By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – Antisemitic and Islamaphobic incidents have almost doubled in just over a week in London, police data showed on Friday, in the wake of the attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel nearly three weeks ago and subsequent bombardment by Israel of Gaza.
There have been growing tensions in Britain and elsewhere since Hamas gunmen rampaged through Israeli towns and Israel besieged Gaza in response, with pro-Palestinian demonstrations and vigils held by Jewish groups in solidarity with hostages, some of whom are British, who were taken by the militants.
Commander Kyle Gordon said there had been 408 antisemitic incidents recorded in the British capital so far this month compared to 28 in the same period last year, while there had been 174 Islamophobic offences compared to 65.
In both cases the numbers were almost twice as high as those given a week ago.
“My colleagues continue to ruthlessly deal with any acts of hate crime that they encounter,” Kyle told reporters. “Since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict, we have made 75 arrests linked to the conflict.”
Last week, about 100,000 protesters took part in a march organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and in the aftermath police faced criticism from some lawmakers for not being tougher over slogans shouted by some involved.
London’s police chief Mark Rowley held a meeting with Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Monday after which he said laws would need to be changed if the government wanted firmer action.
Kyle said there would be some 2,000 officers on duty across the capital on Saturday when another pro-Palestinian march is set to take place.
“Our most experienced and knowledgeable officers are working on the policing of these events, making sure we’re utilising all of the legislation available to us to its fullest extent,” he said. “We will not tolerate hate crime in this city. We will take really robust action to all those who commit such crimes.”
Meanwhile, Commander Dominic Murphy, from the London police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said his officers had launched just under 10 investigations into online material referred by the public to police.
Some officers had also been deployed to Israel to support foreign ministry staff and support any investigations which might result from the Hamas attack.
There has been an increase in reported threats against Jewish and Muslim communities in many countries, including the United States, since the Gaza war broke out.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Philippa Fletcher)