Middle East conflict "gives extremists an excuse for hate-filled anti-Semitic rhetoric"

21 May 2021, 14:41 | Updated: 21 May 2021, 14:55

The Met's former counter terror chief warned over extremists using the violence in the middle east to air anti-Semitic views
The Met's former counter terror chief warned over extremists using the violence in the middle east to air anti-Semitic views. Picture: Social Media
Theo Usherwood

By Theo Usherwood

The Jewish mother frightened to just do the school run. The wife who feared her husband would be beaten up as he walked home from their synagogue. The stories from Finchley Road in North London this morning were disturbing.

Days after footage emerged of anti-Semitic abuse being hurled from vehicles bearing a Palestinian flag in north London, LBC has heard accounts from Jewish residents in the area.

Despite having their children at his side, one woman described how drivers would hurl abuse from the cars after spotting her husband's kippah as he made his way along the North Circular. They leaned out of their windows to shout “f***ing Jew”, she said.

The latest data from the Community Security Trust back up these concerning stories.

In the 13 days since the conflict between Israel and Gaza broke out, there have been 191 recorded cases of anti-Semitism – roughly one every 90 minutes or the time it takes to play a football match.

READ MORE: Four arrested after reports of anti-Semitic threats being shouted from cars

The reasons behind the 400 per cent spike at first seem obvious. Tensions over what is happening in the Middle East have spilt over to the UK. People are angry, and that anger has turned to violence.

But there appears to be something much more sinister afoot, with extremists using the conflict between Israel and Gaza to stir up hatred.

LBC has seen numerous videos from rallies where those attending have called for violence. Indeed, one posting on the Facebook page of a mosque in Bradford calls for “actual Jihad against these occupiers to liberate the path of their messenger from the criminal Zionists”.

Sir Mark Rowley ran the Met’s counter-terrorism operation before he retired from frontline policing in 2018.

He told LBC: “In the context of what we are picking up that is going on as a spin-off from the conflicts that have sparked up in the Middle East, as a consequence of that there will be people, particularly Islamist extremists, who will be using this as an opportunity, if you like, or an excuse, to put out some pretty hateful anti-Semitic rhetoric. I am sure that’s one of the factors.

“Generally, extremists are always looking for an opportunity to push their twisted, intolerant world view and this is, in their eyes, an opportunity to do that.”

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel told LBC that Labour’s failure to deal with anti-Semitism in its own ranks has perpetuated a “cycle of hatred and anti-Semitism”. Sir Keir Starmer has adopted a "zero tolerance" policy of anti-Semitism within the party.

Ms Patel said: “The online space in particular has quite frankly become a sewer - a toxic, toxic sewer where individuals can hide behind a keyboard effectively, perpetrating the most appalling and alarming hatred and anti-Semitism behind that screen of anonymity which is not right, it is not right at all,” she said.

“Of course, it can manifest, and we see this on the streets of our great city, by really mobilising people to come out and, quite frankly as I have said, perpetrate harassment, intimidation and anti-Semitism.

“The problems with the previous Labour leadership and the Labour Party are well known. But actually, the fact they chose not to call out those elements, and not to take action, not only shows a dereliction of leadership but a moral gap as well in terms of dealing with the issue. By not doing that they were helping to perpetuate this cycle of hatred and anti-Semitism.”

Now a ceasefire is in place between Israel and Gaza but numerous rallies are still due to take place across this country.

That has led to fears we could see a repeat of last weekend when anti-Jewish racist abuse was hurled from a convoy of cars in north London.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told LBC the police would be taking a zero-tolerance approach if there is a repeat incident.