Suella Braverman has described the individuals participating in street demonstrations advocating for a Gaza ceasefire as participants in “hate marches.”
Braverman expressed her dismay at the large gatherings, involving “tens of thousands of people,” where chants advocating for the elimination of Israel were heard.
Speaking after a Cobra meeting chaired by Rishi Sunak on Monday (30), Braverman strongly condemned these demonstrations. “To my mind, there is only one way to describe those marches: they are hate marches,” she said.
Her statement seems to refer to the chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan employed for years by pro-Palestinian activists. It refers to the area between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea in historic Palestine.
Some Israel supporters argue that it implies the destruction of Israel and harm to Israelis, The Guardian reported.
Braverman reiterated her earlier call for law enforcement to adopt a “zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism.”
However, legal experts and human rights lawyers have indicated that convicting individuals chanting this slogan would be challenging without legislative changes.
Scotland Yard said last week that they were unlikely to arrest individuals chanting the slogan at the march. The decision was made to avoid detaining thousands of people, some of whom view the chant as a call for Palestinian self-determination.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, criticised Braverman’s comments, describing them as irresponsible and careless. Cooper emphasised the home secretary’s duty to facilitate the police’s efforts in tackling hate crime and extremism.
She stressed the importance of avoiding rhetoric that complicates law enforcement’s tasks while acknowledging the distress felt by communities regarding the Hamas attacks and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Cooper highlighted the need for rebuilding community cohesion during this challenging period.
The prime minister and the home secretary held a meeting with national security officials and police in Whitehall on Monday.
Counter-terror officials are currently investigating whether Iran is attempting to exploit the heightened tensions in the UK due to the Israel-Hamas conflict to promote a violent agenda in Britain or recruit supporters.
Over the last 18 months, the government’s concern regarding Tehran has escalated significantly. In February, Iran was accused of orchestrating 15 credible threats against individuals based in Britain, perceived as threats to the regime.
Since the beginning of the conflict, MI5 has been aware about potential repercussions in the UK. Ken McCallum, the head of the intelligence agency, cautioned earlier this month that Iran or other terror groups might escalate violent activities, possibly targeting Jewish groups.
However, the decision to raise the terror threat level, currently set at “substantial” in England, Wales, and Scotland, will not be determined by the Cobra committee as that is a decision for the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre.
The “substantial” threat level indicates a likelihood of a terrorist attack. This level has been in place since February 9 last year when it was reduced from “severe,” indicating a high likelihood of an attack.
The Cobra meeting occurred in response to concerns raised by Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan police commissioner, about the escalating impact of Middle East events in the UK.
Rowley emphasised the challenges faced by the police due to increased activity from Iranian-backed groups in the UK. He is quoted as saying, “When you’ve got state threats from Iran, you’ve got terrorism being accelerated by the events and hate crime in communities.
“For Jewish communities, it’s now about a 14-fold increase in antisemitism in London, and for Muslim communities it’s nearly threefold. So, this is really precarious. In the middle of it, we’ve got these big protests.”
Braverman, and Downing Street, has encouraged police officers to clamp down on any attempts to use flags, songs, or swastikas to harass or intimidate Jewish people.
Braverman specifically urged the police to consider whether chants like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” could be interpreted as a violent desire to see Israel erased.
Additionally Downing Street emphasised the offensiveness of the chant and urged people to use language responsibly.
In response to pro-Palestinian demonstrations, nearly 100 arrests have been made in London, and more arrests are anticipated in the coming days.
Five people faced charges on Sunday (29), including displaying an illegal placard and assaulting a police officer, following the third consecutive weekend of large-scale pro-Palestinian protests.