Police in London have confirmed that two officers pulled down posters of Israelis taken hostage by Hamas.
The pair removed the images from outside a chemists’ shop in Edgware, which has a mixed Jewish/Muslim community. The man in charge of the chemists’ had reposted comments on the web platform X describing Israel defence forces as 'filthy animals'. He then apologised. The Metropolitan Police said the officers acted in “good faith” to calm tensions.
The anti semitic massacres in Israel on October 7, carried out by depraved Islamic extremists, have revealed deep divisions across the UK, including in Northern Ireland, that police cannot possibly resolve. They have to facilitate a right to protest amid large levels of support – or at least sympathy – for the Hamas attacks on civilians. Identifying such support is complicated by the fact that some protestors conceal their true feelings by proclaiming general support for Palestinians.
Even so, the Met have made a hash of things. One of their first arrests after October 7 was of a counter protestor with a Union flag. They were also seen warning other men with a Union flag that they would not hesitate to arrest them if they were ‘racist’. Meanwhile nothing was done about protestors wearing taunting images of gliders, to celebrate how the Hamas terrorists arrived in Israel.
Much of the problem is rooted in confusion as to what amounts to a hate crime. Weeks before October 7, police in Yorkshire quizzed a pensioner on suspicion of a hate crime after she photographed sticker which said: 'Keep males out of women-only spaces'. We have seen ridiculous interpretations of the word ‘hate’ here in NI.
The bar for hate should be a high one, and not include remarks just because many folk find them offensive. But open celebration of Hamas reaches that bar and should be the focus of protest policing at this incendiary time.