'No place' for antisemitism in north London after 'sickening' incident
- Credit: PA/Laura Marks/Polly Hancock
Reports of antisemitism have drawn condemnation from politicians and community leaders, while the Met Police stepped up patrols to protect north London's Jewish population during a religious holiday.
Four individuals are now on police bail after being arrested in connection with an incident on Sunday May 16.
Footage on social media showed a convoy of cars covered with Palestinian flags passing down Finchley Road. Passengers were heard using offensive language and threatening Jews.
It is understood that the cars travelled down Finchley Road and towards St John's Wood, where the Met Police said it had received "reports of people shouting antisemitic abuse from a car".
The individuals arrested were also detained on suspicion of an offence in Manchester earlier that day.
In response, the Met and the Community Security Trust (CST) stepped up patrols to protect worshippers celebrating the festival of Shavuot.
The CST is a charity which works to report antisemitism and protect the Jewish community from abuse.
Following the incident, MPs Karen Buck and Tulip Siddiq were among those to raise the issue during an urgent parliamentary debate, and they wrote a joint letter to this newspaper.
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They said: "It was sickening and chilling to see such appalling racism and misogyny on the streets we are proud to represent.
"As much as it has upset both of us and the whole community, our thoughts are with our Jewish constituents who have been made to feel unsafe in their own homes and on the streets."
The rise in antisemitism has coincided with renewed conflict in Israel and Palestine.
In Camden, council leader Cllr Georgia Gould, equalities chief and co-chair of the Camden Faith Forum Cllr Abdul Hai and local police boss Ch Supt Raj Kohli released a joint statement.
They said: "We want to stand together and provide you with our support. We are clear that the targeting of citizens in Camden for violence or discrimination because of their faith is unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
Adding that "we want to assure you that Camden is no place for hate", they said they were looking to host a "roundtable" event with members of the Jewish community in the coming weeks.
Westminster council leader Cllr Rachael Robathan said: "We stand shoulder to shoulder with all our faiths and communities who are united in rejecting any form of racism or hatred."
The CST said it had "recorded a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents in the UK, linked to the conflict in Israel and Gaza". It said this had taken the form of verbal abuse, threats, social media hatred, and in some cases antisemitic chants or placards used by "a minority" of anti-Israel protesters.
They added: "This may heighten local tensions and potentially cause more antisemitism. CST expects the levels of antisemitism to continue, or indeed worsen, until the conflict in Israel and Gaza subsides."
After the abuse was first reported, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “There is no place for antisemitism in our society."
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer added it was “utterly disgusting” and that "antisemitism, misogyny and hate have no place on our streets or in our society”.
In the urgent parliamentary debate, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said CST had recorded a 320% increase in reported antisemitic incidents over a week, and pledged to protect the UK's Jewish communities.
Mr Jenrick said: "No one could fail to be appalled by the disgraceful scenes of anti-Semitic abuse being directed at members of the Jewish community in the past week."
A rabbi in Chigwell, north-east London, was also attacked over the weekend.
Laura Marks, founder of Finchley Road interfaith charity Mitzvah Day, said she had been "shocked and horrified", adding: "Whatever your views on the situation in Israel and Gaza, this doesn't serve any cause. Now more than ever, we need to focus on what unites us, not divides us."
Rabbi Herschel Gluck said: “People are very concerned and very afraid about where this will lead.
“There is always the fear that threats could turn into actions.”
He added: “It is very important to emphasise in London that the Muslim and Jewish communities stand shoulder to shoulder and in a great spirit of solidarity."
To report an antisemitic incident, call the police on 999 if it is urgent or 101 if it is not, while CST also have a 24-hour emergency line at 0800 032 3263.