UK minister writes to London police over ‘openly Jewish’ comment

By Thomson Reuters Apr 20, 2024 | 4:58 AM

LONDON (Reuters) – British interior minister James Cleverly has written to London’s Metropolitan Police after an officer stopped a man who was wearing a traditional kippah cap from crossing a road during a pro-Palestinian march on the grounds he was “openly Jewish”.

The charity Campaign Against ­Antisemitism released a video late on Thursday which showed a police officer preventing Gideon Falter, its chief executive, from crossing a road in the capital because of the protest on April 13.

The officer was videoed telling Falter he feared his presence could prompt a “reaction” because he was “quite openly Jewish”.

Falter said he was walking through London after attending a synagogue and was not part of “any protest or counterprotest”.

The Metropolitan Police apologised for the “use of the term ‘openly Jewish’ by one of our officers. We know it will have caused offence to many. We reiterate our apology”, the police said in a statement on the X social media platform on Friday.

“Being Jewish is not a provocation. Jewish Londoners must be able to feel safe in this city.”

Cleverly has written to the Met, the Home Office, or interior ministry, said on Saturday, but it offered no details of the letter’s contents, saying it was a private communication.

“We welcome the Met Police’s apology, and recognise the complexities of policing fast-moving public protests, but simply being Jewish – or of any other race or religion – should never be seen as provocative,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“Anyone of any religion should be free to go about their lives and feel safe doing so.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters regularly demonstrate in London to demand a halt to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, which has killed about 34,000 Palestinians since it was launched on Oct. 7 after Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people in Israel and took dozens of hostages.

Britain’s policing of the protests has caused criticism from several sides. Late last year, then interior minister, Suella Braverman, accused London’s police force of taking a softer stance towards left-wing causes.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Helen Popper)