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Police in London deploy 1,000 officers amid surge in antisemitism

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The UK’s largest police force has deployed 1,000 officers across London to protect communities after a “massive” surge in antisemitic incidents and rise in communal tensions fuelled by escalating bloodshed in Israel and the Gaza strip.

Hamas launched its biggest attack on Israel in decades last weekend triggering days of retaliatory Israeli bombing.

Since September 30, there have been 105 incidents of antisemitism in London, of which 75 constituted offences, said Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor on Friday.

This compared with 14 incidents and 12 offences in the same two week period last year, he revealed speaking at a press briefing.

“That is a massive increase,” Taylor said, adding that while there had also been a rise in cases of Islamophobia it had been on “nothing like the [same] scale”.

Taylor said London’s Met Police would deploy a further 1,000 officers to planned pro-Palestinian protests in the capital on Saturday, with police expecting many thousands of people to attend a march to Parliament Square.

He warned that anyone signalling support for Hamas, which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK, would be breaking the law and risked arrest.

“We will not tolerate the celebration of terrorism and death,” he said.

Three Jewish schools in north London closed for the day on Friday fearing violence after former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called for an international “day of rage” in support of Palestinians.

Jewish communities were understandably “scared for their safety”, Taylor said. But he added that he was not aware of any specific threats to schools in London.

Counter-terrorism officers were also assessing the risk of attacks in the capital but the “threat levels were not elevated at this time”, he added.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday announced £3mn of funding for the Community Security Trust, a charity that provides security to schools, synagogues and other Jewish community buildings.

This funding was given after the CST recorded a 400 per cent increase in antisemitic incidents since last Saturday compared with a year ago. These included a Jewish person being called a “dirty Jew” and people shouting “Death to Israel” while waving a Palestinian flag outside a synagogue in north London.

“In many cases, the perpetrators of these disgraceful incidents are using the symbols and language of pro-Palestinian politics as rhetorical weapons with which to threaten and abuse Jewish people,” the CST said.

Israel-Hamas war

Tell Mama, a project that documents anti-Muslim abuse, said there had also been a surge in Islamophobic incidents nationally since last weekend, with Arabs and Palestinians subject to dehumanising slurs in public, or described as “bloodthirsty” and “terrorists” online.

The organisation had recorded 37 offline cases nationally, including three assaults, and 61 online incidents in the five days to October 12.

Tell Mama said “a majority of which contained dehumanising anti-Muslim language and tropes, equating communities with terrorism and violence”. There were 30 assaults in the same period last year, it noted. 

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, one of the groups planning Saturday’s protests in London, blamed “unqualified support” for Israel’s retaliatory actions in Gaza by the main political parties for “contributing to the widespread dehumanising of Palestinians in political discourse here in the UK”. 

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