebrating Hamas’s brutality at the recent pro-Palestinian marches in London.
The slogan “From the River to the Sea” was chanted over loudspeakers at such demonstrations. The phrase is a cruel reference to Hamas’s founding charter, which literally advocates for annihilation of the Jewish state. This slogan categorically rejects the two-state solution which, for me and indeed many right-thinking people, is the only path towards regional peace.
Some activists were filmed chanting, ‘Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa ya’oud’ – a disgusting celebration of the slaughter of Jewish tribes by the Prophet Muhammad’s Army in 7th century Arabia.
A British-Iranian activist, Vahid Beheshti, was allegedly threatened with death after flying an Israeli flag in central London. one such march in central London. It was thanks to the swift actions of the Met police officers that things did not escalate.
Elsewhere, people filmed themselves tearing down the posters of abducted Israeli children.
These are just a handful of the many, vile incidents against the British Jewish community. And the vulnerability they are experiencing is surely hard to imagine.
Suella Braverman, the home secretary, said she anticipates police will “use the full force of the law” to suppress any expressions of support for the extremist organisation.
Now of course I sympathise with the plight of the Palestinians: thousands of innocent people in Gaza have died in subsequent Israeli strikes, and hundreds of thousands of people have had to flee their homes. A desperate, humanitarian crisis is now unfolding.
But we should not shy away from admitting that these pro-Palestinian marches have been hijacked by anti-Semites. Denying the truth merely serves to empower the evil forces and prevents us from recognising reality for what it is.
Attendees of a rally by Hizb ut-Tahrir – an Islamist group that is banned in several Muslim countries – called for “jihad”. Rather than upholding the rule of law, the Met police instead lectured the populace about the meaning of “jihad” on Twitter, stating that it could have had “a number of meanings” and concluded that no offence had taken place.
This reveals the moral cowardice and ineptitude of our law enforcement officers who have allowed anti-Semitism to flourish unchecked on the streets of London. Making “Jihad” a euphemistic term, especially in the context of Hamas’s brutal attack on Israeli civilians, is highly disingenuous.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the French and German governments have banned pro-Palestinian marches in their respective countries, following the attacks on Jewish-owned businesses and synagogues.
I don’t agree with this; a democratic society should not condone such authoritarian measures.
At the same time, extremist elements in these marches should not be given free rein to incite hatred against people. And those on the left who claim such bans are stifling free speech need to root out the vile hatred and racism that have manifested over the last two weeks on the streets of London. They must condemn how extremists use the Palestinian cause as a cloak to conceal hatred against Jews.
What is even more astounding is how none of those marching for Palestine condemned Hamas at all. No demand was made for Hamas to surrender and free the hostages. No one was calling for peace.
This disease is not confined to the marches; some Islamic charities are getting away with promoting anti-Semitism, “under the charitable purpose of ‘the advancement of religion’”.
Such organisations have described Jews as the “enemies of Allah” or compared them to pigs and apes.
A mosque leader in south London, Muhammad Abdullah Shakir, has been accused of inciting hatred against Jewish people during a sermon concerning the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.
In war, truth is the first casualty, as the old adage goes. Sarah Sultana, a Muslim politician and a Labour MP, had her post on X, formerly Twitter, about a Gaza hospital ‘fact-checked’. The MP for Coventry South blamed an explosion at the Al-Ahli hospital, where hundreds of people are thought to have perished, on an Israeli airstrike.
However, reports have subsequently claimed that Israel was not responsible, and the likely cause was a missile launched within Gaza itself. Yet Sultana has not deleted the post from X.
After all, it’s so easy to blame Israel for any wrongdoings, but few Palestinian sympathisers are as quick to condemn their own side.
Sadly, this is all-too indicative of how British Muslim politicians, organisations and religious scholars have collectively failed to address this deep-rooted Jewish hatred within sections of their communities.
Of course, it is perfectly reasonable to criticise any government or state, providing it is constructive. But it should not be used as a weapon to incite hatred towards other people.
We live in a free and democratic society. Bigotry against people of faith and no faith should never be acceptable in Britain.
However, the truth is that right now, at such a sensitive time, there has been an overwhelming lack of support and solidarity from the larger society for British Jews, who are living under the shadow of fear.
Our government must send out an explicit message that whatever happens in Israel and Palestine, nothing excuses bigoted and criminal behaviour in the UK.
Khadija Khan is a journalist and commentator based in London. You can follow her on Twitter.