DEAN GODSON: Would police be supplicant with pro-Israel march?

Relishing their sway over the state, the leaders of the pro-Palestine march have refused to budge. DEAN GODSON asks, would the police be so supplicant if faced with a major demonstration by supporters of Israel?

Britain does not have many sacred national landmarks in its annual calendar. But one of the few is Remembrance Day on November 11, the anniversary of the poignant moment when the guns fell silent at the end of the First World War.

It is an occasion of the deepest solemnity, epitomised by the heart-rending sound of the Last Post on the bugle or the sight of poppy wreaths on war memorials throughout our land.

Yet at Sunday’s Armistice commemoration, there is likely to be a very different noise in the November air: the chanting of apologists for Hamas as yet another series of huge pro-Palestine demonstrations against Israel are held in the capital and other cities in Britain.

With a breezy disdain for our heritage, organisers argue that the march will begin two hours after the two-minute silence at 11 o’clock, and the route through London will be far from the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Yet there is every chance that this Remembrance Day could be completely overshadowed by it.

Members of far-Right groups, including Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League, have issued rallying cries urging people to go to London to protect the Cenotaph. The potential for confrontation is growing.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police on duty beside the Cenotaph in Whitehall, central London, ahead of marches planned for the centre of the city on Saturday

Groups supporting Palestine protest at Israel’s retaliation to Hamas attacks

DEAN GODSON: It will be instructive to see how the Met tackle Tommy Robinson (pictured) and the EDL if they do turn out in force at the Cenotaph tomorrow

And into this incendiary mix, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has now suggested the Metropolitan Police are biased over the pro-Palestine marches and soft on Left-wing protests generally.

This has led to calls for her to be sacked amid claims she is undermining the right of the police to independence from government.

Many believe her comments were provoked by Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley’s decision not to apply to her to ban the pro-Palestine march on Armistice Day. Even though the Government has made it clear it believes the march is ‘disrespectful and provocative’, Rowley insists the threshold for potential serious disorder needed for a ban has not been met. And under the law, Braverman is powerless to enforce a ban without Rowley’s say so.

Whatever may be said about Braverman’s comments and whether she should have made them, a serious question arises from this vexed episode: Is Sir Mark asserting his institutional prerogative of operational independence with considerably more vigour than he asserts his independence from powerful lobby groups which are now embedded at the highest levels of policing.

The record of the anti-Israeli marches and protests over the last four weeks is hardly inspiring. The organisers say they oppose both ‘anti-Jewish prejudice and Islamophobia’- but intimidation, abuse and anti-Jewish aggression have all been on display in some quarters.

The unprecedented security around Britain’s most hallowed war memorial was put in place yesterday and will remain until the end of remembrance commemorations on Sunday

A dispersal zone in place across a vast swathe of central London tomorrow will give police the power to order any group of two or more people to disperse or face arrest 

Exclusion zones have been put in place around the Israeli Embassy in Kensington and the US Embassy in Vauxhall 

Anti-Semitic chants for the liberation of Palestine ‘from the river to the sea’ have been a regular refrain on these demonstrations. And only this week, the Mail reported on an appalling incident at Waverley station in Edinburgh, where 78-year-old poppy seller Jim Henderson was attacked by a mob waving Palestinian flags. At other railway stations, it is reported that poppy sellers feel too intimidated even to continue manning their stalls.

Relishing their sway over the state, the leaders of the pro-Palestine movement have refused to budge. All that those desperate pleas from the police achieved was to undermine their own authority.

This is differential policing. It is impossible to imagine the police taking such a supplicant approach if they were faced with a major demonstration by the English Defence League or the far-Right organisation Britain First.

And it will be instructive to see how the Met tackle Tommy Robinson and the EDL if they do turn out in force at the Cenotaph tomorrow.

In fact, they took a far tougher line against the protests mounted by women in London after the murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens in 2021.

But the softly-softly approach has been all-pervasive since the first marches began after the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. Such passivity has been seen in the reluctance to arrest protestors even where there is potential evidence of the glorification of terrorism, as in shouts for ‘jihad’ at a rally in London by members of the extremist outfit Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The same feeble spirit shines through the failure by the British Transport Police to prevent the recent occupations of major train stations in London such as Liverpool Street and Charing Cross. The photograph from last weekend of a British Legion stall surrounded by an angry mob has become one of the iconic images of the current turmoil.

Organisers have predicted that half a million pro-Palestine protestors will march in London on Armistice Day. Pictured is a march last Saturday 

Demonstrators waving Palestine flags in Trafalgar Square during last Saturday’s protest 

The police’s reluctance to uphold the law evenly stems in large part from the fashionable obsession with identity politics that has swept through the top ranks of the public sector and corporate Britain, creating hierarchies of victimhood. It is a divisive ideology that, in the case of the criminal justice system, undermines the concept of equality before the law by promoting the idea of differential policing.

This is reinforced by the creation of separate staff networks within an organisation based on identities – such as religious belief, cultural background and sexual preference – thereby undermining solidarity and unity as well as fuelling friction. In the current protests we might ask what role has been played by the Muslim Police staff associations. In the past, rather than confining itself to internal welfare issues, it has adopted a highly political stance – as evidenced by its campaign against the Government’s position on the highly contested definition of ‘Islamophobia’.

Identity politics are at their worst over the fixation with so-called ‘community engagement’ which has badly undermined the independence of the police by enabling a host of radicals to take up positions as advisers and thereby shape the agenda under the guise of addressing Muslim concerns.

None of these people are elected and the police – all too aware of how undemocratic and dangerous the practice really is – too often refuse to disclose the membership of these community panels or explain how the representatives were selected.

But the truth cannot be hidden entirely. Last weekend it emerged that Attiq Malik, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police’s London Muslim Communities forum, was caught on camera at a pro-Palestinian rally, indulging in the chant ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’. He is also said to have denounced ‘global censorship by the Zionists’. Yet, until they cut ties with him following his anti-Semitic outburst, this is the hardliner that the Metropolitan Police reportedly allowed into their operational control room to keep an eye on the protests.

His case is hardly unique. Amina Ahmed, described as a ‘Met Police Leadership Programme Facilitator’ has said that anyone who supports Israel’s self-defence against Hamas is guilty of inciting hatred against Muslims, while Mohammed Kozbar serves as an adviser on hate crime to the Crown Prosecution Service even though he is the deputy general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, an organisation that has been boycotted by every government since 2009 because of its support for attacks on the Royal Navy enforcing a UN weapons embargo on Gaza.

The police, of course, have to talk to nasty people, like informants, to do their job. They also have to talk to people they disagree with. But there is a huge difference between that kind of operational necessity and appearing on platforms with and taking advice from unaccountable activists whose interests may be the very opposite of the British state.

No police force would dream of allowing another powerful, partisan entity to hang around the operations room. Shamefully the Israel haters, the anti-Semites and their far-Left allies are exploiting ‘community relations’ to set themselves up as political gatekeepers and force the police – and other agencies – into constant retreat.

Such acquiescence has to stop. The police have to go back to the essential principles of impartiality and freedom from sectional interests. Sir Mark Rowley should be under no illusions – should protestors cross the line by even the slimmest of margins, the Commissioner will have nowhere to hide.

Lord Godson is Director of the Policy Exchange think-tank.

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