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UK home secretary sacked after slamming anti-Israel ‘hate marches’

“Sunak has capitulated,” David Campbell Bannerman, a Tory party politician, said. “The Jewish people in Britain have been let down by this decision.”

Then-British Home Secretary Suella Braverman with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in London, March 24, 2023. Source: Twitter/Suella Braverman.
Then-British Home Secretary Suella Braverman with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in London, March 24, 2023. Source: Twitter/Suella Braverman.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fired Suella Braverman as home secretary on Monday, following an article she penned referring to anti-Israel “hate marches” and accusing London’s Metropolitan Police of preferential treatment of pro-Palestinian protesters.

Sunak’s office reportedly had not approved Braverman’s article and a spokesperson for the prime minister said he sacked Braverman due to a “difference in style” between the two and difficulties with the language that she used when describing her political views.

On Tuesday evening, Braverman slammed Sunak in a public letter announcing her departure from her government role. The British premier had failed “to rise to the challenge posed by the increasingly vicious antisemitism and extremism displayed on our streets,” she wrote.

“I have become hoarse urging you to consider legislation to ban the hate marches and help stem the rising tide of racism, intimidation and terrorist glorification threatening community cohesion,” she added, claiming Sunak delayed making “tough decisions in order to minimize political risk” to himself.

David Campbell Bannerman, a British Conservative Party politician who served as a member of the European Parliament for the East of England from 2009 to 2019, told JNS that Braverman’s “strong and courageous stance” on law and order “brought her down.”

“Sunak has capitulated,” added the politician, who chairs the center-right Freedom Association. “The Jewish people in Britain have been let down by this decision.”

Mike Katz, national chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, a grassroots body associated with the opposition party, told JNS that Sunak was weak to appoint Braverman “in the first place and weak to take so long to sack her.”

“Her interference in operational policing crossed an important line,” Katz said. “Whilst many Jewish people feel very uncomfortable—to put it mildly—to see the far-right, the crank-left and extreme Islamists marching in London, it really doesn’t help them feel safer in the wider community to be singled out in the crass way Braverman and other Tories have done.

“It’s time for politicians from all sides to stop paying lip service to community cohesion whilst crassly using the fears of one community for political leverage,” Katz said.

James Cleverly, who until Monday was the foreign secretary, replaced Braverman. 

David Cameron, the former prime minister, has taken up Cleverly’s former post. To assume his new position, Cameron, who quit as a Parliament member in 2016 in the wake of the Brexit referendum, has been named to the unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords.

The erstwhile Tory leader has a history of contentious remarks on the Arab-Israeli conflict, likening the situation in the Gaza Strip to that of a “prison camp” following the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident. But during the 2014 Israel-Hamas war (“Operation Protective Edge”), Cameron’s administration did not condemn Israeli strikes in Gaza, despite pressure to do so from his Liberal Democrat coalition partners.

Cameron has also been criticized for lobbying Sunak, then chancellor of the exchequer (equivalent to the treasury secretary), for government-backed COVID-19 loans on behalf of the now-collapsed supply chain finance group Greensill Capital. In 2021, he was cleared of breaching lobbying rules.

Rising antisemitism

The prime minister’s decision to fire Braverman came after violent clashes amid anti-Israel demonstrations in London over the weekend, with police arresting 145 persons. Officers are also hoping to identify certain attendees “in relation to a hate crime,” as some demonstrators were recorded chanting, “From the river to the sea,” donning Hamas-style headgear and holding signs likening Israel to Nazis.

A woman was recorded screaming, “Death to all the Jews” in a packed London train station, and a man was recorded shouting, “Hitler knew how to deal with these people.”

The Metropolitan Police also said its officers “intercepted a group of 150 who were wearing face coverings and firing fireworks. Arrests were made after some of the fireworks struck officers in the face.”

Graham Wettone, a consultant and former Metropolitan Police officer of three decades, told JNS that Braverman neither caused nor created disorder on Saturday.

“The counter-protest group was already going to come out once pro-Palestinian groups scheduled a march on Armistice Day,” Wettone said. “However, you would expect the home secretary and any politician to try and calm things down rather than create more tension and increased emotion.

“I don’t think the march should have gone ahead, but at the moment, the law doesn’t exist to prevent protest marches on Nov. 11, so the police have to work within the law,” Wettone added. 

Some 50% of the 2,080 Britons YouGov surveyed recently said that anti-Israel marches should have been banned on Armistice Day. (Thirty-four percent said the marches should go forward.)

Police asked organizers to cancel the protest but they refused, according to Wettone. 

“Police were correct to say they had no legal powers to ban that march because they haven’t,” he said. “Even if it had met the requirements for a ban that wasn’t going to stop 200,000 people traveling to London on Armistice Day and just gathering wherever, because you can’t ban a gathering.”

Justice delayed

Wettone appeared frustrated with Braverman’s claims that police were not handling the situation fairly.

“It is exceptionally difficult policing events with big crowds. Just like at football matches or carnivals, in many cases police cannot physically get into a crowd of people to arrest somebody and get themselves and their colleagues out again, safely, without anybody else being injured,” he said.

It’s more prudent for police officers to gather evidence and arrest people later on, often having solicited help from the public, he added.

“Justice delayed isn’t justice denied,” Wettone said. “It’s a very fine balancing act, but it does not make sense for politicians to talk about two-tier policing. Any tiers are unrelated to favoring certain political causes but about tactically what you police do.” 

Wettone, who authored the 2017 book How to Be a Police Officer, told JNS that the Metropolitan Police is “doing as much as they can to make people feel protected, especially in areas with large Jewish communities.”

There were similar issues in 2009, during the IDF’s “Operation Cast Lead” against Hamas in Gaza, and laws haven’t been tailored since then to address extremist gatherings and violence, he said.

“This isn’t anything new,” Wettone said. “We’ve been down this road before, and it seems that the politicians didn’t learn anything else from it.”

“You have presences such as the Islamist fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which are banned by many governments, including in most Arab-majority countries, but which are able to operate on the streets of London,” he said.

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