ROBERT HARDMAN: No war cries, no angry chants, just solidarity with the UK’s fearful Jews… As 100,000 people march against anti-Semitism in London, the release of a four-year-old hostage orphaned by Hamas reminds the world of their barbarism
- READ MORE: Terror group free 17 more captives – including US girl, 4
There were no war cries; no thinly veiled threats of the ‘river to the sea’ variety.
Few were in the mood for chanting but when they did, there was just one chorus: ‘Bring them home.’
And 2,500 miles to the East, a four-year-old girl was among the handful who were indeed heading home – albeit to a home without the two parents executed in front of her very eyes on October 7.
And another 200 hostages still remain locked in their subterranean hell.
We have read and heard a lot about the sense of bewilderment, shock, profound sadness and – worst of all – fear felt by Britain’s Jewish community in the 50 days since Hamas embarked on its genocidal killing spree through the communities of southern Israel.
‘We have read and heard a lot about the sense of bewilderment, shock, profound sadness and – worst of all – fear felt by Britain’s Jewish community in the last 50 days,’ writes Robert Hardman
Organisers put the total figure at 105,000, nor far short of half the UK’s entire Jewish population
The police had little to worry about from a protest army whose leaders pointedly paused alongside the Cenotaph in order to sing God Save The King
Just the day before, the capital had seen another weekly ‘Free Palestine’ rally, ostensibly calling for a ceasefire
Marchers hold placards calling for an end to anti-Semitism and wave Israeli flags at the demonstration
Thousands of people move on the streets of central London for Sunday’s demonstration
A man holds a leaflet with the name and picture of 13-year-old Gali Tarshansky, who was kidnapped by Hamas
A woman holds a sign that says ‘Never Again Is Now!’ at Sunday’s rally in central London
Yesterday, that collective anguish finally took to the streets as the capital staged the greatest show of support for British Jews since the Battle of Cable Street in London’s East End nearly 90 years ago.
READ MORE HERE – Actress Maureen Lipman praises the ‘amazing turnout’ as more than 100,000 take to London’s streets waving ‘love is stronger than hate’ banners to support the Jewish community
Organisers put the total figure at 105,000, nor far short of half the UK’s entire Jewish population.
Except that these were not all Jews. Far from it. The whole point of this march was for Brits of all faiths and none to show solidarity with a community enduring a ten-fold increase in anti-Semitic incidents since October 7.
By far the most common banners on display were those saying: ‘Shoulder to shoulder with British Jews.’
The police had little to worry about from a protest army whose leaders pointedly paused alongside the Cenotaph in order to sing God Save The King.
Just the day before, the capital had seen another weekly ‘Free Palestine’ rally, ostensibly calling for a ceasefire but – in the face of an actual ceasefire – attacking Israel, its leaders and Western governments for ‘colonisation’ and for their prosecution of the war against Hamas.
The large majority had been voicing compassion for the blameless civilian population of Gaza, but it had not been hard to spot the usual vestiges of anti-Semitism – placards with the Star of David in a bin or references to Hitler or Nuremberg; chants with lines about ‘Gaza/intifada’ and the favourite dog whistle of the Jew-baiters: ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’.
Film crews were questioned for their credentials and, in the case of a female reporter from GB News, given the full angry mob treatment.
Countdown star Rachel Riley (centre) today called on campaigners to ‘get serious’ about tackling antisemitism as she joined more than 100,000 protesters at a rally in central London. She is pictured with Tracy-Ann Oberman (left)
Demonstrators hold Israeli and British flags outside the Law Courts during a march against antisemitism today
Pictured left to right: Chief Rabbi Mirvis, Robert Rinder, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Eddie Marsan, Rachel Riley, Maureen Lipman and Vanessa Feltz take part in a march against antisemitism organised by the volunteer-led charity Campaign Against Antisemitism at the Royal Courts of Justice in London
Tens of thousands of people join the National March Against Anti-Semitism in central London
A protester holds a placard that says ‘Spread Hummus Not Hate’ at the march against anti-Semitism in Westminster
A demonstrator speaks into a microphone while waving an Israeli flag at Sunday’s march
Marchers at the rally against anti-Semitism were seen walking through central London on the cold Sunday
Yesterday was the polar opposite. This had not set out to be any sort of counter-demonstration.
READ MORE HERE – London March Against Antisemitism: BBC staff defy ‘ban’ on attending rally as ‘large proportion’ of Jewish workers said they would be at London rally, insider claims
The only thing about which it was avowedly ‘anti’ was anti-Semitism itself. They had not come to pick a fight.
There were plenty of Israeli flags – plus plenty of Union flags and, interestingly, quite a few traditional Iranian flags (the Persian model with the lion and sun in the middle).
However, I saw no anti-Palestinian messaging beyond a single placard saying ‘F*** Hamas’.
It was outnumbered by several dozen saying ‘Hummus Against Hate’. That seemed closest to the spirit of this protest: To embrace and defend Jewishness rather than to attack that which threatens it.
At the outset I was struck by a teenager’s banner saying: ‘Fed up with hiding my Jewishness at school.’
