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London Shoah memorial covered, guarded during anti-Israel protest

"It is shameful. Seeing this, it feels like they are winning," said Noemi Ebenstein, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor.

Holocaust Memorial Garden, Hyde Park, London. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Holocaust Memorial Garden, Hyde Park, London. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

London police on Saturday hid a Holocaust memorial from view and stood guard to protect the monument in the city’s Hyde Park from anti-Israel vandals.

Built in 1983 as the U.K.’s first public memorial to the Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide, the two granite boulders featuring English and Hebrew inscriptions were covered with a blue tarp by Metropolitan Police officers. They then guarded the site as thousands of demonstrators descended on central London for a march in support of Hamas.

Noemi Ebenstein, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor, told the Daily Mail that the decision to cover the memorial was a disgrace.

“It is shameful. Seeing this, it feels like they are winning,” Ebenstein said. “Those who are Jew-haters, those who are Holocaust deniers, they are winning because we are afraid of them. I just wish the Western world would stand up to these people, instead of running away, covering up monuments and being apologetic.”

The British tabloid ran the story on its front page, writing that “the police are so frightened by the anti-Semitic crowd, that they even hide the memory of the Holocaust. A shameful insult to the six million people.”

Stephen Pollard, editor-in-chief of the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, demanded that the police take tougher action.

“What is the line that needs to be crossed for people to think it’s not OK for these hate marches to continue?” he asked. “It shows the depravity of so much of what’s happening in London at the moment that they think it’s important that they cover up a Holocaust memorial.”

British political and diplomatic leaders also weighed in on the incident, with the U.K.’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, Tory peer Rt. Hon. Lord Pickles, asking, “Have we become so cowed and fearful in this country that instead of expecting pro-Palestinian protesters to obey the law, we hide away the memorial to save it from vandalism?”

The Metropolitan Police called the Daily Mail headline “inaccurate.”

“The decision to cover the memorial was taken by park authorities, not the police,” the police statement read. “As the paper’s own article makes clear, it is a precaution Royal Parks have taken for a number of different events.”

The incident comes amid increased scrutiny of the London police’s handling of the weekly anti-Israel marches and its approach to the Jewish community. The tensions were highlighted by a video that went viral showing a police officer on April 13 stopping a Jewish man from crossing the street, remarking that he was stopped for appearing “quite openly Jewish.”

 Gideon Falter, who heads the U.K.-based Campaign Against Antisemitism, had been with a group returning from synagogue. He was wearing a yarmulke and carrying a bag decorated with Stars of David, in which he had his prayer shawl.

“This is a pro-Palestinian march. I am not accusing you of anything, but I am worried about the reaction to your presence,” the officer told him in a video Falter’s group posted to X on April 18.

“I don’t want to stay here. I want to leave,” Falter explained to the officer, who nevertheless blocked him when he attempted to get by.

Another officer told Falter he would be arrested if he remained in the vicinity “because your presence here is antagonizing them.”

“The march came towards us and after a few minutes the crowd got thicker, people stopping and shouting abuse at us: ‘Disgusting,’ ‘Lock them up,’ ‘Nazis,’ ‘Scum,’” Falter wrote in the Times of London on April 20. “There were people there who were expressing as loudly as they could how much they hated me for looking Jewish, and not a single person was saying: ‘You shouldn’t do that,’ or ‘I disapprove,’” he wrote.

“‘By the actions of the Metropolitan Police, it’s not just that central London is a ‘no-go zone’ for Jews, as has been said previously, but a police-enforced Jew-free zone,” Falter wrote.

Following the incident, the Campaign Against Semitism last week met with British Home Secretary James Cleverly, Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Fire Chris Philp and others to discuss the handling of anti-Israel protests over the past six months in the U.K. capital that have often steered into antisemitism and hostility to Jews.

The NGO announced on Friday that its Walk Together initiative, with thousands in attendance expected to attend in a sign of solidarity to protect Jews freely walking throughout London, was canceled for Saturday.

“Thousands of people have been intending to join and then walk where they please—things we used to take for granted in London as Jewish people—but we do not have confidence that they would be safe,” the organization said in a statement.

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