No one was hiding it yesterday. I saw kippahs (skull caps) galore.
The marchers had gathered outside the High Court in the Strand. Boris Johnson and wife Carrie plus baby were spotted, though the ex-PM was there to show support rather than hold forth in front of the media.
Members of Jewish communities as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland had made the journey to be here. Dropping in at Pret a Manger, I found the shelves completely cleaned out of smoked salmon sandwiches long before lunchtime was over.
A boy drapes an Israeli flag around his shoulders as he attends the march against anti-Semitism
An elderly lady with an Israeli flag draped over her shoulders stands outside the Houses of Parliament
Demonstrators hold a banner which says ‘Bring Them Home Now!’, a reference to the hostages taken by Hamas during the terror attacks in southern Israel on October 7
Rallygoers hold a sign that says ‘United Against AntiSemitism’ at the demonstration today
Ms Riley (pictured speaking in Parliament Square today) urged people to stop being ‘bystanders’ and join in the fight to tackle antisemitism. She said: ‘We’ve learned from history the sharp price to be paid when good people stay silent and I’m grateful to each and every one of you here today for refusing to be bystanders’
The actor Eddie Marsan arrives at the antisemitism protest today in London. He questioned why there ‘were many who were hesitant to acknowledge or condemn the actions of Hamas’
Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and baby Frank joined the thousands of demonstrators gathered in central London today to rally against anti-Semitism
Mr Johnson, 59, appeared bundled up against the biting temperatures in a woolly hat, while 35-year-old Carrie held their child together in a baby carrier
Robert Rinder and Tracey-Ann Oberman take part in a march against antisemitism
Vanessa Feltz interviewing a person taking part in the march
Pictured: Eddie Marsan, Rachel Riley and Maureen Lipman at the rally
Despite the brittle defiance of the crowd, the unspoken nervousness was palpable. Police choppers thundered overhead and the fact that one police van was emblazoned in Welsh showed how far the Met had extended its call for reinforcements.
For reasons which remain unclear, far-Right rabble-rouser Tommy Robinson had turned up in breach of a police order and was arrested, pretty much the only disturbance of the day.
More than 1,000 officers lined the route. But what was the route? No one seemed to have a clue. As comedian David Baddiel remarked later: ‘No one had any idea. It was indicative, as ever, of how Jews really don’t run the world.’
READ MORE HERE – DAILY MAIL COMMENT: A dignified response to anti-Semitic hatred
The fact that the public did not know was telling in itself. The police and organisers had kept it under wraps for fear of counter-protests – or worse, perhaps.
So, the throng set off down towards the Thames and then along the Embankment, up to Trafalgar Square.
Most assumed it would end there but it took a sharp left down Whitehall for Parliament Square. There, a truck with a sound system served as a stage for a succession of speakers.
Both the Government and Opposition had dispatched official representatives (Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, and Labour’s science spokesman Peter Kyle).
The chief organiser, Gideon Falter of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, assured those who ‘feared they had lost sight of the Britain they knew’ that the day represented ‘the real Britain’.
Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis specifically lamented the suffering of Palestinians as well as Israelis, before warning that ‘a threat to the Jews is a threat to our entire society’.
The East End-born actor Eddie Marsan, who is not Jewish and described his religion as ‘diversity’, reminded the crowd that they had been here before. ‘This is not the Jewish community’s first rodeo,’ he said, reflecting on the way the East End had come out to defend the Jews against Sir Oswald Mosley’s fascists in ‘the Battle of Cable Street’ (where Marsan’s father was born that same year). Now, London – and Britain – was having to do so again.
It ended with a stirring ‘enough is enough’ from Countdown’s Rachel Riley, some singing and even a little dancing.
Dignified and uplifting it might have been but no one wanted to call this a success. Close to tears, the broadcaster Vanessa Feltz summed it up to me: ‘I am sadder than I have ever been that we have had to be here at all.’
Rishi Sunak condemns anti-Semitism
Rishi Sunak has condemned antisemitism ‘in all its forms’, but stopped short of specifically criticising Elon Musk.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV, the Prime Minister was asked if he wanted to follow the White House and criticise Mr Musk.
Mr Musk sparked an outcry this week with his own tweets responding to a user who accused Jews of hating white people and professing indifference to antisemitism.
The billionaire, had a sit-down chat with Mr Sunak at his AI summit, has faced accusations of tolerating antisemitic messages on Twitter since buying it last year.
Mr Sunak told the channel: ‘I don’t tend to get in the business of scrutinising what every single person says who I’ve interacted with, of course I abhor antisemitism. And as you said, we’ve been unequivocal from the start of this situation that that is not acceptable in our society.
‘And we’ve been very firm about that. I’ve personally been very firm about that. It’s very sad what is happening.
But pressed again, he said: ‘I condemn all antisemitism, right. It’s not about any one particular personality.
‘I condemn antisemitism in all its forms. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Elon Musk or you’re someone on the street who’s shouting abuse at someone who happens to be walking past, that’s wrong in all its forms. Antisemitism in all its forms is completely and utterly wrong.’
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